The subject of exes is complicated.
It seems like everyone has different experiences with their exes. Some are friendly and close while others are distant and aloof. There are some exes who are still in love and other exes who move on easily and date within a month. There are exes who want to be amicable and exes who don’t seem to care if your friendship crashes and burns in the end. Basically, it depends on the person, and the way that the relationship ended.
I’ve realized over time that there are 5 distinct types of exes (at least that I’ve encountered or witnessed). Each of them have different habits and different ways of acting once the breakup is over, and they even have different ways of connecting with you after the fact. Exes are a slippery slope, but sometimes gaining understanding about them is what finally empowers us to heal. And breaking down their patterns can even help us feel less hurt in the end.
So which one is your ex? Or, which ex are you? Let’s explore it.
1. The Grouchy Ex
OK, let’s be honest — grouchy doesn’t even begin to describe this type of ex. In fact, an expletive might be a more fitting way to describe them, but in the interest of being classy, I won’t go that far.
This ex might express their “grouchiness” (ahem, being a jackass) in a variety of ways. Maybe they are constantly trash-talking you to their friends, or even your friends, after the breakup. Maybe they give you the silent treatment for days on end or ignore you when you cross paths in the grocery store. Maybe they’re just plain rude and they come to your house in the middle of the night to take back that sweatshirt you borrowed. Sometimes it doesn’t even feel worth the time to try and be nice to them because you know they’ll either fake it back to you, or they’ll reject it and go on being mean to you instead.
I’ve had one big grouchy ex in my life, and it was a disaster. My heart goes out to everyone who is struggling with one right now (or has ever). I still can’t figure out if being rude is just their coping mechanism to avoid feelings, or if they genuinely just get bitter for no reason. That is (and may always be) a mystery.
2. The Quick Healer Ex
This ex is the kind that acts like nothing ever happened with the breakup and goes on with their life. In my experience, this type of ex is pretty common. These people heal quickly, often leaving the other person behind to hurt and gather their emotions. They dive right back into their lives, sometimes even dating other people right off the bat (I’m talking days, weeks or mere months). They don’t have the “mourning” phase that lots of us know so well, and they seemingly walk away from the breakup unscathed. These exes can be either friendly or rude — maybe they’re friendly but weirdly happy, or maybe they’re rude to you in addition to dating someone else immediately.
It’s difficult to watch someone else move on so quickly and walk away from the damage, and sometimes these types of exes can make it really hard to help yourself heal. Watching them live it up when you’re hurting is like one big slap in the face. I’m often jealous of these types of people because I take a long time to absorb my feelings and move on when I part from someone. Like, come on, share your secret! Please?
3. The Good Friend Ex
This ex tends to be a good one. They are mature about the breakup, deciding to end things amicably, and you guys go right back to being friendly with each other again. Usually, this type of ex is one whom you had a friendship with prior to dating. That’s how this ex ends up being so uncomplicated and nice — you two have probably decided to keep things cool so that your friendship and presence in each other’s lives will not be ruined. You might even continue to hang out together on a daily basis, and you probably still have lots of fun together.
This is not to be confused with the still-in-love ex (which I will describe next), wherein the ex (or you) is still in love and uses friendship as a gateway to possibly dating again. Instead, the Good Friend Ex is just that — a good friend of yours. Nothing less, nothing more. The breakup is usually fairly simple and you’ve probably mutually decided that things are better this way. Look at it like this: you’re not losing a lover, you’re gaining a friend back!
4. The Still-in-Love Ex
Well, this one’s a doozy. This is probably the most complicated ex that you could possibly encounter. This ex hasn’t moved on, and they are still in love with you. (And maybe the feeling is even mutual — it depends on the situation.) The circumstances of the breakup might have been foggy and impersonal, like maybe it was a right-person-wrong-time type of thing, or maybe one of you is about to leave for college or a big trip or to move across the country and you don’t want to hold each other back. This one can hurt, especially as the feelings linger.
Sometimes, this ex is still a good friend of yours. They might attempt a friendship as a way to keep you in their life, or maybe you initiated the friendship and they just can’t seem to stop thinking of you as more than that. Or maybe both of you are just stuck in a rut and can’t figure out how you feel because you both cling to one another. This ex can manifest in many different ways, but it’s a pretty tricky scenario in general.
5. The Clean Break Ex
This ex is usually the ideal ex. Things between you ended nicely. There were no fireworks to celebrate your splitting up, but there was no bad blood, either. And you’re not friends, but you’re not enemies. You probably don’t talk all that much but you know that if you did, you’d be on good terms and be kind to one another. The breakup — and the ex’s actions after it — are very simple, and trouble-free, and “clean” (hence the name). Maybe you see them in public once in a while, catch their eye, and smile. The spark is gone, but you do not harbor resentment for them, and they do not hate you. Your situation is very mature. This likely isn’t an ex that you’ll obsess over forever or constantly seek closure with like some of the others.
If you’ve had an ex like this, consider yourself lucky, because we’re all trying to get to this point and it’s usually sabotaged. Or, better yet, if you are this type of ex yourself, keep on doing what you’re doing. You’re making the world a little easier for your own ex.
So what happens now?
Well, that depends on the ex you have. For example, if your ex is the Good Friend ex, then go on being friends… as long as it doesn’t bother you or make you feel conflicted inside. If your ex is the Grouchy Ex, ditch them — as hard as it may be — or at least let them know that you won’t tolerate them being an utter jerk.
Relationships are hardly easy, and breakups aren’t, either. In fact, I’ve had my own rocky relationships with exes. One in particular ended up matching at least 2 descriptions on this list, and we crashed and burned after he gota traumatic brain injury. Thankfully, though, I was finally able to get closure and move on. (You can read more about this experience in my article below.)
Remember to prioritize yourself above all, and never lose sight of your worth. If you broke up with someone and things ended badly, know that you deserve better, and that someday in this crazy life, you will find it.
And if you wish for your ex to remain in your life, then do so cautiously and make sure that both of you are willing to stay honest about your feelings. Contrary to popular belief, I do think it is possible to remain friends with an ex, no-strings-attached, if both people are honest, kind, mature, and have found peace within themselves.
You know best of all what you need during times of healing and separation. Or maybe you’re totally fine. In that case, keep doing what you’re doing, and take pride in your strength.
To anyone who is struggling with an ex right now, I feel you. And to anyone who is an ex and doesn’t know how to feel, I feel you, too.
And to all of you: best of luck.
This post was previously published on Medium.
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