With an ex, that is. People may disagree with me, but unless you were solid friends to begin with, you’re not going to be friends after your romantic relationship ends. Social acquaintances, yes. Facebook friends, sure, if you’re one of those people who likes to collect them. But real, honest to goodness friends? Not a chance*.
I just ran into an ex of mine that I see maybe a few times a year. We broke up years ago, well before he and his wife started dating. We only see each other through friends of friends, but every time we run into each other I have two thoughts: #1: His wife is not okay with he and I talking. #2: He and I really could be friends, if not for #1.
I don’t have any romantic interest in my ex, and neither does he. The thing is though, if neither of us were married or in serious relationships and we did hang out socially, with drinks, I’m sure we’d end up making out afterwards. That’s more about the fact that we used to make out, though, then actual current interest in a real relationship. That's the underlying current between you and your exes that prevents you from being friends after your romantic relationship is over.
And that's probably what his wife is picking up on, but the thing she probably doesn’t realize is that we should have just been friends to begin with.
He and I had an affection towards each other, yes, a great affection, but I don’t think it ever really had the romantic drive it needed. Well, outside of the “I’m drunk let’s get naked” scene, which, let’s be honest, is more about alcohol and sex drive than anything else. We broke up for a reason, and I don’t think either of us regrets that decision. If anything I wish we’d done it sooner. We weren’t meant to date long term.
It’s awkward, though, on those few occasions that we’re all in the same social scene together, and kind of unfortunate. I really enjoy his company and would enjoy it more often if I didn’t feel like we were flirting under the watchful eye of his spouse. I would also enjoy it more if we didn't actually flirt. It's the default way I interact with him, though.
You can let go of things in your past but that doesn't mean they didn't happen. Your instinct will be to interact with your ex based on your previous relationship with him/her, regardless of your current relationship status. Without an original friend base, all you've got is the dating.
Today's lesson? Stop worrying about being friends with your exes and make sure you're being socially appropriate if there is overlap in your circles - no excessive flirting, no crazy ex behavior. Feel free to avoid the glaring from your ex's wife, too.
* Of course there are those super rare occurrences of exes who are now friends but weren’t before they dated. Your relationship is not one of those occurrences.