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Opinions of Saturday, 27 February 2016

Columnist: Manasseh Azure Awuni

Why your ex can’t be your friend

Dear Serwaa,

Today I want to remind you of one fundamental principles you must learn and keep if you want our relationship to live to achieve the purpose for which it was started. You may treat it as a law, that is if you won’t find it too authoritative. I want you to know that your ex-boyfriend can never be your friend.

He should not be your enemy. But he is not, should not, cannot and must not be your friend. The regular phone calls must cease, and messages between you two must stop. I will not take your meetings with him lightly. Get it once and for all. And let’s bring a closure on this matter.

The biggest threat to every relationship is the presence of the former lover of one of the two parties, or worse when the two partners are still in regular touch with their ex-lovers. The only way to have a happy relationship and happy marriage is to follow the lyrics of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana hymn that says if you are running and you keep looking sideways, you will never get to your destination. It is even worse and more dangerous if one keeps looking backwards as you do with your ex. Maybe the lesson of Lot’s wife should not be lost on you.

This week, I read an intriguing article written by Helen FitzGerald, an Australian novelist. The article, which was published by the Guardian newspaper in the UK was titled: “Why I went back to my ex-boyfriends, one by one.”

Helen celebrated her silver wedding anniversary with her husband, Sergio, in September last year and describes her 25-years of marriage with him as being “ridiculously happy.” Two weeks before their wedding, however, Helen did something crazy. She decided to revisit all the men she had dated before she met Sergio. Sergio agreed and even went a step further to accompany her on one such visit. Why did Helen do what she did?

“I had left Australia three years earlier to travel, just after breaking up with James. Truth be told, I fully expected to return to James, but somewhere along the way Sergio happened, and I decided to leave Australia permanently and live with him in Scotland. As the wedding approached, I was as excited as I was terrified, and felt the need to revisit the person I had been with. I wanted to make sure I was being true to myself; that I was right to leave my old world,” she writes.

“I’ve never been very good at making decisions. Closure? Forget it. When I was dating in my teens and early 20s, I lingered over relationships, too terrified to move on. Each boyfriend came with a life laid out. To end it meant abandoning a known future and heading into an uncertain one.”

When Helen visited her ex-boyfriend, James, she went with Sergio. While she took a walk with James, Sergio also walked ahead with James’ new girlfriend. Before she realised what was happening, she was holding hands with James and it took a stern look from Sergio to disengage the two. She said it happened “accidentally.”

Helen also tried to contact another former boyfriend of hers, Daniel, “who cried whenever we had sex, more so when he was looking at me. Once, while he was at it, head in the pillow howling, he came up for air and said, ‘I’ve just got to get through this!’ I couldn’t track him down, unfortunately. I do hope he came out.”

She also reached out to Ethan. And also visited her first boyfriend, Dave, whose sexual prowess she writes fondly about. “Most of 1981 was spent kissing. One whole year was dedicated to foreplay – ie, a year of the best sex I would ever have. Dave was also unusually sized, in a good way, which I didn’t realise at the time, him being the first. This means I have been disappointed ever since.”

After many years of happy marriage, Helen writes: “I think my ex tour played a part. My exes helped me uncover the qualities I didn’t want in a life partner, and the ones I did.”

Serwaa, Helen’s story article is an intriguing story but I disapprove of what she did, and you may be wondering why I decided to tell you about it. Am I encouraging you to try such a thing? Far from it! The day you try such a thing will be the day you will graduate from being my girlfriend to my ex-girlfriend.

It is interesting to note that Helen gave a hint she would not have tolerated what happened when Sergio followed her on her ex-tour. “In fact, Sergio introduced me to his own ex before our wedding. Thankfully, they didn’t accidentally hold hands. (I’m not as understanding as Sergio.)” . Helen and Sergio have been married for 25 years

Helen did the unthinkable. She took an extreme step. But the reality is that many people enter into relationships and still flirt dangerously with their former lovers. I have a strong view on this. And that is why I find it difficult to understand your explanation that your ex is just your friend and that you now see him as a brother.

Serwaa, an ex-boyfriend cannot and must not be your friend. Your ex should not be your enemy, but he should not be your friend either. You must not have conversations with him. When you move on, live your life as if you have never known him. It can sometimes be difficult, but it is the only sensible thing to do if you want to save your relationship.

Love does not die completely. Irrespective of how bitter the two lovers were during the breakup, time heals. The anger dies down eventually. But the remnants of love that bound the two together will still linger for a while. Time does not kill it. Distance does. Many people who cheat in their relationships do so with their ex. Sometimes, they eventually go back to settle with them, leaving the new lover who entered into the relationship with hope with disappointment and heartache.

Sometimes those who go back to their ex-lovers do not do so with the intention of settling with them. Some just want to have fun with them and dump them. The men do this more.

If you are in a relationship and your partner is entertaining their ex, there are only two options available to you: talk them into cutting ties with their ex or begin to find your way out.

Another reason you must cut all ties with your ex is to avoid the tendency of comparing your current lover with your ex. I don’t know how Sergio felt when Helen wrote that she was disappointed after experiencing Dave’s manhood and later settling for men who were not as endowed as he is.

Serwaa, I have a past. And you have a past. What everyone who has ever been in a serious relationship may have learnt is that, it is difficult to move on. Leaving a relationship is not easy even if the relationship is not the one you would want to keep. Besides, the fact that you are leaving a relationship doesn’t mean everything about the partner is bad. There are certain aspects of them we may love but the overall evaluation of the person may give us a fair idea of whether to leave or stay.

If the negative about the person outweighs the positive and you are leaving, you may still yearn for the positive side. It is human nature. I know a young lady who left an abusive relationship but still could not let go the sexual satisfaction that abusive young man gave her. It was one of the reasons she lost the new guy she was about to marry.

Did she go back to her ex? No! She had sworn nothing would make her marry that man. She didn’t see a future with him. What she was missing was his sex. Unfortunately, however, there is more to a relationship and marriage than good sex. The only way to avoid such pitfalls is to cut ties with your ex. Even if you don’t keep that friendship with the intention of doing anything with them, they may have very different reasons.

Serwaa, a few people are so lucky that their first boyfriends or girlfriends end up marrying them and being with them forever. That is not the case with many. When things don’t work out and you are moving on, move on. Don’t leave a relationship with one foot behind. Whoever you have dated and moved on belongs to your past. Don’t be bitter even if you regret ever spending a day with them. Move on with the lessons. They all help to shape you and make you a better person depending on how you take them.

When moving on, however, don’t entertain your past, your ex. If that past were good enough you would not have moved on.

I know that as hard as I try, it is not humanly possible to be everything you have ever wished for or dreamt about in a man. Sometimes the dreams and imaginations are so wild that you won’t find them in any man or woman in this world. Even if you can find them, you cannot find all the qualities in one person. That is the reality you must come to if you want to forget your past and work on what you have now. That is the reality we have to confront and be content with each other despite our shortcomings.

On this reality shall we build our marriage and the gates of divorce shall not prevail against it.

Yours truly,


The writer is a senior broadcast journalist with Joy 99.7FM. His email address is