Monday, March 24, 2008

Owing Your Ex

When we enter into relationships, they come with certain obligations -- everyone knows that. All of the sudden you have to take someone else into consideration before you make a decision. Want to pick up and move to Phoenix for no reason? Better discuss it with your boyfriend. Staying out all night with the boys? You might want to call you're live-in fiancé® Buying a new car? Unless you're a dot-com millionaire, you'd better clear it with your wife.

But at which point after a relationship ends do you stop owing someone an explanation? When can you stop filling someone in on the details of your life?

A lot of it depends on your current relationship with your ex. If they're still a part of your life and you talk every few weeks, you might prefer that they hear certain things from you rather than someone else.

But if you haven't spoken in a few years you almost never need to tell them anything.

Examine your motives -- that should give you all of the answers you need. Are you sharing to make yourself feel better or because it will hurt them? No confessions of cheating to assuage your guilt, no gloating over your latest honey when your ex has been single and depressed for six months. Always keep the other persons feelings in mind. Does she really need to know? Ok, your doctor tells you you're HIV+, and may have gotten it as much as five years ago because you're a dumb ass and didnt get checked. YES, she really needs to know. Does she need to know that you most likely got it from the prostitute you cheated on her with in NY when you were there on business? No.

Of course, just because you don't owe them anything doesn't mean you get to be rude and insensitive (unless you were dating Evil Incarnate).

In fact, if you can get past the feelings of obligation, you can come through for him on the big things with much purer motives. I'm not talking about "being there" so they can call and whine about the status of your relationship, but for when they seriously need you . . . and I'm speaking from personal experience.

A couple of years ago I was in a really bad situation -- I may fill you in on the details another time, but let's just say my mom was not well and leave it at that. I called my ex, Michelle, whom I hadn't spoken to in a year and a half. Without giving me any crap about calling out of the blue, she left work and came to the hospital to see me. She talked to me a lot during what was a really tough week for me, and she went to the funeral when
it was all over. There's no way I can thank her or repay her for helping me through one of the most difficult times of my life.

But did she owe it to me? No. Not even after five years of dating.

Once someone's your ex, you really don't "owe" them anything -- besides taking their feelings into account when you talk to them or about them. No explanations. No rehashing what went wrong. Not even phone calls to let him know you're engaged even though you haven't spoken in two years.

But obligations aside, if you can come through for him when it really counts, that's what matters. And he'll thank you for it, one way or another.

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