The other night, when I was cheerfully walking down the street, on my way to meet a friend for a drink, I received a text message from him: “By the way, I invited your ex-boyfriend to meet us. Hope it’s not too weird?” When I read this, I actually involuntarily flailed my arms and let out an exasperated, soundless “What!” But then I remembered that I’m a grownup. I resolved to suck it up, make nice and enjoy the evening.
And that’s exactly what happened: We all met up, we had some drinks, we moved on to dinner and more drinks. We talked about all of the people we know in common, old and new friends, and we filled each other in on work and travel plans, past and future. And then we headed our separate ways. It was fun and surprisingly easy. And over the course of the evening, I was forced to remember that this guy who had once left me pretty heartbroken was actually pretty great.
Sometimes, after a breakup, it’s easier to hold onto all of the bad things about the relationship and all of the reasons it failed. It can be tougher to remember that this was a person who once made you pace the length of your apartment in anticipation of his arrival, who introduced you to his parents and baked you bread pudding, and who you used to talk to late into the night while lying in bed. It’s less painful to reduce someone to an unpleasant caricature, to someone who you never should have fallen for in the first place if your eyes were wide open, than to acknowledge that there just wasn’t enough good stuff to make it really work.
I usually spend a lot of time dodging interactions with exes. I’m polite and civil, and I never want to be that person who can’t be invited to the same party as someone she used to date. But I cut ex-boyfriends out of my life, avoiding requests to catch up over coffee or post-work drinks, and brushing off gossip about who they’re now dating and where they’re now working. But I’m starting to reconsider, wondering if I’m missing out. Maybe it’s ultimately more happy-making to acknowledge that even someone great can break your heart – especially if you’ve broken a couple yourself. And once some time passes and the hurt disappears, someone who used to make you pace can become someone you’re genuinely happy to see across a table.