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Secret Life of a Nerd Girl: Even Better Than Sleeping Together


A blogumn by Gudrun Cram-Drach

I am one of those people who, when it is possible, prefers to retain communication with an ex after we have broken up. I do it for a number of reasons, primarily because if I liked them well enough to spend the majority of my free time with them, thinking about them, or doodling our last names hyphenated together, then cutting off all communication seems to devalue the good part of our relationship. It wasn’t a total waste of time. Whatever hitch it was that unraveled us as a couple is secondary to what brought us together. But don’t get me wrong, I do have exes I am perfectly happy never seeing or hearing from again. I’m not that nuts.

Oftentimes, a good romance is also a friendship, and as long as it’s consensual, why not continue that part of it? It can take time to get to a friendly point, and openness about what makes you comfortable (you may have to start with an I-don’t-want-to-know-who-you’re-dating-now rule) but it can be very nice.

I truly value the friendship of “my good ex,” the fellow I was with for over four years in LA, who I didn’t stay with forever, even though it seemed we were headed that way. Obviously we were good together, and obviously something wasn’t right. But in LA he knows me better than anyone, and it’s nice to be able to talk to him about anything and everything from light gossip (“so-and-so are getting married”), to dating questions (“I fooled around with a girl at a party, and I’d like to see her again but I don’t want to sound like a letch”), to whether I’ve cleaned the grad-school figure drawings out of the trunk of my car (I haven’t).

Another ex-turned-friend was the best one (my former “big ex”) in New York. We’ve dropped off a bit on account of geography and his own moving on (see Married Exes) but we were close after the breakup and we even got to a point of discussing our dynamic and why things went wrong. It was vindicating to hear him confess he had a hand in the madness kicked up by our tumultuous arguments. At the time everything had been “my fault.” Maybe that should make me angrier, but we dated during a dark period in my life when I was willing to take the blame. I didn’t love the idea, but I bought it. If we hadn’t maintained contact, he wouldn’t have said this and I would always (or at least until I spent enough time on the couch to figure it out) have thought it was me.

Lately I’ve become friends with someone I dated casually and recently. If you want to get technical about it, we didn’t really go on dates, but we had something. We’ve discussed our time together, and we openly acknowledge that we were using each other for a false sense of intimacy. Recently he said “I like you better now than when we were sleeping together,” and I had to concur. The friendship we are building is much more satisfying than our nights of empty (though fun) physicality.

Once the tangled mess of a breakup finally clears, you can see the other in a new light and appreciate them better as a person. You can step back and remember what life was like before you came together, and why you were attracted in the first place. You can support them (and be supported) as an intimate friend. Sometimes it is bittersweet, but I prefer it to total loss.