We Can't Be Friends Because Your Girlfriend Says So?

I am, it appears, somewhat unusual in my penchant for staying friends — close friends, even — with some of my exes. Although there's a new show based on the concept (personally, I think Jo and Slade qualify more as business partners than "friends") and tons of columns about getting in touch with your exes, several of mine are no more than a phone call away (and I'm not even talking about a booty call). Maybe because emotional intimacy doesn't come that easily to me — or, one could argue, the guys that I date — when I have some with someone I tend to be willing to do the work to keep that person around, whether it's a female friend, male friend or even ex-boyfriend. Not that keeping them around is always up to me, though — sometimes it ends up being the decision of a third party entirely.

It's not unusual for two girlfriends to break up — it sucks, but it's not unusual. And I've had friendships cool, certainly, particularly when the woman (or dude) in question is the type who disappears when she/he has a Man. But I've never felt quite as discarded and devalued as when a male friend (normally an ex that I've gone through emotional hell with in order to stay friends) friend-dumps me because his new girlfriend/wife doesn't like us being friends. Especially when it's an ex, especially when you've already done the break-up emotions once and come out the other side into a decent and occasionally even close friendship, it sucks because it's being dumped for being a girl.

This has happened to me three times, and only once has any (minimal) contact ever been re-established. The first time was with my friend Rob — we had one of those emotionally intense, on-again-off-again relationships in college at the end of which the best friend of the girl-he'd-dumped-me-for-that-he-dumped-for-me described in detail overlap and what he'd said about me to me and 5 colleagues at a work event. I told him I was done for good and actually meant it. But it had been a year that meant a lot to us both and we worked really hard to stay friends, right up until he started dating "Lisa." Lisa was not a fan of mine and situation was not helped when he introduced us and then told her later that we'd had a "passionate on-again, off-again relationship" for more than a year. After that, I didn't see much of him until graduation. When I hugged him to say goodbye for what I thought was for good, she stomped her foot, pitched a hissy and insisted on leaving. They broke up 3 months later and our friendship got a lot closer. Two years later, they got back together and got married. After announcing his engagement to me, he stopped speaking to me entirely. At that point, we'd been friends for 3 years longer than we'd ever been lovers and I had a serious relationship of my own, but she told him that if she was his wife, then he had to cut ties and he did — without saying a word. He simply fell off the face of the earth (though he did call me for my birthday 3 years later to apologize and explain that he'd done it for her).

The second time was with Tom, who I considered to be my first adult relationship. We'd been friends for 3 years, dated for almost 2 and stayed friends for more than a year after that, hanging out in New York when I was there and talking on the phone. All that changed when he got together with "Sara," herself a long-time friend of his. Suddenly, he didn't pick up the phone when he saw my number, didn't return an email, never called back. Nine months into radio silence, he called to tell me he and Sara were getting married and she didn't approve of us being friends and that was the end of 6 years of (mostly) friendship.

The last time was with Mike, who I dated for 3 years. It was headed in a rather serious direction when he decided he wanted to make sure I was The One — an undertaking he took through personal ads on the Internet which I subsequently discovered. Much crying later, we broke up — after which I slept in his bed (platonically) for a week. We kept hanging out, kept lines of communication open, worked really hard to get past that awkward stage of what you really tell the other person and finally arrived somewhere pretty good where we could get dinner and laugh and tell stories, talk on the phone, and see each other at parties and feel good about it. And then along came The Accountant. That's all he ever called her to me, but soon after, the dinners stopped, and the phone calls got less frequent and the emails didn't get returned. Six months later, I saw him on a subway platform and he acted as though I didn't exist. Three years together and a year of being friends and I was relegated to the status of someone he preferred not to know (even though he was the one who'd done me wrong).

I mean, I know I can't say for sure that Lisa or Sara or The Accountant asked for me to be gotten rid of, or whether Rob, Tom and Mike just decided it was too much trouble to keep me around and deal with jealousy or conversations or even just the non-existent threat of those (but, having met Lisa and Sara, I have a pretty good idea it was the former). I'm sure I could've tried dating and being friends with men with the balls to say "She is my friend, and she's no threat to us so please trust me and get to know her and stop treating me as though I will be unfaithful," but that's another problem. But if you're that woman who is pressuring a boyfriend to dump his female friends, just know that some of us actually aren't interested in getting back together with our exes. Sometimes, us ex-girlfriend types might actually appreciate your boyfriend as a friend, as a person who's known us better than average and has a welcome perspective on our friendship. And then maybe think about how you felt the last time a friend ditched you for a boyfriend or a girlfriend and invite me for a drink. I'm actually a pretty good friend.

Photo via Susan & Her 5d