Drink – sorry, learn from me and live forever. If you’re serious about remaining friends and lots of water has gone under your bridge, there are ways of translating ‘feelings’ into a mutually-beneficial, healthy friendship. You’ve just got to be clever about it. And not be a dick. Can you do that? Clever and non-twatty? Great. Let’s get started.
1. Be dignified.
One of my exes used to receive 2am, 3am and, on one hideous occasion, 4am phone calls from me when I was having issues with the new-now-ex boyfriend (keep up at the back). Take their number off your phone if you cannot be trusted. You can re-add it at a later date.
2. Don’t contact them every day.
Even if you really want to. Give them space. Don’t expect miracles too soon. It’s taken me 15 years to become firm friends with one of my ex partners, and even now we’re still prone to the odd hissy fit in public.
3. Be cool, be nice.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever heard was ‘Be cool, be nice’. You might receive a message at some point telling you something you’d rather not hear, such as ‘I’m getting married’ or ‘I’m deeply in love with your brother’. Take it like a pro. Don’t send angry replies. Don’t send a card saying ‘With Sympathy’. Don’t arrange to meet up with them and flounce out of Pizza Express midway through a meal, shouting ‘This is classic you.’
4. Avoid the difficult questions
You don’t want the answer to them, anyway. Don’t feel you have to answer difficult questions if you know your response will wound or aggravate. These people (yourself included) don’t have unlimited access to truth and honesty any more, which came with the previous territory, and that’s fine. Your private life should remain just that.
5. Keep new personal developments to yourself
As and when you do sleep with someone new, keep your news off social media. Don’t tag yourself in an unfamiliar location. Don’t write something like ‘I have just woken up in Shepherds Bush and I am not alone. There’s a woman here. In fact, there are two, and we are all rolling around in a state of perpetual joy.’
6. Give Facebook a break
On the subject of that relatively-new torture device known as Facebook, don’t stalk new people who come on the scene. Leave them alone. What you’re seeing is a carefully-constructed idea of them. It’s not the real deal; it’s filters, smoke and mirrors, and your brain is probably filling in the rest, which will be hard to digest.
7. Be polite and kind to your next partner
Be polite and kind if you’re lucky (or, indeed, unlucky) enough to meet your replacement. Past the age of 15, everyone has a history, and there’s a good chance they feel as nervous as you do. You’re probably in their shoes now, if you’re bonking someone else, so smile and be gracious. There’s a good to middling chance they won’t like you, or they’ll feel uncomfortable, but at least you can show you’ve tried. Don’t get drunk. If you’re better looking, don’t feel like you have to draw attention to it – fear not, they’ll have noticed that too.
8. Remember the occasions
Remember birthdays. Remember Christmas. If it’s appropriate, keep in touch with their family, even if it’s just a yearly phone call when you’re blitzed after a Friday night pub session. If you hear they’re in the wars, drop them a line to check they’re OK and offer to see them if things are really bad.
9. No sex. Really.
A lot of people struggle with the ninth rule, and with good reason. You can never have sex with this person again. You can never kiss them again, hold hands with them again, or perform devious acts upon them around the back of a school in Islington after dark, again. That part’s over. Your friendship should be able to survive on the quality of your company alone. If you have to resort to bedroom antics to keep them in your life, sorry, take it from me – this truce will not last, this house is condemned, God help this divorce, etc.
10. Keep your feet on the ground.
Finally, try to remember that the very nature of relationships is fluid; we’re all just for rent, for varying lengths of time. Even putting a ring on it and buying a house doesn’t guarantee domestic bliss forever. Your own dynamic is plastic and elastic – it’s changing, and you’re both helping it evolve. Be gentle with each other during this time. You will get there – just be patient and work things through at your own pace.