Going Back To My Ex


[Word count: 785. Approximate read time: 4 minutes]

Whenever you come in contact with someone you were once intimately close to but now are virtual strangers, interesting reactions happen. You remember the good things and the bad things. One usually rises to the surface. Sometimes both swirl together unpredictably like iridescent colors on an oil slick.

When a goal has both positive and negative aspects that make it simultaneously appealing and unappealing, it’s called an approach-avoidance conflict. I am traditionally bad at these. Exes almost always bring them up.

Both sides now

Whatever ambivalence you feel, your ex probably does too. Both the benefits and baggage of your relationship usually stay right where you left them. It would be wise to not think you’re the only person with wounds.

“Bring me your wounds. I’ll bring mine too.
And we will heal… mend. Me and you.”
Mary J. Blige, “Come To Me (Peace)”

You both probably think you’re owed something. If you expressed these debts in dollars, you’d be giving each other bills for about the same amount. If you both paid, you’d really only break even.

Wish I never met her

When relationships get funky, I usually want to gather all the memories, details, artifacts, affects, and offshoots… pile that stuff onto a large boat… sail it out to the middle of the Pacific… blow the mother up… and let the bad shrapnel rain down among silt on the sea floor.

The problem is… if you picked a half-decent person to be in relationship with, at some point, very good things came of it. If you are a half decent person, you also contributed good things. Wishing your relationship never happened erases both their bad and your good. Maybe you want to send a cyborg into the past to kill your ex. Doing this would also destroy some of the best things that belong to you.

We are never ever getting back together

Being civil after a breakup minimizes bitterness. But with civility, either party could mistakenly think “we’re getting back together.” Usually when I break, it stays all the way broke. I’m not given to on-again-off-again relationships, but I understand how they happen.

Without recent animosity, their face only reminds you of good times you had together. Funny inside jokes no one else knows about. And familiar comforts you felt in happier times. But if you’re smart, your thoughts won’t stop there.

What you had was good, but there’s plenty you don’t miss. I usually keep a list of reasons we weren’t a good fit… in case I forget. Make the list. Keep the list. You get forgetful? Read the damn list.

The things you loved haven’t changed. The things you hated haven’t either. Didn’t get enough the first time? The same patterns that lead to the initial break up will probably repeat themselves. Recently healed wounds may get reopened the same way you first got them.

Not to say reunions are impossible. Some couples, after they’ve had time to think, reassess failures, grow separately, and make new commitments, can successfully walk off into the sunset together. My best advice would be to consider this carefully. Make sure your thinking isn’t the wishful kind.

“Before you get married, keep both eyes open. After you marry, close one eye.” —African proverb

As for me and my house

Sorry for the misdirect, but I’m not torn about my ex-girlfriends today. It’s my old church. They’re having a 10-year-anniversary celebration and I am fraught with ambivalence. I’ll be participating in a worship leaders’ reunion even as I am waist deep in writing about the ways that ministry damaged me while I was there.

The day could be filled with any number of triggers for negative experiences, but I’m hoping only the positives come to mind.

Last night, the pastors had a high-school style dance celebrating their wedding anniversary. They even held it in a high school gym. It wasn’t a typical church function either. They had a real DJ and legitimately clubbable music for asses of all ages and sizes to shake to. Feet shuffled happily in flats or teetered in heels. Sweat rolled into eyes and loosened up tight hairstyles. They said they wanted people to have a good time and that happened.

“Hold on to the way we started, how it all should have gone.”
Mutemath, “Lost Year”

As a card-carrying introvert, I only showed up because I promised I would. But after 30 minutes of dancing and smiling, I warmed up to people quickly. It made me remember happier times. It’s hard to recall hurts and bring up lists when you can’t finish one loving embrace for being interrupted by another. Let’s hope today turns out as pleasant as last night.


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18 thoughts on “Going Back To My Ex

  1. I surrender. YOU ARE the Wordsmith.

    This… was perfect.

    Argh, I wish I could articulate it all here, but it would be to no avail and probably messy… But well done twin… well done… and thank you- for using your liberty to well state what I never could even had I the words to do so.

    I needed to “say” this… even if only vicariously.

    That mutemath line was a sonic discharge in the contemplative quiet of my inner contemplations as well…

    • Twin, I’m not sure everyone caught the importance of that Mutemath line. I would’ve loved to go into detail, but… “write with a scalpel” and all. You got it though. And thank you. You’re still the Poetry Wordsmith though. You got no competition from me there. Fawvah God.

  2. The list is vital. Problem is, we rarely make them, let alone stick to em. Im in a relationship where my love maintains too-close-for-comfort friendships with a few exes. It causes paranoia I thought Id kicked in my last relationship where my ex cheated repeatedly with his “play this-or-that, his bff, and his child’s mother who he claimed he couldn’t stand. Id love for my current to make a list but the reality is, some people dont WANT to let those memories pass. Its a separation they’re (he’s) not interested in and a mourning theyre not wanting to endure. And its causing me a lot of stress.

    • I understand the “mourning” aspect. After seeing my ex today and feeling really great, then feeling not-so-great, I’d like to cut that chapter off, but it’s hard to look at all the good and throw it away. It seems like it would cause as many problems as it would solve to separate… Leaving indifference and limbo as the only option. Maybe your guy’s got a similar quandry. Have YOU ever been in a caught-in-between place like that?

  3. You’re the man, Mark! I thought I had figured it out before reading, then you convinced me I was wrong. Just when I thought I was right there with you…Boom! You blew up my whole spot! Thanks for that experience. I hope Sunday went well.

    • Hey, my ally. Thank you!!! I probably should write about Sunday. It was beautiful to see my old friends and be a part of the reunion like we used to do. And then in a couple moments, it turned and I felt the slicing side of it. Something they said pierced me, and I left early. Had to lick my wounds. And I feel stupid because I’ll probably go back and some point in the near future. And feel the same great-then-horrible way.

      “Baby I just can’t stand to see you happy. More than that, I hate to see you sad… What’s this strange relationship?” —Prince

  4. I immediately knew what you were talking about as it relates to your involvement with the ministry, but I almost second-guessed it because of how well you fused that with the ex-relationship metaphor. Clever. Anyway, this made me think, feel, and chuckle. “Music for asses of all ages and sizes to shake to?!” That should be some club’s slogan.I loved it.

    • Well, listen… I am honored that you stretched your fly mind wide for li’l ol’ me. I’m glad it was worth the time invested.

      (No you didn’t say Oglevee though. I’m surprised you didn’t #HeyBoo me. LOL)

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