Saturday, December 15, 2012

The EX-Factor...When Over isn't Really Over

It's over...but is it really over? Lesbians have a humorous reputation of three things: One, we show up with an U-Haul on the second date; Two, one year of a lesbian relationship is analogous to 7 heterosexual years; Three, we never really quite break-up with each other. I believe it is simply a testament to how deeply and passionately we love as women, which is a beautiful thing.  However there are some things, sisters, that simply need better boundaries.  The Ex-Factor is one of them.  If you have seen all of your BFF's naked at one time or another because they're all your exes--Then this article just might be for you.   

I can hear the voices of the naysayers now...Isn't it a good thing to remain friends with the women you've once loved? Yes, but not all of them for the love of goodness! There is nothing honorable about trailing a string of exes behind you like a walking, breathing resume of your love life. Besides, how does someone new build a life with you if your exes are constantly taking you down memory lane.  There is no real space for new girlfriend.  Now, I am not saying you can't have a friendly, loving friendship with your ex.  It is possible to do but having clear, intentional boundaries is the key.  So for the sake of clarity, let's look at what not to do:

 1) Don't continue to stroll down memory lane: Put an active detour on too many conversations with the ex about how you "used to be back when".  Too often this will have the same affect that birthing children has on new moms...I like to call it pain memory lapse syndrome, wherein you romanticize the good and selectively forget the sheer torture of being together.  This is when you focus on the giggles and fun memories to the point of forgetting the pain, suffering and labor that came with trying to be in a relationship with your ex.  Let it go! If it was so great you would still be there.  It is a manipulative way of maintaining a form of intimacy with an ex and it isn't respectful of your current relationship.  Sure you may have fond memories of exes that periodically come up in conversation with them.  Keep it brief and appropriate and don't make it a habit.
2) Don't maintain the habit of your ex: What does this mean?  It really is about behaving your way into a healthy friendship with your ex.  When you have spent a lot of time with someone you may have often formed a fair amount of habits around the connection.  So it is not that you are still in love with her--You are just still in a habit with her.  For example, you are stuck on the side of the road--You call her (Get AAA instead, please).  You are having a tough day with your boss and your new partner is unavailable for your, well deserved, pity party--So you call the ex.  Here is my therapeutic answer to address this habit-centered violation--Stop doing that! Plain and simple.  When you think of doing it remind yourself that you are not honoring your new love, then come up with plan B. 

3) Don't let your ex dominate your family and squeeze your new love out: Many of us have had long term relationships in which there have been genuine attachments with our family of origin.  This is just natural and you cannot dictate the relationship your ex has with your family.  After all, connections that were 5, 10, 15 years have had an impact on your entire family.  People may have formed bonds with your ex that you can't control.  However, you can ask your family to make room for your new love to form a relationship too.  This may mean that, at least for a while, your ex should not spend X-mas, Thanksgiving, etc. with you and your loved ones.  Let your new sweetie find her way with them too.  If you love someone enough to bring her to your family--which I am assuming you don't do haphazardly--give her your support in being embraced by them.

4) Don't vent your relationship woes to your ex: I know this seems like a no-brainer but you might be surprised at how many exes spend time talking about their frustrations with an ex.  This is a big no-no.  It is human nature to have an ego response to someone seeming to say "she is not as good as you".  Don't even set each other up that way.  Call a friend, seek counseling or write in your journal.  Whatever you do, step away from speed dialing your ex.

5) Don't allow your ex to disregard your new sweetie: If your ex is really just your friend, then she will want your happiness.  She should be making an extra effort to engage and embrace your new partner.  She should want to assuage any suspicion your sweetie might have by giving off the energy of pure friendship.  Don't let your ex get her ego kicks out of making your partner uncomfortable.  That is simply not okay.  And if all of your conversations with your ex are held in 007-style, in a secret location away from home and your new sweetie, well you might be in danger of succumbing to the EX-FACTOR.  You should be able to have some conversations in front of your partner the same as with any other friendship.

These are just a few tips to help you create healthy boundaries with your ex partner.  As lesbians we love intensely and passionately, as I stated in the beginning.  But it is imperative to find empowering ways to transition from lover to friend without derailing your chances of finding and keeping a life-long partnership.  Find a way to do this is a manner to experience true love and friendship with respect and integrity.  I wish you success on your journey to unraveling the EX-FACTOR.

I honor you for taking the steps toward this LOVE REVOLUTION…Nya Akoma!

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