The trouble with being mates with your ex

Why do partners wait until you split up to finally find the strength to be all the things you wanted them to be?!

The world went into collective hysteria this week when Brad and Jen were seen Being Friends at some awards. They seem perfectly able to be mates, but the world is not grown-up enough to cope apparently. They can’t even have a hello hug and kiss without screaming headlines. It must be very irritating.

Being mates with an ex brings all sorts of issues into play, as I am discovering at the moment, whilst trying to be mates with an ex. I mean, it’s nice that we have split up without creating a whole bunch of carnage, and that we can hang out together without wanting to kill each other, most of the time. And I’m genuinely very fond of him. But being close so soon after splitting (less than six months ago) brings its own challenges.

…the biggest challenge I’m facing is ‘why the fuck couldn’t you do that when we were together?’

There’s the ‘you look good, oh no do I still fancy you/did I make a mistake?’ challenge. And the ‘wow I wish you’d been this pleasant to me when we were together’ challenge. And who hasn’t felt the ‘ugh do you still do that?’ challenge? But the biggest challenge I’m facing is ‘why the fuck couldn’t you do that when we were together?’

This can be anything from apparently now being able to organise social activities, having been allergic to making arrangements for around a decade, to finally going to the gym and taking care of oneself. Perhaps he looks at me too and feels the same, I dunno. But bloody hell. The man he is now is a much improved model on the one I used to be with. Why does this happen?

The weekend, and friends are house-guesting. M likes them too – and they him – so I invite him along for dog walk and breakfast on the Sunday morning. After some overthinking from him (“It’s just yes or no to breakfast, not an opportunity for a relationship post mortem,” I say eventually) all is fine. We have a nice walk, the sun shines, I fall over and hilariously get muddy, nobody snaps at anyone, and we repair to mine for coffee and a bit of the old convivial afterwards.

The conversation turns to my friend and her improved sleep due to husband getting a machine to fix his sleep apnoea. “It’s marvellous,” says my friend. “N has got a special mask now that has completely transformed our lives! No more snoring and he doesn’t nearly die all the time trying to breathe. I love him again!”

AND THEN M casually drops the fact that he’s seeing a sleep clinician about his snoring and apnoea too.

I stare. I am genuinely shocked into silence. I’m instantly, helplessly remembering the nights I’ve taken myself to a sofa in tears because of his snoring. The times he’s been angry with me for turning him over because of the noise. The night I got out of bed at a hotel I’ve wanted to stay at all my life to make a bed on the floor out of towels, because of the noise. The times over a TEN YEAR period I desperately begged him to see someone about the snoring and the noise. And – not for the first time but for very different reasons – I can’t quite believe what I’m hearing.

He starts to explain how they’ve done tests and discovered he’s not getting enough oxygen blah blah – by this point I’m not really listening properly, I’m reeling, and speechless. Because I knew all this, and he repeatedly told me there was nothing that could be done. More to the point, he wouldn’t even countenance exploring the options. Not once.

The night time noise – for me – was probably the biggest nail in our coffin. Not being able to be close to him and sleep peacefully. Not being able to snuggle on the sofa in case he dropped off to sleep. His snoring, and inability to breathe properly was tortuous and as I say, the fact he never even once tried to fix it… It was HUGE in our relationship breakdown. Maybe he doesn’t know that?! He must. Surely?

“Wow,” I manage. “That’s excellent, I’m really pleased for you.” Or words to that effect. I’m impressed I’ve managed to say them out loud and not actually lunge across the coffee table and prevent him from breathing right then.

Something in my voice must alert him though, or perhaps he can see past my thousand yard stare and realises what’s happened, because he starts to talk about how he didn’t go on purpose, and it was picked up whilst he was seeing the quack about something else.

We get through this and he leaves, without me killing him. And my friend and I drink Bloody Marys and watch Poirot and everything is fine. But I can’t stop thinking about this, and when I’m in bed later it takes every fibre of my being not to text him and ask him why.

Why now? Why not when we were together? Why couldn’t he love me enough to at least make ONE BASTARDING APPOINTMENT to find out if there was anything that could be done? All the years I’ve worn earplugs, laid there worrying about his inability to breathe, cried because I can’t sleep. And NOW THIS?

I don’t text. I sleep badly – ironically – and I’m glad when I wake up that I didn’t berate him. It’s hard not to look at how we drifted apart and know that it was – in part – because we couldn’t sleep together, or relax cuddling together on the sofa. And it’s hard not to wonder, if he’d got it fixed, or at least bloody tried, whether we’d still be together.

But I decide I don’t know the answer to that. And it’s too late now anyway. I’m very fond of him but we have, um, made our bed. And it’s nice being friends.

But still…


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