As we shuffled into the room, looking for our seat numbers, I was distracted by an excited voice calling out my name. Across the room was a bright-eyed girl waving. I flashed her grin and gestured that I’d talk to her after the exam. Buddy-girl wore a quizzical frown as she took the seat next to me and said, “Who was that???”
“Oh, the ex-girlfriend of my ex-boyfriend” I said airily. Both of us laughed for a good minute at that. Then she said, “She seems to be abnormally thrilled to see you.” “And why not?” I agreed, “After all we have a lot in common now.” I guess we always did. Your ex’s exes are probably the most sympathetic group you’ll ever find once you’ve broken up. Nothing bonds women as much as having a common point of male-bashing. I suspect the same is true of men.
Kidding apart, it has been a thing with me always…a zealous interest in the ex-es of my (now-ex) boyfriends. If I had my way, I’d interview all the exes of the person I was about to enter a relationship with, especially the most recent one. It doesn’t strike me as an odd thought at all. Consider that most companies like to check up with the old employers of a candidate they are considering. It provides a perspective on someone you don’t know that well and are having to form an opinion on, based on face-up impressions only.
When I think about it, I’ve always had a lot in common with the ex-es of whoever I was with. We do after all gravitate to a certain type of person and repeat that pattern in all our close relationships, mostly so in friendship and love. In fact, getting to know the ex-es of your current flame can tell you a whole lot about them. What they look for in a relationship…you can see that from what you have in common with all the others they’ve been with.
One guy had a string of ex-es who were all bright, friendly and fun (“over-excitable” is how he described them). Sure then, that was flattering that I was being perceived that way too. It did lead to some odd situations. When he broke up with his first girlfriend, a couple of us from his ‘gang’ rallied around and tried to make peace between the two of them. Then he ended up dating the other girl. So of course I had to endure his ex’s bitchy catharsis, while playing “I’m so thrilled for the two of you” to my other friend. And then they broke up and I had an overgrown baby (HIM!) to take care of, soothe his injured ego and get him to make peace. Then it was my turn and of course the other two (now –exes) took over my role. I wonder what they bitched about me. As it turned out, I hung onto him the longest but I’m the only one of them who didn’t forgive him in the end. I was speaking to one of them a couple of days back and she said…”I didn’t see you at his wedding”. “Certainly not, I don’t want to ever see him again” I replied, “What about you?”. She said (a tad defensively, I thought) “I don’t’ feel that way. He’ll always be my buddy and I wouldn’t miss his day for anything.” Don’t ask me why that hurt.
It leaves a positively foul taste in my mouth, the saints whose ex-es speak so glowingly of them. At least my other ex- was universally deplored by anyone who had once been close to him (and I uphold that truth now!) That’s about the only thing I have in common with his other ex-es as I discovered that he tended to like girls who were ‘tall and looked XYZ’. Superficial, asisine dunderhead…I’m so glad the other girls also had the same good sense to let him go.
I will admit that it always makes me feel a little better if my partner isn’t all that friendly with his ex-es. Aside from the green-eyed monster, it gives me a chance to play my martyred mommy role and ‘heal old wounds’ by making peace. Yup, I’m one of those hypocrites who advocate the ‘forgive and let go’ policy while not being able to do so myself. Ah, I guess we teach best what we most need to learn.
On the other hand, I am hypocritical enough to hate the idea of my current boyfriend getting too pally with my ex-es. As it turns out that has never happened. All the men in my life seem to hate each other on sight. I don’t know if I just attract such explosive characters or whether men are just naturally more territorial.
Of course there is that all-time nagging curiosity over what did go wrong in the earlier relationships. In my experience, most men don’t want to talk about this at all. It could be that the men I’ve dated have just had guilty consciences or perhaps they’re just the ‘leave your brains behind’ type. Why then, were they with me? Attraction of the opposites perhaps? Meeeooooowwwwrrrr….
I think an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend can reveal some pretty insightful things about a person that wouldn’t otherwise come to light. Certainly you have to discount any residual resentment or jealousy that may be festering in old wounds. However the question, is what your newfound love has done to evoke such sentiments in the other person. And useful to understand the shortcomings that he/she has that could hurt other people…after all, you’re going to be coming up against them yourself and forewarned is forearmed.
I certainly wouldn’t say that an ex’s sentiments should stop one from getting involved with a person one likes. That’s the ridiculous standpoint of someone who demands the truth but can’t handle it. If you’re as obsessed with seeing the real picture as I am, then you’ll have to prepared to uncover some nasty truths as well. And well, no one is a better source of truths, nasty and nice (but mostly nasty) than an ex.
Ever heard of the adage about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer? I’d say “Keep your love close and their exes closer”.