Keeping in touch with your ex can make it impossible to truly move on

ALRIGHT, I may not be an era-defining pop star, my ex isn’t a movie director and last time I checked, my divorce settlement didn’t cost a reported £60million, but when I saw pictures of Madonna and Guy Ritchie at an art gallery recently it gave me hope.

The Ciccone-Ritchies separated 12 years ago and, following bitter
custody battles over their two children, have rarely been seen together since.

So watching Madge, 61, Guy, 51, Madge’s new 25-year-old backing-dancer
boyfriend Ahlamalik Williams, and Guy’s wife Jacqui Ainsley all play happy
families was a reminder that even after the most toxic of splits, there might be a way to be friendly with an ex.

Many break-ups end with the words: “I hope we can still be friends”, but few of us manage it. Other than the Gwyneth Paltrows of this world – who can consciously uncouple and go on smiley group holidays with their former spouse – trying to be pals after a painful separation can tie you up in as many knots as a Madonna-esque yoga move.

Even if you don’t end up slipping back into a friends-with-benefits situation,
keeping in touch can make it impossible to truly move on.

And remaining friends on social media isn’t wise in my opinion – you will inevitably analyse pictures of them living their best life, while you’re still at home crying and eating cereal for dinner.

When I split with my partner of 13 years, losing him from my life felt like losing a limb, so I was determined to try to still be mates.

Because we didn’t have children together, once we’d sorted our divorce there was no real reason for us to remain in touch. And yet we tried to meet up for occasional dinners and coffees, which ranged from emotionally devastating to slightly awkward.

I discovered it’s not that easy to hang out with your ex when whole areas of your life are now completely off-limits for discussion – your break-up, your new dating life – and you’re left with just inane “How’s your family?” chat. Seeing an ex again after you’ve broken up can be an uncanny experience.

It reminds me of when you see an actor you know from a long-running TV show pop up in a different role. The face is familiar and the old affection is still there, but everything else feels strange and jarring.

Breaking the news to my ex-husband that I had met someone new was one of the most difficult phone calls I’ve ever had to make, second only to telling him I was pregnant.

There’s not really a good way to phrase those things, and no matter
how much you’ve moved on, I knew it would still be hard to hear. Thankfully, he responded to both with a grace and kindness that reminded me why I’d fallen in love with him in the first place.

When I found out from a mutual friend that he had a new girlfriend I felt a
mixture of relief and fascination, but also a surprising stab of pain that he hadn’t felt able to tell me himself.

It was yet another reminder that we’d never really be able to be “just friends”. Maybe when the heartbreak has totally healed and enough time has passed, there’s a way for former lovers to be genuinely platonic.

You’re never going to be BFFs, but with all those fond memories in the bank it’s nice to think there’s still a place for them in your life, or at least a hug if you bump into them on the street.

Getting a 25-year-old backing-dancer boyfriend no doubt helps, too.

  • Follow Kate on Instagram @katewillswrites.

Staycationing at…Storrs Hall
This Georgian hotel has new lakeside cabins with hot tubs and gorge views of Windermere.

Obsessing over…@what_frog_you_are. Personalised pictures of frogs. See also @WhatFoodAreYou and @WhatDogAreYou.

Stacking…Tada & Toy earrings
I’m piling on these gold ear cuffs and hoops, no piercings necessary.

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