Gays, Straights, and Our Exes: Do We Really Need To Be Friends?

Straight Guy,
I need some straight male perspective here: Do straight men try to stay friends with the women they break up with? My guess is that they don't.

This afternoon I saw a guy across a busy street who looked just like someone I dated a while back. It wasn't him, but the sighting reminded me that I'd not seen or talked to said ex-boyfriend in a long time. Which got me thinking that I tend not to stay in touch with my exes; I think that this puts me in the minority over here in gay world.

Generally, I'd say that gay men go for civil breakups with the intent to "stay friends." As in, "We were a couple yesterday. Today we're not. But we're still friends."

I'm not very good at being friends with a BF after the break up, but a lot of gay men put a lot of effort into it. Is it what we're supposed to do? Why? Is this somehow more evolved? Some higher standard of perfection and maturity? Are gay guys just supposed to be more nurturing or just try harder?

I'm not talking about couples with children; that's an entirely different story and I appreciate those painful efforts to get along. Nor am I talking about having a few dates and discovering that the romantic chemistry just isn't there, but he's a perfectly nice guy. I've made a few friends that way.

I don't wish ill upon any of the men I've seriously dated or been in relationships with. I just don't need to hang out with them. Or exchange Christmas cards. I don't cross the street when I see them, but I don't need a lot of conversation/contact either.

About a year ago, I attended a charity event and who is the first person I see but a guy I'd been in a serious relationship with. Four years serious. We had a surprisingly nice time talking; it didn't hurt that neither of us knew anyone else in the room. Also attending the event was an acquaintance who I met post-break up. Knowing nothing about the past, he said, "You two really got on. Why don't you ask him on a date?" Well. . . because while it was a nice time and he did look sexy, something about our conversation had begun taking the frustrating turn of reminding me why we broke up. I didn't feel sad -- I felt reassured.

What is it?: That there's a difference between being friendly and being friends? That there's enough gay men in my world that ex-boyfriends don't need to be in my cell phone contacts? That I don't need to prove that my relationships were serious by saying, "Look, here's proof. . . we're still friends."

Straight Folks: Do you take post-breakup friendships as the higher ground? Gay Folks: Am I just imagining this?

--Gay Guy


Straight in Upstate said...

My friend Elliot says he's stayed friends - pick up the phone, socialize, etc. - with every man he's ever dated, once or long-term. For me, I thought it was weird, but maybe it's more common than I thought. It doesn't work out for me, but also, are women more territorial about their men being friends with exes? It wouldn't play well in my house. I have Christmas card contact with one or two of my ex girlfriends but it's acceptable because I freely talk about them being nuts (and not just because they dumped me).

Kathryn said...

I don't know. I think that when you break up, you're DONE. At least, I am. I think I'd always assumed that men are less interested in being friends when the sex part stops. I mean, what do men & women have in common? What's going to keep the relationship going? At least if you're same-sex, you've got more common ground. I don't know...

Straight Guy said...

Kind of wish I had a story to tell you, GG. But I've been off the market for so long (and never on the market in this city) that I never run into anyone from my past out of the blue. I saw an old high-school girlfriend at a reunion a few years ago, and it was not a big deal.

I understand your mixed feelings. Seeing an old flame must put you in the position of judging and being judged... "did I make a mistake?... or did you?" At the least, if your social circles are small, finding a way to stay friends takes the edge off of that painful loop.

Gay Guy said...


Would I like Elliot the frequent correspondent?

Gay Guy said...

With one exception, seeing an old flame makes me wonder why I put so much effort into trying to make something work that wasn't ever going to work. Why didn't I cut my losses sooner? Does that constitute judging on my part?

The one exception isn't totally about love. It's really about me being a whore, well. . . a comfort whore. He's handsome, has a good body, is a doctor, and has a beach house. He was a narcissist, but other than that there wasn't really anything wrong with him. I just wasn't in the right place in my life for him. For the the horridly shallow reasons I just listed I think I might better have tried harder.

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