Welcome back to Sex on the WKND! We’re an anonymous YDN column dedicated to answering your burning questions about sex, love and anything in between. Last year, we had one writer, but now we are a collective of students, each with our own unique sexual and romantic experiences. We’ve had straight sex, queer sex and long, long periods without sex. We’ve been in long-term relationships, we’ve walked twenty minutes to avoid former hookups on Cross Campus and we’ve done the whole FroCo-group-cest thing. We may be different this year, but we’re still sex-positive, we’re still anti-capitalist, and we sure as hell still support the Green New Deal. 

Obsessing over sex is a Yale tradition as old as the Oldest College Daily itself. Whether you’re fucking your roommate, still yearning for your first kiss, or dealing with an unsettling skin rash, Sex on the WKND is here for you. Nothing is too personal or silly. Ask us anything 😉 

Submit your anonymous question here: https://bit.ly/sexonthewknd

My ex and I broke up towards the beginning of the semester, and we seem to be on fairly peaceful terms so far. We say hi when we see each other, and we sometimes make small talk, but that’s it. I really want to be actual friends with him again, but I’m not sure how to bring up the question, or if it’s even a smart idea in the first place. Should I text him?

Someone once told me a great story about two individuals who were in a long-term relationship, broke up and proceeded to become not only friends, but friends with benefits. Now, you might be asking, “But what’s the difference between that and a relationsh…”— do not ask this, because I do not know. But they were having fun with it! If there is a moral here, it’s that there are infinite permutations of possible relationships between the same two people. Many people will make absolute claims like “never be friends with an ex,” but I personally believe that any of these messy permutations can theoretically work, as long as both people are honest about their expectations. In practice, though, this can be quite difficult to pull off.

The impulse to be friends with an ex is largely an admirable one. At its core, it’s a desire not to become a stranger to someone with whom you were once emotionally intimate. For the purpose of this response, I’ll leave strictly sexual connections aside, as well as toxic and abusive relationships. Yet, the desire to remain close to everyone whose life has meaningfully touched yours can also be harmful. I’ve myself done what many in the queer community consider to be a classic breakup move. For this cute little magic trick, you break up with your significant other one day, proceed to talk to them every day for months and then wonder aloud to your friends why you aren’t over them yet.

In hindsight, it’s quite easy to see why that arrangement didn’t make sense for me or my ex. But, at the time, it was the most natural thing in the world. If you loved and cared for someone deeply, and if something resembling friendship formed a significant part of your connection, as it does for most romantic relationships, it’s normal to wonder why you couldn’t just be friends after your breakup. You’re still the same people, and won’t they at least appreciate the funny tweets you so desperately want to send them? 

I think I can say with relative certainty, however, that you should take some space before diving into a friendship with an ex. Remember that friendship should never be a consolation prize for either party; a true friendship is a commitment just as serious as a romantic relationship, even though it’s fundamentally different. So maybe the real test is whether you actually want to be friends with this person once you’ve gotten over them romantically. Sometimes the frantic desire to befriend your ex post-breakup is just a way to displace the loneliness and grief of losing a significant relationship. With time, they may no longer seem as appealing as a friend— not because you didn’t love them, but rather because it feels too forced to try and transition your past connection into present circumstances. 

On the other hand, sometimes you get lucky and friendships with exes do work. In my humble opinion, this is most likely for one of the following reasons: you didn’t date for very long, you established a strong foundation of friendship before or the breakup was truly mutual and both of your residual feelings have entirely dissolved. As dumb as this advice usually is, you will know that this friendship is working because you will feel it in your gut; you won’t leave agonizing over whether the friendship feels weird. And this is truly great! Together, you can proceed to grab meals, give music recommendations or email your members of Congress about passing the Green New Deal, undoubtedly the most important policy change to ensure the sustainable future of the human species. Still, tread carefully. A friendship with an ex won’t work long-term if you can’t be frank about your past together, or, conversely, if you can’t stop fixating on it. Jealousy has to be out of the question, at least any jealousy that is more-than-fleeting. And you’ll have to be proactive about communicating your own needs, while also being considerate of the other person’s feelings. 

If all of this is starting to sound a little too emotionally taxing, I get it. After all, there’s a big difference between being truly friends with your ex and all of the following related statuses: remaining concerned about your ex’s well-being, remaining cordial when you see them on the street, remaining part of the same social circle. If you’re looking just to be civil, I’d recommend smiling, waving and walking on. If you run in the same circles, humor can go a long way in dissipating the inherent awkwardness of seeing them at group gatherings. Make a joke like: “isn’t it funny that we once slept together and now we’re both standing by this bag of chips?” Just kidding! Be normal, and avoid mentioning the fact that the two of you once shared the same bed, at all costs! 

Above all, though, remember that it’s okay to miss people without an action step. If you truly cared about someone, it’s unlikely that care is going to disappear any time soon. At the risk of sounding cheesy, it’s a beautiful thing to know that you can still value people who are no longer part of your everyday life and that other people are out there in the world, reciprocating that same feeling towards you. Try to celebrate the fact that you’re capable of experiencing that emotion — even when it’s best not to act on it anymore.