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Redefining Roles with an Ex

Some nights when I can’t sleep I lie in bed scrolling down my timeline on Twitter from my cell to see what folks are talking about. One night in particular I was shocked to see a gem of valuable wisdom that struck a cord in me so deep that I’ve thought on it for a few days now:

Ppl will create roles for u based upon their own insecurity. Just bc they r miserable they want u to be miserable. They are the ppl who are always like “you remember when u did xyz” even tho it was 10 years ago. Know that the person wants u in same role.

My god if the last of that statement didn’t describe my best friend, Wisdom. (I use ‘best friend’ loosely as our friendship is currently in a strange place.)

Of our nearly 10-year friendship the last two years have been unpredictably rocky. 2007-2008 we were in the intimate relationship/just friends/not speaking/a little more than friends but not monogamous/not speaking again phase. When I moved to grad school in January of 2009 I had decided I was done with him on all levels. On the last New Year’s we’d live in the same state he chose to get drunk and go to the club with his cousin. Meanwhile I went to church, came home, sat fully clothed with a flawlessly made up face watching TV while waiting on him to take me out. I finally fell asleep when he never showed. Well, he showed up at 6:00 a.m. I let him in. Long after he was knocked out I stared at the ceiling, eventually getting up to write. I knew that was the end. Once I moved we only spoke once in May. After that we didn’t speak again until January 2010. When I’m done, I’m truly done.

Since we restored our friendship last January we’ve been on pretty solid ground as friends. We didn’t see each other much because I was in school 460 miles away, but we talked occasionally, and when I went home it was on and poppin’ (not like that). Even though we were back in that platonic boat we always managed to steer toward the line of blur. The feelings were there, but he never wanted to commit. I could never figure out why until I realized, “He’s just not that into you,” although his actions and words said otherwise. But it was something about the title that he couldn’t get down with. So I got down with moving on.

In July when I started dating LI things changed, suddenly. He had a baby on the way and I was in a new relationship. I didn’t predict this leading to a change in our our friendship, but it happened.

I used to ask my girl friends, “Why he is acting funny? He never lets me talk about my new beau. He acts like LI doesn’t exist.”

“Cause he knows you got a good one this time,” they would say.

“Uhh uh. When I was with CB he didn’t act like this,” I’d retort.

“He knew that n**** wasn’t s*** and he was temporary,” they’d say. “Stop playing dumb.”

Maybe he did think I was the one that got away, but I wasn’t cocky enough to assume that’s what he thought that. But I don’t get why that would affect everything. The friendship I’d once known had vanished. We went from his house being my crashing spot when I visited home to not seeing each other at all on those visits.

When I read the tweet the other night I reflected over and over again on: They are the ppl who are always like “you remember when u did xyz” even tho [sic] it was 10 years ago. Know that the person wants u in the same role.

Every time Wisdom and I spoke on the phone for more than 30 minutes the conversation resulted in reminiscing. And I can honestly say he is the one who always initiated it. But when he’d retell stories of our “heyday,” it would quickly turn into, “You remember when you did [insert anything negative that happened in the course of our friendship or relationship]. Every.Single.Time. It was as if he was refusing to accept that I’ve evolved as a person, as a woman, by always reminding me of my shortcomings. If I would mention as much to him about doing this he’d always respond with some equivalent of relax and not to take everything so seriously.

He would take it a step further and ask, “Do you do [insert something I used to do with him when I loved dysfunctionally] to LI?”

I’d remain silent as he’d crack up, but he still anticipated an answer to his idiotic question. Referencing the tweet I thought to myself, ‘well if he wants me in the same role, as the tweet implies, what role is that?’ Is it the role of old best friend Benè who was young and out of control? More than friends Benè that was in love with a man who wouldn’t commit to her? Girlfriend Benè? Loving dysfunctionally Benè? What role is he trying to keep me in? Maybe it was all of the above, but if that’s the case, why? He criticized the flaws I had in those roles to no end, and still does.

I don’t think I’ll ever really know why. Perhaps as the tweet indicated, he’s miserable and wants to remind me of my mess-ups to make himself feel better. Maybe the role he’s constructed for me that needs redefining is based on his own insecurities. Although I never considered Wisdom to be a miserable person and still don’t (he always tries to find the good in everything), he is pretty discontent with his life. I believe he also held a deep insecurity about what I went on to achieve and where he was in his life even though I never looked at that way.* And because of that insecurity and others, he won’t allow himself to see I’m not who I was at 22 and 23. But he can’t see past that because that vision of me fits the construct he needs it to.

Whatever it is I need him to figure it out. Ahora! Because I just want my friend back, sans the remember what you did rhetoric. If that’s even possible.

*My friends back home swear because I have two degrees I’m successful. They think because they can Google me & shit comes up (a friend seriously did this) that I’ve somehow plateaued to some extraordinary level of success. This line of thinking has already ended one friendship. If only they knew my struggle in NY. I never looked at Wisdom through the lens of ‘he hasn’t done XYZ and I have accomplished WXYZ’. There’s nothing about my life that exudes success right now. So I just don’t look at things like that.

  • Gia Linelle

    The sad part is, you won’t ever get your friend back. I had to come to this conclusion a few times in life. The reason why is because they aren’t your friend, they’re your Ex. The rare exception is when he has honestly moved on and found a life and woman worth him forgetting about the part of you that was more than a friend. Until then, you’re happy relationship is just a constant reminder to him that he’s NOT happy, so he’ll keep reminding you that you weren’t always happy and won’t wanna speak to you if you refuse to indulge in a game of “back down memory lane”.

    • WrittenbyBene

      You think so Gia? I really hope that's not the case. We've been through A LOT. But we've always bounced back. The "ex" part never mattered and we've dated other people since. He's never acted how he is acting with my current boyfriend. I don't know if the move to NY has anything to do with it either. Maybe he realizes I'm never moving home and he's never leaving home…but don't know how that would affect a friendship. Plus, with your exes, were they your friends first? We were friends for years before we ever crossed the line. That's why I always thought the friendship would survive. You said: "…forgetting about the part of you that was more than a friend." Men are backwards as hell sometimes I swear. He had all the chances in the world. I could go on and on. I'll never know because he's not a great communicator when it comes to feelings. Thanks for reading.

  • Enjoyed this post and I can definitely relate. I’m actually dealing with this now to be honest. My ex is always reminding me one way or another of things I’ve done, not realizing that I’ve actually already changed since we’ve been broken up. But I guess this is the risk you run when you choose to remain friends with your ex.

  • Wow. I REALLY enjoyed this article. It made me think about my history with my exes, specifically one that I've decided to cut off for roughly three or four months now (it's interesting, because the ways you talk about Wisdom treating you when you were just trying to be friends would be how I felt when we were together, and that consistent negativity is absolutely a sign of insecurity). I think that it's good that you've reached a point where you even WANT to be friends with him, especially after what is ostensibly a rocky history- I know that personally, I'm not even at that level, even though I wish I was and want to be eventually.

    In a weird way, the bitter bitch in me can see where he's coming from. If I cared that much for someone for a long period of time and still harbored feelings for them, I might not be ready to handle seeing them with someone else, especially if I might think they are a better match for you than I was. Not to justify the way he's treating you at all, but thinking from his perspective, it makes sense, and I think as exes (or maybe it's just us men, idk) we all tend to have a little bit of that insecurity about who the next is gonna be/if they're gonna top us. I know I have. But he almost certainly has a lot of regret for things that might have gone on between you two, and doesn't know how to handle it personally or address it, so my guess is that he chooses to focus on the things YOU did wrong instead. I'm of the opinion that two happy, content people should have no problem with each other, so the fact that he's treating you like this is definitely proof that he's feeling some type of way about his life, and you may have a lot to do with it.

    Just my opinion. Again, LOVED the article.

  • I've been here, still kinda dealing with that. I thought the high school boo and best friend was the end all. I was wrong. I've come to realize two things: he'll always have a place in my heart as the first love, and who I reminisced about and yearned for was a 17 year old somebody that shook me for the first time. Don't know nothing about the 25 year old somebody he is now. Memory is a bitch sometimes. Okay, wait. Three things. I really feel that saying once you really love someone hard and cross that mysterious line of friend to lover, going back is impossible. That line, once seductive, becomes impenetrable and solid.

  • I just wrote about this yesterday. Being friends with an ex can sometimes be a disaster. Sometimes being friends with an old friend is even worse because they really want to remind you of who you used to be. They can't accept that you have grown and evolved into a new and better version of yourself, especially when they are the same.

  • @writergurl_luv

    Very deep, #LUVit! It is hard to move on but once you do, that 'REMEMBER WHEN YOU USED TO' dialogue doesn't really fit into your new scheme of things anymore. It's all apart of your maturity and I had to realize that myself. Thanks for sharing.