Keep in Touch with Exes or Cut Ties?

If 2005 was the year of the celebrity baby boom, 2006 is shaping up to be the year of the breakup boom '- and breakups in Hollywood can get uhh-gly. In fact, Jennifer Aniston's heavily publicized breakup with Brad Pitt has been so emotionally destructive that her new boyfriend, Vince Vaughn, is even playing peacemaker: "Vince told Angelina's manager he's ready to help Jen put the feuding and competition behind them," says a friend. But does Vince have the right idea? Is it healthier for people to keep in touch with exes or to cut ties after a breakup? We asked the Love Council to weigh in.

"Friends are friends, and lovers are lovers"

Cathi Hanauer & Daniel Jones

Cathi Hanauer & Daniel Jones

Cathi: I know Dan disagrees with me on this one (sorry, hon!), but there are plenty of situations where it's fine '- and even preferable '- to maintain a friendship. In fact, I've stayed friendly with two of my long-time boyfriend exes, both of whom I'm still in touch with two decades later: Their wives know me; they know Dan, the whole thing. But whether or not you can or should be friends afterward depends on how honest you both can be. If either one of you is sticking around with the hope that it could turn romantic, then being friends is simply prolonging the torture, and the sooner you can move on, the sooner you both can be happy again.

Dan: Yes, I say cut the ties, rip off the Band-Aid, feel the pain and move on. Don't call, email, Google-stalk, go out on any "platonic" lunches or plan any insane foursome dates with your ex and your respective rebound lovers to prove how "over it" and mature you all are. If you must get back in touch with your ex at some point, give yourself a good, oh, 10 years. But even when she's married to someone else and settled into a new life many states away, you might want to think twice before contacting her. Because, let's face it, even after you have a wife and kids all your own, you'll still probably wonder, "What if I'd married her? Would I be happier? Would she?" Friends are friends, and lovers are lovers. Friends can become lovers, but it doesn't often go the opposite way.

"Close the door"

Sarah Stedman
Dr. Sarah Stedman

As a celebrant, I perform divorce ceremonies that are celebrations of closure and the beginning of a new life. These are joyful occasions, which honor the learnings and personal growth that emerged from the marital experience. What the exes choose to do afterward is always their own decision, but in most divorce ceremonies that I have officiated, the focus has been on making a healthy separation and closing the door.

"Breaking up is hard to do"

Michele Weiner-Davis
Michele Weiner-Davis, MSW

Regardless of what anyone tells you, with only one exception, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Breaking up is hard to do for a variety of reasons. Some people need to make a clean break and leave their past (and ex) behind in order to heal and get on with their lives. Others, despite the pain, are unwilling to allow their years of shared history to fade into a faint memory; maintaining some sort of meaningful connection is important to them. (Interesting factoid: 10 percent of those who divorce actually remarry each other!)

But there is one hard and fast rule as to when exes absolutely need to stay in touch: when they have kids. Children are the real victims in these situations. They have no vote in a decision that deeply affects their lives forever. Their parents owe it to them to rise above animosity, resentment and anger to find ways to collaborate, cooperate and, to the best of their abilities, remain cordially connected.

"It's not such a tragedy to let go"

Heather Hunter
Heather Hunter, aka This Fish

I used to be adamant about remaining friends with my exes. I thought, "Why cut ties with someone who knows you so well?" But after a few times down that bumpy road, I can tell you exactly why: As relationships change from to platonic, expectations can sometimes take a little while to catch up. Feelings get hurt, egos get bruised and when one of you moves on... well, it can be pretty tricky. Sometimes, when it comes to making nice with someone who's seen you naked, there may be too much emotion involved to be reasonable.

Twice I've fought hard '- and hit some pretty terrible lows '- to stay friends with an ex. And over time as I've watched both friendships slowly dissolve into nothing more than friendly acquaintances, I've realized that maybe it's not such a tragedy to let go.

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