Four years down the line, I’ve found myself in many situations where I had to explain that a certain person—whom, for the sake of this blog post, I will call Bernard—is actually my ex-boyfriend. (His name is Spencer, but I’m just going to pretend his name is Bernard, because I’ve always thought he’d be a good Bernard.) I will be at a party or some other gathering, and someone will ask how Bernard and I know each other. The easy answer is “from college,” but that’s also an explanation that falls short of accurate. In the end, one of us will have to relate that yes, we used to date but no, we don’t anymore, and no, it isn’t particularly weird.
At least it’s not weird for me. Probably not Bernard either. But it does seem weird for some people who are learning it for the first time. More often than not, it’s a straight person who, per my understanding of their dating strategy, seems to begin a relationship and then stop it and then exorcise the ex from their lives entirely, because the thought of casual social contact with a once-but-former interlocking part seems impossible. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I’ve had people—again, mostly straight—tell me that they can’t imagine remaining friends with someone they dated briefly, to say nothing of becoming friends with someone they dated for nearly eight years. (I think we ended at seven and a half years, but I round up, because we lived together for a chunk of it and that makes it seem so much longer.) And it’s for this reason that I thought it would be a valuable service to explain to all you ex-ditchers how it worked, at least for this for Drew and Bernard.
Step one: Give yourself distance.
Without going into details, the end of the relationship wasn’t ideal, and we didn’t talk for six or seven months after we broke up. At the time, it was more in the sense of “I don’t like you at the moment,” but looking back on it now, I see it as a test-run for how our lives might function if we stopped talking altogether. For me, this meant living in a new city where the people I saw regularly had only known me for months, without the benefit of someone who’d known me for years and could therefore offer up advice such as “Oh, the reason you’re doing this is probably because X and Y” or “The thing you’re doing is actually very similar to that thing you did in 2009, which was a pretty stupid thing” and “No, you already watched that movie. You hated it.”
Step two: When you’re ready, meet in a neutral place.
Eventually, we met for dinner at a taco place. I’m not actually sure we had ever been there together before, but tacos are good neutral ground for assessing how the relationship will work because I at least find tacos to be unromantic. Despite the lead up to these tacos, it was as if we hadn’t missed a beat. It wasn’t a hard decision that we made more sense in each other’s lives than not.
Step three: Alert your associates.
It’s a simple as, “Okay, after all that, we’re cool. Go ahead and invite him to future events. Stop giving him death stares and stop keying his car and stop making fun of the way he walks, even though he does totally walk weird.”
Step four: Be sure that sex is off the table.
I mean this figuratively. Literally speaking, sex should be neither on the table nor off from this point forward. Now this is an important step, because admitting that the relationship has changed means you have to accept that all the aspects of it that went beyond mere friendship—date nights, sustained touching, tongues—have come to an end. To prove our case, Bernard and I attended a wedding together in Joshua Tree. We shared a hotel room, came home drunk and mutually, silently decided that sleep was the best way to end the night. I’m not even sure I took my shirt off, but that also might have been all the alcohol beating me to the punch.
Step five: Talk directly when one of you begins a new relationship.
The odds are slim that you will both enter into new relationships at the exact same moment. It’s far more likely that one of you will take up with a person before the other does, and in my case, Bernard did before I did. I suggest you did what we did and have an up-front talk with your ex about how the new relationship may affect the old one—what’s still okay and what may now be overstepping.
Step six: Have your ex and his new boyfriend over for dinner.
Do this not only to show how generous you can be in welcoming them both, as a couple, into your home, but also for the reason that follows.
Step seven: Keep the new boyfriend’s wine glass after dinner.
This is the most most important part.
Step eight: Poison a bunch of famous people.
Make gift baskets with poisoned baked goods and send them out to B-level celebrities—the kinds that probably don’t employ a full-time poison-taster. Once that makes news and your city is gripped by terror, send some threatening letters out to TV stations and newspapers about how you’ll never be stopped.
Step nine: Break into the new boyfriend’s house.
After paying off a forensics expert to show you how to transfer fingerprints to the poison canister—prints that, yes, you’ll be taking from that wine glass—hide the evidence in the new boyfriend’s living space in a spot he won’t be likely to find. I wouldn’t worry too much about where you hide it, as you’ll be making an anonymous tip to the police shortly after.
Step ten: Testify.
At the trial, be willing to say on the witness stand that whenever your ex left the room, the new boyfriend talked a lot about poison and even looked up basic poisoning techniques on your computer, hence the suspicious search history. (Remember, you’ve already showed the police this, so you seem concerned and honest.) When testifying, characterize his demeanor as being “madman-like.” Say you didn’t tell you ex because his boyfriend threatened your dog. Hold up a picture of your dog so the jury can see how cute he is and, by extension, how awful anyone would have to be to hurt him.
Step eleven: Be there for your ex after the conviction.
It’s important to say the right thing. In my case, at the end of the famous “strychnine scone” case, I leaned over and whispered, “Hey, isn’t it weird how none of this would have ever happened if we hadn’t broken up?” I think that was the right thing to say.
Step twelve: Repeat as necessary.
Just to ensure that you’ll remain relevant in your ex’s life until you’re both in your cold, cold graves.
It’s as easy as that! I hope this helps!