About three months ago I broke up with my first really serious boyfriend. It was messy, because I wasn't expecting it. We've since started talking again, and I'd even call him a friend—albeit a long-distance one. I went through a really rough period a few weeks ago, and he was incredibly supportive through it all. I know he values my friendship very highly, too. The problem, as you've probably guessed, is that the more often I talk to him, the more I find myself wanting him back, while he has made it clear he doesn't feel this way at all. We were really good friends before we started dating, and I appreciate his friendship too much to completely cut him out of my life, but I have a feeling that's the only way I'm going to get completely over him. My saving grace is that he lives across the country from me, so IM, texting, and phone calls are our only interactions. So my question, I guess, is what to do—cut him out and lose a great friend in order to protect my heart? Or, keep talking to him and try to keep up my guard so I don't get hurt again?
— Friends Without Benefits
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You're mistaken. Your ex isn't a "great friend." He's your ex. That's how you see him. That's the frame (of reference) in which he exists in your life. When you discuss him with your friends—or an advice columnist—you're talking about him as your ex, the person who was your first serious boyfriend and with whom you just had a "messy" breakup three months ago. Maybe, eventually, when you fully process that breakup and have the luxury of distance from it, you'll begin seeing your ex in a new light rather than simply through the lens of retrospect. Or, maybe you won't. Maybe he'll always be your first love and nothing more (and nothing less). The Frisky: Can You Be Friends With Your Ex?
Losing someone—in this case, your first love—is painful. It's so painful, that we're often tempted to create shortcuts through the pain. But there aren't really any shortcuts to healing. There are roadblocks and detours that may seem like shortcuts, but they actually make our journey through the pain even longer. The best route is pretty direct. You keep your eyes ahead. You trudge through the bad weather, stay on course when the road gets bad, and ask for directions when you get lost. There are a lot of us out there who have been down the path before and know the general way. The Frisky: 8 Tips For Getting Along With Your Ex When Your Share Friends
Your ex is always going to be there. You won't lose him forever—even if you bypass the detour that (you think) leads back to him. Even if he's never again what he once was to you, there's still a box on a shelf of your experiences labeled "First Love" and he's in it. He's right there. Whatever happens on your road through the pain, that part of your personal history will remain untouched. And if you're careful to avoid the detours—to skip any side trips that may add to your trip and make your feelings and relationship to this other person more complicated than they have to be—you may find a new person at the end of your journey. You may find two new people, actually. And if you're lucky, they might just be able to be friends with each other. Perhaps even "great friends." But prolonging your trip won't make that happen any faster or more easily. The Frisky: 15 People You Should NOT Be Friends With On Facebook
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