Define Ex?

Before publishing Letters to my Exes, I decided to shoot the main subject of the blog courtesy text. I don’t know what I expected really, but I definitely got more than I bargained for. After explaining what the blog would be about, he sent back a lengthy, cavalier reply. Apparently he didn’t consider us exes at all. We never determined the relationship. According to him, we were simply… Casual.

I was a little shocked at how different we viewed things. For almost two months we texted every day, gushed over each other like a couple would and formed what seemed to me like a pretty solid bond. It’s true, we were never official. And as much as I hoped he was only seeing me, I knew it wasn’t exclusive. Even still, we weren’t nothing. Not to me. If he wasn’t my ex, then what was he?

In the wake of all this confusion, I couldn’t help but wonder what other people might have to say on the matter. There was clearly a gaping chasm between mine and his definition of an ex. Was there a common consensus out there I was unaware of? With due diligence, I checked in with my trusty source Professor Google. All I turned up was a virtually useless Wikipedia page and an article on Thought Catalog.

Naturally, this didn’t squash the matter for me. I wanted to get to the bottom of this. I figured, if the internet didn’t have the answers I craved, I’d just have to roll my sleeves up and go get them myself. Over the past few months I’ve been collecting other people’s working definition of what an ex is to them.

Here are all the comments I gathered, curated in a neat slideshow for your viewing convenience. (Some quotes are edited for clarity)

As you can see, there’s a lot of discrepancy between answers. I think we can all agree that once you’re in a defined relationship, you’re definitely exes once you split. But it’s that bizarre space between together and utter strangers that’s complicated. In a budding relationship, a lot of words are unsaid. When things end before they get a chance to bloom, those words often die along with the connection. Usually you’ll go your separate ways with your own notions of that relationship unchallenged. But, in classic fashion, I probed and picked at my last romantic situation until the whole thing laid bare and naked before me.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to semantics. I called him my ex because it was easier. And, honestly, it made the hurt he left me with seem more valid. With time, I decided it really doesn’t matter if he considers us exes or not. That connection will live in both our minds separately and go on to affect us in two completely different ways. This goes for every relationship we form as humans. What really matters is reconciling how that person, whatever we may call them, affected us.

The truth is, it’s okay if they meant something to you and you meant nothing to them. Yes, of course it may sting, but regardless your feelings are still valid. People leave traces on you at every level of interaction. All of us leave imprints, big and small, on the people we encounter. And for better or worse, most people walk through life unaware of their effect on the people they cross paths with.

I can see this reflected in my life. I probably wouldn’t obsessively tend to my Spotify playlists or cherish late night chats around a fire pit nearly as much if I never met any of my last roommates. If I had a different 4th grade teacher, I might not be as much of a eco-conscious tree hugger. And if I never got that seemingly minuscule compliment from a Starbuck barista years ago, I might’ve never fully embraced messy hair and no makeup.

Every person you interact with has the potential to add to the tapestry of your life in some way. And you might add to theirs too. It could be passively or actively. Knowingly or absolutely obliviously.  So, my point here is, of course our past flames are more than capable of the same. We may never have a truly solid consensus around what attributes must be met in order to be a certified ex. But, in this writer’s humble opinion, if it really makes sense for you to call them your ex, do it.

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