Lately, the ex factor keeps messing with my mind. I’ve wondered if exes can be friends, pondered if exes should live together, and examined why sex is better with an ex. Now once again, I’m re-entering the ex-files to pose another all-important ex question: Should we ever even consider reuniting with one of ours?
There was a lot of that going on in the season finale of Girls (Marnie + Charlie, Hannah + Adam — again), but something (experience, hard earned?) tells me happily ever after isn’t part of the plan for either couple. A few lucky examples aside, it rarely is for exes on TV. And even Carrie and Big and Miranda and Steve had to break up and reunite a series of times on Sex and the City before they finally got it together and got to the altar.
While the process of coupling and uncoupling and coupling again (repeat one, two or three times) makes for great story on TV, in real life, you’re just likely to increase your battle scars. I recently watched a biography on Abraham Lincoln which revealed a few things I’d never known before. First, he despised his tyrannical, physically abusive father and refused to see him on his deathbed. (Who would have thought Lincoln could be so vengeful and hold such a powerful grudge?) Second, when U.S. President-to-be Lincoln and future First Lady Mary Todd were first dating, they got engaged, and when he got the proverbial cold feet, broke up. They spent 18 months apart before reuniting and finally marrying.
For those who didn’t glimpse those tense scenes from a marriage in Lincoln, by many historical accounts, the state of their union was often fairly miserable. It was one dead son, a Civil War and an assassination short of happily ever after. And that doesn’t even take into account what was going in the marriage, which, according to the documentary, may have been filled with spousal abuse inflicted upon Lincoln by his wife. This is the Lincoln story I want to see on screen! (Maybe Joaquin Phoenix can play him as a younger guy and get his Oscar.)
In contrast to the turbulent Lincoln marriage, future 26th President Theodore Roosevelt’s decision to marry his ex, Edith Carrow, after the death of his first wife, yielded far more blissful domestic results — or so claimed another Presidential documentary I recently watched.
My ex experiences are closer to that of the Lincolns — though without war, death and slapping. I recently reconnected with one, hoping that a year apart had changed us both enough that our relationship could evolve into something sturdier and more mature. Alas, it didn’t take me long to realize that it couldn’t, and I had to let him go once more. Unfortunately for us both, he hadn’t changed at all. In fact, he had become even more like he was before.
It was my second failed attempt at recapturing lost love. The previous time was nearly 10 years earlier, with an ex whom I had dated 10 years before that. On the surface, he had changed immensely. Formerly the life of every party, he’d morphed into a teetotaling zealot. While I applauded his health-consciousness, when it came right down to it, he’d traded one addiction (party favors) for another (self-righteous sobriety). Same guy, new drug. He had to go.
What did Luke Spencer say again? “People don’t change, they just get older.”
As much as I try to embrace the idea of moving forward, never looking back (after all, as yet another TV great, Vanessa Huxtable, once said, “The ship that sails backwards never sees the sun rise” — technically untrue, but I get her point), a part of me — the hopeless romantic — thinks the perfect love would actually be rediscovered love with an old flame. It’s a hyper-romantic dream, but trying to force it into reality can be like re-watching an old movie or re-reading an old book and expecting a different outcome at the end. If you’re lucky, you might enjoy the story even more the second time around, but the ending will still be the same.
Of course, if you resist the human urge to fall back into old patterns (which with both of my returnee exes, especially the second one, I did — new year, same relationship), together again, two exes can write a brand new story, one that might not be quite happily ever after but rather, to be continued. A perfect denouement might not be guaranteed, but the great scary thing about love and life outside of Bangkok massage parlors is that happy endings never are.