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The dilemma of the Facebook ex

Categories: Best Practices, Tentative Steps


My separation from my son’s Father was far from amicable: there were mediators, lawyers, harsh words and tears. Finally, there was silence and quiet despair, the tangible leftovers of wreckage: dry mouth, a diminished appetite for anything but bed. There was a period of time that spanned over a year where the two of us exchanged almost no words. Monthly visitation was a horror: cockles were raised, hands clenched, each of us teetering on the verge of curse words, imaginary jabs, tears.

Two years into the split, and things are markedly better. There is still tension, of course, but there is also occasional affability: sometimes there’s even a shared chuckle. On Wednesday mornings, I arrive at his home to snooze on the couch until our son wakes up, so my ex can get to an early start at work. He lets me take his dog for runs with me — my ex-dog, actually, the canine we both love.

There aren’t many things the two of us have done that well together (besides help create our astonishingly cool little boy) - but one area we’ve excelled at is respect, when it comes to one another’s love lives. I know my ex has had girlfriends since our split. We have mutual friends and I’ve reluctantly listened to breathless recounts of his conquests. And, he would likely know that I’ve also dipped my toe in the dating scene - all he would have to do is google my name and this column would come up. But he doesn’t care to know, and neither do I. If he is visiting a girlfriend, he says he’s with a “friend.” If I’m on a date, I say I’m going grocery shopping. We don’t care to pour salt into each other’s wounds by flaunting our sex lives in each other’s faces, and for that, really, I’m proud of us.

We are moving upward, onward: it’s true that the opposite of hate is apathy. I actually kind of hope for love for him again, I think it softens people. In any case, falling in love is never a horrible thing. We’re not exactly comrades, but we’re tentatively polite and that’s a great start. Enough of a start, I wonder, to be his Facebook friend?

Facebook torments me sometimes by putting the picture of my ex in the sidebar, telling me that he is a “person I might know.” I studiously ignore that: I do not wish to see his wall, thanks. But. It occurred to me that my ex has very few pictures of his son. I’m camera happy, and have millions, and post them frequently for friends and family to see.

“Maybe I’ll set Nolan up a Facebook account,”I say to my ex,”And you can friend him. That way, when I tag him in pictures, you’ll be able to see them. Without, you know, having to be my friend.

So I diligently went to work, setting up a mini-account for our son, so my ex can partake in the joys of our son’s life without having to witness mine. But, there are drawbacks to that scenario: when he accepts our son as a “friend” he also accepts me by proxy, and there are potential awkward pixelated moments hovering at every corner.

It’s odd, the Facebook thing. It spells out more than I want to know, most of the time. It details events I never would have been privy to: that I might have been better for not knowing. My ex and I have several mutual friends: those that have chosen to like us both, even when we didn’t like each other. But that - and the fact that we created a life - is not potent enough to render us pals in cyberspace.

Maybe one day the path of the past will be distant and foggy enough that my ex and I will be Facebook buddies. For now, I will ignore that “People You May Know” button and continue to attempt to forge a superficial bond that will, at the very least, display to our son that exes can be respectful outside the computer, Facebook friends or not.

I am curious - are you friends with your ex on Facebook? Are ex-boyfriends more acceptable friendship fodder than ex spouses?


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20 comments so far...

  • Well I guess it depends on what terms the relationship ended on. I also get the little ‘people you may know’ picture of my ex-boyfriend now and then, as well as Facebook recommending I be friends with the girl he left me for (we have many mutual friends), and although it’s been long enough since we were together that I can ignore it, I don’t think I could add him to my friends.

    It does get a bit annoying though, when photos of him come up in my feed because my friends are also tagged in the same photo. But what are ya gonna do, eh?

    Allison  |  March 31st, 2009 at 12:15 am

  • I could not be Facebook friends with an ex. We broke up and went our separate ways for a reason. I actually admire people who can stay friends after a break up. For the picture thing-can you make an online account for pictures? I use Snapfish to share pictures with my family. Good luck!

    ramseyquipp  |  March 31st, 2009 at 5:29 am

  • I am friends with an ex-boyfriend on Facebook. Our breakup was amicable, and was born of the fact that he moved a thousand miles away to go to grad school, making it clear that he most likely wouldn’t be moving back. My ex-husband, however, is on Facebook and neither of us has “friended” the other. We have two children together, had the most agreeable divorce in the history of broken homes, and remain each others confidant and friend to this day. With that said, I don’t want to know who’s posting what on his wall, I don’t want him to see my tagged photos of fun nights out and weekends away, and I don’t want my relationship status readily available to him (I’m seeing someone). He obviously knows I’m with someone, but I don’t think he needs daily reminders via my status updates and wall postings. Some things are better left alone, and friending your ex, even though you weren’t married, is just asking for conflict.

    Andrea  |  March 31st, 2009 at 7:51 am

  • I don’t think i would facebook friends with an ex.

    vera babayeva  |  March 31st, 2009 at 8:50 am

  • I would never, not ever, not in one million years be Facebook friends with my ex…but then, I think my ex is scary. Also, he’s paranoid and would never sign up for a social networking site.

    If your ex is “friends” with N…doesn’t that mean you’d be privy to his wall, etc.? Might be something for you to consider. I know I wouldn’t be able to resist making myself crazy with something like that. There’s a way that you can set your photos to be viewable by “friends of friends,” which might be a good option for you.

    Another option is sending out a periodic email “from” N that includes a few pics. I have a friend who does that with her infant daughter, and she details new developments, travels, etc., and attaches 3-5 pics from that month. Definitely time-consuming, but might be appreciated by both your ex and others who aren’t on Facebook (like grandparents, etc.) Since he’s old enough to talk, he could even dictate a few lines to you. The bonus there is that you can print it up and stick it in a book for later…instant (well, not instant, but double-duty, at least) scrapbook.

    Also, I smiled when I saw that you say that apathy is the opposite of hate. When I got divorced, I decided that apathy is the opposite of love. But then, I guess love and hate aren’t so very opposite, are they?

    Just me  |  March 31st, 2009 at 9:16 am

  • I’m friends with an ex on Facebook, but we were together so long ago, and I’m married now. I think of him more as just a friend or acquaintance than a stereotypical “ex.” By the way, every time a person comes up in that “People you may know” column, there’s a tiny “x” next to him or her. You can click that and it will tell Facebook “don’t show me this person again.” I found it useful for blocking out the image of a nasty former co-worker who I have no intention of ever friending.

    Groovymarlin  |  March 31st, 2009 at 10:31 am

  • I absolutely wouldn’t be. I’d feel weird cyberstalking an ex to find out what he’s been up to…and I definitely wouldn’t want him checking up on me. That said, I am facebook friends with my middle school boyfriend…the one with which I shared my first kiss. We’re both married now, and that’s such ancient history that it’s fun.

    bibi  |  March 31st, 2009 at 4:20 pm

  • I, too, have an ex . I do not think I would want him as a FAcebook friend. You need a few places that are all your own. I think a better idea is a place like Snapfish to share the photos with your ex. It is painful enough to separate from an ex and still have to see them because of your children. I am not sure I would want to see him popping up on my facebook wall all the time-too much of a reminder of the good, bad and ugly times that I now hope are behind us as we just concentrate on our kids.

    Erin  |  March 31st, 2009 at 9:42 pm

  • Just me: I think I actually meant to say that apathy is the opposite of love; not hate, but whatevs…it actually kind of works. :-) And yeah, the email is a good idea but I like to cut corners whenever possible.

    And Groovy Marlin, I did not know about that X - thank you very much! Duly exercised.

    It’s interesting that so many of you are willing to be exes with long ago boyfriends but not the recent ones.

    Kristin D  |  March 31st, 2009 at 11:11 pm

  • I added my ex on Facebook and he accepted, then deleted me a couple of days later. At the time I was hurt - we both had people on FB whom we barely knew or had never met, yet he couldn’t have the mother of his only child on there? Nowadays I’m glad; have to admit I really don’t give a toss what he’s up to and have no interest whatsoever in being his friend. He’s a good dad, he sees Orion regularly, and that is all I want from him.

    Anji  |  April 2nd, 2009 at 5:05 am

  • Having said that, I’m friends (both FB and real-life) with the other two people with whom I had long-term, serious relationships, yet no children. But it has been many years since those relationships ended, and by the time we got back in touch we were much different people.

    Anji  |  April 2nd, 2009 at 5:07 am

  • I have an ex that is the father of my two year old. We never married either and had a fairly hellish relationship and split, which has cooled to occasional friendship. He sent a friend invite, which I accepted. After realizing that I was sort of obsessed with viewing his page to see who his frinds were and what his status was, I deleted him. I did not want to fall back into that trap where I give him too much thought, and don’t particularly want to know about his social life, especially when he frequently cancels visits to our daughter because he does not “feel well.” I kind of knew that he was full of crap before, but being able to see his Facebook page and know for sure that he is indeed full of it did not make it any better. Another reason was that after going through the work of getting over the hurt, anger and disruption to my life, I did not want to allow him into a domain that has become a refuge of sorts for me. I worked too hard to get to this place to give it up that easily.

    Debbie  |  April 4th, 2009 at 1:44 pm

  • I’m ‘friends’ with my ex on Facebook. The quotations are there because other than actually being in my list of friends, we really have no contact with eachother. We do manage to still share common friends… although we always hang out with them in completely separate circumstances (I have yet to go on an outing w/ these friends where he is present).
    Although our breakup was far from amicable (we had actually both started seeing other people while still together), I think it served as a way for us to completely shut the door on something that would never worked out anyway. Maybe that closure was why it easy enough for me to accept the ‘friendship request’ when it came. It was like calling a truce without actually having to be buddies in real life.

    I do still have him on a ‘blocked’ list where he can’t see any of my updates, statuses, or notes because that’s just how I am. :)

    fleecey  |  April 6th, 2009 at 11:39 am

  • wanna know what’s worse than debating whether or not you should ask an ex to be your FB friend?!?

    actually ASKING them and having them DECLINE you! now that was embarrasing.

    joyce  |  April 6th, 2009 at 12:29 pm

  • I found an ex-girlfriend on Facebook, and I see all her pics of fun activities she’s doing with new friends since we broke up. I’m glad she’s happy, but the pics just make me miss her. I won’t be friending her anytime soon.

    I can’t imagine friending my ex-wife. We live three blocks apart and coparent amicably, but our lives are in different universes now.

    As for pics of the kids - my fridge is full of them, but I have to admit it took me a few years to get pics of my kids framed and strewn throughout my house. Maybe that’s a guy thing to be slow on the pic front? My ex had framed photos of the kids everywhere in her house, the day after we split.

    dadshouse  |  April 7th, 2009 at 11:21 am

  • My high school ex kept popping up on the “people you may know”, and I kept ignoring it. Not that we parted all that badly, we just literally haven’t spoken since recently after we ceased to being together (we didn’t break up, we just dated for 4 years and then went to college). I waited for him to add me, and I’m pretty happy I made that choice. I really had no need to see what he was up to (and what he does manage to update on facebook isn’t that interesting anyway…surprise!) but I figured when he wanted to, he would. It took 5 months, and I’m sure I was popping up on his “people you may know” for those 5 months till he broke down and added me. We’ve commented on a few random high school photos that we posted, and other than that, it’s still nice and quiet.

    Meg  |  April 8th, 2009 at 7:17 am

  • My ex and I aren’t friends on Facebook, but we are on MySpace, and sometimes I kinda wish we weren’t because I can see all of his pictures. There was one picture he had of him with his girlfriend, and when saw it, it reminded me that he has obviously moved on and started dating, while I haven’t begun the whole “dating” thing yet.

    GiGi Soto  |  April 15th, 2009 at 12:09 pm

  • Thank you for your excellent blog. In your case, I would not set up an account for your son and if you have already done so and find it a painful seeing his page, I would cancel it asap. I wonder if this choice actually represents some deep conflict about him and that you really want to be closer to him, because emailing him the pictures is a much less painful option. The less you know about his life, the less painful it is for you.

    My experience with my ex contacting me on facebook has been very painful. (How to be succinct?) I still have strong feelings for my ex after all this time and I was unable to quell my deep curiosity about him, so I opened the door wide and let him back in. He has a partner and kids. I have only realised belatedly - after making myself totally vulnerable - that he was just checking to see if he had made the right choice by going with the woman who he left me for. By his own admission, he’s been having a mid-life crisis. Now he knows he made the right choice.

    I closed him off facebook because I was obsessively checking all the time. I am still obsessively checking for emails. I have not been able to work and this is extremely serious for me. I am letting him destroy me and I am just not strong enough to get on top of this situation. I am so regretful of allowing him back in and to know about my life. I wish i could resurrect some self-respect but I don’t know how to come out a winner in this. I still have very strong feelings for that guy - which is possibly largely because I have not been able to make a long lasting success of my life since then. But also i always thought he was a good guy, if a bit weak and selfish.

    When i let him in, i hoped (how stupid of me) that he was single and or wanting to resume contact. I have no other experiences like this to know any better. But he only wants to be friends, he says.

    Since I can’t undo what’s done, I just wish there was some way I could come out of this with something. I would like revenge on his partner (since she seduced my man and lured him away) but have no solid ideas how to achieve it without causing myself more pain.

    They say that making a success of your life is the best revenge. Well that’s very easy to say but damn hard to do, if very unlikely. It’s all very well for people to say, move on. I did that once before. It was easier when i was young and everything was still possible. Now I can’t have kids anymore. Now I am just suffering a second rejection and I am in the middle of it. How do you move on?

    Alice  |  April 18th, 2009 at 7:55 pm

  • I reluctantly “friended” my ex on facebook, and then reluctantly friended all of his family, including his mother, too.

    But I limited what they could see of my profile quite drastically.

    Eventually, he closed his facebook page, and I am relieved.

    For the pictures — because he also doesn’t take very many of the kids, and I do — I have an online gallery. I upload stuff, and he can see it whenever he wants, or copy the pics if he wants.

    CatCreek  |  April 22nd, 2009 at 10:58 am

  • I am friends with my sons father on facebook, but it was a recent split so now I’m debating whether or not to delete him. I don’t want him to be able to see the hundreds of pictures that I put on of our son because if he can’t be bothered to be there to take them himself, I don’t see why he should have my memories.

    When I look at his wall I just get angry that he is off having a life without me and our son while I sit at home and do everything for him.

    I hate facebook.

    z's mum!  |  May 26th, 2009 at 7:54 am