To the question I posed yesterday—Is It EVER Okay to Be Facebook Friends With an Ex?—I caught a flurry of protestations for answering an unqualified “no.” In general, the arguments proffered by those claiming that it is okay for a husband or wife to maintain, via Facebook, actively open lines of communication with one or more of their exes boiled down to that being the more mature, more emotionally sophisticated way of handling such a concern.
Typical of the arguments I got in for why it’s okay for spouses to keep their exes as Facebook friends came from a woman who wrote, “[My relationship with my husband] is the joy of our lives as well as the envy of most of our friends. And it’s completely absent of jealousy or possessiveness . … Neither of us feels at all jealous or worried about each other’s relationships. It’s called communication, honesty, and trust, and it’s a far more mature and Christlike way to handle relationships than simply cutting yourself off from people in your past with an assumption that no one can or should be able to manage it.”
See? Being perfectly content with your spouse having an ex as one of their Facebook friends is mature.
Great! Except for one tiny little thing: There’s nothing whatsoever mature about passionate romantic love. When you’re in love, you’re positively 100% lunatic. When you’re in love, you want all of the person who is the object of your (to coin a phrase) consuming desire. You want their thoughts. You want their mind. You want their body. You want their heart, their soul, their essence—you want to possess and call your own virtually everything there is to them.
Being in love is to maturity what a hurricane is to a gnat’s fart. Being in love makes you insane. Being in love means the absolute furthest thing from your mind is being (of all things!) mature. Being in love means being a veritable black hole of need, an agony of insecurity, a whirling vortex of teeth-baring fear that you’ll lose the person you need so much you’d rather have them than air.
It’s horrible. There’s nothing dignified about being in love—nothing whatsoever measured, controlled, calculated, reasonable. It’s the least pretty, least mature thing imaginable.
But let’s say that you’re in that kind of love with your spouse—and that they feel the same way about you. Then it’s Happy Daze for you! Because now you at least have a chance of not ending up on the six o’clock news. Because now you and your beloved can occupy the Crazy Love Zone together. Now you can both reside and function and make a life for yourselves inside the bouncing, floating Bubble of Love.
Being in love is like jumping off a cliff. You know you’ve left solid ground behind you, that you’re headed for a certain miserable death, and that absolutely nothing can save you.
But if you make that jump while holding the hand of someone who can’t help themselves from taking it with you? Well. That’s the incomparable rush.
All I was saying with yesterday’s post is that if you and your spouse share the kind of Berserk-o-Love that wouldn’t know a measured response from a starving man’s reaction to a Big Mac, the idea that you would expect your spouse to be okay with you having an ex as a Facebook friend—or that you would be okay with them having the same—is inconceivable. Who is okay with knowing that the person with whom they share that kind of love can or is sending confidential emails to an ex of theirs? I almost didn’t post yesterday’s piece, because I was sure I was saying something so sophomorically obvious it didn’t need saying at all.
[To the woman quoted above, and the others who wrote in similar arguments: First of all, thank you for caring enough to write in at all. And I do understand the value of what you've all said. I just don't think you go far enough. I believe that the quality of mutual emotional maturity to which you're pointing as evidence of an ideal marriage should, in fact, be something that you outgrow. I believe that kind of negotiated autonomy is a thing to be shed as your relationship evolves. Wanting to maintain a relationship with an ex is about you: it's about what you want, what feels good to you, what flatters you. In a very real sense, it's about protecting you, distinguishing you, buffering you. In the final analysis, it's about nothing less than your desire to keep your life distinct from that of your spouse. It's been my experience that there's only two reasons for wanting to do that: fear of allowing yourself to love your spouse too much, or not feeling enough love for your spouse in the first place. Either way, it's a sign that you're not as engaged in your marriage as you might be. But all that said, I do understand that these sorts of things are fluid, and that everyone's experience is different.]