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Can these exes be friends?

An ex-boyfriend (twice removed!!) wants something more than she does

Q. I recently ended a relationship with a wonderful guy. Let’s call him Mr. Green. He was my stab at “green dating’’ (the recycling of ex-boyfriends) after my marriage of 15 years ended. Mr. Green contacted me out of the blue via Facebook almost a year after my breakup, and we reconnected there. We spent the past two-plus years in a relationship that I knew was doomed from the start.

I was honest with him from the get-go. I am not interested in ever being married again or even living with another man. I enjoyed his company, and he was great with my kids, but the same issues we had 20-plus years ago were still valid. We are just not compatible. He has never been married and has his own emotional issues. He’s a wonderfully sensitive guy, and I love him very much, but love isn’t enough.

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I ended the relationship last year but accepted a friendship with him. It was infrequent visits at first, but then it became a monthly thing. We became friends with benefits, and I felt like we were back in the thick of it again. I wasn’t feeling compelled to go out there and meet others, nor was he.

One of our major differences is that I am demonstrative of my feelings and he lives in an emotional straight jacket. I get why, but it doesn’t make me want to stay with him. I have now ended it for good, and this time there will be no “friendship.’’ I still care for him, I am still alone, and he is too. Seeing each other will end up only one way. It’s unproductive for both our lives.

He is hurt that I won’t be his friend. He says it’s unprogressive of me, someone who prides herself on being a liberal-minded person. Am I wrong to not try to just be his friend? Can lovers really be friends after such intimacy?

GREEN DATER, Boston

A. It’s not “unprogressive’’ to keep your distance. It’s honest and wise. Some exes are more than capable of being friends, but you guys aren’t. So that’s that. No friendship, at least not while you’re single and vulnerable to making mistakes.

You can’t change who you are. You can’t bottle up your feelings and stay on your side of the friendship couch while he’s sitting there just two cushions away. My guess is that he knows this, and that he’s hoping that after another reconciliation or two you’ll change your mind about him.

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Explain that you need this space to figure out what it really feels like to be broken up. And tell him that dealing with the loss of an ex isn’t about being liberal-minded. It’s about protecting yourself. It’s about reality. Assure him that a friendship might be possible - later. But for now you need space. Your gut is right about that.

MEREDITH

READERS RESPOND:

She is being fair - she understands how she feels, told him about it, and so be it. He’s not being fair (and why wouldn’t he be - friends with benefits, no commitments, no need to communicate) and needs to just move on. It takes a special type of relationship to continue after the romance is gone - and frankly one I have yet to discover.

JTB8773

Recycling usually only works on inanimate objects. You know what you need to do; stick to it. Go find your brand-new (to you) fun. Guilting someone out is just lame. Tell him so and move on.

URSURLGIRL

What does being liberal have to do with it? Except it means he can play with your natural tendency to feel guilty about things you can’t control. And I associate the word “green’’ with being new and exciting. Recycling ex-boyfriends wouldn’t fit that definition. I suggest you take a new approach.

KPOC27

This letter reminds me of the opening scene from “Matrix Revolutions’’ when Neo is stuck at the train station between worlds. Like Neo, you keep running down the same tracks and end up in the same place repeating life patterns with incompatible mates. Free your mind of the question of to be or not to be friends with those in your past, break from the matrix, and construct something for your future with new romantic interests.

CLEAR-EYED-REALITY

No, no, no. You cannot be friends with an ex. (Although I rather like the idea of recycling old boyfriends. I don’t believe people ever change, but maybe you read him wrong the first time around.) You can be cordial if you meet, but no texts or Facebook exchanges. You are not friends; you are former somethings, and I think it’s ridiculous to pretend otherwise.

KATIEMAINE

I guess I’d be interested in knowing what you are looking for. A guy who openly demonstrates his feelings but is OK with a relationship that can never progress to cohabitation, let alone marriage? Good luck.

BOODADDY

I am concerned about your children. You don’t say how old they are. You are not setting a good example by bringing a father figure into their lives and then dumping him. And then bringing him back for sex. And then dumping him again. How about a little self-control? It would be wonderful to model for your kids that restraint is a good guide for living, not self-gratification and impulsivity.

BLOOMINGFLOWERS

Ladies, here is the truth: Us guys really can’t be just friends.

NORTHEASTERN1

Edited and reprinted from www.boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein@globe.com. She chats online Wednesday at 1 p.m.

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