The ex files

What is cool and not cool in communicating with the ex?

Published May 10, 2005 7:57PM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

My wife and I have been happily married for a few years now. My ex also happily married someone else and they had a baby. Here's the issue: A few weeks ago, I remembered the 11th dating anniversary of this ex, a woman I stopped seeing seven years ago. Isn't that something else?

This recent remembrance isn't the only time that I have felt a brief flash of curiosity and even loss about this woman from my past. It really doesn't happen often. She was my first love, though, which may have something to do with it.

Sometimes I'll e-mail her, or she sends me a message, and (appropriately) all we ever say to each other is basically, "Hi, hope all's well, married now, congratulations on your baby." I did send one of those short missives this past time, just because her memory had hit me and it's human and sort of cosmic to reach out if you're thinking of someone and the act seemed harmless.

Of course I did not say that I had in fact remembered our long-moot anniversary date. The message I sent out was in the same innocuous tone we have always used with each other since breaking up. My ex and I have probably communicated five times like this in the last four years, total.

It's not as if I actually want to say, "I miss you," or escalate anything emotionally, because I don't miss being with her or seeing her, and I don't think these random recollections mean that I do. But when my ex and I have had these random e-mail "check-ins," I haven't told my wife. And so I am writing you now about this little phenomenon.

I bet you would say it boils down to the finality of moving on from a critical personal relationship, and that act always bringing with it a confrontation with change, and perhaps even mortality. (Oh, and if you would otherwise tell me to go to the poets, you should know I've been there. Not for this, but still.) I've talked about this with one of my longtime buddies who has pointed out that we don't miss the people we were dating, in reality, but we're tricked into thinking so because we do miss being in our 20s.

This is the question: Does all of this make me a bad guy?

A simple yes or no will do.

Wondering About Lingering Over Loss of a Woman (WALLOW)


It is rare that a simple yes or no will do. As brevity is not my strong suit, I thank you for this opportunity to be startlingly brief.

The answer is no.

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