When my husband and I exchanged our vows in an old Vermont cemetery, one-third of our wedding guests were exes.
Okay, we only had three guests at our wedding -- my ex, my fiance's best friend and a man who had always resided in my "friend zone" -- but it was vitally important to us that these people witness our union. For they were more than just friends or exes. To my husband and I, they were family and always will be.
I know there are people who are adamant in their desire to not see any of their exes again. They want to leave the past in the past, and would simply never dream of inviting an ex to a wedding. Perhaps I'm just odd then, because I have remained friends with almost all of my ex-boyfriends. (The few exceptions involved men who cheated on me or behaved in some other cruel fashion.)
So why do my exes and I choose to remain in each others' lives? Why not cut each other off after a breakup and move on? The reason is simple: If I've spent months or years loving someone, I see no good reason to throw away a prized friendship just because our romance fizzled.
It probably helps that I have a very clear understanding of the "friend zone." In my mind, the "dating zone" and the "friend zone" are two countries separated by a strictly guarded border. People who once resided in the "dating zone" can relocate to the "friend zone" after a breakup, but they can never move back. And if you're already in the "friend zone"? That's it. You're stuck there forever.
I know there are some folks who automatically put possible mates in the "friend zone," and then over time romantic feelings develop. I'm just not that way. And because I'm not, I've been able to create a unique and wonderful circle of friends, many of whom just happen to have seen me naked at one point in time.
Another big plus of the clearly defined "friend zone" is that you can put future mates' minds at ease. The men I dated understood that those in the "friend zone" would never be able to leave so there was absolutely no need for jealousy. The women my exes went out with after me also found my clear delineation between the "dating zone" and the "friend zone" rather comforting (or so they told me) because I wasn't seen as a threat to their burgeoning relationship. More often than not, these women became my friends, too.
The biggest perk of remaining close with exes, however, is the friendship itself. The men I dated were, by and large, awesome. They were intelligent, witty, talented, creative, handsome and romantic men. That's why I dated them in the first place. Romantic relationships may come and go, but a true friend, one who will stick by you through good times and bad, well, that is something to be prized.
And so it was with my exes and the man who would become my husband. Over time, they met him, vetted him, gave him the standard "if you hurt her, we will kill you" speech then embraced him into their lives. Not just because I loved him, but because they could see his admirable qualities, and how much he loved me. My husband, in turn, got to know my exes, and quickly realized not only why I dated them in the first place but why we all remained friends afterward.
My husband does not keep secrets from me, nor I from him. We shared our pasts long before we mutually decided to forge a future together. We trust each other implicitly, and have the kind of relationship where no topic of conversation is off-limits. So when we decided to get married, it simply never occurred to us to exclude our closest friends -- exes or not -- from the ceremony.
After listening to others talk about this topic, I believe the whole "exes at the wedding" taboo stems from a lack of trust:
* Do you trust your mate to never stray?
* Do you trust yourself?
* Have you discussed your sexual pasts and preferences openly and honestly?
* Are you upset that your mate has had other lovers despite the fact that you knew he/she wasn't a virgin when you met?
* Have you made peace with your past, or do you dwell in "what might have been"? Has your mate?
* Are you an unforgiving person or more open-hearted and open-minded?
I encourage the "no exes at the wedding" crowd to think about these questions seriously before they marry. If you can't trust your mate, then why get hitched in the first place? Equally important, if you are vowing to spend the rest of your life with someone -- as a partner, a lover and a friend -- you ought to make damn sure you're emotionally mature enough to live up to your end of the bargain.
Follow Jade Walker on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jadewalker