DEBATE: Can You Really Be Friends With Your Ex Like Lily Allen?

17 June 2014 by

Lily Allen

Lily Allen on a night out with ex-boyfriend Seb Chew

Lily Allen was photographed leaving a bar with her ex-boyfriend Seb Chew… just days after hanging out with him in New York. Hmmm, can you be just mates with an old boyfriend? Two writers thrash it out...

Lily Allen With Ex-Boyfriend Seb Chew: Can You Be Friends With Your Ex?

I see one of my ex-boyfriends, J, a couple of times a month. We go out for lunch, dinner, to see films and exhibitions. He called me only today to invite me to his landmark birthday dinner, and to discuss a work project we’re collaborating on. No subsequent partner has ever been remotely jealous of him, and nor is his current partner of me. Neither one of us is still carrying a torch for the other - we’re happy in our lives, there’s no flirting, no unfinished business, no sadness, despite the fact that we were very much in love for almost seven years, two decades ago. He’s simply one of the most important people in my life and that will never, ever change.

So when I see Lily Allen hanging out with her ex, it strikes me as not at all peculiar. After all, couples are typically first attracted to one another because they have much in common. They make each other laugh, hold similar values. They’ve shared many experiences and emotions. Those are exactly the qualities one seeks in a close friend, so it’s entirely logical that when the dust settles on a break up (and it can be months, even years), it can be a good idea to stay in one other’s lives via more platonic roles.

Of course, a lot can depend on how a relationship ended. If your ex betrayed you, or was deliberately cruel or habitually dishonest, then forget it. Friends don’t knowingly hurt one another, so there’s no reason to invite a mean spirited ex back into your life. If the split was has left one person heartbroken, bitter or desperate for reconciliation, then the friendship can never be equal and just won’t work. But if the worst your coupling got was some misguided, flawed human conduct and a gradual acceptance that it just wasn’t meant to be, then reclassifying it to friendship may be the perfect solution.

There aren’t many people in life who will understand you quite as well as someone with whom you’ve been in a longstanding romantic relationship. You’ve seen one another at your worst, most unguarded and vulnerable and if you’re really lucky, still feel the love. And ironically, on the other side of the split can be something far more successful and ultimately fulfilling than the romance ever was.


Lily Allen With Ex-Boyfriend Seb Chew: Can You Be Friends With Your Ex?

Respect to Lily Allen. Not just for being spotted in the vicinity of her ex-boyfriend, Seb Chew, but being seen in the same car, looking like they are actually friends.

It’s something I’ve never been able to pull off, especially when that ex is someone you’ve had a meaningful long-term relationship with.

In fact, that last time I saw the man with whom I spent most of my twenties was when we spotted each other in a restaurant. Far from running up and mwaw mwaw-ing me like a long-lost friend, he circled me like a shark, glaring. Mind you, the fact that I was holding the newborn baby of the man I had left him for probably didn’t help.

Looking at their relationship track record, you might assume it would be the same between Lily and Seb. After all A and R man Seb is officially a former love of Lily’s life. She was so devastated about their break-up in 2006, she even wrote a song about it.

Then they got back to together again when her relationship when Chemical Brother Ed Simons faltered. It was after she and Seb split again that she went off to get married and have babies. That is an awful lot of history.

Relationships are not friendships. For God’s sake, you have seen each other naked and enjoyed passionate, intimate sex. That complicates things.

All it takes is a song on the radio or a visit to place where you once went while you were madly in love to bring those memories flooding back.

Then there’s the new man in your life. Massive congratulations to you if you, your ex and new partner can get as far as sitting down and all having a civil conversation. But can you really expect your new lover to not be bothered that someone else slept with you first?

The fact is that proper break-ups are rarely one-sided. There’s always someone harbouring some bitterness or resentment, usually the one who didn’t initiate it the split.

So credit to Lily. But while her husband Sam Cooper stays at home and looks after their two young daughters while she relaunches her career, he has to be wondering if there is a still a flicker of that same sexual chemistry which once could not keep Seb and his wife apart.

And in the words of Lily’s own song, that’s “Not Fair.”



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