Can we still be friends?

There's nothing like starting a new life to get your hormones and man-radar working overtime.

A few years ago, I remember getting a call from my favourite ex-boyfriend, Sandile (who for the record was never supposed to leave me). At the time, I thought he was working somewhere in Gauteng.

So after three minutes of mindless small talk, he casually asks, "Where are you heading off to next year?"

"I told you, I'll be in Cape Town. You're still avoiding the Western Cape, right?" I ask. I'm sure he can feel my sweaty palms from his side of the phone line.

"Oh, actually, I landed up in Cape Town too. Didn't I tell you?" he says as if it's the most natural coincidence on the planet.

"No, you didn’t!" I knew everything happened for a reason! Finally, things are going my way. With a man, nogal.

"Give me a call when you get this side and we can meet up for coffee." How does he maintain that calm veneer? I mean this is the same man who bought me a pack of chips in a (lame but really sweet) attempt to be romantic. This is the man who made me cry for months… okay, weeks… after he left (pathetic but true).

A month later, I landed and gave him a call.

By now my initial enthusiasm had wavered after sleepless nights imagining how great it would be if we got back together. There I said it. So I avoided thinking about the whole dire situation by finding an apartment, buying furniture and… oh yes, starting my first job. All of which, are exceptionally good reasons to avoid awkward situations and unbearable pauses in conversation.

There's just one problem. I am eventually going to have to plan the damn coffee date… or risk bumping into him (and possibly the new woman in his life) when I'm buying bread in my pyjamas at the dingy Indian supermarket around the corner from my place.

Why can life never be simple?
Breaking up is seriously rocky mental terrain. To me, it almost relates to the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Amongst other symptoms the patient is like to "feel little hope for their future", "feel detached from others" and "is often unable to have loving relationships". Combined with sleeplessness, angry outbursts and inability to concentrate… well, I think there should be some counselling for breakups. (Just for the record, I studied psychology but I'm not a psychologist).

After a few months of hating and pining after him, there's a bout of possible madness. Nights out with the girls become the norm. If it was really a bad break-up, you could wake up with vague memories of a semi-sober snog in the back of a seedy nightclub.

The only thing worse than the break-up is the self-inflicted torture of watching your ex-boyfriend be blissfully happy with someone else. And actually having to be nice to that someone else. I fear this is exactly where I am heading. Oh oh.

I'm friends with two of my ex-boyfriends and it's worked out well. The key is knowing that the relationship is over and wanting it to stay over. If it helps, hang out in groups at the beginning until you're more comfortable with each other.

More than anything else, just let go. Let things develop naturally and you'll be pleasantly surprised. In fact, you may get to know him even better than when you were dating.

In a totally platonic way of course.

Does post-dating friendship ever work? Have you ever managed to shift from friends to lovers? Share your story.

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