When I tell people that I still live with my ex-girlfriend (three years after our break up), their faces usually register either total shock or mild suspicion. But whether they're thinking that one or both of us are in deep emotional denial or that there's something sneaky going on here — because how could we possibly live together and not still have sex?! — they always say some version of, "Wow! I could never live with my ex." That is, unless I'm talking to other queer women.
Don't get me wrong: It's not like tons of queer ladies are out there living with their ex-girlfriends. Even among LGBTQ+ people, Katie and I are an anomaly. But a lot of the time, the lesbian and bisexual+ women I tell about my living situation fully understand how it's possible to have a close friendship with an ex. Because they also have an ex or two in their friend groups.
"The queer community is so small that working to be friendly or at least amicable with exes is pretty much a necessity," says Carolyn Yates, an editor and writer whose work focuses on sexuality and culture. Yates is still best friends with her first ex, and is close with (or at least friendly with) a handful of other sexual partners. In addition to needing to keep friendships alive because there just aren't that many queer people out there, a lot of queer women want to be friendly with their exes. As a writer named Phoenix wrote for Autostraddle in 2012, the typical cycle of a lesbian heartbreak includes the part where you and an ex become friends again. "Start talking again, and get your friendship back," Phoenix wrote. "Realize how much you’ve missed her! Not her in your arms, or her in your bed, but her as a person. She knows you so well, and vice versa."
This doesn't mean that every lesbian and bi+ woman has great relationships with all of their exes. Katie is still my best friend, sure, but I also have an ex friend-with-benefits who told me she never wants to see me again (and except a few awkward unintentional run-ins, she's stuck to that). Nor does it mean that all straight people have terrible, dramatic breakups. (Let this straight YouTube couple who wrote a song about their breakup inspire you.) But, queer women do tend to have healthier, happier breakups than straight couples. So maybe straight people could learn a thing or two about how we call it quits. Ahead, four breakup lessons The Straights™ could learn from lesbian and bi+ women.