Ashley Kelsch: Dealing with exes and loving yourself

The dating and relationship coach writes about revisiting old flames and moving on from the past

By Ashley Kelsch
Ashley Kelsch: Friendship with Exes
Ashley Kelsch

Ashley Kelsch is Austin’s top certified, professional dating and relationship coach and former owner of Teddies for Betty’s, the lingerie boutique on 2nd Street that she ran for a decade. She offers one-on-one life-coaching programs to help clients acknowledge and understand limiting beliefs, to set boundaries and to learn how to change mindsets so they can get what they want in their romantic lives and feel empowered. Ashley helps men and women of all ages, single and married. She has a weekly podcast called Modern Renegadesand you can follow her on Instagram @AshleyMKelschRead more of her Tribeza columns here.

Over the years I’ve considered myself fortunate that I’ve been able to establish and maintain friendships with my exes. Typically, they aren’t active ‘let’s get together and hang’ relationships, but when we see one another there is a genuine interest to connect. This sort of relationship is usually established after some time of processing and moving on. You know you’ve gotten to that point when you can see them on social media and not wonder why they’re still following your stories.

For me personally, my exes fall into one of four categories:

A. We shared something deep, profound even, but timing and circumstances didn’t align.
B. That was fun, but we’re meant to be friends.
C. If I never see you again, I’ll be fine.
D. I know I don’t want to be with you, but everything in my body says otherwise.

Of course, one can oscillate between the four–nothing is ever without nuance. We are human, after all.

Most of my exes eventually settle nicely into ‘B.’ And I feel really good about it. As a matter of fact, last night I saw a man who I shared a ‘friends with benefits’ relationship with on and off for 10 years. Aside from the obvious trust and respect we have for one another, there isn’t a ‘love story.’

RELATED: Your Friend is Dating Your Ex. Are You Cool With It?

From my personal experience, ‘A’ and ‘D’ always throw me for a loop and put things in perspective. They remind me that love, connection, and that thing we cannot see–the energetic chemical pull known as chemistry–will trump the story your mind has made up about what happened.

I remember years ago running into a man that I deeply loved and dated for some time. I would categorize our break up as an ‘A’ (We shared something deep, profound even, but timing and circumstances didn’t align). I always wondered if things had been different. If we had met before I had kids, if I wasn’t in the middle of building a business, he would have been the one.

On the day I ran into him, my most recent partner (who I had just broken up with) was setting up his dating app from my couch while I was at a funeral. I wasn’t exactly feeling on top of the world and was doubting every choice I had made with men up to that point.

It had been nearly four years since I’d seen him.

He asked me to join him. I sat and listened in disbelief as he shared with me that the love we had was something he’d never experienced before. That he wished he could still be my friend and check in on me, but it wasn’t possible as he was now married. He told me that he’d never gotten over me.

The moment stood in glaring contrast to what I had just been through.

I too, had never felt that sort of love with anyone else, before or after the relationship. I felt this moment of, ‘what did I walk away from?’–but I also knew why. Both of us knew it was always supposed to happen this way.

The exchange was a moment that brought me clarity. It reminded me what a deep and respectful love felt like. Of what was possible. I walked away with a great sense of closure and gratitude.

I haven’t seen him since.

MORE FROM ASHLEY KELSCH: ‘Am I An Introvert Or Just Lazy?’

The other ex? The one who was setting up his dating app on my couch? I would categorize him as a ‘C’ (If I never see you again, I’ll be fine), but I knew if I saw him I would laugh. Because despite our chaotic love, we always laughed.

As it turns out I was right about the laughing, but wrong about the rest.

I believe this is what time offers us. Perspective. Clarity. Forgiveness.

I know because I recently ran into him in New York. I can’t even begin to explain how insane and happenstance that was, but I will say this: despite what my brain knows and remembers–the story of a heartache and pain that no longer hurts but is still vivid in my memory–it no longer registers the same.

When I saw him, I did laugh. We hugged, and it was as if we had this inside joke or insight into just how crazy one can be, when in love.

With the time and space between then and now, there is no negative energetic surge. It was, I dare say, enlightening.

What was shocking and unexpected was that the minute he walked away, my body turned on. I felt ‘her,’ if you will, start talking and thinking about his touch…and remembered when he would…I couldn’t believe it. I had to have a quick ‘come to Mary’ moment and shut that all down.

As it would turn out, he could be categorized as a ‘D’ (I know I don’t want to be with you, but everything in my body says otherwise).

This run-in was more than a reminder that chemistry is real and unarguably intense. This run-in brought to the surface how I have never been in a similar relationship. I had made a choice–or rather, a commitment–to never lose myself to another person again.

It drove me to make the decision, ‘I can love someone else, but never more than me.’ I decided a romantic relationship can enhance and add value to my life, but will not define my life.

It’s the greatest gift I’ve ever received. He and I had an opportunity to talk and apologize for all the things. We laughed, cried and overcame a past that is now clean and clear.

I believe this is what time offers us. Perspective. Clarity. Forgiveness.

Maybe not always. Sometimes there is the ex that tries to text in an effort to get back in. You both know in the past you’ve fallen into category ‘D’–attracted despite not wanting to be with them–but now you find yourself thinking…I just can’t.

It’s a ‘C.’ If I never see you again, I’ll be fine.

And that too brings you clarity.


Read More From the Style Issue | September 2021


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