This evening I posted to one of my social networking sites that I was being entertained due to the assistance of a former male lover. I originally had typed ex-boyfriend, but I realized that that wasn’t true on several levels. The first and foremost being the fact that “Ex” sounds so mean. It’s not a pretty sounding prefix, and it doesn’t have pretty connotation. Think Geek offer's this little number called "The Ex" to help take out aggression in a potentially healthy, culinary fashion.
Just think of other places that’s it is used- exanimate (dead), exile (banished), exasperate (annoy), expatriate. Let’s look more at expatriate.
Merriam-Webster defines that word as follows:
To withdraw (oneself) from residence in or allegiance to one's native country intransitive verb : to leave one's native country to live elsewhere; also : to renounce allegiance to one's native country
If you really think of it, calling someone an ex does allude to the fact that one of you withdrew, or that you renounced your allegiance to each other- or some other rather unpleasant thing. Most of the time, even the positive references go something like this. “Oh! That’s my ex! No, it’s ok, we’re cool.” It’s assumed that things aren’t cool, so it deems explanation every time. The former lover that I was referencing and I ended our romantic relationship in a very peaceful way. We discussed what had been going on and decided mutually that we needed to end that part of our dynamic. There wasn’t any revoking of allegiance or banishing, heck, we shared several more months under the same roof. Yeah, there was some hurt afterward, but it just doesn’t seem right calling him, or a several other people in my romantic history, exes. Yes, there are a few people who more than earned that prefix, but it’s just not appropriate with everyone. Some former relationships have moved into new titles altogether, like “best friend” and “playmate.” My guess is that I’m not the only one that has found this bit of our vernacular a bit abrasive. Do you have former relationships that didn’t work out the way you thought they would but you‘ve maintained or reestablished a friendship? What do you call them? Is just calling them a friend enough?
When you’re in my business, it’s good to reference the sexier parts of life, but even outside of that I find it valid to reference deeper connections than casual friendship; it seems to be more honest. Most of us mention if we were school mates, co-workers or childhood friends when we introduce each other, why not find a nicer term for former romantic relationships and lovers than ex?