Your 30s is the decade when things really begin to count in your life. Those 17 grey hairs that can’t be passed off as freakishly cool, premature graying anymore; those two and a half tummy tyres built painstakingly on the cornerstones of beer and wine; the zeroes against the price tag of your first home, which seems a lot further away than it looked in your 20s. And, of course, the exes. That smorgasbord of men and women who your current partner and you have racked up hitherto that can form a buffet menu of favourites, avoids, guilty pleasures and dependables that social media and internet stalking have rendered real and active presences in our lives. Therefore, it becomes important to label these fine men and women into broad categories for future reference.

The Friendly Ex

Remember that first boyfriend you had zero chemistry with but hooked up with because everyone in high school was hooking up and you didn’t want to be the odd one out? Or, even that great casual hook-up in which you had conversations, coitus and caipirinhas, but just gradually drifted away when you met the love of your life? These men and women have the greatest potential to be functional members of your new coupled life. It’s like picking the best aspect of their personality or skills while effectively dumping the rest. Were they boring but dependable? Hello emergency babysitting or informal tax advising. Were they exciting but dangerous? How about some unique holiday tips? Since your breakup didn’t have any muss or fuss, your shared past retains nostalgia and affection that doesn’t threaten your current partner in any way.

The Toxic Ex

These are usually the misguided but serious relationships of your early to mid-20s. That jerk who didn’t return your calls, stood you up, charmed your pants off and gave dreamy head, and still has a way of getting on your nerves. If you’re really unlucky (aka sharing a child with a toxic ex), this person is still in the vicinity of your life, spilling their bad energy, high drama, emotional manipulations and deep knowledge of your weak spots into your current relationship. If you’re suddenly experiencing turbulence in your current relationship, look around and you might find the toxic ex trolling in the bushes with some mustard gas. The worst is, even when they aren’t around in person, they have left their remains in you to ensure you try and jeopardise the next good relationship that comes your way. The best way to deal with the toxic ex is emotional rehab. Part of their toxicity stems from how amazing and addictive they feel when you are around them. So whether it is a sojourn in the Himalayas, changing your phone number, doing an FB de-friend or all of the above, this is one drug that needs to be fished out from all the known hiding places and flushed down the toilet.

The Awkward Ex

These are the most generous of all exes. Because every time you encounter them they carry such an air of embarrassment and conversation paralysis that they remind you what a good idea the breakup was in the first place. In all probability, they think of relationships as zero-sum games and depending on who initiated the breakup, one person is the loser and the other the winner and the twain may never be friends again. This might have been that rebound relationship that ran out of steam after six months or that adoring puppy you fell into dating only to realise that adulation and love are two different things.

The One That Got Away (TOTGA)

The name says it all. If there is a name in your inbox that can light up your day and a message that can still bring that secret smile, it must be from the person who was supposed to be the love of your life, except you didn’t realise it then, didn’t get to say it in time or didn’t stop them when they left. Well, in a cosmic scale of things they probably weren’t the One if you’re already happily married or in a relationship today. But, nonetheless, TOTGA always holds a piece of you that existed a long time ago in a bright and innocent place. While in themselves they carry no sinister intent, their presence is a slippery slope of memories and what-ifs. To have one around requires a will of steel and a partner who probably doesn’t know the whole story.