So you may be wondering if it’s possible to maintain a friendship with your ex. While it can take some work, there are ways to make sure this relationship stays healthy for both of you.
Here’s how to be friends with your ex, according to experts.
Erica Cramer, LCSW
Clinical Social Work/Therapist, Cobb Psychotherapy NYC
No one gets into a relationship thinking it will end. However, sometimes relationships just aren’t built to last. People break up for various neutral reasons where there isn’t always a victim and villain.
- They naturally grow apart and discover they want different things.
- They are no longer attracted to one another, and any semblance of romance disintegrates.
- They realize that they no longer wanted to be in a committed relationship and would prefer to be single.
- They discover they may be better off as friends and cannot wrap their heads around how to pursue this relationship.
Is being friends with an ex even a thing? Is it possible? It is and can be.
There are a few things to consider before diving into a platonic relationship with a former lover:
- Is maintaining a friendship detrimental to your mental health?
- Will it hinder your ability to move forward with your life?
- Are you holding onto your ex because you are afraid of change and the unknown?
- Is maintaining a relationship going to create problems with a new partner, friends, or family?
If you’ve answered no to these questions, you may have a path to a successful friendship.
Lastly, why is it important for you to maintain a friendship? Are you neighbors? Coworkers? Do you share a child(ren), business(es) or animal(s)? Define the reasons you have for keeping this person, in any capacity, in your life.
If it makes sense and you want to pursue a friendship, here are my top tips for a functioning friendship with a lost love:
Let bygones be bygones
Whatever has happened in your romantic relationship is in the past. Being angry or resentful of it in the future will not lead to a successful platonic relationship. Forgive and forget. That is the only way the two of you will be able to move forward with a platonic relationship.
Create sustainable boundaries
Maybe you do not talk about the people you are dating and only inform each other about a new partner when things get serious. Maybe you only hang out in group settings. Maybe you no longer speak to each other’s friends or family.
Whatever the parameters are, this new relationship requires new rules and expectations. Think of what was unsuccessful in the past and how you can improve upon it in the future.
Have a heart-to-heart. Don’t assume new boundaries are in place just because you want them to be. Collaboratively agree on what works best for both of you.
Establish new behavioral patterns
When you were together, you probably texted each other all the time, spent holidays with each other’s families, and were involved in many different aspects of each other’s lives. You are now just friends, and with that comes many changes in the involvement you will have with one another.
This is a new chapter in your relationship, and both of you must be on the same page with how you behave towards one another.
Develop new traditions
When you were dating, you may have had an annual Thanksgiving dinner and were always each other’s plus one to a wedding. You are just friends, and these traditions are obsolete. Maybe now your biggest event is going out for a cup of coffee or on a run together.
You are developing new traditions that make sense for your new relationship.
Be honest about your feelings
Being friends with your ex can be challenging and elicit mixed emotions. At first, you are confident that you can have a completely platonic relationship, but then things begin to get murky. Romantic feelings can suddenly re-emerge, and it is important to constantly touch base with yourself as to how you feel about this person.
If you decide that the friendship is too challenging to maintain, that is okay. If you think that you can keep your feelings in perspective, that is okay too. The important thing is, to be honest with yourself and also attuned to any changes in your ex’s feelings for you.
Modify your expectations
This person may no longer buy you a birthday gift or run random errands for you. You are no longer their main priority or the person they put on a pedestal. You are simply another person in their life that they care about. The nature of the relationship has changed, and so should the expectations.
Make up your mind
Be confident in your decision, and do not allow other people’s opinions to persuade you. Your relationship may have ended poorly, and people question why you are friends with this person.
Do not listen to them. Only you can see certain pieces of the entire puzzle of your relationship. Trust that you know what is best for yourself and act accordingly. Whether or not you remain friends with your ex is ultimately your decision.
If you decide to pursue a friendship with this person, it is crucial to always prioritize yourself and your well-being.
If you have put the above tips into motion and this new dynamic is not working, it is okay to let someone who used to be an important part of your life go. Some people keep exes in their lives because it is safe and familiar. But if you keep things in your life that no longer serve you, there is no space for things that do.
Remember that re-evaluating your relationships is very much like cleaning out your closet. The more old and unnecessary stuff you give away, the more space you have for new and functional items.
Certified Life Transformation Coach, Online Divorce
Nothing lasts forever. Unfortunately, even the most wonderful relationship can end. But when people break up, it’s good to try to do it peacefully, without drama, mutual accusations, and high-profile scandals. Many ex-spouses even maintain friendly relationships after parting. You may have common children, work, acquaintances, or other reasons to remain friends.
In this article, I’ll share some essential tips to help you maintain a cordial relationship with an ex.
Should I let him back in my life?
In fact, only you know the answer to this question. You should let your ex into your life if the relationship (friendship) is comfortable for you. Love and passion pass, but there is so much more in common between people (interests, outlook on life, hobbies, and so on) that can cause them to remain good friends.
Moreover, if you have common children, you are simply obliged to maintain a good relationship with your ex so that they (your children) grow up in a good and healthy atmosphere. Before making your final decision, think about your ex’s personality and temperament.
Answer the question: will your friendship benefit you?
However, you don’t always need to be buddies. If your ex humiliated you, behaved cruelly, showed psychological violence, devalued you, you should forget about this person forever.
Let’s take a look at the basic steps to help you start a friendship after a breakup.
Let your ex know about your feelings
This is not about making a declaration of love, but you should start a new relationship with dialogue. Tell your ex your desires and intentions, and explain why you should stay friends.
But tell the truth, do not try to manipulate or force him to become your buddy. Doing so will only hurt you more. Meet in a neutral place and share your thoughts on future relationships.
Of course, it could be just a text message or a call, but a face-to-face meeting is more acceptable. It will allow you to better communicate your emotions to him.
Don’t rush or force things to happen
It’s okay if your ex-boyfriend is a little confused by your desire to be friends. Everyone’s emotional reactions are different. He may need more time to think about everything that is happening and make a decision.
Don’t force things. Give him time to make a decision. During this period, you should be patient to demonstrate your good intentions. However, if he does not agree to friendship, you should not attack him or force him to change his mind. This will not help you to improve the relationship at all.
Respect each other’s boundaries
Friendship assumes that you respect each other’s opinions and needs. And you have to build boundaries to be friends. Otherwise, it will turn into a toxic relationship.
Listen carefully to what your ex says about his feelings. If something is unpleasant for him, do not do it. The same should be the case on your part. Don’t let him do things that don’t suit you. Respecting each other’s boundaries is the path to a satisfying relationship.
For example, if he does not want to explain to you the details of his personal life, stop pestering him with questions about this. Or, if your night calls are not pleasant to him, they should be stopped.
Adjust your behavior to make the relationship more successful
Since you are no longer together, there was something in your behaviors that led to the breakup. Friendship is also a reasonably close relationship but without intimacy and love. Wrong actions can also destroy it.
Try to analyze what turned you off about each other before and what led to the breakup. If you want to build a friendship, you need to adjust your behavior to make the relationship more successful.
Don’t be afraid to share your feelings, worries, or plans
It is challenging to be friends with a person who is not ready to share what is inside them. If you want to build a relationship with your ex, don’t be afraid to share your feelings, worries, or plans.
Perhaps the breakup has changed you, so show him your new facets. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Openness is talking about what you like or dislike, the absence of fear of being judged or misunderstood. If your ex really wants to remain friends with you, he will accept you for who you are.
Don’t think about the past
Regardless of what happened in the past, do not carry this burden into a new relationship. If your ex broke your heart, forgive him. Let go of these oppressive feelings to live a more manageable and happier life.
All these grievances or what remains unsaid will destroy your new relationship. Forgiveness can be difficult, but it’s worth it, especially if you have minor children. Note that psychotherapy is good at such tasks.
Be ready for their new relationship
This can be one of the hardest steps to take, especially if you still have romantic feelings for your ex. But the truth is that he has the right to start a new relationship at any time. You should be prepared for the fact that he will fall in love with someone else.
If you find out that your ex is starting a new relationship, don’t panic, have a tantrum, or create drama. Respect their boundaries and needs. If it bothers you that your ex has a new lover, you should sort out your feelings. And maybe this is not the best time to be friends with him.
When you should not maintain a friendship with your ex?
There are situations in which a friendship with your ex is not always a good idea. If you are feeling lonely, you shouldn’t try to renew the relationship. You just want to fill your void. Such friendship will not lead to anything good since a lonely person in such a relationship tries to adapt to their partner, ignoring their true feelings.
If you still love your ex, your friendship with him can be traumatic, and you are unlikely to be able to resume what was before. Instead, focus on getting through the pain of the breakup, letting go of resentments, and moving into a relationship with someone else.
If your love relationship has been toxic, you shouldn’t be friends with that person either. A toxic relationship is when your partner hurts you and makes you suffer. Any relationship with abusers, narcissists, or psychopaths is a path to self-destruction.
It is still better to work through your injuries and resentments first
Friendship post-breakup definitely has some advantages and pitfalls. But maintaining a healthy relationship is always a good idea.
Friendship with your ex should first and foremost be comfortable for you and not traumatize your psycho-emotional state. Although, before you decide on continuing after the breakup, it is still better to work through your injuries and resentments to reach a new, higher level of relationship.
Divorce Recovery Specialist | Certified Professional Co-Active Life Coach
Create firm yet flexible boundaries and respectfully communicate with them
So many divorcees either want to be friends with their ex, or they cannot fathom a day where that will become a reality. I will admit, it can be hard to stay friends with your ex because we do not know how or where to draw new boundaries.
Why? Transitioning to friendship post-divorce is complicated because we default into our old role as former partners.
It is important to first take time and space to heal – advice that is rarely followed. Closure of any relationship requires work, just like relationships do. And it is work that gets to happen away from one another.
What does that look like? Carve out alone time for yourself to feel what comes up, mourn it, and move through it.
As humans, we resist the negative feelings that arise and try to push them away. What that does is allow them to persist and increase your doubts, fears, anxiety, and guilt. By not feeling through them, we give them the power to control us.
This, too, shall pass.
The best way to do this is to create firm yet flexible boundaries and respectfully communicate with them. Boundaries tell others where you end, and they begin. What you will tolerate and accept and what you will not.
It is about keeping your peace, not the other person.
Do not communicate with them as you did when you were together
It is also about preventing yourself from falling into old habits. That means limit communication (do not text them multiple times per day) and lay down ground rules that you both agree to. Perhaps that means not sharing about your dating lives until it impacts your kids, no flirting, no discussing your bad day.
In other words, do not communicate with them as you did when you were together. This is a whole new dynamic!
Be genuine about your friendship
That means be realistic that they will move on and meet someone else. If you notice that you feel jealous or an old flame is ignited, take a step back and evaluate your feelings.
Give them time to settle and work through them. Then reassess. Try to stay present in what is possible vs. compare to the past. Be friendly and move forward.
Etiquette Coach | Founder and President, Etiquette & Style by Dupree | Author, “Straight Up From the Teacup“
Don’t bring up old arguments or reminisce about dating
When I was younger, being friends with my ex was never my consideration because I always said, “If they had worked harder to be my friend before the breakup, maybe we would still be together.”
Now that I’m older, that thought process is water the bridge. I’m not opposed to friendship with an ex—possible because I have nothing to prove, so there’s no reason to stand my ground by refusing a friendship, exchanging niceties in public, or even giving/accepting a little friendly advice.
Although, there are some cons to maintaining a friendship with an ex, like being too familiar. Sometimes having a history with someone can be misunderstood to mean still having dibs as it relates to a sexual relationship, borrowing money or other tangibles, and taking liberties with two people who are still engaged romantically.
Please understand that there is no wrong or right way to embark on this new way of buddying your ex, making them your new (pal-ex)—my new word for being progressive through relationship transitions.
That said, having nothing to prove simply means being absolutely ok with yourself, that chapter ending, and most importantly, the way it ended. There’s no reason to go backward, opening old wounds to prove anything to yourself or the ex.
Instead, you choose to move forward with a different goal. In fact both of you may discover something wonderful that you missed while dating.
In order to be a friend with your ex:
- You can’t see them as your partner any longer.
- You can’t harbor negative feelings about them.
- You truly have to like them as a person.
- Respect their individuality and space.
- Don’t bring up old arguments or reminisce about dating.
- Set boundaries that work for the both of you.
We may not be able to salvage what is lost in the relationship, but I believe if we stay true to what purely connected us and cultivating the friendship by protecting and taking care of our hearts, maintaining a friendship will be a cakewalk.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The only way to have a friend is to first be one,” that goes for all of us.
Certified Wellness Consultant | Co-creator, Zerxza
My partner and I spent together over 10 years, 3 of those married. We were always best friends – the very definition of best friends. We shared everything; we did everything together and knew each other through and through. However, last year we started to drift apart. You could say that the stress of life and work finally hit us and made us forget our connection.
After about 6 months, we finally decided to separate for good, and we divorced.
Even during our divorce and separation, we remained extremely close – he even helped me move to my new apartment. We stayed in contact every single day – we called, messaged, visited each other. We were still best friends, we simply didn’t live together and weren’t married anymore, but our connection and friendship never changed during all of that.
In just a few months of separation, we finally realized that we’re being ridiculous because we still love each other and want to spend our lives together.
Our bond was so insane that we simply couldn’t take the separation! We decided to get married again, and in August this year, we’re having a new ceremony to make everything right again and continue being together. In our case, being friends even after breaking up was the one crucial thing that brought us together and showed us why we still need to be together. Our friendship literally saved our marriage.
Women, you can be friends with your partner.
Our crazy situation simply proved that you could be best friends with your husband and save your marriage that way. Too many women shun their husbands, thinking they can’t be friends because “you don’t have children with your friends nor sleep with your friends.”
This distorted belief leads women to marry without having an actual deep connection. Every person hopes to find a deep connection and a strong, loving bond with their partner, but you can’t establish that without friendship. Men also crave support – they’d rather spend their life with their best friend.
So, my first piece of advice: women, don’t shun friendship with men.
Don’t even label them as men – take everyone as human beings who are looking for love, connection, support, and friendship. You don’t need to create a barrier between yourself and your partner, thinking you can’t be vulnerable and open yourself up because then your partner will “stop loving you.”
Quite on the contrary: that’s exactly what makes your connection stronger. And if you end up being shunned after opening up, it wouldn’t have been a lasting relationship anyway.
Accept the situation and find happiness from within you
Sometimes, we can get very comfortable in our relationship and lose focus – sometimes, we even lose ourselves in the relationship. To stay friends with your ex, your first priority is letting go of any pent-up feelings, frustration, anger, or disappointment.
Instead, you need to learn how to accept the situation and find happiness from within you.
After a breakup, we tend to beat ourselves up or become insanely angry for losing all the hopes and dreams we had built over the course of the relationship. Once we get angry, we tend to pour it out on the ex and kill any chance of ever staying friends.
In the end, we have to accept that sometimes, people are better off separately.
It doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. Instead, accept that from now on, you two will stay friends and will be there for each other as friends. Friendship is a beautiful gift, so instead of letting anger and disappointment flood your life with negativity, accept this new kind of relationship and focus on the beauty of that.
Beyond that, start focusing on self-care and loving yourself more – happiness is never related to other people.
True happiness comes from within the person, and no other person on the planet can ever bring you your happiness. In other words, as long as you make your happiness the job of others, it’s always fleeting. Learn to accept your new relationship status and put all your love towards yourself.
Understand and support your ex
Sometimes, the breakup is a result of your ex being confused about him/herself. Made there’s something going on in his life, maybe there’s something deep, extending all the way to the childhood. Sometimes, he might not even know what’s going on why there are certain feelings.
The point is: it’s not your place to judge your ex or consider any feelings wrong.
Instead of blaming your ex or bashing him for any negative feelings, understand your ex’s perspective, desires, feelings, and thoughts. Don’t judge, even if it seems hard.
The best way to maintain a great friendship is to let go of your own beliefs or trying to push your beliefs on your ex. Just be there for your ex, listen, understand and be kind and loving – that’s the formula for maintaining a friendship after a breakup.
Public Relations Professional | Recreational Athlete
Take responsibility for your role in the divorce
You know when you are sitting on the beach on a beautiful day and off in the distance, you see dark skies forming? You think no way will that storm come your way, especially when you are on vacation and everything is meant to be perfect. But it gets closer, so you either pack up early (being the proactive type), or you wait it out and sit in the rain cursing, hoping some magical power will make it go away.
As they say in Caddy Shack, “I don’t think the heavy stuff is gonna come down for a while now.”
The downfall of my marriage was a common scenario. I had feelings of frustration, resentment, loneliness, and betrayal that I would address at times – mostly to the wrong audience. After years of watching the storm approach, I went into robotic mode. It’s embarrassing to admit I turned a blind eye to the really heavy stuff.
I just thought about the sunny days ahead and how to make them great.
I started to observe other couples: New and long-term marriages, families with young or grown children, divorced couples, blended families, and single parents dating. I started to read, analyze and write to prescribe the right way to start a new life on my own, and as a parent, what the best scenario would be for my kids.
It quickly became obvious that every divorce situation is different.
- How passionate are you as a couple?
- What is your mental state?
- What are the emotional intelligence levels?
- Financial status, careers, parenting techniques, extended family support and behaviors, and so on?
One thing I knew for sure, I didn’t want the stereotypical tumultuous, angry situation that leaves everyone worse than before. After eight years of practice and monitoring results, here are my tips on how to stay friends with your ex:
- Self-awareness – Take responsibility for your role in the divorce. How are you handling the communication moving forward and the end results you want while still being conscious of which results will serve the greatest number of people that are affected?
- Respect – You married this person. You had feelings, a friendship, a love affair – and in some cases, homes, children, and shared family and friends. Want the best for them, and reciprocate adoration and generosity when you get it.
- Hold your tongue – Words will linger much longer than you can imagine.
- Dream big – if you’re bored, you’re boring! No good comes from that. Only you can make your life great. List new accomplishments, push yourself, and achieve goals you never thought possible. Find your inner happiness, and that will put everything else in perspective.
- Date wisely – Choose a partner who also practices steps 1 through 4 and supports your mission to achieve the friends with ex status.
In the literal sense, I went to my own new house after the storm, but somehow my ex and I worked together as a duplex: Same connected structure but with privacy for our new lives.
It was a new take on the proverbial family unit and one we would both protect above all else. Sometimes we even meet on the porch for a few laughs, and wish each other the best as we continue to live our best lives.
Medical Reviewer & Addiction Advocate, OK Rehab
Staying friends with an ex can be incredibly difficult for many reasons. We may struggle to see them in a platonic way, we may have leftover resentment about the relationship, and we may become jealous when they inevitably move on. However, I have watched several of my patients stay friends with their ex-partners over the years.
Here is the guidance I gave them that helped them to hold onto the friendship:
Take time to heal before jumping into a friendship
After a breakup, you need time to heal from the loss in your life. The best way to do this is to distance yourself from your ex, allow yourself to process all the negative emotions you experience, and focus on what makes you happy as an individual.
Though it is possible to be friends with an ex, this usually comes after a period of distance. After some time apart, you will both be in a better position to handle the intensity of seeing each other again in a completely different context.
Make sure neither of you are holding onto romantic feelings
For this friendship to work, it needs to be platonic. If either of you is secretly hoping you will get back together, it will ruin the friendship. Before agreeing to stay friends, make sure you communicate with your ex about your feelings towards each other.
Be prepared for them to find romance again
It’s one thing to stay friends with an ex when they are single, but it takes another level of maturity to stick by them when they enter into a new relationship. You need to be prepared that this will eventually happen, so consider whether you are ready to deal with the feelings that may arise.
Equally, remember that you may not always want to stay friends with your ex. When you find a new partner, it may be necessary to distance yourself slightly.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long should I wait before establishing a friendship with my ex?
There is no universal answer to this question because the appropriate waiting period depends on the particular circumstances of your relationship and the breakup.
In general, it’s essential to give yourself and your ex-partner enough time to heal and process the end of the romantic relationship. This may take weeks, months, or even longer, depending on the people involved.
Pay attention to your emotional well-being and make sure you have overcome any lingering romantic feelings before attempting to build a friendship.
How can I tell if my ex-partner is really interested in a friendship or if they have ulterior motives?
It can be challenging to determine if your ex-partner is genuinely interested in a friendship or has ulterior motives. Pay attention to their behavior, communication patterns, and the overall dynamics of your interactions.
If they seem to be focused on rebuilding trust, respecting boundaries, and maintaining a platonic relationship, it’s likely that they genuinely want to be friends.
However, if they frequently bring up past romantic experiences, try to regain physical intimacy, or manipulate your feelings, their intentions may not be purely platonic. Trust your instincts and prioritize your well-being first when evaluating the nature of your relationship.
What if my friends or family don’t support my friendship with my ex-partner?
If your friends or family are not supportive of your friendship with your ex-partner, it’s essential to consider their concerns but also trusts your own judgment. Talk openly with your loved ones about their concerns and reassure them that your emotional well-being is your priority.
You can also set boundaries with your friends and family by explaining that you value their opinion but ultimately must make decisions that feel right for you. Over time, as they see the positive aspects of your friendship, they may become more accepting and supportive.
Is having doubts or second thoughts about my friendship with my ex-partner normal?
It’s completely normal to have doubts or second thoughts about your friendship with your ex-partner. This type of relationship can be complicated, and it’s natural to feel uncertain sometimes.
Remember that it’s okay to reevaluate your friendship and make changes as needed to ensure your emotional well-being. If you find that the friendship is doing more harm than good, it may be best to get some distance or reconsider the nature of your relationship.
On the other hand, if you can overcome your doubts and maintain a healthy, supportive friendship, the relationship can be a rewarding experience for both of you.
Can being friends with my ex-partner help us grow as individuals?
Yes, friendship with your ex-partner can help you grow as an individual. A healthy, supportive friendship can provide valuable insight into your former relationship so that you can learn from your experiences and better understand your emotional needs.
In addition, maintaining a friendship can help you develop critical interpersonal skills such as communication, empathy, and conflict resolution. As long as both parties are committed to a positive and nurturing friendship, there is an opportunity for personal growth.
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