Can You Be Friends With Your Ex?

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Can you be friends with your ex, without it getting messy or complicated? And is it actually a good idea? Questions, questions. It’s tricky I know. So in this post, we’re going to get to the bottom of:

  • If you can be friends with your ex.
  • If you should be friends with your ex.
  • How to be friends with your ex.
  • And the pro’s and con’s of it all!

Sounds good? Alright then. Let’s get stuck in!

Why Do You Want To Be Friends With Your Ex?

So before we can answer if you can be friends with your ex, you need to honestly ask yourself why you want to be. A few common reasons tend to come down to the fact that:

1) You don’t want to let go.

Your ex has been a big part of your life for a long time, and you’re struggling to see a way forward without them in it. So you’re clinging on.

You’re not necessarily looking to get them back (although you may secretly hope it could possibly lead to that.) But you’re just looking for ways to hold on – to still keep them there, in whatever way you can.

In many ways, you’re still in denial. You’re struggling to readjust. And so you’re craving the familiar.

Denial is the shock absorber for the soul. It protects us until we are equipped to cope with reality. – C.S. Lewis

2) You want to get back with them.

Another common reason why you’re trying to be friends with your ex, as mentioned above, is because it’s the long-game to get back with them.

You’re not over them, you don’t want this breakup, but the friendship gives you hope… They’re not gone completely, and you hope that by being friends with your ex, you can turn it around, win them back! (Not healthy at all. I repeat: not healthy!)

3) You don’t think it’s a big deal.

And then of course there’s the reason for remaining friends with your ex, which is probably the best one of the three – it’s because you think you can be.

The breakup was kind of mutual, you ended things on good terms and so you don’t see the harm in continuing to speak to them or see them.

Is it okay? Well, we’ll explore this more shortly. For now, make sure you’re clear on why you want to be friends with your ex – what’s the main reason? The real reason?

Can You Be Friends With Your Ex?

So what else should you take into consideration when it comes to whether you can be friends with your ex? Well, quite a few things. Grab a notepad and pen if you need, and explore the following (as these are all factors worth weighing up!)

  1. How long were you together? If it was a shorter relationship, there’s more chance you’re able to be easier to be friends with your ex.
  2. Where you friends before? Similarly, if you were friends with your ex for a while before you tried out the relationship – and then saw that it doesn’t quite work – you’re more likely to be able to go back to this.
  3. What was your relationship like? Was it a very physical relationship or had the passion started to fizzle out? Did you feel like it had become more of a friendship? Or did you feel FAR from friends – like there were more arguments than anything else?
  4. How did it end? Was it a bad breakup? Or pretty civil? Was it one-sided? Who ended it with who? And what kind of things were said? How was it left?
  5. Do you know where the other person is at now? How does your ex feel about the breakup and how is that similar or different in comparison to you? Does your ex want to be friends? Do they contact you? And how do you know how they feel, or what their intentions would be when it comes to staying in each others lives?

Why Staying Friends With Your Ex Could Be a Bad Idea

Even if we are talking best case scenario here, and the two of you are on good terms, staying friends with your ex can still be a bad idea. Why you may ask? Well:

1) There May Still Be Feelings Involved

From your side, everything could be fine and dandy. Maybe you are over your ex, but you still care about them on a friendship level.

However, unless you’re completely sure your ex is on the same page and your ex is definitely over you – it could get complicated.

Even if you won’t end up getting hurt here, there’s a chance that they could. So if you really care about them, you have to put them first.

Can You Be Friends With Your Ex?

2) Things Can Get Messy

Right now you could be in a good place, a friendship could work after a breakup. But what if one of you gets feelings (but the other doesn’t)? Then what will you do?

What if one starts getting jealous when the other starts dating? Or if a new partner isn’t comfortable with the fact that the two of you are friends? Especially if you’ve kept in touch right since the breakup.

You’ve got to be honest, it doesn’t look the best! Is that what you’d really want if it was the other way around? This leads me onto my next point…

3) It Gets Complicated When Dating

Like I said, very few people want to date someone with an ex on the scene. And with good reason! Questions arise as to whether you’re really over your ex.

Plus – what about the fresh start? Being friends with your previous ex, can make dating far more complicated than it needs to be. That’s why a “fresh start” is always recommended.

You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one…

Should You Be Friends With Your Ex?

There are certain circumstances where, actually, it’s good to be friends with your ex. For instance, if you have children together – the better that you can get on, the better it is for them.

Similarly if you’re in the same friendship group – you’ll need some space and time apart initially, perhaps meeting up with friends separately.

But in time, it’s good if you’re able to get back to being friends enough so that when group events are happening, it’s not awkward and there’s no bad feeling.

You may also find that you date someone for a short while, it doesn’t work out and it just naturally evolves into a friendship… you are technically then “friends with your ex” but because it didn’t ever really feel on that level, it’s not a big deal!

You definitely SHOULDN’T be friends with your ex if:

  • You were in a toxic relationship.
  • The relationship became abusive.
  • You’re being used or manipulated even now, after the breakup.

Cut it off. You don’t owe your ex anything. You gave them your world, you gave them your time. Now it’s over – you don’t have to have them in your life, to any degree if you don’t want to.

But every situation is different. All you can do, is weigh up your own, be honest with yourself and see what’s right for you.

How To Be Friends With Your Ex

So if you’re going to be friends with your ex, here’s some “rules” if you like, which will make it easier:

1) Give It Some Time

If you want to know how to be friends with your ex, and you genuinely want this to be done – the right way, so that it doesn’t cause any issues in any way, especially later down the line… then you must, must, must give it some time.

You can still be civil after the breakup, but you shouldn’t jump straight into a friendship. You need time for it to settle. It’s also important for yourself and your growth, to go through the first stage of the breakup on your own.

It can be confronting, challenging even. But that’s all part of it. You can’t skip this, or try to avoid it… Make it easier by keeping your ex there (uh huh, I know your game!)

So don’t try to kid yourself, don’t try to convince yourself otherwise. Do what you have to do, even if you don’t want to do it – and create that distance between you and your ex before then – potentially – reconnecting later down the line.

Recommended Read: 10 Questions To Ask Your Ex To Leave Things On Good Terms

How To Be Friends With Your Ex

2) Don’t Cross The Boundaries

If you are going to be friends with your ex, you have to set some boundaries. And these shouldn’t just be physical ones or the “obvious” ones… but you also shouldn’t be bringing up your relationship, reminiscing.

This needs to be a fresh start. It’s not about re-kindling. It’s about being in each others lives in some ways – but it should never be in as big of a way as before.

If you find yourself spending amples of time together, slipping back into an old routine, getting overly comfortable then you have to ask yourself:

  • What actually is this?
  • Are we really working as friends?
  • And is this a good idea? Is this even what we want?

Review it. See if it works. If it doesn’t – you tried. And if it does, great. But there have to be boundaries there. The last thing you want is to let this stop you from moving forward, or keeping you stuck in something that’s complicated or unhealthy.

NOTE: Time apart may actually bring you back together. Everyone’s different. It entirely depends on your situation. But for the purpose of this article and the intention of wanting to just be friends and knowing that’s all you could be from now – the boundaries have to be there. This leads me onto my final point…

3) Know That It Won’t Be The Same As Before

If you want to be friends with your ex, you must shift the way you see it – shift your end outlook. You’re not trying to get it back to how you were before…

Things are different now. Too much has happened. Once you cross the boundaries of friendship, it isn’t quite the same. And of course – before you got into a relationship, your friendship would have been slightly different because feelings were developing.

There would have probably been a bit of a flirty friendship going on there. After all, that’s why it progressed. You saw chemistry. You saw potential. But now you need to see your ex in a different light.

So you’re not aiming to go back to how it was, but to find a way to be friends from here. A different kind of friendship to what you’ve had before, but a friendship none-of-the-less.

You Can Be Friendly Without Being Friends

Just because you’re not friends with your ex, doesn’t mean that you can’t EVER speak to them or there has to be bad feeling between the two of you.

In fact, it’s not good for either of you if this is the case… and it’s just not needed. Life is too short as they say!

So you can still occasionally speak to them, especially if things were left on good terms. It can be nice, friendly, and of course very civil!

You can still check in on them every now and then, or reply if they check in on you. As long as this isn’t done with the wrong intentions (like wanting to find out info, or to secretly try to reconnect and get back together when you know that would be a bad idea!)

Friendly is different to a full-blown friendship. But it’s a nice way to give you that closure around the relationship. It sits well with you. Feels good. Without causing any problems.

So Can You Be Friends With Your Ex?

So what’s the verdict? Can you be free ex? It is of course possible. And for some people it works. But my recommendation? Go with the friendly but not a friendship… it’s a winner all round, in my opinion.

Not everything is supposed to become something beautiful and long-lasting. Sometimes people come into your life at a moment in time. They bring you light, they bring you joy. And for that, you can be thankful. But not everything is permanent. It isn’t going to work out with everyone. And that’s okay. Sometimes people come into your life to show you what’s right, what’s not, what works and what doesn’t. Take the lesson. Let go. And move forward.

Hope this helps. Wishing you all the best!


How To Be Friends With Your Ex

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Ella Stearn
Ell is a Breakup, Dating & Relationship Specialist & Coach, with over 3 million annual readers, globally. As the Creator of Forgetting Fairytales, her mission is to help you learn to love yourself, find the right person to give your love to, then make it a love that truly lasts.

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