Is it Possible to be Friends with your Ex?

Posted by on Nov 30, 2015 in Couples Counseling For One, Healthy Separation and/or Divorce Counseling | Comments Off on Is it Possible to be Friends with your Ex?

Many people will hang on to the idea of being friends with their former partners when their romantic relationship ends. Some people can pull this off, but most can’t.

Trying to be friends often prolongs the emotional suffering of one or both partners. Research has shown that the overall quality of friendship between exes is much poorer than friendships between opposite sex friends, or people who have never been involved in a sexual relationship. This is especially true in cases where the former partners were extremely dissatisfied with the relationship or when the breakup was not mutual.

Though it may be difficult, it’s generally best to cut off all contact with an ex after a breakup. Why? Consider the  following reasons:

  • The atmosphere following a breakup is usually highly charged with negative emotions like grief, anger, or hurt. If there’s that much negative emotion, it usually doesn’t allow for the development of a healthy friendship. People need time and space to work through their feelings and to heal.
  • It is beneficial to take time to transition from being part of a couple to becoming an individual outside of the relationship again.
  • People often have ulterior motives for wanting to be friends with an ex. Perhaps they want to keep tabs on their ex in an attempt to reserve the possibility of returning to the relationship, or perhaps to keep other friendships and family relationships intact. Maybe he or she is still in love with the other person. Whatever the motive, a genuine friendship would not likely flourish under those circumstances.

The challenge of remaining friends with an ex is that they are not your typical friend. At least not in the same sense as other platonic friends. They are also no longer your lover. Ex-partners exist in a sort of relationship “no man’s land.”

So, what do you do when it’s not possible to cut off contact with your ex?

You may work together, you may have children together, or you may live in the same building. It’s really important to recognize the difference between being friends and being friendly.

Friends share an emotional connection. They care about one another, and have each other’s best interest at heart. Following a breakup, it’s unlikely that both partners will be in a place where they can genuinely do that. This is especially true in relationships where one partner treated the other poorly. A better relationship or friendship will likely not develop after a breakup.

On the other hand, being friendly, or treating your ex with kindness and respect, is entirely possible.

Can exes ever be friends?

Yes, it is possible under certain circumstances:

  1. Both of you have healed from the pain of the breakup. Usually that takes at least six months, though it varies.
  2. You truly do not have ulterior motives for being friends in first place. This can be difficult to determine because you’ll have to take a hard look at your motivation for wanting a friendship with your former partner.
  3. Your friendship with your former partner does not interfere with your current relationship. Some new partners are able to tolerate contact or friendship with an ex. If not, you really need to consider your partner’s feelings. If such a friendship is distressing to your partner, it is wise to put your new relationship first.

Friendship with an ex can be tricky. It takes a great deal of personal insight, maturity, and firm boundaries. Take a good look at yourself, and be sure attempts to maintain a close relationship with your ex are worth the effort.

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