Is It Okay To Be Friends With Your Ex?
Many people wonder if it is it okay to be friends with your ex. My short answer is typically no, but as they say every rule has its exception, as the answer to this age-old question heavily depends on preconceived expectations and intentions.
Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that you recently ended your long-term relationship. You and your former significant other had a great run and you split amicably. If you are truly completely emotionally stable and feel that you are 100 percent over the relationship then I suggest treading with caution.
In this specific scenario there really isn’t any harm in remaining friends, as long as it won’t send her into an emotional tailspin. (Yes, she must also be absolutely be over the relationship, otherwise you risk torturing the poor girl with images of what might have been). In fact, if you are both ready to move on, remaining friends may actually be positive, healthy and mature.
In an ideal world, forging a relationship with an ex means honoring the time you spent together getting to know the person you, despite everything that may have happened, still respect and feel close to. Our ex-lovers tend to understand us in a way that others may not since you have shared so many mutual experiences.
But then again let’s be real. This is usually not the case.
Often, if your ex-girlfriend wants to remain friends with you, it may be her way of cushioning the break up in a fruitless effort to make the painful transition easier on you. Sometimes this is simply so she will feel better about ending it even if she has been ready to move on for quite some time.
If she is chomping at the bit to move on with someone new, do not—I repeat DO NOT—attempt to remain friends.
Watching someone you still deeply care about test the dating waters is a sure fire way to make yourself completely miserable. Even if you are holding out hope of getting back together via your “friendship,” you are bound to end up frustrated and emotionally exhausted. While it may difficult, in this situation it is best to cut ties completely, as this will give you the time and room you need to heal.
Now let’s move on. Perhaps it was you who ended the relationship. This same, previously-mentioned break up scenario could also apply: you are genuinely concerned about hurting her, but are ready to move on. In an effort to cushion the emotional blow you insist on remaining friends, and she cautiously agrees.
Again, I stress that it is cruel to allow her a window into your new bachelorhood if she has any lingering feelings. It is much better to cut all ties rather than drag her through the mud.
Yet another situation: perhaps you ended things up because your ex-girlfriend was unfaithful or smoked too much. Either way you are holding out hope that through your “friendship” she’ll learn from her mistakes and transition into the partner you’d like her to be. Be advised that this is generally setting yourself up for disappointment.
We have all heard that “I just want to be friends” at one time or another over the course of our dating lives. It has become the epitome of lip service at the end of many relationships. Unfortunately, “Let’s be friends” rarely equates to real-world success.
If you know you will still have lingering feelings for her, then don’t agree to this.
Don’t be a jerk about it, but make sure you make your emotional health a priority. The best way to navigate this landmine? Calmly reply, “I am sorry, but I can’t see how us remaining friends is beneficial for either of us.”
You can even explain that a friendship with her simply is not the type of relationship you want with her, and that it would actually make is more difficult for you to move on.
After having this conversation it is imperative that you keep your distance. This means absolutely no contact—texting, calling, snap chatting, Instagram, Facebook—you name it. I always say it is best to avoid all contact for about a month if you have any hope of salvaging things.
After a month your mind will have cleared a bit and you both can further reassess the situation at hand. If she reaches out to you prior to the 30 day deadline, explain to her that in your mind this means she is extending an olive branch and is interested in repairing the romantic relationship.
Most importantly, when things are truly over give yourself time to pick up the pieces. Remember that you are allowed to take some significant time out and fully process any feelings of loss you may be experiencing. Eat greasy take out, watch crap TV, and focus on yourself.
I will heavily stress that the all too popular route of binge drinking at seedy neighborhood bars and meaningless hookups after a particularly tough breakup rarely make anyone feel better. In fact, this vicious cycle may even exacerbate feelings of depression or sadness.
Play guitar, listen to sad songs or watch a marathon of your favorite old-time horror movies—whatever works to soothe you. Don’t run from your pain or try to distract it.
Experience it, process it, and gradually move past it.
You do not necessarily have to be hostile or bitter in order to fully realize that some wounds desperately need space in order to fully heal. If you never allow yourself an appropriate amount of time to completely move on from a person, you will never fully move on as a person.
Unsurprisingly, this may lead to unfortunate long-term issues down the road.
Think about it: if you jumped from a multi-year relationship into another similarly monogamous relationship trust issues from the past may rear their ugly head. You may begin blaming your new girlfriends for the wrongs you suffered at the hands of your previous one, which can stop an otherwise healthy relationship dead in its tracks.