SYBD: The Ultimate Topic Being Friends With An Ex
Since 2000, the “being friends with an ex” topic has by far been one of the most discussed.
When it comes to getting over a breakup, men and women all over the world ask: “Is it possible to be friends with an ex?”
The answer of course is YES!
Sorry, but it’s complicated.
Yes, I am friends with most of my exes. A few didn’t want to be my friend, but I’d happily have been friends with all of them (eventually).
Whilst reading this, think about what is said and whether or not you should attempt to be friends with your ex.
It really does depend on your relationship, your breakup, how you were treated – during and after – and also your reason for wanting to even be friends.
Instead of just hearing what I have to say, let’s hear from other SYBD men and women over the years…
To be “proper friends” means that both parties are making the effort and showing respect for one another. If you’re the one always calling, texting, emailing or stopping by, it’ll soon start to make you feel foolish and desperate. That, my friends, is counter-productive to the healing process.
While it’s possible to be friends with an ex, if you try to do so too soon it can be a confusing and painful time. That’s where the “No Contact rule” came from – often abbreviated to NC here on SYBD. Years ago someone on our forum said NC can stand for No Confusion. I agree – being friends with an ex can often be bewildering.
Smiler says this about being friends with exes:
“It depends on your emotional system. If you can cut out every kind of romantic emotion that you had with this ex, then great – I think it’s possible. Personally though, I think it’s too messy to stay friends with an ex. I’d rather get rid of the history. When a new guy comes on the scene, at least I don’t have to worry about them being paranoid if I had an ex as a friend!
If you can do it, then fine. If not – clear your clutter…. For me, I have never stayed friends with an ex – because it’s been too painful for me. I was either still in love with them when we broke up, or they had emotional baggage.”– SMILER
Why Does My Ex Want to Be Friends?
Sometimes it’s the ex who insists they want to keep the friendship going and who constantly gets in touch.
Is it out of convenience? Maybe they’re stuck in a comfort zone they don’t want to give up (keeping you on the back burner as it were). Or maybe it’s out of some residual guilt that they remain in contact.
Often the one who chose to leave still has feelings for the person they’ve left, but the feelings have simply changed.
So in these cases it benefits the leaver to be in touch, but not so much the one who’s been left.
To me, from what I’ve seen here on SYBD, it only works when there is no chance of going back. What I mean is that being friends with an ex only ever truly works when both people want the friendship, but neither wants more.
Or they both want to work at being friends before moving back into a relationship. Essentially they need to be on the same page.
Does Your Ex Really Want to Be Friends?
It’s not uncommon for our exes to say they “want to stay friends” – but then they go and behave in ways that are counter to that request. After claiming they want to, they do nothing to show you that they actually care.
Mackenzie describes his situation with his ex-girlfriend:
“After five years together, my ex said we should just be friends. It’s been months and she hasn’t contacted me once. No Christmas card, no birthday card, no phone call to find out whether I got the job I had an interview for the week after she finished it… nothing.
She hasn’t been a friend to me. When the split HASN’T been an amicable one, I don’t see how a friendship can ensue.
If she had been mature enough to accept her share of responsibility for the split, then it would be easier for me to try and forgive her.
As it was, she couldn’t even say ‘sorry’ for what she did. And that hurts. I guess my opinion is: no friendship if one of you is still hurting.”
What Does Being Friends With Your Ex Mean?
Friendship means different things to different people but to me – to be a proper friendship – it means both parties making the effort and showing respect for one another.
If you’re the one always calling, texting, emailing or stopping by, it’ll soon start to make you feel foolish and desperate. And that, my friends, is counter-productive to the healing process. Although it is possible to be friends, as I say, if you try to do it too soon it can be a confusing and painful time.
Being friends can mean different things to different people as Phoebe found out:
“At first I thought, we’d been best friends and partners for fifteen years. We’d grown up together and I really didn’t want to lose that. We used to go out to lunch once a week, but he thought it meant we were working on things and would get back together. There was no way I was going down that path. So I stopped seeing him. He got a girlfriend. I am very sure we will never be friends and it really got confusing for us trying to be.”
Exes As Friends – Never Say “Never”
I avoid using “never” in my vocabulary. Honestly, the moment you use the word “never” I reckon the universe often ends up making a liar out of you!
Dumpees say they’ll never forgive their ex or that they’d never want to be friends, like ever…
Sometimes we feel like we’d “never” be or “never” do something at the time, but then things change after healing occurs.
Many people will try to be friends – straight after a breakup – because they share the same social circle and if they don’t remain on good terms it’s awkward and uncomfortable for people to be around them.
Or if you don’t remain friends with your ex, it ends up resulting in people having to choose sides. That’s not good either.
Below SANDY explains a situation that one of her friend’s experienced that was difficult all round.
“A friend of mine recently was in a situation where she saw her ex constantly in social situations, she clearly felt very uncomfortable and upset, but many of the people around her (a big group of friends who’d hung out with the couple for years) acted as if it was somehow selfish of her to be upset, because it made things difficult for them socially. I think that mutual friends’ reactions can be very important as well – often people end up having to cut-off some of their mutual friends as well, and that’s really tough.”.
It’s tough to navigate friendships after a breakup. I know the pain first hand, as I had to do that too. It was just too painful being around mutual friends, and so I naturally gravitated toward friends that were solely mine, or even toward some who’d never even met my ex.
It won’t be everyone’s solution, but it worked for me.
It helped for my own well being and, frankly, when we’re recovering from a breakup – that’s paramount. We need to choose whatever path makes US most happy and not worry about everyone else.
Time May Dictate Your Future Friendship
In time you can perhaps resume the friendships that you had that were mutual but, in the early days, it could be better to keep a safer distance.
JAZZBRAT weighs in on the subject matter and a person’s ability to be “just friends” with exes:
“My ex initiated our divorce. It took about four months for me to realize it was for the best. It took about another two months for me to realize I could do better and that I could be happier. Once that happened, we became friends again. I think that if both people decide the breakup was for the best, they have a much better chance of being friends.
I respect her for having the courage to end the relationship when she knew it was for the best. It wasn’t just about her being happier, it was about both of us being happier. I guess it doesn’t always happen that way, but that’s why it was really easy for us to remain friends.”
That was beautifully said and a positive way of looking at his break up. It wasn’t about one person being happier, it was about both parties eventually, once healed, going on to be happier. That’s actually more prevalent then most people tend to realise at the time.
“I think that a lot of people would like to be friends with their ex, but if there are still strong feelings (either love or hate or whatever) from either party then ultimately it isn’t possible to be ‘real’ friends. Being ‘friendly’ isn’t the same as being friends. I tried (like many other dumpees) at the beginning of the break up, but it hurt so much being around him that I had to cut myself off. Now he wants to be my friend again, and seems to think that enough time has passed to allow that (six months). There is no way I’m ready for that now, I still love him and think about him all the time. I would like to be able to be friends with him again one day, but at the moment I want more.”– LIZZIE1509
Avoid Setting Yourself up For More Pain
When we try to be friends right away, if we are still interested in them as more than a friend, it is incredibly hard not to end up reading too much into each bit of contact we actually do have with them.
In the past I’ve attempted to downshift from lover to friends, and when doing so too soon it always had disastrous results. Often I have to cut all ties with someone I’ve dated until I’ve healed a bit, because it is just too hard to immediately make the shift from lover to friend.
As mentioned earlier, to be truly successful, it takes both sides not wanting to be in the relationship anymore.
If one person wants more, it just doesn’t work. It’s rather like constantly rubbing salt into a wound – just reminding yourself (painfully) over and over again what you’re missing.
Sometimes people hope friendship will lead to reconciliation but it seldom works. Better to take a break, heal and then decide if the friendship is even worth having.
“If somebody has broken your heart, crushed your spirit and betrayed your trust, why would you want them as a friend? After a decent amount of time has lapsed and there is genuinely no feeling there any more, then I guess you can have a stab at it. I never have though. If it was such an ordeal getting over them – why invite them back into your life? Besides, by that stage, your ex will have a new partner and he/she will not be happy about them hanging out with you. You may have a new partner who feels the same. You can never talk comfortably or honestly about your love life to an ex – so what’s the point?” – ROGER
As I always say “perspective is a mirror and not a fact” – so for those people who believe they can be friends with an ex, they can manage it. Those who don’t, don’t. It varies from person to person.
“I am friends with one of my exes, but it’s been years since we split up. I wouldn’t say we are the best of friends. We live miles apart and just contact each other occasionally by email, but when we do, it is quite intense contact for a while. We can talk about anything!
We have met up quite a few times since the break-up also. Whenever we are in trouble we seem to turn to each other. I think the only thing that stops the friendships working is if there is any bitterness or romantic nostalgia there – all of these feelings must be completely over with.” – BARN OWL
Are You Friends with Your Ex?
Are you friends with your ex? Or are you still considering it? Now that you have read all that, do you want to be friends with your ex? You can add a comment below or feel free to create your own topic in the Exchange.