The idea of staying friends with an ex is, for many people, a difficult concept to grasp. It’s a question that everyone has likely asked themselves at one point or another, but the answer can come down to your own personal circumstances, the length and nature of your relationship, and whether you think you’re capable of moving on from an old flame.
To be clear: We’re not talking about the awkward Sunday brunch with friends who are also friends with an ex-spouse or ex-lover that immediately makes you want to run for the hills. Rather, we’re asking about a genuine friendship—the kind you’d have with a co-worker or classmate who you’ve seen grow over time and feel connected to in some way that goes beyond the romantic relationship.
You may have had the experience of meeting up with an old friend who was previously involved with someone you knew—perhaps even someone you were also involved with at some point yourself—and finding that getting along was as easy as if they were single. The key is simply remembering what it means to be friends and taking each step at your own pace. You really might be able to stay friends with your ex—if you’re willing to put in the work.
One of the biggest challenges you’ll face when trying to maintain a friendship with your ex is how to talk about your dating life. Even if you’re not in a romantic relationship, it can be awkward talking about all the things you’re doing and seeing with other people because it may stir up feelings of jealousy or regret.
Other challenges include whether or not your current partner will accept your friendship (if you’re in one) with your ex. You may have to consider their feelings and approach the topic delicately, which is often easier said than done. If they don’t approve of your friendship, it’ll be hard for you to honor both relationships at once; this makes it imperative that you have honest and open conversations about what each of you is willing to share about each other.
Finally, there’s the challenge of dealing with your ex’s new significant other. Whether or not you see them as competition is irrelevant—if they’re important to your ex, they’ll be important to you too. So while it’ll be difficult enough trying to get along with your ex, try not to make their new partner part of the problem too.
Just be friends
When you’re friends with your ex, it creates a situation in which two romantic partners are suddenly trying to be platonic and non-sexual, but still hanging out together regularly and sharing intimate details about the past. It’s a recipe for disaster, and nine times out of ten will result in one or both parties feeling hurt or angry. If you want to be friends with your ex after a breakup, that’s fine—but make sure it’s not because you want to be able to see each other without any awkwardness or discomfort. You should leave the romantic and physical relationship in the past because it will only complicate your friendship. If you really do want to stay friends with your ex, try focusing on being friends rather than being romantic partners again. Have fun doing things that just the two of you would do as friends without any sort of romantic or sexual component involved—go see a movie, grab lunch somewhere new and interesting, go see some art exhibits at a museum—and stop seeing it as something that will bring you closer together again romantically. This way, you can keep the lines between friendship and romance separate by not making anything sexual happen between you.
Remember they are your ex for a reason
You’re having a blast with your ex. They’re charming, intelligent, and a lot of fun. They make you feel young and desirable. They may even be in the market for a new partner, and you imagine yourself becoming the one to fill their romantic void. It’s easy to forget that you broke up for a reason, though—you weren’t meant to be together as a couple. There can be many reasons why this is true (for example, they cheated on you). You may not have realized it at the time or are only now seeing things more clearly after being single for a while and having time to reflect on what went wrong. You need to keep these things in mind when deciding whether or not to date your ex again. The fact that you have great chemistry doesn’t necessarily mean that your relationship would last long-term. Even if you could only get along with them as friends because you don’t want to rekindle the romance, there’s no harm in keeping them around for companionship. However, if you’re drawn back into thinking about how much fun it would be to date them again, remind yourself why you broke up in the first place.
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