Friends With An Ex

Do you think it’s possible to be friends with an ex? I’d like to believe it is but it’s never really happened to me.

Whether it’s possible to be friends with an ex is only one part of the question of post-breakup relationship dynamics: the other part being whether it is desirable. Many variables, including the quality, history and meaning of the relationship inform whether or not a friendship with an ex will work. In my opinion, a significant factor is whether you were friends prior to dating.

When we begin a relationship with someone about whom we know relatively little, we get to know him or her primarily in relation to ourselves. Then, after breaking up, we often find ourselves feeling as though we never knew the person we spent so much time with, because in many ways we never did know them for themselves. In this instance, you would have to get to know that person anew, for who they are outside of their relationship to you, in order to create a friendship.

However, if you have a pre-existing friendship, it can allow you to see the other person not just in relation to you but more in their own right. This makes it easier to see things from each other’s perspective, to genuinely have each other’s best interests in mind, and generally understand and know each other in a more realistic light. This pre-existing friendship can serve as a foundation, giving you an idea of what this new friendship might look like.

Once you’ve established whether it’s possible for you to be friends with an ex, it’s important to consider whether it’s desirable. There are many great reasons to keep an ex in your life. If you loved someone, you can probably still recognize the qualities that drew you to them and appreciate them as a person. However, very often friendships between exes are started out of obligation.

Maybe you said you’d always stay friends in the past, maybe they’re the one who wants to be friends, or maybe you feel like you owe them something. Depending on how the relationship ended one partner may also still have feelings for the other or hold some resentment.

These situations are unlikely to lead to a true friendship and someone is likely to get hurt. It’s fine to say that you would like a friendship one day but it’s also acceptable to say that today is not that day or to let an ex know you’re not interested in pursuing a friendship at all for whatever reason. Not everyone in your life needs to remain there forever.

The first thing I would recommend is to take some real time apart from each other before even trying to be friends, instead of trying to go straight from a relationship to a friendship. It’s natural to want to hold on to someone at the end of a relationship, but stepping away can help you put things into perspective.

Without a period of separation and reflection, it can be hard to break out of the roles you play in each other’s lives. Whatever your situation, a likely obstacle might be a sense of obligation or pressure for a friendship to work based on a previously expressed expectation.

What if it just doesn’t? After a breakup, people sometimes fall into the trap of focusing more on the maintenance of a friendship than on their own health and well-being. So my final thought would be: don’t push too hard for a friendship. If it’s what’s supposed to happen, it’s what will happen.

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