Being friends with an ex — is it a sign of maturity or will it never work? Nowadays, we hear of many celebrities who end their relationships and say that they are better off as friends. Yet, not everyone may embrace such an idea.
In fact, for every single person out there who would like to be friends with their ex, there’s another one who’d rather shut that door and never look back.
The question is: can exes really be friends or is it just an illusion?
Can Exes Be Friends?
Each relationship isas unique as each person involved in it. What may work for your friend may not workfor you, and vice versa. To find out whether being friends with an ex is possible, we need to look at the situation from a dual perspective: what’s good and what’s bad about being friends with an ex?
Benefits of Staying Friends with Your Ex
Not all relationships are the same. In fact, when we decide to break up with our partner, there may be a wide range of possible reasons. However, it’s crucial to keep in mind that you should never seek to maintain a friendship with your partner if your relationship was abusive or toxic.
If you need help, you can always opt for therapy with a mental health professional who can help you based on your specific situation.
In most cases, there are a few aspects that could indicate that staying friends with your ex is actually beneficial:
- When you have kids together, since you will be in each other’s lives, and friendship between parents will also help the children in the long run;
- If you dated casually and decided it’s better to stay friends (especially if you were friends before dating, too);
- Your current partner (if any) is okay with it, and you maintain open communication with them regarding this matter;
- The romantic “spark” or “chemistry” faded for both of you.
Staying friends with your ex is a personal decision. Some people prefer to retain such people in their life and wipe out the bad parts. For instance, there are people who feel the need to stay friends with a partner who’s been in their life for many years — otherwise, they feel like something’s missing, which is rather natural for people who dated for years or even decades.
The reasons behind your friendship are important too. Some people may opt for staying friends with the ultimate purpose of getting their loved ones back. This will only continue the drama behind the breakup and postpone healing and closure. That’s why it’s easier to stay friends with exes after the “chemistry” faded away or if your relationship simply didn’t work from a romantic point of view.
Some of the main benefits of staying friends with your ex include:
- They can be a great friend since they know you very well, thus being able to provide you with valuable advice;
- Can help you realize that not all relationships end up in heartache and that sometimes people are just “not meant to be together”;
- If you and your ex live in a small city or town, staying on good terms can help you avoid awkwardness. This may also be true if your ex is your coworker;
- If you have mutual friends, they won’t have to pick sides. You can keep the group together by choosing to remain friends with your ex.
Drawbacks of Staying Friends After Breakup
No matter the reasons for staying friends with your ex, you should always spend some time alone after breaking up with someone. If you were never friends before dating, it is quite likely that this friendship might not be beneficial.
Besides, if you still have some feelings for that person, seeing each other will most likely cause you pain. For instance, your ex may hold you back from finding a new partner, nurturing your hopes, and causing you more emotional discomfort.
Even if you decide to date again, you will most likely start a new relationship by saying to your new partner that “my ex is my close friend,” and that might create some complications for your new relationship. Your new partner may feel like an outsider, so staying friends with your ex could cut the chances of having a flourishing new relationship.
Some people who stay friends with their exes might also end up in a vicious cycle of emotions. You may be tempted to jump into an “on and off” relationship with your ex, which means that the new friendship is closely tied to the romantic one. This is not a healthy approach if you want to find a new partner to make you happy. It can prevent personal growth and be highly addictive because having an on-and-off relationship with your ex will numb your breakup pain and delay healing.
In short, here are some drawbacks of staying friends with your ex:
- They/your new partner can turn toxic and/or jealous;
- You may not be able to heal after the breakup and move on, especially if you don’t take some time for yourself;
- A lack of closure, which may mean that you won’t feel comfortable seeking a new partner, especially if you are “stuck in the past”;
- You may complicate or sabotage your new relationships;
- Old feelings can take over, especially when you are vulnerable, which may cause you to mistakenly seek comfort in their arms when you go through difficult times.
My Ex Wants to Be Friends — What Should I Do?
If your ex wants to be friends, take your time to make a decision. Consider the points mentioned above. The first thing is to take a break first — you cannot switch your feelings off right away, going from a romantic relationship to a friendship overnight. Time heals, and you will be able to better analyze your feelings and make a better decision.
Some people may think that staying friends is better than nothing, or they may feel forced to stay friends with their exes. In this case, you should remind yourself that the breakup had a reason behind it.
How will you be able to avoid the same problems if you get back together?
Besides, nurturing your relationship with your ex may make you feel like you are the side option for them. This may lower your self-confidence and damage your self-worth. If you still have feelings for them, you may feel more pain if you keep in touch with them as they build a relationship with a new partner. Such a friendship may only cause jealousy and fuel negative feelings.
If you want to stay friends with your ex, you need to consider a few things:
- First, take a break to get over the breakup;
- Both of you must agree on the friendship and you need to set boundaries. Forinstance, you decide to talk only when you accidentally meet or you occasionally catch up on social media. A healthy boundary means that you don’t talk every day or don’t text every day. You can have a meal together or watch a movie every now and then, but not daily.
- Think about how the friendship makes you feel. Be honest — if it gives you hope or you feel that you are clinging to them for security, it may be the time to move on.
All in all, being friends with an ex is possible, but the outcome of such a friendship depends on many factors. If you have children together, the best solution is to stay on good terms, since you will be present in each other’s lives from now on.
However, some people may not be able to find closure if they stay in contact with their exes. Besides, your new partner may feel jealous when you tell them that your ex is your close friend.
Consider different aspects of your past romantic relationship and think of how such a friendship makes you feel. If you need help or guidance, therapy can help you find the best solution, especially if there are children involved.
While commuting to a therapist’s office may take a lot of time, online therapy platforms like Calmerry offer a more flexible yet no less effective solution. Learn more about talk therapy so that you will know what to expect from your sessions.