10 Unspoken Boundaries For Being Friends With An Ex

Friendship | | , Content Writer
Updated On: May 6, 2024
boundaries for being friends with an ex

Breakups are painful. There are lots of unresolved issues and there are chances of either or both the partners still being in love with each other. That’s why it’s essential to address the unspoken boundaries for being friends with an ex. You don’t want to reignite your feelings toward your former partner nor do you want to bicker and start hating them.

If you and your former partner are on the sample page about having a platonic relationship after the breakup, then you can establish ground rules together. If they are hesitant and being friends with you is an excuse to get close to you and get intimate details about your life, then you may want to keep these rules to yourself and make sure they don’t cross your boundaries.

How Do You Set Friendship Boundaries With An Ex?

A breakup, especially after a long-term relationship, can leave a person struggling with many unresolved issues and there’s always the ever-elusive closure if things ended abruptly. That’s why people are always saying that spending time with your ex isn’t a good idea because it can conjure up memories and feelings which won’t end well for you. They’re right to be concerned because breakups are tough.

When asked on Reddit how exes can be friends, a user replied, “It is definitely possible but the success varies greatly on the nature of the breakup, the maturity of the two people involved, the boundaries set and kept to by each individual, and the expectations of the friendship as a whole.”

Did your ex ruin a relationship where you poured all your heart? Or did you do something to hurt them that caused the breakup? Whatever the reason is, you need to know that setting boundaries for being friends with an ex will save you a great deal of pain. Now, if you are wondering about the rules for being friends with an ex, then the first thing you need to do is think long and hard about the following:

1. Do you have residual feelings?

Going through a breakup is like tasting rotten food. The experience is horrible and, in the end, you’re still left with a bad taste in your mouth. Based on the theory of stages of grief, you’re bound to go through the following:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Bargaining
  • Acceptance 

Likewise, while moving on from a breakup, people tend to get stuck in one of these stages, especially anger. So, before being friends with an ex who hurt you, you need to be careful that you have gotten through the feelings of angst and pain. Be sure that you have no anger or hurt left to dish out otherwise the next time you meet them, it will be a disaster. 

How Do You Set Friendship Boundaries With An Ex
Just seeing your ex may trigger all those annoying feelings that you had for them

2. What’s your self-perception after the breakup?

The hardest part about a breakup is the hit that your confidence takes. When someone breaks up with you, you start to question everything about yourself. You feel uncomfortable in your own skin and you aren’t able to fathom how one person’s absence can create such intense emotional turmoil inside you. 

If you were the one who broke things off, you’ll go through something similar too, but your questions will be more like: What is wrong with me? Did I just throw away the best thing that’s ever happened to me? Why do I have such severe trust issues?

In this case, too, your self-confidence will take a hit. That’s why you must go through a self-love period and rebuild your self-esteem before you even begin to contemplate the boundaries for being friends with an ex.

Related Reading: 11 Tips To Deal With Loneliness After Breakup And Find Support

3. Where do you both stand on the matter of closure?

A key part of moving on from a relationship is closure. So, if you’ve been through a breakup and are thinking about being friends with an ex who hurt you, then you need to ask yourself this question: Have I had closure?

Honestly, closure can come in many ways and it could look anything like these:

  • Having an effective conversation where you sort out your unresolved issues and old feelings of negativity 
  • Setting healthy boundaries and coming to an agreement that neither will cross their limits
  • Accepting that this relationship has reached its end 

What Are The Boundaries For Being Friends With An Ex?

Friendship with your ex sounds daunting, especially with all the hurt feelings that they gave you but you need to find out how to set boundaries for being friends with an ex because sometimes you just can’t avoid them. Like maybe they’re your coworker, a family friend, your best friend, or maybe you both live in the same building. In all of these cases, meeting your ex is inevitable, and quite literally, unavoidable.

Maybe your ex unblocked you finally, and sent you a friendly message. At that point, understanding why an ex wants to be friends is just as important as being clear about your reasons to maintain a platonic connection with them. It could be something as harmless as them not wanting to split your group of friends down the middle or as twisted as using the friendship to keep alive the possibility of getting back together. You need to be prepared for any possibility and the best way to do that is by setting a few rules for being friends with an ex, like these:

1. No flirting

This is the most important thing to consider when setting boundaries with an ex when in a new relationship or when you are single and still healing from the breakup. Being around each other may make you unconsciously touch their arm or say flirty things to each other. 

Here is some body language flirting you need to be mindful of when you are communicating with your former partner:

  • Avoid texting them at odd hours
  • Don’t react to their flirtation
  • Don’t send them heart emojis 
  • Don’t ask questions about their sex life 
  • Avoid leading them on intentionally 

Once you’ve found a way to be comfortable around each other, a little healthy flirting here and there might work. Like in the case of Robin and Ted from How I Met Your Mother. But this is one of the non-negotiable boundaries for being friends with an ex. You can’t flirt in the beginning, it will just complicate things.

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2. Wait until you’ve gotten over the breakup

If your ex wants to have a platonic relationship, then let them know that you need some time to adjust to life post-breakup. Let them know that your past relationship is still looming over you and you aren’t able to get over it. Even if you’ve ended the relationship on good terms, you still need time to go through the mourning period. Recover from the hit that you’ve just taken.

If you don’t take that time, then you’ll never recover properly. You’ll be around the biggest reminder of your failed relationship. And even if you didn’t want it, your self-esteem will take a hit every time you see them making progress in their love life. So, always wait till you’ve gotten over your relationship significantly before you start spending time with your ex. 

When asked on Reddit if it’s a good idea to be friends with an ex, a user replied, “I think it takes a lot longer than 6 months to really be friends with a very significant ex, but yes, if you’re, say, two years past the breakup, then absolutely it’s possible to be good friends. At the very least give yourself and them time to date a couple of other significant people before you start a close relationship again.”

3. Keep it casual

Being friends with an ex means starting completely fresh and building a new connection with them from the ground up. You need to draw boundaries and not let old habits and feelings reignite love. If you’re wondering about boundaries for being friends with an ex-wife or an ex-husband, then the most important one is to stay platonic. Whenever you’re together, you need to keep things casual. Some of the examples of boundaries with an ex include:

  • No talking about your past relationship
  • No discussing former relationship goals
  • Avoid indulging in sharing excessive details about someone new you are dating 
  • Don’t ask intimate details about their current partner 
  • Don’t force this friendship to work. Let it flow naturally and have a good time getting to know each other as friends 

Related Reading: The 12 Mantras Of Being Happily Single While You Are Single

4. Respect each other’s personal space

The biggest problem that people face when they’re trying to be friends with an ex is that as soon as they get over the initial awkwardness, they tend to forget about the breakup. They return to the level of comfort that they shared in their relationship. This is the moment when you need to have a serious talk about setting boundaries for being friends with an ex. 

If you’ve gotten comfortable around each other, then you need to establish the parameters of personal space in your new relationship. For example, while in a relationship you were both eager to know everything about each other’s day, but now as friends, you’re allowed to keep some personal details to yourself. Preserving your personal space is one of the most important boundaries for being friends with an ex. It is the only thing that will help you start fresh with them.

Related Reading: 9 Expert Tips To Cope With Depression After Breakup

5. Let go of all the bad blood

Every relationship has its ups and downs. These memories are sometimes still riddled with all the feelings that accompanied them earlier. That’s why when you’re considering the boundaries for being friends with an ex, letting go of the past and starting fresh becomes an important one. This is because you can’t be your ex’s new friend if there is still bad blood between the two of you. Here are some ground rules you need to establish when you are drawing boundaries for being friends with an ex while in a relationship or while still being single:

  • Don’t reminisce the fond memories for too long or in an intimate way
  • Don’t play the blame game and revisit the causes of the breakup 
  • Avoid meeting at places where you shared happy memories together 
  • Don’t involve your friends in this by trash-talking about each other 
infographic on unspoken boundaries  for being friends with an ex
Unspoken boundaries for being friends with an ex

6. Be on the lookout for feelings

Given your history with your ex, there is always the chance of catching feelings … again. When you start having a good time with them, the past will get triggered, which can lead to old emotions coming back to life. Their old habits may make you fall for them again. This is the reason why breakup sex exists. Exes that spend time together alone after the breakup end up relapsing and having sex but this usually leads to the closure that they need to move on. This may not be the case when you’re trying to be friends with an ex, that’s why it is essential to be on the lookout for feelings. 

This is one of the more complex boundaries for being friends with an ex-wife or an ex-husband because when you have a history of being married, catching feelings becomes even easier. Besides this isn’t just about detecting your ex’s feelings but it’s also about controlling your own. You need to control yourself from giving in to the melody of memories. It is one of the most important self-imposed rules for being friends with an ex.

7. Don’t pay attention to the surrounding judgment 

There is a lot of stigma surrounding the idea of being friends with an ex. People look down on it. They assume that there are residual feelings behind your friendship. Every step of the way you’ll be asked questions like:

  • “So have you moved on and found happiness?” 
  • “Are you sure about this?”
  • “Are you trying to get back together with them?”
  • “Are you guys secretly having sex under the pretense of being friends?” 

All these questions can make you second-guess your boundaries for being friends with an ex while in a relationship with someone else. You must ignore outside judgment and badgering. If you’re sure that your feelings are gone and that you have no interest in dating them again, then what other people insinuate doesn’t matter. Set this as one of the boundaries for being friends with an ex because at the end of the day, it used to be your relationship and now it’s your friendship. 

On Ex

8. Don’t post anything bad related to your ex on social media accounts

Imagine you’re having one of those days where you’re filled with memories from the past and all the hurt your ex caused you comes rushing back. If you’re someone who documents their whole life on social media, then step away from the internet for a few hours. Don’t be reactive. What’s the point of posting old, sad pictures or blaming them for the breakup publicly? This can trigger your ex and they may not want to be friends with you anymore. Take some space from them, sort out your feelings, journal, and let go again.

Furthermore, stop stalking your ex online. Curiosity will get the better of you if you make stalking them your priority. Who they are dating, where they are taking them on dinner dates, and if they are better looking than you — all of this has nothing to do with you. It won’t help you move on. It’s worse if you have a new partner because it’s unfair to them because you aren’t giving your all to your new relationship. 

Related Reading: Expert Advice On Coping With Feeling Empty After A Breakup

9. Don’t give them love advice 

You are the last person they need love advice from. You need to have healthy boundaries with them and giving them unsolicited love advice isn’t healthy. Their love life has nothing to do with you. They may also feel uncomfortable taking advice from someone they once loved. Even if they are the one reaching out to you for guidance, it’s best to keep your rumination to yourself and not get involved in their current love life. Follow such boundaries with an ex when in a new relationship to prevent things from getting toxic among all the parties involved.

10. Don’t talk about your past relationship with their current partner 

Now that you’ve decided to stay friends, you will be presented with an opportunity where you get to meet your ex’s new partner. Don’t share with them the things you did with your ex or what they were like when they were with you. It may look like you are trying to make them jealous or insecure even if that is not your intention. 

Let them discover their partner on their own and you enjoy your life the way it is. This is the most important thing about boundaries for being friends with an ex who has moved on and fallen in love again. You don’t want to come across as the heartbroken lover who is still trying their best to win over their ex.

Key Pointers

  • Your mental health should be your top priority. Don’t accept friendship with your ex if you haven’t healed from the breakup yet
  • While setting healthy boundaries, make sure the two of you stop using each other’s social media accounts and avoid posting about the breakup
  • Be on the lookout for feelings and don’t let outside judgment come in the way of your friendship

So, that sums up 10 of the most important rules for being friends with an ex. Some of the boundaries for being friends with an ex that you set are more for your own mind, the rest are for the both of you. For the ones that need to be followed by both, you need to talk them out and agree on some common ground.

If you’re someone who’s beginning their friendship with an ex, then you’re about to unfold a new chapter that’d be quite unlike any relationship you’ve had before. Being friends with your ex is going to completely change the way you see them. You’re going to see a side of them that you would have never gotten to see if you were dating them. Things might be a bit awkward in the beginning but eventually, the kinks will get ironed out.

Don’t dwell too much on the question of why ex wants to be friends. You don’t know their reasons and you may never be able to figure them out. Go with the flow and see where it goes. In the end, hopefully, you’ll be left with a friend who knows you even better than you know yourself. All the best!

This article was updated in January 2023.

FAQs

1. Do exes ruin relationships?

No. Not if you set clear boundaries with them and communicate clearly with them that you don’t want them to ruin your new relationship. If they are a good person and have no ill will against you, then they will let you be and won’t create problems in your love life.

2. Is it toxic to be friends with an ex?

Not at all. If the two of you have good intentions, then there’s nothing wrong with being friends. It’s not toxic when you are friends with them because you like their company and not because you want them back.

3. When exes shouldn’t be friends?

Exes shouldn’t be friends when they still have feelings for each other. They shouldn’t be friends if they have bad blood. You also can’t be friends with an ex when you are secretly wishing for them to take you back as a lover. 

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