Can You Be Friends With An Ex? 15 Things To Consider

Break up And Loss
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Can You Be Friends With An Ex
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Can you be friends with your ex post-breakup? If yes, is it even healthy? Is it okay to be friends with your ex while in a relationship? Do you often find yourself asking these questions? After the end of a committed relationship, changing a special someone from a central figure in your life to a distant past can be challenging, and taking time is important. The urge to reconnect and spend time together is natural, especially in long-term relationships. In modern times, however, being friends with an ex is often seen as trendy. While many attempt to maintain these friendships, not all are genuine or enduring. Being friends with an ex could bring complicated situations in your life.

Research shows that exes turn out to be less concerned, less honest, less caring, and less compassionate beings as friends. So the question lingers: Is being friends with an ex you still love (or not) right? Is it truly a healthy choice? Let’s explore this concern with the help of our expert psychologist Nandita Rambhia (MSc, Psychology), who specializes in CBT, REBT, and couples counseling. So, if you’re wondering if you and your ex can be friends, or how to be friends with an ex, read on…

Why Is It Hard to Be Friends With Your Ex?

Embarking on a friendship post-breakup may initially seem like a mature choice, but emotions lack a convenient ‘off’ switch. The desire to stay friends can stem from a sense of evolving, yet hastily diving into the friendship can prove emotionally tumultuous, and getting out of the friend zone is worse. Despite the breakup being mutual, rushing into friendship can be a precarious move. It’s crucial to recognize the challenges and complexities that make this path harder than it might initially appear. While walking on this path, you may fiddle with the idea, constantly thinking — “I can’t be friends with my ex or can I?”

According to a study, staying friends with your ex due to practicality, civility, or unresolved romantic desires, resulted in the friendship being less likely to last in the long run. This is a testament to the hardships of maintaining a healthy friendship with an ex. Let’s look at a few reasons why is it hard to be friends with your ex, especially soon after the breakup:

  • You haven’t forgiven them yet: The wounds are still fresh, and being friends with an ex who hurt you brings back all the pain you experienced in your romantic relationship
  • One of you is still in love: Either one of you is still in love and sees the friendship as a window of opportunity to get back with your ex or try to win them over by spending time together. Being friends when you still love your ex might not really be in your best interest because your thinking is likely to be directed by emotions and not rationality
  • You continue to give them power over you: Even the thought of your ex moving on sends you into a tailspin and you just can’t let go
  • It becomes harder to move on: The friendship keeps you from moving on. So, reflecting on your feelings before trying to be good friends is important. Otherwise, you may find yourself asking, “How do I get over my ex?”
  • There’s no such thing as ‘just friends’ between you two: The lines are often blurred and crossed, leading to late-night calls, sex, or randomly saying “I love you” that you will both regret later. These are some of the dangers of being friends with an ex that you should carefully consider

If these situations sound familiar, it might be better to walk away. Otherwise, it might seem like having your foot in the door and being stuck in a space where you can neither get back together nor completely get over them. This does make a strong case for why you shouldn’t be friends with your ex. This is probably also why, “Don’t be friends with your ex” is the more common opinion.

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15 Things To Consider About Being Friends With An Ex

Can you be friends with your ex? Well, it depends. From the intricacies of emotional readiness to the importance of establishing clear boundaries, each aspect plays a pivotal role in shaping the potential success or challenges of maintaining a friendship post-breakup. It is quite normal if you can’t be friends with your ex because trust me, it takes a lot, especially being friends with an ex you still love.

Nandita suggests, “When two people break up, it is essential that they take time to heal and move on, instead of still entertaining one another and spending time together.” In her book, Getting Past Your Breakup, author Susan J. Elliot recommends waiting at least six months before taking a call on whether or not to be friends with your ex.

As you navigate these considerations, you’ll uncover the complexities of balancing history with the need for new boundaries. The urge to have that emotional safety can prove to be difficult while preserving your emotional well-being when you’re considering walking the tricky trail of friendship with an ex. Whether you’re contemplating this route for the first time or reassessing an existing friendship, these insights aim to provide valuable guidance. This will help you make decisions whether to be friends with your ex. 

Related Reading: 15 clever ways to turn down an ex who wants to be friends

1. You need time and space to process the breakup

Being friends with an ex you still love will just hold you back if the breakup is fresh. A breakup can be an overwhelming experience, especially if your ex is the one who took the call to part ways. You may need emotional support when you still love your ex and are trying hard to move on. In that frame of mind, do you think being around them and being friends with your ex will be of any help to your healing?

Consider the repercussions as you ponder over the possibility of being friends when you still love your ex. Nandita says, “It is better to take time and space and regroup before you get yourself into another potentially troublesome situation.” This is probably also why one of the more common post-breakup advice is, “Don’t be friends with your ex.”

2. It can rekindle physical intimacy you might regret

Can being friends with an ex lead back into a relationship? Well, it can, especially when you still love your ex. Being friends with an ex you still love is a sure-shot road to you waking up in their bed one morning. You might’ve often been suggested to not be friends with your ex. Riley, a dance coach based in St. Louis, was going through a difficult breakup with her high-school sweetheart while also dealing with the trauma of a terminally ill mother at home. She felt like she needed an anchor, and her ex, who had always been extremely kind and caring, seemed like just the person for it.

They let their romantic feelings come between this path to a healthy platonic relationship. What started as a platonic friendship soon turned into a hot mess of unresolved feelings. They started sleeping together at every opportunity they got and forgot to set boundaries, which led the ex to believe that she was open to getting back together and also made Riley further confused about her feelings.

They tried to give their romantic feelings another chance, only to go through the pain and agony of breaking up all over again. Only this time, it was more bitter and painful. If you’re wondering how to be friends with an ex, this is definitely not the way to go. We’re not saying that this is the only possibility, but it is what happens often when you’re being friends with an ex you still love. I want you to consider the potential pitfalls before you jump into the friendship. Maintaining a healthy friendship takes a lot of effort and maturity, just like maintaining any other healthy relationship.

Related Reading: Should I Call My Ex — 12 Tips To Decide

3. Your other relationship/s may suffer

Is it okay to be friends with your ex while in a relationship? Can you be friends with your ex without letting it impact your current relationship? Considering the potential impact on current or future relationships is crucial when answering the puzzling question, “Is it okay to be friends with an ex?” Just as with romantic relationships, maintaining a friendship with an ex can take time and attention away from other relationships, including those with friends and family. If your friends or family feel neglected or overshadowed by your friendship with your ex, it could strain those relationships.

This could probably be another reason why it is said exes can’t be friends. Nandita says, “Being mindful of how this dynamic may affect the trust and emotional well-being of everyone involved ensures a healthier foundation for current and future relationships. It’s about prioritizing the present and future connections without jeopardizing their integrity by lingering in past ones.” Platonic relationships vs romantic relationships — choose wisely.

4. Feelings of jealousy may ruin your friendship in the long run

Can exes be friends without feelings? They sure can, as once the dust settles, one of you will try to move on and start dating someone new. But the easiest answer to how to be friends with an ex is that you need to erase jealousy. If you get into a relationship or have just started dating, your ex may not be comfortable with the turn of events, and this could come out in ugly ways.

It is important to have mutual respect for the decision to have new partners. On the other hand, if your ex is the first to move on, you may be left feeling abandoned and hurt. These feelings become the limitation when you stay friends with your ex. It’s only natural, and it may or may not make you believe exes can’t be friends. 

This is an important factor to consider because the dangers of being friends with an ex are many and may include jealousy and hard feelings. This may not only be detrimental to your friendship with your ex but also to your new relationship. Are you prepared for the possibility of such grave consequences?

dangers of being friends with an ex
Feelings of jealousy will crop up when one of you moves on

5. You might not be able to be completely honest with each other

Imagine if you’re going through one of those cyclic breakup blues in your life. Your ex-partner, who is now a friend, asks what’s bothering you. You cannot possibly be honest with him/her without ruffling a few feathers of the romantic attraction you have been experiencing all over again. Or if you’ve got a date with someone new, you cannot be upfront with your ex about that either because somewhere you know you might hurt their feelings.

Staying friends after breakup will just create moments of awkwardness that you’d both want to avoid, leaving you with a friendship that is neither earnest nor honest. To save you from this mixture of emotions, it is always advised not to be friends with your ex till you’ve both truly moved on.  

Nandita says, “Friendships are built on the premise of honesty. Friends share intimate details of their lives, down to one’s deepest thoughts and darkest fears. But in the dynamics of a close friendship with an ex, the chances of opening up old wounds are quite high. One of you’d likely have to compromise on honesty or you might end up hurting them or yourself.” 

6. The friendship may lead to false hopes

Can exes be friends without feelings? Yes, but even if you just consider staying friends after breakup, there is a possibility that they may look at things differently. Or vice versa. What if one of you still has your hopes pinned on the possibility that the platonic relationship will eventually lead to rekindling the old spark between? 

You (or your ex) may put your life on hold, clinging to this hope that your ex might become interested in you again and restricting yourself from having a new partner/s. You may be wondering, “Will I end up dating my ex again?” When things don’t play out the way you or the other person had expected, it can cause deep hurt and resentment. This is one of the key things to consider. So, you see, the answer to, “Can you be friends with your ex?”, needs careful consideration.

Related Reading: Can Men And Women Be Friends?

7. Such a friendship can affect your mental peace

One of the reasons you might be considering being friends with an ex could be that you haven’t moved on yet. So, can you be friends with your ex if you feel blue often thinking of your past? Well, if one of you is still harboring a lot of lingering feelings for the other, as is the case in most breakups, the friendship can become a messy affair that can cost you your peace of mind.

Being friends with your ex will be a constant reminder of the relationship and memories of your time together, keeping you caged in the past. It might hold you back from dating someone new. Before you figure out how to be friends with an ex, you need to make sure that you’re not struggling to get over someone you had a romantic dynamic with and are ready to be friends.

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8. Will you be able to trust them again?

Even if an ex-partner becomes your ‘4 am friend’ or the one you turn to for help and comfort whenever things go haywire, the basic premise of trust and honesty will be missing in such a relationship. Especially if you have started dating someone else. You two have been through enough already and probably even have trust issues with one another. Without resolving those, being friends with your ex can just be an impossible task.

Even after resolving the issues and after setting boundaries, it can be very difficult to trust a partner whom you associate with the hurt of breaking a relationship. “Because the hurt and sorrow brought on by the breakup would only nag you deep down inside even if you don’t want to acknowledge and embrace these emotions,” says Nandita. And if you’re wondering, “How do I get over my ex? ” well, maybe being friends isn’t a good idea after all.

9. You might make things awkward for your mutual friends

These long-term friends have seen you together as a couple and seen your romantic relationship go through its ups and downs before it came crashing to the ground. If there is an underlying resentment between you two, despite your deciding to stay friends, it can come out in veiled passive-aggressive attacks on one another, and that can get awkward for your other friends to deal with. If you try to be friends with an ex you still love and if this friendship is also affecting your other relationships and friendships, it proves that there is some sense behind the adage “exes ruin relationships.” 

Related Reading: Choosing between Friendship and Relationship | Which to Prefer?

10. It might hamper the possibility of finding your true love

A friendship with your ex-partner may cloud your judgment about dating someone else, and you may find yourself caught in a vicious circle of going on dates, but never making headway in a new relationship. That’s because your ex’s presence in your life will interfere with your ability to move on in true earnest. You may also, from time to time, say to yourself, “I love my ex” or ask yourself, “Will I end up dating my ex again?” If that is the case, refusing to be friends with an ex could be a good idea. You need to be on the same page if there is any chance for a friendship to blossom.

Do you really want to put yourself through that? If you’re texting them while on a date or coming back and discussing every detail of the date with them to seek their approval, you might be stuck in an unhealthy place you need to break free from. And if you keep wondering, “How do I get over my ex?”, well, being friends with them may not be a good idea.

More on relationship advice

11. The friendship might not reduce the pain of the breakup

A lot of times people go from being in a romantic relationship to being friends because they’re unable to cope with the sense of loss. It can take months, or even years, to move on. According to a study, it takes 11 months to get over a heartbreak. So, if you’re becoming friends with an ex just to mellow the pain of heartbreak, you’re doing it all wrong. If you’re wondering why you shouldn’t be friends with your ex, consider both perspectives before you jump into the friendship.

Breakups are never easy. You have to go through the grind of that heart-wrenching, stabbing pain that keeps you up at night and makes you cry your eyes out. You have to brace yourself for a hurricane of overwhelming emotions that you must survive on your own. If you need a shoulder to cry on, it is better to turn to your other friends instead of going to the person who is the reason behind your pain. Being friends with your ex is not an easy task. Remember, your healing is your responsibility in the first place. None of your friends can help you if you’re willing to take the rational route yourself.

12. Your friendship might hinder you from prioritizing your current partner

It is rare to find someone who’d be fine with the idea of their partner being friends with an ex. Put yourself in their shoes and think about it a bit: would you want your partner’s ex at every birthday celebration or house party? Would you be okay with them texting their ex while sitting next to you? Or discussing the details of your relationship with them? Now ask yourself, “Can exes be friends?”

Stages of a new relationship include a questioning phase where both partners start questioning their decision as they start looking past the rose-tinted glasses after the honeymoon phase. If your friendship with an ex makes your current partner uncomfortable and anxious, you must respect their perspective on the issue and think about what is more important. Your old relationship or your current one? I don’t think there is any sense in sabotaging a new relationship for one that withered away long ago, but that’s just me. After all, you don’t want to wake up one fine day and say to yourself, “I adore my partner, but I love my ex too…”

Related Reading: Inappropriate Friendships When Married – Here’s What You Should Know

13. One of you will end up hurt for sure

Don’t leave the door open for hurt. If you’re still googling, “How do I get over my ex?”, being friends with them may not be the best idea. A friendship between exes might expose either one or both of you to pain and hurt, which is much worse than what the breakup brought on. This is especially true if there are unresolved feelings at play and both of you have gone long enough without dating someone else. Being friends with an ex who hurt you will always sting if you’re in your breakup healing process. “Be very mindful of the real reason behind your thoughts of being friends because if it comes with a very high price”, warns Nandita. 

A Reddit user writes, “I’ve been friends with my ex after we broke up since 6 months now. We’ve been both single, I was starting to think “I’m over her” and we can be “just friends” but today she told me about a guy she liked flirting with and it burned me from inside, maybe I still have feelings for her and she doesn’t, or she just wanted to make me jealous? I DON’T KNOW, either way, I’m hurt and I didn’t expect myself to be hurt this badly.”

14. Healthy companionship may no longer be possible

Exploring new friendships and meeting new people is a natural inclination when seeking companionship. Instead of diving into a friendship with an ex, it’s worth logically assessing your choices. Instead of finding out how to still be friends with your ex, it might be better to let go and explore. Strengthening existing bonds by spending time with friends or office colleagues may offer a more stable and sensible foundation for new connections. Approaching platonic relationships with a fresh perspective allows for emotional clarity and avoids the potential complications that can arise from maintaining a close friendship with someone from your romantic past.

15. Keep in mind the reason you parted ways

Whether you both broke up due to conflicting values and beliefs, trust issues, or it turned into a toxic relationship, the fact of the matter is that the relationship didn’t last and that is a testament to your lack of compatibility and underlying problems. Remember this when you say to yourself, “I love my ex” next. Your desire to be friends with a person you have unresolved issues with is unhealthy and can quickly turn toxic. You need to set boundaries.  I wouldn’t explicitly say, “Don’t be friends with your ex.” But I’d like to redirect your eyes to the reasons behind the relationships not working. In all likelihood, the same reasons could affect the friendship too.

Key Pointers

  • It is natural to feel the urge to stay connected with someone you’ve had a strong connection with. It is normal to want one another. But is it worth the repercussions that come with being friends with an ex?
  • Being friends with an ex is extremely tricky, posing challenges in honesty, trust, and emotional well-being
  • Being friends with an ex you still love can rekindle physical intimacy, complicate current or future romantic relationships, and lead to false hopes
  • When you stay friends with your ex, the honest communication becomes difficult, creating moments of awkwardness and hindering mental peace
  • The friendship may impede finding true love, hinder personal growth, and hinder prioritizing current relationships. It also hinders you from meeting someone else with whom you could be on the same page

So, is it healthy to be friends with your ex? I’ll let you be the judge of that. I have tried to expand your gaze toward the things that you should carefully consider before giving in to the urge to be connected with your ex. Human emotions are a complex maze and there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of whether or not you should be friends with your ex.

Remember, healing isn’t a linear process. One day you might say “I can’t be friends with my ex” and the other day you may ask “Is it okay to be friends with an ex”? All I suggest is that you ponder over the points we discussed in this article and make a logical and rational decision that benefits your emotional well-being in the long run.

FAQs

1. Do exes ruin relationships?

‘Ruin’ is a big word to use, but an ex being in your life can definitely make your current relationship messy. Your present partner might not approve of your friendship and your ex might start acting like a jealous boyfriend or girlfriend too. This could lead you to think of reasons why exes ruin relationships.

2. Can being friends with an ex lead you two back into a relationship?

It can, yes. When you’re just out of a relationship you were heavily invested in, it is natural to find reasons to be friends with an ex. But that’s not always a good thing. You two broke up for a reason, so don’t let your lack of self-control blind you and allow you to walk back into a relationship that was never good for you. Breaking up is a good enough reason for why you shouldn’t be friends with your ex.

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Why Is It So Hard To Let Go, Even If The Person Doesn’t Love You?

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Readers Comments On “Can You Be Friends With An Ex? 15 Things To Consider”

  1. To be honest, no matter if you have a PhD or are a relationship expert. Being friends with an ex, is just pure evil. You supposedly loved someone. Then, one day a partner decides to call it quits and request friendship, like nothing happened. How is that loving and caring? From my perspective of being dumped, it’s down right disrespectful and hurtful. An ex partner that’s a friend, is a friendly torturer. They are not going to call you, you’ll have to put in all the effort and once they move on you won’t hear from them. That’s not a true friendship.

  2. Jonathan Dahlin

    Can’t exes be the way they were before their first date, as if they never dated?
    Exes shouldn’t have to be isolated from each other forever.
    Maybe reverse psychology could alter the hardwiring of men and women.

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