Breakups are always perceived to be messy and end on bad terms, that’s why when you do actually decide to split mutually and amicably, people around you will share a lot of their unsolicited advice and opinions on the matter, that it will actually make you ask yourself, “Can you be friends with your ex?” It’s a little complicated to understand, but for some couples, ending a relationship and focusing on a friendship is actually what’s best for them.
Remaining friends with an ex works for some and doesn’t work for others. But you do have to remember that it’s not only about you — will your current partner be comfortable with the idea of you making plans and hanging out with an ex? Put yourself in their shoes and see for yourself how much you can trust them with their ex.
Can You Be Friends With Your Ex?
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Staying friends with your ex is good when you have kids together, or if you dated each other as teenagers and knew right from the get go that it wasn’t going to work out. If you were friends before lovers, or if you just genuinely like spending time with them without being attracted to them, then there shouldn’t be a problem.
When it comes to new relationships and going out on dates the question of ‘can you be friends with your ex’ is probably the most difficult to answer. Do you lie to your partner or blatantly hide the truth? Are you hurting them in the process or protecting their feelings? There are always ways you can turn down being friends with an ex, but is that what you really want?
Lovers, but first friends
For a self-proclaimed, grouchy anti-social, I’m big on friendship. I’m even bigger on politeness and being civil. I’ve always been clear that I value friendships over silly flings or affairs — boys will come and go, but friends are forever.
Every one of my romantic relationships has started with an earnest friendship. And, in all honesty, that was far harder to let go of than the whole ‘love-love’. But how do you manage to remain friends with someone you once had such intense feelings for, especially if it ended badly?
With the first boy I ever loved, the breakup was terribly messy, as my feelings remained strong while his waned. As with most cases of first love, it took a few years for the heart, brain and muscles to align (basically not wanting to punch him every three seconds).
It took a few more years for it to turn into something remotely resembling civility. But we sort of got there. Now, nearly 15 years later, I still remember his phone number by heart and take pride in his success. As he does in mine. We talk barely twice a year, but it’s a relief to remember the good things as and when I think of him.
Related Reading: 11 Signs Your Crush On Friend Is More Than It
My first breakup
That set the precedent for the rest of my breakups and what happened after. Not all have remained friendly or in touch. But most of those barely mattered, even when the relationship was on. The most important post-love-love relationship came about in my mid-20s.
We’d been friends for nearly a decade before we started dating and because we thought it was going so well, big changes were conceived – moving continents to be with each other, changing career paths etc. As happens with the best-laid plans, it didn’t work out. And I was distraught. Learning how to deal with a first breakup can be painful.
There was hatred, anger, resentment and bitter, bitter sadness. And somewhere along the line, it didn’t feel like we could be anything but exes to each other ever again. Which just shows that every time you emphatically say, ‘never ever’, the universe snorts and decides to mess with you.
I found someone new
One coping method I strongly endorse for healing, is shifting your focus. Grief and loss have a way of taking over your whole world and it helps to take on a new drama – I mean hobby – sometimes. I went ahead and had a fling. I went out more, laughed occasionally and spent a little less time mourning. I also met my current partner then and we became the best of friends.
And, slowly, very slowly, I realized my ex wanted to be friends with me. A few months later, I could actually laugh with him. It helped that I had plenty of positive male attention and it definitely helped that my ex and I had always had amazing conversations. Either way, we crossed into new territory and were both the happier for it.
Related Reading: Why Do Exes Check Up On You On Social Media?
Is it ok to stay friends with your ex?
The word ‘ex’ is rarely used with affection or indeed anything pleasant. And once you’ve been through that kind of hurt and anger, it’s difficult to see them as anything BUT ‘the ex’. I even asked my current boyfriend, “Can you stay friends with your ex?” And he didn’t even take a moment to say no.
That an ex can still make you laugh and have qualities that you would want in a friend, become secondary. And sometimes, there is no going back.
Especially if there was abuse or violence of any sort. Or even otherwise, when you just don’t feel it. And that’s fine. But for me, the possibility is always open. If they’re a really great person with whom only the romance part didn’t work out, it’s a pity to limit them to the Big Bad Ex box. Maybe you won’t be best friends, but you can keep a tiny piece of affection and good feeling aside for whenever you think about them.
As a partner, would you be ok with the idea?
Which brings me to the second point – do you ask your partner if you can be friends with an ex, or even let them know that you still maintain a friendly relationship with them? It’s an easy choice for me.
With friendship so high on my list, I tell mine nearly everything. But, more than that, I feel very strongly that one of the tenets of relationship etiquette is absolute honesty, especially when it comes to remaining friends with an ex or inviting them over, etc.
I don’t go into details, but my partner knows where I’m taking an ex, when I’m meeting them, etc. It’s just good manners not to hide it, not to mention all the severe trust issues in the relationship it could bring up if a partner finds out.
It’s not easy to hear it, though. I wouldn’t say I’m overjoyed when my partner meets an ex and I’m sure he feels the same. We’ve had a few issues over it through the years (it was TOTALLY his fault!) and somehow managed to come to a place where we’ve learnt to trust one another about this and definitely how to be more open.
The space where we love will nearly have a memory bank. It’s up to us to be kind to the past, even if we’ve let it go. If you know that staying friends with your ex is not going to affect your other relationships in any way, then what’s the harm in gaining a friend?
Of course! In fact, a lot of couples split and realize they’re better off as friends rather than as partners.
Depends completely on you. Some couples breakup solely for the reason to be friends because they don’t see a future together.
If the relationship was not an unhealthy one, then there’s nothing wrong with keeping in touch and supporting each other in various aspects of life.