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Can You Be Friends with Your Ex? Here’s What Both Sides Have to Say

/ October 29, 2022

Have you ever found yourself wondering if you can still remain friends with an ex after the relationship has run its course?

Most people have found themselves wondering this same thing, especially when the relationship ends on amicable terms. 

Maybe your ex was with you through some tough chapters of your life, and you value the friendship you have with them. Maybe you’ve spent so long building a relationship with this person that cutting them out of your life completely feels like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. 

In many cases, it can seem totally alien to imagine this person who was once your lover and someone you likely imagined a life with as nothing more than a stranger after one conversation. However, in many cases, this may be the only way to move forward. 

Is Staying Friends with My Ex Possible?

Let’s get this out of the way first: Yes, it is entirely possible for you to remain friends with an ex after the relationship has ended. 

There are no hard and fast rules for choosing a friendship with your ex as every relationship is going to be different. For some people, remaining friends with an ex is straightforward and without complications, while others may find that remaining friends leads to unnecessary stumbling blocks and can make their life messy or even painful. 

It is entirely possible for two people in a relationship to come to the joint conclusion that they simply don’t work well together as romantic partners but have no problem remaining friends, gym buddies, or even business partners. The key to these successful friendships is setting healthy boundaries with one another and respecting those boundaries. 

Though it’s not required, maintaining a healthy friendship after a relationship may be especially important if you have kids with your ex. Maintaining a healthy friendship while co-parenting may create a more comfortable environment for your children, and it can also make your life easier when it comes to working around both of your busy schedules. 

As long as you both treat one another with respect and are able to move on with your romantic lives individually, there shouldn’t be an issue.

When It May Work to Stay Friends with Your Ex

Even though every relationship is different, there are many common situations that may indicate remaining friends with an ex is okay. The following are examples of scenarios in which staying friends with your ex may not cause issues in your life. 

You’ve Processed the Relationship

It can take a long stretch of time and even counseling to come to terms with the end of a relationship you placed a high amount of value in, so the processing period is different for everyone. 

It’s jarring to dramatically change the course of your life that once included another person. Some people may simply need to decompress and journal or be alone for a period of time to think about why the relationship didn’t work and accept that ending it was for the best. For others, it can be absolutely devastating.

Imagine you are with the love of your life, and you have everything planned for the next ten years, including them in every plan you make. Then seemingly out of nowhere, they decide to end the relationship and leave you feeling like your world is falling apart. Someone in this situation may need a strong support group and therapy to recover fully from this end of their relationship. 

And ultimately, it will likely be too painful for this person to remain friends with the person who broke their heart, and that is entirely okay. 

People who are trying to get over their heartbreak and move on should put space between themselves and their ex-partner. That might mean removing them from your social media, getting rid of pictures, or even blocking their phone number so you aren’t tempted to reach out to them. 

People who are trying to get over their heartbreak and move on should put space between themselves and their ex-partner.

On the other hand, if the end of the relationship was decided amicably and there are no hard feelings on either side, it’s more likely that you can remain in one another’s lives. 

Remember, it’s still important to take time to process the relationship on your own and figure out what worked and what didn’t. Take time to remember the good and the bad of the relationship and how you can improve next time. 

Failed relationships teach us so much about who we are and what we want, so don’t get caught up thinking negatively when this happens, but rather take it as a learning experience. 

You No Longer Have Romantic Feelings for One Another

If you can say with certainty that both of you no longer have romantic feelings for one another, it may be possible to remain friends. 

However, truly answering that question honestly is not always easy to do. You may need to dive deep and really get to the bottom of your emotions about your previous partner. Be honest with yourself, and if you still harbor feelings for them, consider putting some space between the two of you for the time being.

That being said, for some former couples, it may be painfully obvious that you no longer have romantic feelings for one another. There’s nothing wrong with losing these feelings for a partner, either. If it’s not meant to be, then it’s not meant to be. 

If the romantic spark is gone, but you both value one another’s insight and presence in each other’s lives, don’t be afraid to give friendship a try. 

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When You Shouldn’t Remain Friends with a Former Significant Other

Of course, just as there are situations when remaining friends with an ex may be perfectly fine, there are also times when it can be a bad idea to try and remain friends with an ex. The following are scenarios in which you should consider creating space between one another after a breakup rather than trying to force a friendship. 

You Secretly Want to Get Back Together

Many times, people won’t admit to themselves that they didn’t want to break up or that they want to give the relationship another try. It could be because they’re too embarrassed to admit they still have feelings when the other is trying to move on, or they’re holding on to hope that they can make their ex fall back in love with them.

But you need to know that this will always lead to trouble, even when you feel like your intentions are pure. 

If you and your ex agreed to remain friends, you need to respect that decision and let go of any hope of getting back together. Now, if that seems impossible to you, that’s a good indicator that you are not over them and should not remain friends. 

If you and your ex agreed to remain friends, you need to respect that decision and let go of any hope of getting back together.

The same goes if the situation is reversed. If you feel like your ex may still have feelings for you or wants to get back together, you should cut ties and move on for both of your sakes. 

You Feel Guilty About the Breakup

Ending a relationship is seldom easy to do, especially when you’re the one ending it while the other is getting their heart broken. 

If you feel like the relationship has run its course, but your ex doesn’t, hurting their feelings is inevitable. This can cause you to feel guilty or even feel like you owe them your time because you caused them pain. Though you may try to reason this as noble in your own head, it will only cause them more pain in the long run.

If you only agree to remain friends with your ex because you feel guilty, do them a favor and choose to go your separate ways. Your ex doesn’t need your pity to heal from heartbreak — they need space and time to heal. 

You Can’t Maintain Healthy Boundaries

One of the most important things you can do if you try to stay friends with an ex is to establish and respect healthy boundaries. These boundaries will ensure you don’t slip into old habits and cause each other more pain and confusion by engaging in romantic activities or conversations. Some examples of healthy boundaries include: 

  • How often you communicate
  • How much you emotionally rely on one another
  • How much personal information you share
  • Whether or not you will talk about your new partners
  • Whether or not you feel comfortable hanging out alone
  • What level of friendliness is acceptable to show one another
  • How much time you spend with one another

If you’re unable to maintain healthy boundaries such as these, it’s probably best that you cut ties completely.

As a side note, it’s worth mentioning that it is possible to have casual sex with an ex, but it is a dangerous game.

Many people tie sex together closely with intimacy and romantic feelings, so you have to both be adamant that it is strictly a friends-with-benefits situation and nothing more. You should always err on the side of caution when it comes to physical intimacy, so if it inhibits your ability to move on and form healthy connections with other people, it’s best to move forward with no contact

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Tips on Successfully Choosing When to Be Friends with Your Ex

You should never try to force yourself into a friendship with an ex that you aren’t ready for. Breakups take time to process, even if you were the one ending things. Always give it time after the relationship ends before trying to maintain a friendship.

One of the most important aspects of remaining friends with an ex is to make sure you’re both over each other. Pay attention to how you feel when you’re around them. Does it feel like the air around you is charged and intense? Do you get butterflies when you see their name in your phone? Does the idea of moving on or dating someone new fill you with dread? These are all signs that you’re not actually over your ex.

Many ex-partners make the mistake of forming a relationship that too closely resembles their former romantic one after it has ended. If you still engage in the same behaviors and activities as you did when you were dating, did you really even break up in the first place? Make sure your new friendship is entirely separate and different from your previous romantic one. 

Friendships should make you happy and enrich your life, not cause pain or make your life messy. 

It’s important that you know when to draw a line when remaining friends with your ex. If the main emotion you feel after spending time with them is dread, sadness, or confusion, it’s a good indicator that the two of you don’t need to be friends. Don’t feel obligated to stay friends just because you have history with your ex. 

While it’s certainly possible to maintain a friendship with your last significant other, you have to be honest with yourself and accept when it’s time to move on. Every relationship is different, so it’s no use to compare your relationship with a friend’s or anyone else’s in your life. 

Listen to your instincts and be kind to yourself

Bottom Line — It’s Complicated…

So, can you stay friends with an ex? Well, it’s complicated. 

If this article didn’t give you a decisive answer on whether or not you can be friends with your ex, that’s because only you can find that answer on your own. 

The internet doesn’t know the ins and outs of your relationships, so it’s up to you to work through your emotions internally and make that decision for yourself using the advice provided to you. Above all, always prioritize your own mental health and wellbeing. Never put yourself in a situation that causes you pain or heartache, and maintain friendships that add value to your life. 

Most of all, be kind to yourself and protect your heart! There’s a great big world out there with plenty of people to meet!

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