How to Stay Friends With Your Ex
It's no surprise that remaining friends with an ex-lover can introduce a whole new set of potential problems. Friendship can be complex and frustrating at the best of times, and even more so when you've already swapped spit.
But it's common to miss your former partner and want to remain in each other's lives in a different capacity. Just because you weren't right for each other romantically doesn't mean you can't ever see each other again, and your history together might make a solid foundation for a friendship—if you can pull it off, that is.
Remaining friends with an ex after a breakup can be difficult, especially soon after things end, said Tennesha Wood, a dating coach, matchmaker and founder of The Broom List who splits time between New York and Puerto Rico. If you and your ex didn't end amicably or have not resolved the issues that caused the breakup, starting a thriving friendship will be nearly impossible.
So how can you make it work? Each situation is different, but there are some basic dos and don'ts for forging a lasting friendship with an ex.
Don't jump right into friendship post-breakup
Things are likely to end in tears if you try to immediately shift from being lovers to pals. Instead, take some time without seeing or contacting each other to process any emotions you're experiencing.
Let the intense feelings of the breakup fade before going straight into a friendship, Wood advised. You will likely still have feelings for your ex and may even be considering the possibility of rekindling the relationship.
Do recognize that this is a new relationship
Wood cautioned that if you spent every Friday going on a romantic walk then doing a Netflix binge and cuddling during your relationship, you can't expect to continue the same activities without blurring the lines.
One way to delineate between the romantic relationship and new friendship is to switch up the activities you do together: If you used to get dinner together, for instance, try lunch hangs instead, or substitute coffee dates for bar drinks. Most importantly, make sure you don't blur the lines by hooking up.
Don't expect your ex to move at your pace
A budding friendship isn't going to happen overnight. You have to recognize that your ex might not be in the same headspace—especially if you're the one who ended things.
You may be ready for a friendship, Wood said, but your ex may still need time and space, and you should respect their healing process. If your ex says they need to take a break from seeing or speaking to you for a bit, don't get angry or defensive—space is a must if you want the friendship to work long term.
Do establish and respect boundaries
Even though it might seem clunky or strange, you may need some rules to clearly delineate between the two kinds of relationships. That might involve instituting a curfew, for example—no hangouts or messages after a certain time of evening, or it might mean only meeting up once a month. There's no need to jump into each other's lives with constant contact—this might lead to you jumping into each other's beds.
The cadence and rhythm of your friendship should be different to your relationship, Wood explained. Be clear on what you are willing to share and how much time you will spend together.
Don't force it
If things aren't working—if your conversations or meet-ups devolve into angry confrontations, tears or hurt feelings—then it's useful to recognize that this particular ex might not be someone you can have a viable friendship with. And that's OK.
Don't try to pretend you're cool with [the friendship] if you're not, Wood said. If hearing that your ex is now happily dating a new partner will send you into a tailspin, don't smile through it and pretend you're not hurt. Take space to heal.
Do be honest about your ex with new partners
To avoid this friendship getting in the way of your future romantic happiness, you'll need to communicate openly with new partners about it. You don't want to hide the friendship or conceal your romantic history together.
Hearing about the friendship with your ex from other sources can break the trust in your new relationship, Wood cautioned. Help your new partner understand your connection to your ex by sharing the nature and boundaries of the friendship.
Remaining friends with an ex is a noble goal, but it can be hard to know how to pull it off. With sensible pacing, firm boundaries, new routines and open communication, you'll be off to a strong start—and hopefully, many years from now, you'll look back on your romantic relationship as a prelude to a solid, lasting friendship.