How To Stay Friends With An Ex

e-mayl

My boyfriend of nearly two years broke up with me two weeks ago. Tomorrow, he is running of to Panama city for some spring break fun with a new girl. This is totally unlike him, so I am assuming it’s his way of coping with the pain – though he is flat out denying there is pain. In my logic, I thought, if he’s moving on, should I? We’ve both decided that we will stay friends. Though I am trying to get him to do friend activities, he is seemingly distant and cold. Again, very un like him. I’m wondering, in your personal and professional opinion, can we be friends with our exs? how much time in between should it take to attempt a friendship?

-L

Hey, L. I don’t have any professional advice to offer, but I can speak from my personal experiences with break ups.

Ending a relationship is in many ways losing someone, especially when you’ve been together for a few years as you had. The grief of break-ups, for me, feels not quite as strong as death, but more then falling out with a friend. As such, there are lots of emotions flowing, and that sometimes translates into strange or irrational behavior.

I think your assumption about him coping is probably right, even if he is denying it. In past break ups, I found myself feeling unwanted & missing their presence in my life. Amongst the slew of my sadness, there was peace in feeling like I’d be able to find the same happiness with someone else. Call it “rebounding”. Running off on this trip to Panama may be your ex’s way of doing that. I wouldn’t worry about his coldness for now, he’s probably just upset and needs some time.

It probably would benefit you to start moving on too. Take some time away from him to heal & let him heal. If you keep holding on while he’s working on the process of feeling whole without you, you will be the one with the short end of the stick. :/ Sometimes preventing pain is about knowing when to let go.

How to Stay Friends with an Ex
Some people say you can’t be friends with exes. I think that if you want to, you can! Former partners are people that we have a connection with. Just because the romantic & sexual connection ends, does not mean everything else has to.

That said, it’s perfectly ok to not want to stay in touch with an ex. I have a mixture in my life. Some exes I never spoke to again, some I still hear from. The difference depends on what our relationship was like and why we broke up. Some exes are not worth staying friends with. Especially if your ex was disrespectful or hurtful to you…they’re probably better gone for good. No relationship is better than a toxic relationship.

The friendships I did build with my exes didn’t develop immediately. We stopped talking, texting, calling, and hanging out for quite awhile. The length of time usually ended up being as long as the relationship itself. The amount of time you need will vary, but you will know when enough time has passed: it won’t hurt anymore. Eventually, my ex & I could reconvene and not feel pain or longing when we were hanging out together. We had to let the wounds heal. If you try to develop a friendship with your ex right out of a romantic relationship, chances are, you’re just going to keep reopening the wounds of your romance — not build a new relationship that is non-romantic. Being around your ex when you’re heartbroken just causes more pain and misery, and that’s just not a viable platform to build a friendship on (or to move on, either!). I think this tends to be the strategy of people who have declared that friendships with exes just don’t work – they don’t let themselves completely turn the relationship off for awhile.

There are no short cuts through time. Given enough of it, I’ve been able to come together and enjoy hanging out and having conversations with them again. I was eventually able to talk about my new relationships. I was able to have them in my life and enjoy a friendship with them that didn’t make either of us feel hurt.

This is my experience, anyway. Have any of you maintained friendships with your exes? Or did you cut them out?

Sending you positive vibes through your breakup, L. I hope you manage to find peace & friendship with your ex when the time comes.


Related Video: How To Get Over a Break-Up
I made that one amidst my last breakup. :[

33 thoughts on “How To Stay Friends With An Ex

  1. i’m still friends with all my ex girlfriends. just like most things it’s going to take time but everything will work itself out one way or the other =D

  2. Have to say, this is great advice. Fully agree with “the length of time usually ended up being as long as the relationship itself”… even if it’s been really long relationships. It took me almost two years to be completely comfortable with having contact with my first ex!

  3. After I broke up with me ex, he made me promise to try and stay friends. I was so afraid he would kill himself, so we kept talking, texting, calling each other. I laugh at it now, but he even convinced me that it was okay for him to continue telling me “I love you.” I needed time to get over him and the things that had happened between us, and I couldn’t do that while he was texting me all day, calling me every night, and still telling me how much he missed and loved me before bed. It was tearing me apart.
    I broke off contact completely two months after the acutal break up, and it was the best thing I ever did. We haven’t talked since, and that’s for the best. I think that you can be friends with an ex, but not directly after a break up. Give yourself (and him) time to heal. If you become friends after that healing, great. If not, oh well. Life goes on.

  4. I think you are right on, Laci. I’m amicable with two of my exes, don’t speak at all to one of them, and am actually really good friends with one. The one I’m good friends with took a while… Probably about as long as the relationship was in the first place, if not longer. But then we realized the value in each other’s brains, and we had been friends for almost a decade before we even dated, so after getting over some of the remaining feelings it worked out alright.

    Some people can’t handle being friends with exes, either because they don’t know how, had too strong of feelings for them, or because it’s just better for them. It’s all about the dynamic of the original relationship, how healthy/unhealthy it was, and what you feel like you can reasonable maintain without creating a huge mess for yourself.

    Love your channel and blog! Your voice is so important!

  5. I just don’t think it’s possible to be friends with an ex, especially if you were in a relationship with them for quite some time. At least, this is my experience. I have grown so much from both of my past relationships that I cannot relate to the people I broke up with anymore. Many of the same reasons I broke up with them are the same reasons I cannot fathom a friendship with them.

  6. When my ex broke up with me, I thought that I would have no trouble being friends with her. We were friends for a long time before we dated. After a few weeks though, I started to feel very bitter about her. I kept looking back at the times that she had mistreated me, and it made me feel angry. I became very distant from her at that point. It made her upset that I didn’t want to talk to her anymore, but she decided to leave me alone. Its been almost six months. I still have no desire to be friends with her.

    • Nope. No way. If you haven’t gotten a new partner ten you’re sticking around to show him/her that you’re changed or are waiting for them to “come around.”

      • How on earth do you know that for sure? if you actually know Geoff and his ex and how they interact, that’s another story, but I assume you don’t. Careful you don’t project your feelings onto other people.

  7. My ex of two and a half years broke up with me 5 months ago. He then went further into a lifestyle of ‘sex, drugs and rock and roll’ to put it simply. He was also depressed. The whole story here is too long and complicated to tell. After the break up, I was so hurt and worried so much but after around a month and knowing what he was like now, reminding myself of how he hadn’t been treating me right, I knew it had been the right thing and I had never felt so happy! I had started dating other people and honestly felt like I’d moved on. 3 months ago my ex told me he had changed, he was seeing a therapist, and that he was in love with me. This really confused me but I felt I couldn’t trust him after all that happened and felt that I had moved on and said he should too. I continued my life and things were fine, but the past month I have been thinking of my ex so much, missing him and wanting the good times we’d had back. In the past week we’ve been texting, about silly things like we used to, and we’ve both said we miss each other… I was so in love with him and I really want that back. The cause of the break up was his mental state, him running away from a long term and committed relationship, and that he had so much else to deal with due to depression. But if that’s changed should being together again even be an option? With every other person I have dated, it doesn’t feel right, I feel like I’ll never have the same connection that I had with my ex ever again. Very confused, just looking for some advice… Thanks xo

    • My personal stance is; never date exes. There is a reason people break up, usually the reasons are good. Typically people don’t change, and you should question; were those times good *because* of your ex, or were they just good times?

      The choice is ultimately in your hands of course, if you feel he is in a good place and there isn’t a chance of him slipping back into his old self, then the option is definitely there; but it’s always a gamble.

      Stay safe, and good luck with making your choice. <3

      • “Typically people don’t change”

        Have a litlle faith in humanity. But I guess that is the big question. It’s up to you to determine whether he really got out of the depression, and the negative cycle of sex and drugs. (Never give up the rock ‘n’ roll though. You’re life is doomed without it.) But if you do choose to get back together, grab your bags an run as soon as he relapses back into drugs/old behavior. You don’t want to get caught up in this mess -> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codependency .

        • I never said people can’t change, just they don’t typically change unless they really want to and subsequently have the willpower to work towards that goal. Either one of those things is uncommon enough on their own, but together it’s a rare sight to behold.

      • I’m in a relationship that is with an ex. It’s the best it’s ever been between us now. You are frightfully wrong.

            • My brother and his wife broke up then got back together…… I actually think it was the healthiest thing to happen for their relationship…… they had met very young, broke up because her friends convinced her she needed to experience more than she was. In hindsight she admits it was a silly decision, but would not change it…… they both experienced other relationships and other people, before realising they worked best with each other.

              I have heard of so many people who entered into relationships at a young age, saying that they are regretful that they didn’t experience more before ‘settling down’ with their partner….. they love their partner very much, but if you haven’t experienced others, I think it is normal to wonder if your partner is the best match for you. In my brothers case they found out that, yes, they were…. and now they will never live wondering.

              I think some people need to go through a ‘wild phase’ and perhaps the poster aboves ex has done that…….perhaps he honestly is doing better, and if your heart will not let it go, sometimes you need to follow it…… but don’t just take his word for it….. before jumping in feet first, spend some time with him not as a bf…… talk to other people who know him well…if he is seeing a therapist and you decide to try, insist on having a joint session. you definitely dont want to be stepping into the same situation….. and if you have doubt, don’t do it. Only you can decide if you need to go back there or not.

  8. I tried having a friendship (or at least a civil acquaintanceship) with my ex after we broke up, I probably didn’t have enough time to get over her, but I didn’t really have the opportunity due to the fact that we were part of a close-knit group of friends. I was left with the ultimatum of suffer long-lasting heart-break or suffer loneliness.

    Neither are great options, hindsight is perfect and my attempts at keeping my friends and suffering my ex eventually tore me up inside and finally tore up the group as a whole.

    Obviously, this wasn’t my intentions, and still to this day I feel responsible for this, and it’s left me depressed and ultimately alone.

    This all converges in to form my opinion: staying friends with exes is most definitely possible, but they are high-risk ventures, it can cause prolonged heartbreak, it can worsen an already bad relationship, it could even cause arguments between other friends if people “take sides”. If you’re going to go through with it, it is extremely important that you both agree on some sort of make-shift peace treaty but definitely go your separate ways from then on, at least until you’re dating (or feel comfortable dating) someone new.

  9. For me being friends with an ex was possible and I often tried for such. Unfortunately my recent ex killed that ability with how the relationship ended. Cheating multiple times hurts bad enough but doing so while your “S.O.” Is home taking care of your child. That damages even worse, it’s like a dagger wrapped in barbwire. My ex broke it off and moved right in with another person and took my child away from me. Once I regained connection with my child I attempted to be friends with my ex. Sadly their other as well as my ex have made some rather threatening in nature comments. Which have lead to ill feelings to the extreme which makes it a bad situation for my child to be in. So I’m stuck in no mans land because I don’t want to lose my child, but I can’t trust my ex enough to be friends let alone friendly. So can I say someone can be friends with an ex…”yes under the right situations it could be possible” as for me I no longer can.

  10. me and my ex tried the whole friendship thing right away. We talked just as frequently but he was still really wanting to be with me. Eventually he bluntly asked if I wanted to get back together; when i said no he deleted me from facebook, wouldn’t text me, or anything of the sort for a month+……………. we are friends now, really close friend! but it is so true that it is best to distance yourself from the person. That is almost the only way to create a healthy new friendship.

  11. I managed to stay friends with my ex for a long time, at least 2 years if not more. I guess eventually time just drifted us apart. I transferred to another college in a different state, and both of us started new relationships. I would have been completely fine with continuing the relationship and saying hello every time I came back to town, but then I found out that he had unfriended me from Facebook. I took that as a sign that he no longer wanted to be friends. It was kind of a shitty way of letting me know that though, since he never even bothered to come out and be honest with me about the fact that he thought it was better to no longer be friends. Guess I shouldn’t be surprised by that though, since our relationship ended pretty much because of the huge lack of communication between us.

  12. My girlfriend of about 2.5 years and I are seniors in High School. We love each other more than anything…and that really is mutual between us…she’s everything to me and I know I am to her as well. Truth be told, she has all of the qualities I see myself wanting in a lifetime-partner, but at 18 it just seems silly to jump to that commitment right now. College is quickly approaching and it’s becoming evident that something is going to have to happen…by that I mean we have to face the decision of whether to stay together through college or split up and try to move on with our individual lives. She is committed to a school very close to home and my first choice is 500 miles away, so I’m worried that with that closeness factor gone, we’ll slowly drift apart, which would make even attempting to stay together inevitably painful, and both of us will miss out on experiences of college life that we both deserve to have. Still, I can’t imagine losing her, even if it’s the best thing for both of us. I don’t know what to do, or when to address the question, and it’s only a matter of time before we’re faced with this question as a “must-have” discussion. Does anyone have any input on this, perhaps someone who’s been through it? I thought this was a good place to ask.

    • My one piece of advice: Do not change your college plans for a partner at this age. If the relationship is meant to last, it will.

      • Thanks for that. I don’t plan to; I know I need to make my own decision about where I go to school entirely separate from hers. I’m more concerned with he implications of that decision, whatever it may be.

    • Wow, your situation sounds so much like what I went through! I had been dating this amazing guy for a year and then it came to graduation anddd he went to the States and I went to the UK. We tried to keep the relationship going long-long-long-distance for a while, and it actually did mostly work, but it was hard. I could only skype him when he was free (he started college a month and a half before I did, so I was really lonely while he was busy) but it just wasn’t the same. Eventually it started to feel to me like just a friendship, as there wasn’t really that romantic relationship quality to it, but I still loved him so much. Then I started uni, and started having feelings for someone else, which shocked me as much as it hurt my boyfriend. Things got messy and eventually we broke up and tried to talk for a while. My feelings for the other guy never really developed much, and I reconciled with the ex for a couple weeks but then it became too hard again so we just fell out of touch. We definitely needed time not talking for a while, even though I persisted, sending him messages whenever it got too much to handle. Luckily I then found someone I really really love and I am still with him now. My ex has been dating a girl at his uni for half a year now too, so we’ve both fully moved on and are extremely happy which I’ll admit I never expected was possible, as I was completely dedicated to my ex while I was dating him. The only thing is that I wish he would contact me every once in a while, because we were so close and now he just ignores any random short message I send, and when he didn’t wish me a happy birthday on facebook I just stopped trying. I still think about him and hope that one day he’ll say hi and just see how I’m doing, in a friendly way, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s probably easier for him to just not have any contact with me any more.

      I’m sorry if this sounds like a majorrr downer, it was going to be my general comment on Laci’s post, but I saw your comment and it just sounded like my situation when I was graduating. I’d say, if you guys think it can work then go for the long distance thing for a while, but you both have to have an open mind and truly understand that things could go wrong and that feelings could change. If one of you understands that but the other one doesn’t (even if they say they do) a lot of feelings can get hurt later. It can also be difficult being ‘tied’ to someone when you’re going into university, but for me it was nice to have someone so close from home to talk to. So whatever you think will work between you. Sorry this has been a useless response haha! But yeah make sure you both understand each others’ feelings completely, and I’m sure that even though whatever decision you make will be very hard, it was all worth the pain.

  13. Out of all of my exes, I’m only friends with one, and he was my very first boyfriend/love. It took a long time for me to stop “hating” him and to let things go, now we go through phases where we’re really close, or where we don’t talk for months, but he’s a great friend and I’m happy to have him in my life.

    My last ex (I’m currently in a 3 year relationship with someone else) and I stopped talking 100% after the break up, he said that he couldn’t be my friend anymore (i broke up with him) and that it was too hard for him to live his life with me in it, it hurt, but i understood.

    I think each relationship differs and it’s up to each individual to decide how comfortable they are with being friends with their exes, I just think that for sure there needs to be some time in between dating-break up and friendship.

    :)

  14. I don’t know why I am commenting on this, because I’ve never been in a relationship. But If you guys can get along then there nothing wrong with it, but if you can’t, then don’t bother.

  15. I think it’s mostly about how/why you broke up.

    I’m friends with most of my exes, but I never speak to specifically two of them. One of them was just crazy (I left the country and she followed me – I only managed to escape by lying about what city I went to) and the other, well, we had an explosive angry break up. So, we just didn’t like each other anymore, heh.

    But other than that it wasn’t really a big deal, stuff like, “I’ve realized I’m looking for something else”, “I’m moving away and I don’t want to try long distance”, “I want different things than you”, “I can’t give you what you want”, etc.

    With those exes it was natural to just stay friends. With some of them we continued to spend time together as friends, and even if we no longer sought out each other’s company, dealing with each other was comfortable and easy when we did run into each other.

    Or at least, that’s how I felt and how I saw it. As always, I can only speak about such things on a personal level based on personal experience.

  16. Lets see… HE breaks up with her, then 2 weeks later is leaving the country with another chick… Pretty sure he broke up with you to be with her…

    As far as staying friends with Exs… There are 2 kinds of relationships. Hardcore love, or simply enjoying eachother’s company thinking its love. You can be friends if you both realized it wasn’t hardcore love, anything other than that will have you at eachother’s throats, either with hands or lips, and regretting it later.

    • Heh, that is a distinct possibility.

      But I think that it’s wrong to suggest that there are only two possibilities. Or that it is “pretty obvious” since we only have a few details. Fair enough to speculate that based on the evidence given, but the only informed opinion we have is from the writer. Granted, she isn’t objective, but I’m willing to accept the possibility that she has assessed the situation better than we could.

  17. I keep seeing “executables” whenever anyone writes “exes”. Unfortunately, I cannot think of a good short-hand plural for ex-girlfriend, so I must rely on my ability to read context in conversations. God help me.

  18. I broke up with my ex of four years about 2 years ago or so. The breakup was long and painful and drawn out – mostly because we tried to stay friends. Eventually we stopped speaking. Now, after nearly 2 years of almost non-contact, we started chatting once in a while on Facebook, texting, etc, seeing how each other’s lives were getting along. Recently, we started hanging out. At first I expected pain and all the old stuff to come back up, for it to be hard, but it was like talking to a long lost brother. I missed him, yes, and I think about what used to be between us, but it doesn’t hurt, and we can build a new relationship, a real friendship, now that we have both moved on from our romantic relationship. Maybe the bad stuff will come up again – in fact, we discussed it when we started hanging out again. We both decided that if things got weird, we would talk it out. if needed, we both understand that we can stop spending time together. So maybe it will work, maybe it won’t, who knows? All I know for sure is that it’s great seeing him again, having him a part of my life. We knew each other so well, you know? Worst we can do is wait and see what happens.

  19. I have stayed friends with my ex boyfriend, but we never call each other exes. We dated in high school. We were together 3 different times due to complications in the relationship, however we managed to stay close friends in-between those times and now, but we did need some space after it ended. He is my best friend. I have a new boyfriend now who is perfectly comfortable with it because he loves me so much. My high school boyfriend, I am currently trying to set him up. So friendship with someone who use to be your boyfriend/girlfriend is truly possible, but it depends on if you want to be friends and how the relationship was when you were together, why you broke up and how you broke up. He is the only one who I have stayed friends with. The other two exes are out of my life and for good reasons.

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