Being Friends With The Ex?

8 Reasons Why The Answer is "No"

Long before I wrote the book, Getting Past Your Breakup, which popularized the idea of “No Contact” after a breakup, one question that plagued my breaking up clients was, “Should I be friends with my ex?”
The person who agonizes over this question is typically the one who did not initiate the break and may have friends who declare, somewhat egotistically, “I’m friends with all of my exes!” These boasts are very unhelpful.

Unlike these few myopic and quixotic people, most people cannot remain friends after a breakup, but if it is to be, it should be much later. For most people, the healthiest thing to do is make a clean break from the ex immediately after the breakup.

These are the reasons why:

1. Even after the most amicable breakup, people need time to work through their feelings and sift through the ruins of the relationship. If your ex isn’t about to do that, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. Being alone and apart from your former love is the best and healthiest course. Don’t let another’s lack of doing the healthy thing persuade you otherwise.

Even if it was not an emotional high-wire act, as many breakups are, there needs to be time apart to break the bond of "the couple.” Each person needs to separate and go back to being an individual without being a part of the couple.  In other words, to lose the "couple" identity.  Each person needs to do their work and become an individual once again.  Each needs to deal with the breakup in their own way and DEFINITELY separate and apart and away from the scrutiny of the person they just broke up with.

2. The atmosphere immediately following a breakup is too emotionally charged for a friendship to happen right away, if at all.  You may not even realize that there is anger, resentment, and residual hurt.  You might not realize that you care, really care, what this person thinks of you.  You might not realize that there are things you cannot and will not tolerate in a friend that this person has.  You may not realize that there are thing you must have in a friend that this person lacks.

3. You might not realize that you treat this person differently, and will continue to treat this person differently than all your other friends. You get more easily offended.  Little things bother you that would not bother you with your friends.  You absolutely think about this person a lot more than any of your other friends.  Did this person suddenly become your BFF?  No.  This person is just in some weird category that no one else is in and you don't know how to handle it.  They want to be friends.  That doesn't mean you should be.

4. When you are friends with the ex, especially right away, you exist in some weird "in between" world where you're no longer lovers but not really friends.  The landscape is different and sometimes difficult.  In between world is a strange place that most people shouldn't visit because it's just tough to adjust to most of the time. Some couples who were friends BEFORE the coupling, make the mistake to think that they can just magically act as if the relationship never happened. That is a fantasy and one that will lead you down a very wrong road.

Sometimes both people are "okay" with the breakup and have good prospects for a friendship down the road, but right after the breakup is not a good time for this.

I know one couple who had dinner every now and again after they broke up.They told everyone they were "friends" and liked to check in now and again.One night, about 2 months after the breakup, the dinner turned into a teary shouting match.Neither was prepared for it but both were moving onto other people and the revelation at dinner brought up all kinds of emotions that neither knew were there. If you're going to be friends,EVER, the first six months is probably not the time no matter how amicable it seems on the surface.

5. The person who pushes to be friends is usually the one who has unfinished business but doesn't want to own that or doesn't want the responsibility of the relationship but is unwilling to completely relinquish the ex.  That is a selfish motive and not fair to the other person.  Do your work and let the other person do their work and heal.  It is not fair to string someone along as a "friend" because you can't deal with the pain of having them out of your life completely.  As with any post-breakup dealings with the ex: Examine your motives.

A coworker recently said to me, "I want to be friends after the breakup and she doesn't.She's a terrific person and I don't want her out of my life." If you're the one who is asking to be friends, AGAIN:examine your motives.Are you trying to stave off the grief?Are you playing a game?Are you unwilling to really break all ties but don't want the relationship either?Benefits without responsibility?That's dysfunctional and wrong (as are any "friends with benefits" scenarios that sometimes follow a "breaking up as a couple.")  Don't string someone along who needs to heal.

6. Sometimes people can't do "endings".  If you can't do endings (if you're still friends with absolutely everyone you've gone out with), you might need to think about that.  Others just don't end things and don't know how.  If your ex is one of those, don't let him or her lead the way.  Take charge of ending it and not remaining friends.   If you are the one who isn't able to end things, don't inject your inability to come to terms with the end of the relationship on the other person.  It's simply not fair.  Yes, she's hurt.  And you're making things worse.  If she was so terrific, you'd still be with her.  You cannot have it both ways.  Leave it alone.

7. If you are the person who did not break up and is doing the contact, this is not a good plan.  You need to move on.  The other person needs to move on.  If you are emailing or calling or texting and they are not answering, stop doing it.  Sit on your hands if you need to.  It's humiliating.  Leave it alone and get on with your life.  It's hard but it has to be done.

If you are managing to engage him/her, how does it feel afterwards?  Do you feel good or did you just postpone the inevitable once again?  Or did they let you know ITS REALLY OVER and you're not hearing it or still looking for clues in what they are saying or doing that it is really not.  Stop torturing yourself. BURY IT. The GPYB book has an entire chapter on No Contact. Read it.

8. If your ex is bugging you to be friends, say no.  Short and sweet.  Pure and simple.  NO.  Don't try to explain or rationalize...just say no or maybe no, not now.  The problem with saying "not now" is that it will usually be followed by "When?" and you just don't know.  No is a one-word sentence.  Say it and then go.  No further explanation necessary.

Relationships take two people.So do friendships.The relationship didn't work.If your ex is not listening to your feelings now and still not doing right by you, the friendship is not going to work either.Find new friends who treat you right.INSIST on being treated well in ALL relationships.Your ex did not treat you well. Bye.

Now what about those pesky people who insist that they are friends with all of their exes and that they don't exist in in-between world, they exist in a good world where their ex just fits in right there with all the other friends. Bully for them. Just because one person does it doesn't mean it's the right thing to do or that it's okay or that it's really working.  Maybe that person hasn't ever really attached and therefore doesn't ever need to un-attach completely.  Some people just operate that way.  Some people NEED to be friends with their exes to show just how special, forgiving and damn right fabulous they are.   Well you don't need to need that because that's a strange need.

Just because some people can do and do do it, who cares?  Some people go jumping out of airplanes.  If you want to jump out an airplane, be my guest.  But if you're someone who wants to stay firmly on the ground, don't let the plane jumpers convince you there is something is wrong with you for that.  It is OKAY to not be friends with your ex.  It is OKAY even if your ex gives you 400 million reasons why they can't just let you go or if someone comes along and says, "You should be friends."  It matters what is okay with you not anyone else.

Be honest that it's not working.  Be honest that the "in-between" world, somewhere between lovers and friends is a bit creepy and very unsettling and takes up way too much of your emotional energy.  Get out of in-between world.

Trying to be friends with the ex is usually a losing proposition.  If it's dead, bury it.  Move on.  Find friends you haven't slept with and be okay with that.  Tell your ex this isn't/won't work for you and know you have the right to say that.

Then end it and move on.

By Susan J Elliott JD, M.Ed. | Psychology Today


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Love Magazine: Being Friends With The Ex?
Being Friends With The Ex?
Love Magazine
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