Staying Friends with Your Ex – Does it Work?

Break ups are hard, and are we expecting too much when we say from ourselves and the other person when we say, “let’s remain friends?” Society doesn’t deal well with the idea that not everything isn’t always peachy – we’re constantly under pressure to “stay calm” and keep our emotions intact. But this isn’t easy; particularly when it comes to matters of the heart.

Our emotions are powerful things, and whilst forgiveness is always a good idea, getting past this and establishing yourselves as “friends” is a totally different ballgame. Today its more difficult than ever not to have the ex-files lingering in your mind. Its far too easy to “check-up” on them (translation: see whether they’ve moved onto someone else yet, see what their post-break up look is etc. etc.). There are pros and cons to whether you should still be friends with an ex, and we have to bear in mind that its entirely dependent upon whether its working for the both of you or not. Its always a nice idea that you’ll be able to continue to see each other platonically, but is this feasible? Whilst its easy to take the advice of your friends and family members as the gospel truth, I’m a firm believer in gut feelings – you know when you know.

A study found that the two most critical factors in deciphering whether a friendship between former partners can work was:

  • how the relationship ended
  • the support that each individual experiences post break up

Positive break ups then, breed the most success where ongoing friendships are concerned. If the feeling is mutual, and sadness, not anger, is the go-to emotion (because break ups, however straightforward. are always a little painful), there is a chance for your relationship to continue without being romantic. It is difficult though, and its often fine until one or both of you move on – could you really deal with meeting them and their new partner without feeling anything at all?

Often, the plan to remain friends lasts until this moment; before anyone has moved on romantically, its easy to carry on as you have, but without any intimacy. This is because a) human nature gets involved, and envy or resentment can rear its ugly head when faced with the reality that they’re definitely over you. Secondly, be prepared that the new partner might take issue with her new beau and his/her ex hanging out together – with or without her being there.

Another important factor when it comes to staying friends, I think, is giving yourself space away from each other for some time after the split. I mean more than a few weeks – preferably months. Emotions are so raw straight after any break up that you’ll almost certainly end up doing or saying something that you regret. We’re likely react less rationally when we’re broken-hearted, so if you’re serious about keeping in touch after the romance has fizzled, you’ll both benefit from cutting contact (that includes social) for a while after the storm.

Of course, we all have a right to do whatever we choose with our relationships – past and present. Sometimes we need to try out these things, whether others agree or not. Ultimately you know what works for you, and just because the two of you might not have worked out romantically, you could be the best of friends – after all, there’s a reason that you got together in the first place, and it wasn’t because you were drunk and they were good looking. Being emotionally healthy means you have insight into your feelings – like I said, your gut feeling usually gets it right, so listen to it!


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