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Can You Still Be Friends with an Ex?

Updated on March 8, 2016
SerenityHalo profile image

Andrea loves to write on the zodiac, Myers Briggs, and texting. She is an expert on romance and relationships. She also has two cats.

So can you be friends?

Short answer: yes. (Absolutely, even)

Longer answer: well, it's likely to be complicated.

Many people will want a break after cutting ties with you romantically. If they don't seem interested in having a friendship with you, I recommend not bothering them for... a year. Space helps to heal, space helps to make change, and it's a general guideline that people tend to follow. That'll give them time to refresh their brain, see new people, and move on from the absolutely romantic, intense, and fabulous connection they just departed with you.

But lots of people can be friends with an ex. You can actually break up on positive terms, especially if the romance didn't last long to begin with. You may actually decide that you are better as friends than you are as romantic buddies. Sometimes if you have a very short romance then it is absolutely easy to transition into just friends. People don't have to be thrown away instantly as your heart is also in shambles from a break up. If your heart is hurting, it is best to step away from your ex. Don't add insult to injury.

Have you ever been friends with an ex?

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Beware of Feelings

If you stay friends right after a break up, don't be surprised if there's residual feelings. If you don't have a clean break up or give yourself a chance to move on, you could end up pining for the person all over again. The same thing goes for the person you broke up with. They might still desire something more than a friendship with you. Sometimes it takes a few tries to completely break up because there are still feelings or chemistry and long term you know it's not going to work. Make sure no matter what the circumstances that you communicate. If you're communication skills are poor and you can't deal with it, you'll find yourself in the "ghosting" option. Which isn't preferred, but who are we kidding? It is still and option.

Be open about where you stand. If you're going to be friends, don't be afraid to say where you really are. You might have to put yourself out there all over again if you end up still liking the person, which is completely normal. Lots of people like the idea of what is familiar, and exes tend to be familiar. Just about everyone has at least one ex or 15 that they wouldn't mind trying to date again. They may have new insight into what happened. And of course there are a number of books and websites dedicated to winning back the ex... romantically, of course. Not generally winning them back to be a friend.

Also, beware that after a break up, the other person may not want to be around you at all. It might have hurt more for them than you. Some people want to get their feelings under control and let time heal them before having to see someone they dated in the past. Respect the person for this. Don't bother them with lots of texts or phone calls. They may really need some space. Likely if you had a strong friendship before the romantic relationship (or a strong friendship during the relationship) they'll likely come back. But don't worry about it too much. Keep making new friends! People are going to come in and out of your life. There will be a few who will be there through thick and thin, but people have to grow, so don't be too worried if they stop being around you as much. In fact, you will make them feel better if you are not clingy after the break up. Let them breath. Try not to be awkward when you run into them at a party. Be chill. You've got this. You are capable of being cool about possible anxious situations.

Know What You Want

If being friends with your ex prevents you from dating new people, you might be spending too much time with your ex. Do you really want them to be your ex, do you want to date someone else, or would you like to be single? An ex shouldn't hold you back. Be honest with yourself if they are and figure out how you can move on so that you can have the life that you deserve. And the romance that you desire.

You may want to separate from them for your feelings and ambitions' growth. A good ex doesn't need to know you in the way they used to. They have resolved that part of their life and have moved on. They don't need constant updates about what you're doing and who you're doing it with. That is not their responsibility. If you continue to tell them constantly in detail about your going abouts and how your day goes -- you're treating your ex more like your girlfriend. So don't do that. Make it clear in your mind what label this person has, if you don't things will go terrible when one of you officially moves on with a new person. Get the break up stuff right as quick as you possibly can muster.

At this point, your ex doesn't need to know you. You should be going after the passions you may have neglected while dating them. You don't have to tell them every single thing you do or idea that crosses your brain. Know what you want out of your life. Don't thrust yourself into dating until you are ready. Make sure you are processing your own emotions. You must confront yourself daily. This is the right pathway to getting into a successful, healthy, and happy relationship. You don't have to date anyone. But when you do -- you need to be emotionally ready. It can be catastrophic when you put yourself into the dating scene, and you're not ready. This will make you more awkward, anxious, and altogether have poor judgement.

Seeing Other People

Don't be too upset when your ex is seeing someone new... especially before you do. It's not a game. Let me repeat that... it is not a game!

Love takes it's own time with each person. Don't act like you were a better significant other than their new partner. Jealously will ruin your friendship and also make you seem crazy. If you're having jealously because you still have feelings for the person, try to find a way that you can reasonably communicate that. Better yet, hide it. Hide it successfully. You can talk about your jealously with somebody else, your ex probably doesn't need to hear it. If you're jealous because they ended up finding someone before you did, check yourself. You don't need to be jealous. Plus, expressing it could be awkward, painful, and selfish.

You are not required to date everyone in the village right after a break up. It's up to you when you'll be pursuing your own interests, dating someone, or doing absolutely nothing. Don't be afraid to be calm for a little bit before dating. Having rebounds is a normal experience, but those rebounds often don't pan out and can invite unwanted pain into your life. Don't waste your time on somebody or use them to only overcome your emotional hurts. You may want to spend time detoxing from your past relationship. You may have developed some peculiar habits, and you may need those to be abandoned.

Do You Really Want a Friendship?

Ask yourself if you really want a friendship with the person. Is it worth your time or energy? Friendships are an important part of your life. You don't have to have a friendship with someone just to be polite. Try to end on a good note, but you are not required to be friends with anyone. If you don't want to be friends with someone -- don't waste your time on it. You can be friendly to anyone, but that doesn't mean you're trying to make a close friendship. You are not required to be friends with your ex romantic partner just for the sake of being friends. You get to decide whether this person was sweet enough that you still want them hanging out with your group of kindred spirits.

You can definitely pose the question of whether you should stay friends and what you would like to see from that. Let your ex know if you want them to be your friend and to what degree. They may think you're super cool if you do this in a personal way. Let them know they can change their mind on the friendship and leave at any point if they feel uncomfortable or unready to hang out with you.

The friendships in your life will help you find yourself. The people you align with probably have similar interests or needs. Try finding people you really jive with, and if it includes your ex -- cool.

What if my ex dates a close friend of mine?

I hope that the unthinkable won't happen to you!

Sometimes if an ex stays with the same friend group, that person ends up finding a connection with one of your friends. A lot of people refuse to date those that their friends did. Don't be surprised, however, if it happens. Your friend likely has similar qualities to you and your ex probably has a type that they date. Don't get bent out of shape if this happens. Things will cool over for you. You may have mood swings, jealously, or longer stretches of time to yourself. Try not to put too much pressure on the new couple. Take a walk and know that even if you have to walk away from two friends, you'll be okay and new people will come into your life. Don't let yourself hurt too much. Remember, you have you and that's most important, so develop your interests.

But yes, it is normal for an ex to date a friend and make things more complicated than ever. Try to stay out of it. Keep your opinions around them to a minimum. Try not to give judgmental glances. Try to go with the flow of it. This is a sucky situation. But it is not the end of the world. You are stronger than you think.

What if I change my mind and don't want to be friends again?

Be honest with yourself first. You are not required to be friends with anyone. If your ex annoys you and things don't seem to be improving, then drop him or her. Often things with friends fizzle out anyway. If they're texting you too much tell them to back down. Tell them you need space. You don't owe it to them to give them undivided attention. It's perfectly reasonable at this point to let go, and by you letting go more -- it will help them. Some people cling to their exes because they don't want to accept reality. If you keep communicating with them, you're not helping them get over you. Lots of people are mature and move on just fine, but some don't have the finer social skills of letting things end.

If you still want to be friends with them encourage them to see you, but not all the time. Seinfeld and Elaine are the perfect TV example of a couple that broke up and remained friends. They didn't have lingering romantic feelings, they moved on with their lives, and still had the right amount of space to be friends. Ideally, you can both see new people with ease, and it not cause jealously.

Friends Before, Friends After

If you were friends before you dated, you can try being friends after. Sometimes romance can take the punch out of a good friendship, whether permanently or temporarily. It's okay if your friendship doesn't resemble what it looked like when it started. The two of you may have grown. This will cause a friendship to change, age, and take different directions. Friendships don't always stay because of the reasons why they formed. As you grow as an individual, your interests will change and so will your friends. It's okay if after dating someone if your friendship struggles to find where there are common interests.

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    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 22 months ago from The Caribbean

      Really, if you still have romantic feelings for an ex that you have to fight, why give yourself that hassle? Break free and shed the burden. Life is complicated enough. Thank, however, for your insights on this topic.

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