Should You Be Friends With Your Ex?

should-you-be-friends-with-your-exQuestion: I was with my ex for 4 years and broke up 8 months ago. He’s my best friend and knows me better than anybody else. I don’t feel like I have to impress him. We broke up because we had different thoughts and opinions on life, religion, politics, etc. Sometimes we would argue and neither of us would give in. Everything else about our relationship was working really well. The breakup hurt both of us deeply but our differences were too much.  We both felt it was the right thing to do because we didn’t want to end up hating each other. We made a pact that we would remain friends no matter what. I’m dating someone else, and so is he. We talk to each other everyday and we both enjoy each other’s company. The thing is… I still get butterflies when I see him. He just has that effect on me. Other than the occasional hi and bye hug, we’ve not been physically intimate since the break up. He is and has been a great big part of my life, I do not want to lose the friendship we have. Am I making a mistake keeping close contact with him?

Yangki’s Answer: First of all, congratulations for the level of maturity the two of you have shown. It’s not always that two people recognize that the end of a romantic relationship doesn’t have to be the begining of nastiness or disrespect and hate for the person one once claimed to love.

That said, friendship with an ex can be difficult to maintain when one still feels butterflies in the stomach at the sight of an ex. Whether or not it’s a mistake keeping in close contact with your ex depends on what you do with those feelings.

From personal experience and from years of experience working with hundreds of men and women going through similar situations, over time, you get past the butterflies feeling. It doesn’t mean those feelings will be replaced with bad feelings but that those feelings change and what is left is a lasting friendship based on deep respect and appreciation. You may even find that your lives just move in different directions but the good memories remain.

That’s just one scenario. It’s also possible that those feelings may be brought to the surface more and more often and can ruin the “friends” part of the arrangement. I’ve seen some people try to do the friends with benefits thing as away to deal with the left over strong feelings of sexual attraction, but almost always someone ends up getting hurt when the other person moves on.

The third scenario is that the two of you might be realizing that what you have is so much stronger than the differences that drew you apart in the first place. But this is where you have to be really honest with yourself. Do you want him back? What has changed in regard to your differences? What makes you think that it’ll work this time?  But more importantly, does he want you back?

Talk to your ex about what’s really going on. Given what you say about your friendship, only good can come out of an open discussion on your true feelings for each other.  A good talk will help both of you decide on the right and necessarily thing to do in the best interest of the other.

If you decide that some distance between the two of you is the best thing to do, then make sure you agree on exactly how much contact is healthy at this time or in the future. You have experience working together and it shouldn’t be too hard given the strength of your friendship.

In other words, no one size fits all situations, you have to do what is right for the two of you.

This might also help: 3 Reasons Why Being Friends Can Get Back Your Ex

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53 Comments

  • We’ve had a sort of on again off again relationship with my ex. We both have many issues but we always got back together a week or so after breaking up. This it has taken 2 months because we agreed that we do not want the same old relationship. I know you wrote that it’s best to start as if you were starting a new relationship with your ex. Our relationship started with a lot of passion and sex, we never really spent time as “friends”. We both are doing our best to not try to make it all about sex and spending time just doing every day things together. It will be interesting to see how things turn out this time.

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    • A good friendship is a strong foundation for a lasting relationship. When the passion is down, you’ll always have the friendship to weather you through until the passion is back up. Also there is that “companionship” elements added to the relationship because you can just be content in each other’s company without feeling that you have to “do” something to entertain or make the other feel “happy”. Less stress…

      I hope it works out for the two of you.

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  • Mature and straight up advice. I may be having a hard time accepting that it’s over with my ex. We broke up end September last year, and had no contact until December. he texted me wishing me a merry x-man and happy new year. I texted back wishing him the same. After new year’s he texted me again saying he missed me. I texted bakc but did not say I missed him. He texted asking if I missed him and I said yes. Never heard from him for 2 weeks. Then another text saying he missed me very much. This has been going on for 3 months. When I don’t contact him and try to move on, he starts texting and emailing me constantly telling me how much he misses me but when I respond, he stops. I know he isn’t with someone new, I just don’t understand his actions. What should I do?

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    • Either your ex is playing a mind game or just doesn’t know how to tell you he still has feelings for you. Next time he contacts you, just be bold and tell him you don’t understand his actions and would really like an explanation. Tell him you hope he will understand if you stop responding because things can’t just go on like this… then see what he says.

      If it’s a mind game he is playing, he’ll probably continue doing it because he thinks it’s making him more attractive (yeah… !?). If this is his way of trying to tell you how he really feels, he may stumble a bit in explaining himself, but will change his approach because he knows it’ll hurt his chances.

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  • My ex doesn’t want to be friends and says he can’t even stand to be in the same room as me. I’m not a bad person, I was just very upset and acted very badly when we broke up but I have apologized and he still will not forgive me. I have dated other guys but this is the only guy who treated me like a queen. Do you think that if I let time pass, not bother him, later he and I can be friends even if we can’t be together. He is friends with all his exes, so he has a history of not burning bridges.

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    • I don’t know if you will become friends down the road. Based on your comment, it looks like his impression of you right now is that of the “crazy ex-girlfriend”. If down the road that impression changes, then may be there is a possibility that you will become friends. I just can’t say with 100% certainty, yes or no!

      Desperately trying to prove to him that you are not a bad person will not help. If he’s asked you specifically not to contact him, then respect his wish. It might just well be what will prove to him that you are not as bad as he originally thought.

      But if he’s not asked you not to contact him, and you stop all contact, it confirms to him that your apology was just to try to get your way, and when that didn’t work, you thought you’d get back at him by cutting off all contact.

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  • He says he wants to be friends for right now and that there is a chance we might get back together in the future. We hang out every once in a while but he is usually too busy working or hanging out with his friends. How can we get back together when we barely spend time together? I am just so confused about the whole thing.

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    • If being friends for a while will increase your chances of getting back together then don’t blow it. However, if there seems to be nothing that actually shows that he’s even trying to be a friend, then you need to raise this with him. Not about “getting back together” but about the two of you spending more time together. His response will tell you if you really have a chance of getting back together or he’s just stringing you along – for whatever reaosns.

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    • There are several reasons as to why someone will say “let’s be friends” when they break up with you.
      1) He/she feels guilt for breaking up with you
      2) He/she is trying to be kind and thinks sh/e is helping you through the pain of the breakup
      3) He/she wants to keep you as a backup plan for when s/he’s feeling lonely or horny
      4) He/she does not want you out of her/his life but does not want you as a lover either
      5) He/she hopes that the two of you will someday get back together and friendship is the bridge to that.

      Without knowing exactly what she said or did to make you feel that she really doesn’t want to be friends, it’s hard to tell which is which.

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  • My ex really wanted to be friends. She said she cared about me and enjoyed my company and that I was a great person. I was still too hurt over the breakup and told her I needed to heal and get over her. Being “friends” would keep me from moving on because I would be hoping for a reconciliation. She said she understood and she wanted me to feel free to contact her when I was ready. 3 months later, I was feeling better and myself again, and contacted her. She was happy to hear from me. We’ve been in contact for a little over 3 weeks. The conversations are nice and all, but I get really angry when she says she’s happy we are friends. I’m still in love with her and don’t want her thinking of me as a friend.

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    • You can’t blame her for thinking that you are now just friends. You set her up to it by telling her you needed time to “get over” her. She now believes that you are “over her” and ready to be just friends, otherwise you would not have contacted her.

      Instead of getting angry, see if you can use this as an opportunity to re-acquaint yourself and get her interested in you again.

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  • My ex wants to get back together but I don’t. He was a good boyfriend and treated me really well, but my feelings for him were never as strong as his feelings for me. I still care about him but I know there is no future for us because he won’t make me happy. I don’t want to hurt him again and I don’t want to lose him as a friend, but I know that if we continue with contact he will not give up trying to get me back. I don’t know what to do. please help.

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    • Just tell him exactly what you wrote here. Let him know you are cutting off all contact because it’s what’s best for BOTH of you. You can’t be friends right now because you don’t want him to keep hoping that there will be a romantic relationship between the two of you. But that a friendship is possible down the road.

      After you tell him that, don’t try to contact him again because you “feel bad”. Contacting someone after you’ve told them no contact is what’s best, is sending mixed signals.

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  • I’m going through a very recent break up. I‘m hurting so badly partly because ex says we can’t be friends because he’s hurting, btw, he’s the one who asked for the breaking up.

    I just want us to become friends and may be we can work things out slowly. I really don’t want him out of my life. Should I continue trying to be his friend or just give up?

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    • Ending a relationship hurts no matter who ends it. Give him his time to get over his hurt and come around on his own. You can’t force a friendship and trying so hard to be his friend will only make him angry. All you can at this point is let him know that in spite and despite of what happened, you as a person can be counted on as a friend.

      As he nurses his hurt, keep busy and try to find happiness all on your own. The last thing you want is for him to think is that you are waiting at his beck and call.

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  • It’s safe to say that this whole about can’t be friends with your exes is pretty much American. Here in my country it’s common to find exes that are friends even after a divorce. Of course if your ex is abusive or completely psycho that’s another thing.

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    • I think it’s a sign of emotional maturity to be able to maintain a friendship with an ex, unless of course as you say, your ex is abusive or completely psycho. I personally wouldn’t get involved with someone who “hates” all his exes or calls them names. I know they’ll do it to me too.

      However, using “lets be friends” to get your ex back can easily backfire. Your ex may actually believe that all you want is to just be friends, and later when you tell him/her that you still have romantic feelings for him/her and want him/her back, he/she may feel lied to and even manipulated.

      It’s best not to offer “let’s be friends” if you want your ex back. But if they do offer, take the opportunity not the label. It means that you can text, call, hang out and showcase the changes you’ve made within a safe emotional environment.

      It’s worked out well for many of my clients, as long as they do not allow themselves to get trapped in the friend-zone.

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