Question: 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?
The Love Doctor’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 feeling butterflies 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” portion 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 creating 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.
No one rules works for all, you have to find what works for the two of you.