Can being friends with an ex lead back into a relationship? Yes, but only if you do being friends right. It may even be your only path to getting back together if you follow the right steps, are honest about why you want to be friends and set the boundaries for how to stay friends as exes and get back together.
I’ll admit that being friends with ex to get them back is not easy when you want to be together right away but if things moved too fast, the relationship ended so abruptly, an ex doesn’t want a relationship or isn’t ready to get back together, wants to take things slow or wants to see a change in your dynamic, being friends with an ex is your best chance of getting back in a relationship. Being friends with an ex will give you an opportunity to practice healthier communication, focus on having fun, and to continue to build a stronger connection and solid foundation within the warmth and care of a friendship.
Being friends with an ex also works with an ex who didn’t want to break-up but felt overwhelmed by what’s going on in the relationship and/or things happening in their life that have nothing to do with the relationship. You don’t know how they’ll feel in a few weeks (maybe even regret the break-up) without the pressure of being in a relationship and being friends gives you the opportunity to show that you are capable of listening, being present and providing support without an agenda, especially if they felt that they didn’t get the support and encouragement they expected in a relationship.
Beings friends actually works better with an avoidant ex as I explained in my article How Does Being Friends Help Get an Avoidant Ex Back?.
The steps below are results of years of fine tuning what works and what doesn’t, and learning from many of my clients who stayed friends after breakup and got back together. They show you how to go from lovers to friends to lovers again.
STEP 1: Accept the breakup
Accepting the break-up is the most important step of being friends with an ex you want back because it sets the tone of your friendship.
For being friends with your ex to lead back into a relationship, it’s important that your ex knows you do not agree or want the breakup but accept that right now the two of you are not together. Accepting that the relationship is over doesn’t void how you feel, it instead allows you to stop trying to change what has happened and focus your time and energy on turning things around in a healthy and constructive manner.
You can send your ex a text accepting the break-up, give them a call or meet in person if they’re willing to meet.
The point is that your friendship has to be genuine and not some fake manipulation tactic your ex can see through, and be turned off by.
STEP 2: Keep the lines of communication open
When making the transition from a relationship to beings friends and back to a relationship, open lines of communication is the key.
Open lines of communication signal a willingness to engage and the goodwill can go a really long way in laying the groundwork for getting back together.
An open line of communication doesn’t mean texting them every other day, pushing to meet or even expecting them to respond to every text. Being friend with an ex is not the same kind of “friendship” you have with your other friends instead it’s starting slow with 1-3 reach outs a week and slowly building momentum to where you’re talking on a daily basis and your ex is even open o hanging out a few times a week.
If you need sometime after the break-up to get yourself together or self-regulate, there are secure, healthy and emotionally mature ways to do it than cut off someone, block them and try to make them feel irrelevant.
STEP 3: Be honest about wanting your ex back
I do not encourage offering to be friends because your ex might agree to being friends believing that friendship is all you want, and before you’ve even had a chance to try to get them back, you’re friendzoned. But if being friends is your only option, offer to “keep the lines of communication open” or “a way to stay in each other’s life” without using the words “be friends”. This will take away the pressure that labels tend to have, and avoidants don’t like.
Make sure your ex knows that you want to be friends for now, but your goal is to get back together if things change with time. They don’t have to agree or commit to getting back together, all you’re doing is being honest with yourself and with them. You want to be in their life and if their feelings about you or the relationship changes in the process, you welcome the idea of getting back together.
Being upfront that you hope being friends will lead back to a relationship seems counterproductive, but being honest is the only way you’re ever going to know if there’s even a chance your ex will want to get back together at all.
If your ex says they want to be friends, or that friendship is all they can offer you at the moment, DO NOT turn down the offer because you are scared that being friends will hurt your chances. You may have been offered a window of opportunity to do all the things you could have done right to make your relationship safe, healthy and fulfilling, but didn’t. Take it.
STEP 4: Set clear boundaries on what it means to be friends
Beings friends with the intentions of it leading back to a relationship will not work if your ex has no idea what is expected of them, or even how beings friends after you’ve been romantic really means. They’ll resist being friends because they think they will be pressured to get back together when they’re not ready or sure it’s what they want.
In my opinion being friends with an ex means what the two of you decide it means. Whatever works for the two of you is what is right for the two of you.
Set clear boundaries on what it means to be friends and communicate in clear terms what to expect and not expect from each other. Be open, honest, and use non- violent, non-threatening and safe communication, and make sure that you ask your ex to communicate their boundaries and what they’re comfortable with in terms of contact, space, time spent together, seeing other people/and what happens then, intimacy or friends with benefits etc.
The “what being friends” means conversation doesn’t have to happen at once. Some exes may not even know exactly what they are offering by being friends. They said “let’s be friends” because it sounded emotionally mature. You may find that the boundaries of “being friends” form as you interact, and they tell you what is okay to say or do, and what is not.
The right boundaries do not guarantee that your ex will not start seeing someone new, but they help reduce the possibility of them wanting another relationship if things are going really well between the two of you, and also helps you respond from a place of secure attachment if and when your ex starts seeing someone new.
STEP 5: Create new positive feelings and memories
Friendship is a valuable space for starting a new dynamic and a new chapter of your relationship. So use being friends to create new positive memories and attraction and to make sure you’ll not be friendzoned. The difference between “being just friends” and a friendship where you’re obviously still attracted to each other is the sexual energy or tension between you and your ex. So flirt, tease, be playful, do the things you loved doing together but also do things you’ve never done before, go to places you’ve never been before, and if both of you are okay with being friends with benefits that’s okay too. You’re two single consenting adults who know what you’re doing.
The point is to create new positive feelings and memories instead of relying on old memories tainted by the bad things that happened in the relationship. The other goal is to keeping the boundaries of “being friends with an ex” fluid and not get yourself friendzoned.
If you’re not creating new feelings – laughing, enjoying some really good moments with your ex even just via text – you are not creating attraction however well you word your texts or time your contacts. The more positive memories you create now, the stronger the attraction and bond you’ll create.
Only when it’s safe is it okay to bring up the past and the issues you had. This will of course be determined by your ex’s attachment style. Some things can be talked over when things are safe and others are better left until you’re back together and others
STEP 6: Show how things can be different
If your relationship is like most, by the time of the break-up, the relationship wasn’t working for your ex (or for you). If there were many arguments and conflict that made your ex lose feelings, think you were not right for each other or were incompatible your ex most likely still feels the same and holds those views about you and the relationship. If you give them the option to choose between getting back together and moving on, they’ll likely choose moving on, and rightly so. The lost feelings or relationship isn’t working for them, why would they want to get back together?
Use beings friends with your ex as a space to show them the self-work you’ve done on yourself and to change your ex’s perception and experience of you. This can also be an opportunity for the two of you to grow together and to share your individual personal work, goals and plans for your future with the pressures that come with being in a relationship.
STEP 7: Ask your ex if they’re ready to be more than friends
This step usually happens naturally and organically if all the other 6 steps are done right. You find that without even a conversation about it, things just evolved naturally to being more than friends, you’re going out on dates and it’s looking more and more like your ex is considering giving the relationship another chance.
In some instances, you will have to bring up a conversation about becoming more than friends and starting to date each other again. Like any kind of relationship, both people have to want the same thing and feel the same way about it.
A conversation about being friends more than friends has to be honest, open, direct or clear, and even vulnerable, and has to be a conversation between two people and not just you telling your ex what you want or trying to force what you want on someone who doesn’t want it. It’s important to be very specific about what you want to change from being friends to being mor than friends, so your ex knows how things are going to change. Ask for feedback, listen to what they have to say and remind yourself “I am not ready” is not the same as it’s never going to happen.
How long it takes from being friends to being in a relationship
How long it takes from being friends with an ex to being in relationship again can happen in weeks and months depending on the level of trust and an understanding of each other and what each other needs, and if you’re doing “being friends with an ex” right.
Being friends with an ex doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get back together, but it gives you 30 – 50% advantage over trying to get back together when there’s no friendly foundation. The goodwill, trust, consistency and safety you create beings friends first is a strong foundation for getting back together, and what an avoidant ex needs to believe the relationship can work better. The rest depends on why you broke up, if your ex still has feelings for you, what else is going on in your ex’s life, if there is someone else etc.