Is It A Mistake To Be Friends With My Ex?

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?

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 beginning 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.

Scenario 1:

With time, and as you come to accept that what you had as a couple is over but you still value the friendship you had and want your ex in your life, the butterfly feelings change to a lasting friendship based on deep respect and appreciation. You may even find that your lives move in different directions but the good memories remain.

Scenario 2:

The feelings get brought to the surface more and more and it ruins 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.

Scenario 3:

You both realize that what you have is so much stronger than what 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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44 Comments

  • 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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  • 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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    • Kathy and sexpotus, that is your experience and you probably have good reasons for thinking the way you do. Some exs can’t be friends and others shouldn’t be, especailly if the chemistry is toxic. Every relationship however, is different. A lot depends on the type of relationship and the two people involved.

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