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November

How to be friends with your ex

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For many people, the answer to the question ‘How can I be friends with my ex?” would be, “Why the hell would you want to?”

I totally understand that feeling. I definitely don’t need to be friends with everyone I’ve ever dated. In fact, there are many guys I’d love to forget I ever met, let alone dated. Nevertheless, I’m friends with a few of my ex’s. Not many, but a few. Some of these are very casual, facebook-y type friendships where we maybe talk a few times a year. But I consider one of my ex’s a really close friend. Creating and maintaining that close friendship after our break-up wasn’t quick and it wasn’t easy, but for me it was worth it.

Being friends with exes definitely isn’t for everyone, and it takes adhering to some basic rules for a successful friendship to work. Over the years I’ve gotten most of these wrong, and so I had to learn them the hard way.  But eventually I did learn some valuable lessons. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when contemplating trying to be friends with your ex.

How ex is he?

As I mentioned in my article To Save Face (And Your Sanity) After A Break-up, Here are 5 Things NOT To Do, the most important aspect to getting over a break-up is to put some serious distance between you and your ex.

I think the absolute minimum is three months of zero contact (and that’s for a not very long, not very serious relationship. For a serious relationship you’ll probably need a lot more time). That means no texting, no phone calls, no skulking around on his facebook page. Nothing. If there’s any interaction with the ex, you’ll need to restart the three month clock, even if he’s the one that contacts you. As such, you need to be really clear with your ex that you need at least three months of radio silence after the break-up. (If you have a post-break-up hook-up with your ex – which, from personal experience, I do not recommend- make that five months) After that time, you can better assess if you really want his friendship, or if the friendship impulse was about not wanting to let go of the relationship.

You also need enough time to pass to ensure you won’t be acting out the dynamics you had in the relationship. It is tempting after a break-up to just cut off the physical stuff call it a friendship. But that’s not a real friendship – it’s just a sexless continuation of your relationship. Sex is not the only kind of intimacy in a romantic relationship and you can’t move forward with a friendship when you still have the residual intimacy from the relationship. Eventually someone will get really hurt if you attempt it that way. After a break-up you need the buffer of time so that you can create a new dynamic between you and your ex.

If, after a goodly amount of time, you really think you’d like to be friends, continue reading…

Was the break-up mutual?

If you both decided that the relationship wasn’t working, this increases the likelihood of eventually being able to have a healthy friendship. If the break-up was one sided, it is much harder. If you were dumped, then your initial desire for friendship will probably be about hoping proximity will lead to reconciliation, and so the no-contact time is extremely important. If you were the dumper, you still need to watch out. Often times the guy may claim to be fine with being friends, when he’s harboring the secret hope you’ll get back together. Which is why, even if you did the breaking up and feel that you would be totally fine to be friends right away, it still isn’t a good idea. As the inflictor of pain, you need to be aware that the injured party won’t always act in his own self-interest. You already hurt him once. If you attempt a friendship with someone you dumped, you may just end up hurting him all over again. The remedy to a creating a friendship after non-mutual break-up is waiting until the more injured party is in a solid relationship (not a rebound relationship).  If you’re really sure neither of you is harboring secret (or not so secret) hopes of getting back together, the next thing you should ask is…

Do you have an ‘on and off’ history?

If you have a history of repeatedly breaking up and getting back together, I doubt you’ll ever be able to really be friends. Eventually, if you try to stay friends, one of you will get lonely or bored or develop relationship amnesia (where you forget all the reasons why it didn’t work) and start the whole process over again. What’s the problem with that, you might ask? The main problem is that it keeps you in the loop of someone who, though he may not be a total Zero, isn’t The One. You need to be free and clear to meet your One, not in some unhealthy ex-vortex.  If you and your ex don’t have an on-again-off-again saga, continue on…

Was your relationship more friendship based or more passion based?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had all kinds of different relationships over the years. Some started with intense attraction – when those relationships ended it was usually because we weren’t as emotionally compatible as we were physically compatible. Then I’ve had the opposite extreme, where I liked the guy so much I desperately wanted him to be The One, despite the fact that we didn’t have much physical chemistry.

When it comes to being friends with your ex, it is much easier to be friends if the glue in the relationship was friendship to begin with. Of course, when you find your One, you’ll have both the physical and the emotional connection. If the thing that kept you together with your ex was an intense sexual attraction, true friendship will be tough. But if you didn’t have crazy chemistry…

Can you be happy for him if he’s dating someone else?

If the answer to this is no, you’re not ready to be friends. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you have to be giddily thrilled when your ex falls in love with someone else; you may actually feel a twinge of sadness when you hear the news, particularly if you’re still single, but any negative feelings should be minor and brief. A true friend is happy when her friend finds love, and if you can’t find a way to be happy for him, you’re not ready to be his friend yet. But if you can, there may be hope for a real friendship to develop over time.

If you didn’t have the ‘right’ answer to all of these questions, you shouldn’t attempt a friendship. That doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to be friends with your ex, it just means you (or your ex) aren’t ready yet. Give it a few months and go through these questions again. You might be surprised at how much things have changed.

If you did get the ‘right’ answers, and both you and your ex would like to give friendship a shot, have at it. But proceed with caution. Growing a friendship with someone after you’ve been in a relationship together should be a slow process. And one thing to keep in mind… even if you’re thrilled to be able to be friends with your ex, the next guy you date might not be quite as thrilled about it.

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One Response to “How to be friends with your ex”

  1. December 2, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    when you have a man that tells you he loves you and is gonna stand by your side!!then e few months latee he tells you he dont know what he wants he doesnt even know hisself!…….4 TIMES

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