Can You Really Be Friends With Your Ex?

Relationships can be difficult, but navigating the post-breakup phase can be just as complicated. Many of you could probably attest to developing solid friendships with your ex, whereas the rest of you are probably shuddering at the thought of it. So let’s be real, is there a specific formula we have to follow? A rulebook? What’s the magic answer? Well, first of all the most important question you need to ask yourself is, do you even want to be friends with them? If the answer is no, then you probably have no reason to read any further. But, if you answered yes, let’s take a deeper dive into this controversial topic. 

But First… Do You Even Want To Be Friends?

To begin with, breakups can often be a traumatic experience, full of heartbreak and sorrow. If you’re lucky it can end as a mutual decision to move on. But either way, letting go of a significant other isn’t easy. So why do people even want to stay friends with their ex in the first place? Here are a few reasons:

  1. Our bodies form an attachment system over time, and when that period has to come to an abrupt end, it becomes difficult for us to readjust. The common solution for this is to remain friends, as a means to keep that person in your life instead of having to completely let go. As human beings, our comfort zone is a very sacred space, that more often than not, we don’t want to leave. Now, it is important to remember that maintaining a friendship post break-up is a very subjective process, depending almost entirely on the individual participants. This boundary can be very difficult to manage, especially since it has been previously crossed, hence, backtracking from that can be awkward and uncomfortable, resulting in many unsuccessful post break-up friendships. On the other hand, some individuals can overcome the awkward phase and come to a middle ground whilst also managing to move on (without any messiness). It’s not impossible, but there are several factors that impact the final outcome. The reason for the break up, the length of the relationship, the extent of the relationship e.g. marriage, children and so on, all play a role on whether or not a healthy friendship can actually be achieved. 
  2. Friend groups are another popular reason some couples choose to remain friends. Sometimes, friend groups become so intertwined that staying friends is the only option. Initially, you can’t instantly jump back into a normal friendship, but hanging out in groups or increasing social interactions in a wider setting can ease the transition, especially when you have a friend group that supports this move. In other cases, this may just be an entirely horrible option, in which case cutting ties is probably the answer. 

Can You Beat The Odds?

A common misconception however, is that remaining friends will just stay at that – friends. In many situations, the reflex response is to say “let’s be friends”. Either to ease the blow for your significant other, for the possibility of actually being friends or because you’re just kidding yourself. The problem is, going from an intimate relationship to a friendship like any other, can lead to prolonging complications. By this point, you have already formed a deeper connection and significantly increased communication. So the “let’s be friends” is more likely to turn into an on-again off-again relationship aka a sticky mess, until one party physically and emotionally moves on. 

It’s Important To Take Time Away From Each Other Before You Decide If You Want To Be Friends

‘Can you really be friends with your ex?’ –  the answer is yes and no. Coming to terms with the reasons for the breakup and forming the appropriate intentions to be in a healthy friendship are a good start. The next step should be to actually take a break from each other right after. Detach yourselves from one another on social media, don’t keep tabs on their daily whereabouts and give yourself some time to detox. Time is a very important factor, which allows you to recognise whether you’re even ready to be friends or if you’re happier apart. It is vital for both individuals to be on the same page and maintain a certain level of boundaries to avoid any unwanted mess, like cutting down communication and physical interactions. Unfortunately there’s no magic formula, you’ll just have to test it out for yourself to truly see. Just make sure you’re doing what feels right for you.

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