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Can You Really Be Friends With Your Ex?

When a relationship ends there are usually so many different thoughts running through your head and so many feelings you are trying to process. One of the more common ones we try to make sense of is whether or not we can be friends with our ex. Truthfully, it is so hard to imagine having someone who in many cases is your best friend, all of a sudden no longer be a part of your life and yet breaking up can make it difficult to be around them in a healthy way.

So can you be friends right away with your ex? The answer is no. Here’s why:

For starters, regardless of how mutual the break up is, the feelings you typically have for each other are complicated. You only know each other as partners. Transitioning straight into a friendship is difficult because you aren’t used to having certain boundaries with one another that friendships typically have. For example, how your ex spends his/her time is up to him. As a friend you don’t get to expect that Friday night will always be reserved for you or that you will talk on the phone/text every day and night. If you don’t have these boundaries in place then the lines are being blurred. Yet if you do enforce these boundaries feelings typically get hurt because you feel disconnected and less important which indicates that what you are looking for from your ex are the things he used to give you as your boyfriend.

Additionally, everyone deals with breakups differently. Some people take time off from dating and process the breakup until they are feel okay. Others find it helps to distract themselves by being out all the time with friends and keeping busy. And still others can find the best solution to a broken heart is to mend it by being with someone new. Each serve a purpose and work in their own way but if you discover your ex is seeing someone new it is unlikely that it will feel good. Despite feeling really triggered and hurt by this, as his friend you don’t have any right to interfere or comment on his new relationship.

So what does all this mean? It means you need to take some space to be apart and to let go. You have to work through your life so you become authentically okay on your own before you can be okay with being friends with your ex. Both of you have to move on from the relationship, and this takes time. I know the old saying of “time heals all wounds” seems unsympathetic but it’s true. Our anxiety over losing someone can make us feel like we can’t afford to take the time to focus on ourselves. You can. This is the only thing that gives you the option of ever really having some type of friendship in the future. While there is no set time frame, I typically recommend everyone give themselves at least six months to a year to really be apart before trying to figure out IF you can build a relationship with your ex. By this point you have usually created enough space between you to have a healthy perspective on the relationship and to understand what your true needs are and if this person can meet them in a healthy way.

What’s the bottom line? Until you are completely happy in your own life, and your ex is completely happy in his, trying to make a friendship work right away is only going to make the breakup more difficult.

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