Can You Ever Be Friends with an Ex

If you’ve gone through a tough breakup, you know how hard it can be to let go. Maybe we can be friends? You ponder as you strategically like an Instagram selfie she took with her new boyfriend.

I’m not going to tell you how to live your life (okay, maybe I will). But I will say this: unless your post-breakup mindset meets certain criteria, your attempts at being friends with your ex will likely end with you on a boat with your hands up, mere feet away from international waters. Wait, that’s the outcome of a different dumb plan.

Outlook is good if…

The Breakup was Mutual

When the time came to call it quits, you looked at each other knowingly. There was no yelling, no crying, just a shared understanding that things weren’t working out. One of you started the conversation but you both felt relieved, knowing that the two of you could finally move on.

If there truly are no hard feelings, it’s perfectly fine to stay friends. Just be sure enough time has passed and that you’ve worked out the details of your split. If it wasn’t the result of mutual hatred, but rather a slow realization that you’re just not compatible as a couple, there’s no reason to deprive yourself of someone awesome.

You’ve Both Moved On

It’s been nearly a year since you and your ex have seen one another. You run into her at a party and even though it took you months to get over the breakup, there are no hard feelings. She’s happy to chat with you and fill you in on life with her new partner. You’re happy for her and proceed to tell her all about your new relationship too.

Provided both new partners know about it and aren’t super jealous, it’s probably fine to be friends. Proceed with caution, though. Go for a quick coffee the first time you meet up, just to see if things feel casual and effortless, like the first time you bumped into each other. If things are strained, or there’s sexual tension, hold off on further contact for a while.

Outlook is bad if…

Feelings Remain

You try to deny it, but part of you still holds out hope that she’ll see the mistake she’s made and come back to you. Going no contact feels like the worst kind of torture, and you begin to wonder if starting a friendship with her will ease all your pain. You’re convinced you can handle it. Maybe friends are what you were meant to be?

When in pain, our brains play tricks on us in a bid to feel better. You might find yourself thinking, she didn’t really mean that. I’m sure she still wants me, but she’s just scared to admit it. Or, I felt awful yesterday but feel fine now. Maybe I should call her? All I can say is, DON’T DO IT! Take some time to heal and come to terms with the reality of your new situation.

One or Both of You is Really Lonely and Horny

You’ve dated since the breakup, but nothing has lasted very long, or given you the same kind of satisfaction you experienced with your ex. You tell yourself you just want to hang out, but deep down you hope that you might end up in bed together. She calls you and starts to reminisce about all the hot sex you used to have. You know it’s a bad idea to go back there, but it’s exciting to think about.

Transitioning from a relationship to friends with benefits is a recipe for pain. I know it’s tempting to return to something familiar when you’re desperate for a little human contact, and you’re afraid to put yourself out there again, but trust me when I say it’s not going to offer you the comfort you seek, at least not for very long. If you really want to be friends, encourage one another to date other people. Build your friend up, and move on.

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