In a perfect world, we’d all be buddies with our ex-boyfriends after breaking up. We put time into getting to know them — might as well be the better person and try to maintain a friendship, right? Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as you think. If you’re looking to stay friends with an ex, these are the things that have to happen first.
You need to be okay with him dating someone else. That’s what friends do — they date other people. If you get jealous over the fact that he’s flirting with another girl, you’re obviously not over him romantically. And if you’re hoping that through the friendship he’ll “realize he’s been in love with you all along,” you need to get your head out of the sand. Your life isn’t a ’90s-era romantic comedy, and you’re not being an actual friend here. You’re trying to set up a situation that might not naturally exist.
You need to stop talking about your romantic life with him. Know what friends don’t talk about? The times they’ve had sex. Bringing it up is actually a little awkward to everyone around you. Just pretend you’re in a group situation (which is pretty likely if you’re hoping to remain friends — obviously you may have a group in common). Joking about how the two of you used to bang puts everyone in a tough spot. Especially him.
You need to forgive him. Hopefully you two just wanted different things in life and the parting wasn’t based on cheating. But if it was? Well, you’re going to need to get over it and start fresh if you’re hoping to stay friends. Good friendships don’t start with a major grudge, even if it’s somewhat legitimate. If things ended with you in tears, it’s probably just best to block him on social media and move on with your life.
You need to separate assets entirely. If you weren’t married, you probably don’t share finances. But you may have shared a Netflix account. In order to move forward, you need to make sure all of that stuff is cut off. Otherwise, you’re starting a friendship with weird terms. Prove to him that you’re capable of signing up for your own grocery store rewards card before starting up a friendship.
You can’t introduce him as “your ex-boyfriend.” Surely when you date someone new, you may want to disclose the information to your new dude if you don’t want him to feel a little out of the loop. But if you’re in a situation with friends, you need to make sure to introduce him by name, and not a title. Yes, it’s true — he is your ex. But if he’s also your friend, that role comes before any romantic role in situations moving forward.
You can’t purposely intimidate his next girlfriend. Most girls aren’t cool with their new boyfriend being so close to their ex. You need to do your best to break this stereotype, and let her know that you’re not a threat. In fact, get to know her a little bit, and take away some of the intimidation. It should go without saying that starting sentences with “Well, when I dated John” is a little off-putting. I mean, unless she asks you directly, the comparison is kind of weird.
You’ve got to set realistic expectations. You can’t be BFFs with this guy the day after your breakup. Seriously — you just can’t. In fact, for awhile, you might just be acquaintances at the same party. And that’s just fine. You want to take baby steps with this if you actually want it to work.
You need to be separated from the relationship long enough and actively dating someone else. If he’s your last boyfriend, consider this changeover doomed. Even if you swear you’ve moved on, you might not have. When you think of “boyfriend” or “crush,” he’ll be the first person who comes to mind because he was the last person to fit those roles. Really, it also proves to him that you’re moving forward. Both distance and dating show that you’re ready to move on and have him play a brand new role.
You need to be fine if he doesn’t text you back. Boyfriends text you back immediately, but friends often get a pass. If they didn’t, your group text with your girlfriends would be going off 24/7 (and not 15/7, like it does now). He’s not dating you anymore, so really, he owes you nothing. Even if you two were inseparable before, things have changed, and you need to be able to accept that.
You need to back away from his family. If you and his mother were super tight back then, I have some bad news for you: breaking up means that the relationship with his parents will also deteriorate. You’re not their daughter and have ended the possibility of becoming their daughter-in-law. It sucks, I know. If and when a friendship develops, you can obviously still chat with them, but you need to set boundaries, because if not, it’s not fair to him or anyone he dates afterward. Since you have an “in,” it might cause his mom to compare you to women her son dates after you. And that’s not a very “friendly” thing to do.
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