The relationship is over but you’re tempted to stay friends with your ex. If you had a solid friendship before you became romantic partners and you don’t want to lose it, the important thing is to tread carefully. Here are some pointers.
Avoid the need for closure. Maybe you never got closure. Maybe you can’t seem to move on from the breakup. Maybe you have loads of unanswered questions. If that’s the case, you should probably stay away from your ex. If you use the friendship as a way to try to get that closure, you’re being sneaky and making things weird, plus keeping yourself stuck in the past.
Don’t rush in. You know what they say about fools rushing in? Well, don’t be a fool by thinking you can go from breaking up one minute to having a solid friendship the next. You’ll need time to process the breakup so you don’t drag unresolved issues into your friendship.
Don’t hash things over. Yes, you should talk about the breakup as it can help you both heal. However, once that’s been sorted out, you don’t want your friendship to be a giant talk about your relationship and why it ended. What a snore fest. It’s history now—leave it in the past.
Treat your ex as a buddy. You should treat your ex the same way you treat your other platonic friends. That means you MUST avoid having sex or becoming FWBs. With a history of a relationship and maybe even love, a FWB setup can cause you unnecessary pain.
Question if they’re a good friend. Sometimes you think someone’s going to be an awesome friend, only to find out later that they’re really not. Don’t have blinkers when it comes to your ex—or new friend. See what they’re really like and if they treat you well. Some people stop being so caring and loving when they don’t have a hidden agenda, like wanting sex or love. Don’t just hold onto a friendship because the person was your beloved ex. People can wear very different masks…
Set boundaries. If you’ve recently come out of a breakup, you need boundaries with your ex. Maybe that means not talking about your respective love lives or people you’re seriously seeing. Maybe that means not hanging out alone for a while, or ever, if it feels uncomfortable.
Don’t fall into the old style. Maybe when you were dating you’d text each other every day or they’d confide in you about all their problems until you wanted to pull your hair out. Don’t think that just because you’re the same people that you should be acting as though you’re still in a relationship. You’re not. Create a new way of being, and treat each other like friends.
Avoid flirting. You might think it’s harmless to flirt with your ex, but sometimes it can start to make you feel those old prickly feelings again. If they can’t spend time with you or grab some beers with you without flirting, you have to wonder if they’re really ready to take things to the friendship level.
Put in the effort. Your friendship with your ex shouldn’t be different from the friendships you have with other people just because you’ve dated each other. You should still be a stand-up friend by remembering their birthday or asking how they’re feeling after a bout of bronchitis. Plus, don’t forget that your ex should be a good, supportive friend to you in return. Otherwise, it’s just not worth it.
Be real about it. This is tied to the previous point because you can’t really put in the effort to keep your friendship going if you’re not genuine about wanting the friendship in the first place. It’s all too common to fall into a friendship with your ex after your hellish breakup without really questioning why and if you even want this person to be part of your life. That’s why you need to take some time away from your ex before jumping into a friendship.
Don’t choose out of habit. Maybe you’re so used to spending time with this person and having regular contact with them that you fear not having them in your life. You might even fear being single so keeping your friendship with your ex alive could be a way to give you some of the perks of dating them. That’s depressing. You should be friends with them if you feel that they’re a good friend who will add value to your life. If you’re just keeping your ex around because you dread change and you don’t feel ready to let them go, that’s a really lousy foundation for a friendship.