Can you really be friends with an ex?



Break-ups suck, there’s no doubt about it. You not only lose someone you may love/have loved, but you lose a friend and somebody that has shared however many months of your life.

A question I’ve often debated with friends, is this: can you really be friends with an ex? This always gets quite the mixed reaction. ‘Yes!’ some state enthusiastically while their counterparts roll their eyes and exclaim ‘uh no FUCKING way.’ Obviously everyone’s relationship is different and people hold different views on this matter. After getting a lot of viewpoints via social media and friends, here’s what I think it comes down to:

1) How long you dated for: It may be easier to be friends with someone you dated for 4 weeks as compared to one year. Likewise I’ve had friends that have dated for a year and their relationship literally fizzled into a friendship right before their eyes. The longer you date someone, generally the harder it may be to retain a friendship with them, because of the extended period time that they were in your life for.

2) Who broke up with who: ‘I hope we can still be friends..’ is a line often used by the person breaking up. I’ve used it and as soon as the cliche fell out of my mouth I wanted to slap myself, but I actually did mean it. I had been with the guy for three months and breaking up with him actually hurt both of us a lot but I knew it was something I had to do. I also knew I was scared to not have him in my life, and I wanted to still be friends. This is hardly ever smooth sailing. I know if I was broken up with, staying friends with that person would hardly be on the top of  my list of things to do. If it’s a mutual break-up, it may be easier to stay friends after. But is there really such thing as an absolute mutual break-up?

3) The reason for breaking up: Let’s just say if someone got cheated on, they’re probably not ready to jump into being besties with their ex. Ditto if someone is broken up with completely out of the blue. If it’s a thing that has been coming for some time and the romance has fizzled, there could be a higher chance of retaining that friendship. Moving away is also a tricky one: some people try to make the long distance work, others nip it in the bud. The majority of long-distance relationships I have seen at my age (22) have ended because it’s too hard.

4) How much time has passed: You’re probably not going to make the jump from love, sex and romance  to friendship in the space of a few weeks or even months. From personal experience a good few months apart will do both partners the world of good. That way you won’t battle conflicting feelings of whether you should be getting back together and you’ve given each other enough space to learn how to deal with being apart. This also gives you time to properly get over the break-up without having to worry about how to balance a friendship on top of that. It’s not unusual to be angry, upset or even hysterical over a break-up, and in most cases if you’re still trying to have that person in your life while you’re dealing with all those conflicting emotions, it’s probably going to get very messy. I broke up with my last serious boyfriend two years ago. Only now are we catching up as friends to have coffee, and even then it’s sporadic.

5) The intimacy level of your relationship: All relationships, like all people, are different. Maybe your partner and you never had sex? Potentially that’s easier to get over when you haven’t been physical with that person. There’s always that slightly awkward vibe in the air when you’re catching up with an ex and you have that fleeting ‘I’ve seen you naked’ thought. If this idea repulses you a little, then you’re well on the track to being in a comfortable friend-zone…depending on how they feel about it of course.

Another thing to think of was whether or not you were ‘in love.’ Personally,  I’ve never been in love with someone, so this may be why I’ve been able to maintain a friendship with ex’s. Love can take things to a whole new tricky level, and I won’t even begin to analyse that.

6) Aspects that could make a friendship tricky: Rebound hook-ups. Rebound sex. When one moves on before the other. Alcohol and being out together. Feelings of jealousy.

My personal theory is that rebound hook-ups/sex is okay for one final goodbye. But keep it within a 6 month time-frame. If you’re having rebound sex over a year after your break-up, with no plans to get back together with the person, you might want to reevaluate your life plans before things once again get messy. And not in that way.

One person moving on before the other is going to be a given. Regardless of who broke up with who, it still sucks. Someone else is making a person you used to care about happier than you can make them, and it’s natural for feelings of jealousy to arise from this.

I think the moment when you know you are truly over someone and ready to be their friend is when you don’t experience feelings of jealousy when they get in a new relationship or you see them with another girl/guy. Until then, you might want to re-think whether being friends is a safe option. Personally I’m of the viewpoint that if you’ve been in a serious relationship with someone that’s involved falling in love, you can be ‘acquaintances’ with them – as for being proper friends, I’m not completely sold on the idea that it works.

What do you guys think? Can you really be friends with your ex?

Article by Tahlia Pritchard who generally lives vicariously through her Sims love-lives.  For more weird and questionable behaviour, you can follow her on twitter here. 


3 thoughts on “Can you really be friends with an ex?

  1. You nailed it at the end with the line “I think the moment when you know you are truly over someone and ready to be their friend is when you don’t experience feelings of jealousy when they get in a new relationship or you see them with another girl/guy.”

    If any feelings of attraction or jealousy still exist between you and your ex then no, you definitely cannot be friends. I suppose the nature of the separation is also very important. I remain close with both of my ex’s because our break-ups were mutual and respectful.

    Your question is closely related to one I am asking people right now, ex or not, can men and women be just friends?

  2. I tried to maintain a frienship with my ex but he threw it in my face. Despite the actual break up being mutual and civil, as time went on he somehow ended up despising me. I have a feeling the new girlfriend may have had something to do with this, but the more I think about it, it is probably a good thing as we had been engaged and together for 3 1/2 years. Just don’t know how normal a friendship could have been…

    Great post!

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