If you and your partner have recently broken up, you may wonder whether or not it’s possible to one day be friends with them and whether that’s even a good idea.
On the one hand, it can be hard to suddenly cut off all contact with someone who was such a big part of your life. Particularly if it was a serious romantic relationship, it can be hard to just let go of the emotional and physical intimacy you had with the person.
On the other hand, you may be upset and angry with the person, which can make it hard for you to be friendly with them. You may have a lot of unresolved feelings toward them that you don’t quite know what to do with.
You might wonder if you can hold on to part of your previous connection, or reinvent your relationship in a new, platonic way.
There’s no right answer to this question and every situation is different. However, there are lots of factors to take into consideration when you’re deciding whether or not you should try to stay friends with your ex.
Verywell Mind asked Clarissa Silva, a behavioral scientist, relationship coach, and creator of ‘Your Happiness Hypothesis Method,’ to weigh in.
Why You Might Want to Be Friends With an Ex
These are some of the reasons why you might want to be friends with your ex:
You have common friends: If you and your ex have a lot of common friends, being at odds can make things awkward and difficult for everyone. Making an effort to be friends with each other can help you maintain social ties.
You’re co-parenting together: If you and your ex are co-parenting children together, staying on good terms with each other can help create a more stable environment for the kids.
You’re colleagues: If you and your ex are colleagues and work together, staying cordial and friendly can help prevent any friction in the workplace.
You have shared interests: If you and your ex-partner have shared interests or continue to participate in certain hobbies or activities together, it may be helpful to stay friends with each other.
You broke up amicably: If you and your ex parted ways amicably or for practical reasons, you may be happy to stay friends with them.
You have a foundation of friendship: If you and your ex were friends before you started dating, you may have a strong foundation of friendship. You may realize that the two of you are better off as friends than lovers. For instance, research shows that friends with benefits arrangements often dissolve amicably into friendship if the people were once good friends.
You’re not ready to let go: Sometimes, remaining friends with an ex helps to provide a sense of security because of the familiarity and emotional bond you developed over time, says Silva. It can be hard to let go of the emotional security of a relationship and you may try to find ways to retain that feeling.
You want closure: If you’re not entirely over the relationship, you may try to be friends with your ex in order to find closure.
When Is It a Good Idea?
Staying friends with an ex can be a good idea if you and your ex have:
Platonic feelings: You and your ex don’t have romantic feelings for each other anymore. You can have a platonic relationship and treat them as a friend, and nothing more.
Aligned goals: You’re both on the same page and genuinely want to be friends with each other.
Mutual support: You have mutual respect for each other and continue to be a source of support to one another.
Closure: You have both processed the breakup and don’t have any unresolved feelings toward each other. You have both moved on and may be seeing other people.
Emotional maturity: You are both emotionally mature enough to maintain a supportive friendship without emotional baggage or unrealistic expectations.
When Is It a Bad Idea?
On the other hand, trying to be friends with an ex may not be a good idea if:
Your ex was abusive or harmed you in any way.
You or your ex lied or cheated on each other and seriously hurt each other.
You still have feelings for your ex and you’re trying to get back together with them.
You know your ex still has feelings for you but you don’t feel that way anymore.
You’re feeling lonely and want comfort and attention.
You’re trying to prove that you’re over the relationship and doing well without them.
You’re trying to get gossip on what their life is like without you.
Sometimes, we fixate on our exes because we haven’t found a replacement or don’t want to go through the dating process, says Silva. “Trying to rekindle a friendship with your ex can help reveal why you chose to break up, by surfacing the incompatibility, toxicity, and negative emotions you faced when you were together.”
How Long Should You Wait?
If you and your partner have just broken up, you may wonder whether you should wait for some time before you try to be friends.
There isn’t exactly a right amount of time that will help your relationship become the ideal version you think it should be, says Silva. Rather, it depends on the circumstances of each individual relationship.
For instance, if your relationship was short-lived, you may not have been very emotionally invested in it. As a result, you may not have any hard feelings toward your ex and may be able to be friends with them with ease.
On the other hand, if you and your partner were in a serious long-term relationship that didn’t work out, or you had a particularly bad break-up, it may take both of you some time to process your emotions and achieve closure before you can be friends with each other.
How to Make It Work
These are some strategies that can help you successfully be friends with your ex.
Be Honest With Yourself
Before you commit to being friends with your ex, ask yourself the following questions:
Are you still in love with your ex and trying to get back together with them?
Are you still angry or upset with them?
What are you trying to get out of a friendship with them?
Do you genuinely believe you can have a healthy, platonic relationship with them?
Will you be all right when they start dating someone new?
It’s important to be honest with yourself about your feelings. Otherwise, trying to be friends with them could cause you more pain.
Avoid Reminiscing About Your Relationship
Although it may be difficult, try not to reminisce about your relationship with your ex, says Silva.
She explains that when you do so, you are only extracting the moments of the relationship you want to remember while ignoring the other parts of it. “This idealizes your ex-partner and creates a false sense of hope about how the person fits into your life.”
It’s important to set and maintain boundaries with your ex. Your friendship should not mimic the romantic relationship you had with them. By setting boundaries, you can ensure that lines are not being crossed.
This can sometimes be hard to do, because we tend to hold on to to what we have and know. While we’re in a relationship, we develop a physiological attachment to our partners that makes us want to remain attached, says Silva. She explains that this attachment is not really a desire for your ex, but rather a desire to be attached and loved.
Remaining in a pseudo-relationship under the guise of friendship delays your happiness because instead of seeking a fulfilling relationship with someone better suited to you, you tend to remain in a relationship of convenience with your ex, she adds.
Therefore, it’s important to distinguish this for yourself and set firm boundaries in your friendship with your ex, says Silva.
Accept That Things Are Different
Being friends with someone is not the same thing as dating someone. While it may be weird at first, you will gradually get used to the new dynamic over time. You will have to continually accept the fact that things are different now.