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How to be Friends With an Ex


Can you be friends with an ex? It’s an age old question with one very popular answer: NO.  Well I’m hear to counter that notion and to tell you that yes, exes can be friends.

How do I know this? Well one of my exes is actually now one of my best friends, as well as my business partner. That’s right, I’m talking about Eric Charles, our beloved relationship guru. Once upon a time, Eric and I we were in a very serious relationship, and, without going into too many of the gory details, we had a seriously awful breakup.

Whenever I tell people I started this site with my ex, I get the same horrified look followed by the same burning question: “HOW?!”

And most people just assume we started the site while we were together and are now stuck in some sort of joint custody nightmare. Nope. We started the site long after our relationship ended and soon after our new-found friendship came to be. Eric isn’t the only ex I’ve been able to be friends with, there actually are a few of them.

I’m not gonna lie, being friends with an ex isn’t easy. You may find yourself re-living all the hurt and pain of the breakup (and does anyone wanna go through that nightmare twice?!), you may experience a level of jealousy you never thought existed within you,  and feelings that you’ve long since buried can abruptly be woken from the dead unleashing a whole Pandora’s Box worth of pain and problems.

However, there are also great benefits. First, it’s really wonderful to have someone who was once so important to you back in your life. There is a great comfort in having someone who knows exactly who you are, good and bad, and just gets you. You can also find peace and closure. Maybe you’ll get answers to the questions that have been haunting you. Maybe you’ll find that you are 100% over your ex and can look back and laugh at the fact that you once so staunchly believed you would never be able to live without this person. Or, you can find yourselves on a very exciting journey, like starting a website for instance!

So now the answer to the question I’ve gotten a million times before, how can you be friends with an ex? Well, here it goes….

GET DISTANCE
You can not break up and then go out for coffee as pals the next day, or even the next week, or the next month. You need distance first and a lot of it (Eric and I went 2 years with zero contact!). You need to get your life back on track first, and this life can not include that one person who was once at the forefront of everything for a while.

You need time to heal and cry and analyze and mourn. It’s a painful, brutal process but there’s no way around it. Before you reach out to an ex, you simply must learn how to live, and how to be happy in this life, without him. You need to accept that it didn’t work back then and it probably won’t now.

FORGIVE AND FORGET
If you still have hurt feelings/anger/resentment and questions that are still unanswered, it may help to air it all out to your ex after taking that first step and reaching out (or once things get a little more comfortable). Whether you get the answers you wanted to hear or not, you need to forgive and forget and force those ugly feelings to dissipate if you ever want to develop a normal friendship with your ex.

The quickest way to kill a new friendship is by bringing the past into your present so make sure you are truly ready to leave all the sad and bad stuff behind.

UNDERSTAND AND ACCEPT WHY IT DIDN’T WORK AND WON’T WORK
Before you can be friends with an ex, you need to wholly accept that a romantic relationship just isn’t in the cards. You tried but it didn’t work out, plain and simple.Do not try and justify why the relationship will work now even though it didn’t work then.

Yes, sometimes exes can get back together and start anew but we’re talking about friendship here and if you are really committed to being friends, you need to abandon all thoughts and hope of a romantic reconciliation and focus on a new future rather than a redo of the past.

ABANDON ALL ATTRACTION
To be friends with an ex, you need to have friendly feelings, not sexual ones. Now this one is the hardest steps to master because this person is someone who you were once very strongly attracted to and intimate with. Having feelings of attraction for your ex is a slippery slope that will most likely end with you getting hurt.

To develop a truly profound, realistic friendship with an ex, feelings on both end must be completely platonic. This means you can’t get jealous when he dates other girls, you can’t flirt, you can’t hold hands, kiss, cuddle, and absolutely no sex (I don’t care how many drinks deep you are, there is no such thing s casual sex with an ex, trust me!).

KEEP DATING
Dating other people that is! Do not abandon your love life just because an old love is back in the picture. Once the pressures of a relationship are replaced with the comfort of a friendship, it becomes way too easy to idealize the past and allow yourself to think maybe, possibly, potentially, this friendship will turn into something more… No, no, no!

Waiting around for your ex to fall back in love with you is not friendship, in fact, it’s more like emotional warfare. So keep dating, keep playing the field, and above all, keep yourself open to the possibility of finding love with someone else.

ASK YOURSELF WHY YOU WANT THIS FRIENDSHIP
Before you even make the first move and reach out to your ex, ask yourself why you really want to be friends with him. And don’t just ask yourself this- sit with it, mull over it, talk about it with your girl friends and most of all, be honest with yourself.

Do you want him to fall for you so you can reject him like he rejected you? Do you want him to tell you he never stopped loving you? Is the whole ‘lets be friends’ a cover for ‘let’s get back together’? If the answer to any of these questions is yes then you are not over your ex and need to follow all the steps outlined above before you can even think about being friends.

Unrequited love is the most painful pill to swallow,  one that you will most likely find yourself choking over if you establish a friendship with your ex before you are actually able to see him as a friend.

So there you have it. That is how to be friends with an ex. Do you think you’d be able to do it? Are you friends with any of your exes? Have any more suggestions that weren’t on the list? Talk to us in comments!

– SABRINA ALEXIS

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mj

I’m trying to be friends with my ex who is married with 2 kids, we have a daughter too prior that he got married, I thought it was already a good start we both agreed that we stay friends, but it seems I’m not sure if I made something wrong or he just don’t want us to be friends…no consistency…we talked then after that he no longer reply on my messages. :( I don’t know what to do. I love the idea of making friends with ex for good without bad intentions really.

Reply June 11, 2014, 4:12 am

Gail

I am seeing a guy (7 months) who is friends with his ex wife. They were married for 10 years. It is difficult for me because they text back and forth more than him and I do..of course I see him and she doesn’t but our texts are truncated compared to theirs. Their texts are about a show that he likes is starting the season and she is reminding him, or who he picks on the Bachelor tv show, and even personal stuff like him having minor surgery and her also having to have minor surgery and how she doesn’t have a ride home, etc. she wasn’t hinting he bring her home cause he lives too far away but she was looking for sympathy and always has to “up one” from him. He knows she is seeing someone and tells me she probably already has him moved in..but I don’t know if she even knows HE is seeing someone let alone seriously. I have no way to know if she knows and how much she knows and don’t want to show a jealous side by asking him.. He asked me once not to ask him not to be friends with his ex and I told him as long as it was not inappropriate I wouldn’t.. I don’t know when it MAY be inappropriate because he rarely shares any information about his communication with her..if he were to bring me into that world and share more then I would be ok with their contact. He says he would never go back with her, but she was the one that rejected him and I am not sure he is over his hurt. He says he wants to be friends cause he feels sorry for her..says she doesn’t make friends that easily (seems she made a boyfriend pretty easily). Seems she played the pity party with him through their marriage..
Anyway, it may be possible to be friends with an ex but if you have anyone else in your life in order for this to be fair you need to tell them about the texts and kinda what is said.. Not word for word but don’t leave the other person in your life guessing and feeling like the third person in the relationship..also you need to show that you have told your ex you are seeing someone else..not for you but for your new love to be comfortable with this friendship.. Not everyone feels like this but those of us that have some insecurities about the unknown do..recognize this.

Reply June 9, 2014, 9:22 am

Anonymous

Frankly while it might be possible to be friends with the ex, I am not sure its fair for the new relationship. My now fiance is friend with his ex, tells me nothing is ever going to happen between them, its platonic etc, which I do believe. but still it hurts me to see him have that relationship with that woman that should be in his past. I dont like to see that woman that was in bed with him, or that they might have inside jokes, or that he would ask her for advice instead of me. Its just my opinion I respect everyone elses, I just wanted to give another point of view, that it can put a weight on your future relations as well..

Reply December 12, 2013, 9:51 am

Missy

I get the crazy faces too when I tell people that I am friends with my ex-husband. They look at me as if I have killed someone. My ex and I married to young and way to fast and we did not get an opportunity to become friends first. After 10 years of marriage and twins, we called it quits. It hurt bad but it made me realize that I needed this break. Now after a year of being divorced, I am the most happiest I have ever been and plus me and my ex have become great friends. I mean we have kids together so for us, it is important to show them that even though we are not together anymore, we can still carry on a conversation in a civilized manner. I have learned a lot and plus, I like the attention that I am getting from other guys :). so for me life is good, better than what I had expected…and no it doesn’t bother me seeing my ex with other females either…

Reply July 30, 2013, 6:56 pm

Camille

I would like to be friends with my ex because I feel an unconditional bond regardless if we our in a boy/girlfriend relationship. I just want him to understand what friendship is so that it can happen. We had it before we got in a relationship.

Reply May 7, 2013, 9:55 pm

Jessi

I had my heart broken five days ago, and it’s been really difficult. We still live together, and I don’t feel like I should kick him out since he paid for half the rent. He’s been really nice about the whole thing. He’s doing things to distance himself because he thinks it’ll help my healing process. I’m distraught over the relationship ending, but I’m also terrified that this breakup will ruin how close we used to be. I know it won’t be like it was when we were dating and he loved me back, but I still want a friendship. He’s become my best friend and my rock, and I can’t imagine a future where he’s not there for me to talk to. It’s so hard.

Reply March 6, 2013, 12:37 pm

AMarie

I am friends with all of my ex boyfriends…sometimes as soon as 1 month after the breakup. I think it’s important as stated in this article to make sure to give it space. I might try to start the friendship 1 month after with a coffee or something small, but then not speak again for a month or so until I feel no romantic connection to them anymore. Good luck, and for all of those websites out there that say you can’t… that’s a lie! I did it, and trust me I’ve had my heart broken by a couple of these guys when things didn’t work out; like not getting out of bed because I’m devastated heartbroken, and we’re great friends now. Funny enough, one of my exes (whom I dated seriously for 3 years) and I started an NGO for water treatment in developing countries.

Reply January 3, 2013, 8:43 pm

Sam

Thank you SO much for this, I’m going through a period in my life where I’m wondering if my first ex and I can be friends. He wants to remain good friends and so do I, but the problem is he’s seeing someone else (somebody he’s known longer) and I…well, having had my first ever break-up recently, I’m going through a slow stage of grief. This is only compounded by the fact that I’m currently attending school and have a TREMENDOUS burden placed upon me by that work, so I’m not even 100% certain if that’s what is bothering me (the breakup) or if it’s my sloppy work ethic and horrible attention span which are making me upset, thus causing me to project those feelings onto that specific issue, though I’m obviously leaning a bit more towards the former. I really loved reading this, and again I thank you very very VERY much. I’ll hopefully be going abroad in the spring and getting away from here for 4-5 months, which will hopefully give me plenty of time to recuperate and clear my mind.

Reply October 21, 2012, 6:31 am

Olga

What about when a couple still own property and stuff? My guy is in constant contact with his ex because of unsold, joint property together, plus they’re friends most of the time. I like her a lot, but she’s a pain in the ass in truth because she wants to remain very close with all his family, and he himself. To me there is a lot of acting going on. They have to remain in each other’s good books to work through all the financial equations, decisions. I’ve been pretty tolerant I think but at times this flares into a full scale row between my guy and me. My gut feeling keeps telling me this is going to go on for years and years. We’re all strong personalities, she didn’t want to be in a room with me for about 3 years. I feel she should just drop the need for emotional closeness, buddy buddy bullshit and let us get on with it, whilst keeping a healthy distance, but she always can find genuine reasons for keeping it closer than I’m that comfortable with. He’s very defensive over the whole issue. Very. Should I just amicably, though sadly, withdraw or benevolently give them all the space they need to deal with the practical fall-out of their separation? I know he doesn’t feel romantic toward her but he certainly feels a strong fondnessfor her, hell! I’m fond of her myself.

Reply October 10, 2012, 1:29 am

miki

so my “ex” we were together for all of 2.5 months (short relationship) he moved in and all. all off a sudden he pulled away and things turned bad. I deal with Anxiety (sever anxiety disorder) and am now back on my meds and seeing my psych. The problem is whilst we tried the dating thing, took seperate rooms and all when ever we were hnging out his messaging his ex on facebook. Ive become jealous and all that, felt used as i helped him out when he needed somewhere to live and now it feels like i’m no longer good enough for him. I know he did not mean for this to happen and he just does not know what he wants but both him and the other ex have hurt me more than they can imagine.
We are trying to just be friends as we live together in a share-house but I just don’t know how to get past this all. Im scared o put myself out there again with anyone. I was falling inlove with him, we were talking about the life we were going to build. I really want to be friends with him but in the situation we are in I don’t know how we can move to that… neither off us can afford to move out as it is, ad neither of us want to. I have lost all trust in him even as a mate because of his other ex ad how I feel she has interfered between us. He talks to her about everything. I know his not going o work on figuring things out and if im honest i dont want to be with someone who cant respect me enough to keep some things private, or consider my feelings. the past 2 months have really been all about what he needs, and wants. However I do want him in my life SO what can I do :(

I am taking 3 months out without dating to work on me buts thats all i have figured out.

Reply August 1, 2012, 11:40 pm

uma

Hi Sabrina,

its great that at least one site that i googled tells me that i can be friends with my ex as long i dont cross my limits you know the best thing is you can talk to them anything on this earth bcoz they know u better than ur husband’s my ex is going through a terrible divorce and he lost his father couple of months back i am glad i could be there for him and could talk to him and comfort him as well even though we didnt meet and you know after many years i feel really good from the bottom of my heart

Reply July 17, 2012, 2:49 am

CatherineTheGreat//rosaleeavelin at Experience Project

My ex husband is still friends with me, and no sex ever. My new husband has a number of ex girlfriends around.. for him it’s a way to attain his narcissistic supply, he has a “self-love addiction.” Before I realized all this, it was too late, I married him and now we are living seperately; I eventually coudn’t take his cheating. We don’t always know the real reasons for wanting to stay friends with our exes, sometimes I suspect fear, or low self esteem, or perhaps we may be “relationship addicted” with abandonment issues. This is indeed a very delicate situation, and one to be taken very seriously…many can get hurt. Is it worth it?

Reply January 28, 2012, 2:48 am

Andreea

Hey Sabrina, thank you very much for sharing this with us! I have a very similar case here, and I just want to agree and to add that it can take even more then two years to stop re-thinking how, if, why it went wrong, could it work again. You really need distance.

The answer is simple: Quit your ex and win a really good friend, someone that can become a part of your family.

Reply August 24, 2010, 6:10 am

Cara

Great post! Thanks for sharing!

Reply July 23, 2010, 12:54 pm

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