The burning question we often have post-breakup… Is being friends with an ex you still love really possible, without harboring hopes of a reconciliation?
Some say yes, some say no. I personally think it depends on whether you’ve come to terms with the end of the relationship, and it’s cemented in your mind that it truly is over. If you harbor feelings, you’ll always secretly hope that things change. If your ex meets someone new, it’s going to devastate you once more. In that case, perhaps friendship isn’t the best option for your heart and soul.
When a relationship ends…
When a relationship ends, whether amicably or otherwise, there are all manner of complicated and confusing emotions flying around. It can be hard to really pinpoint the way you’re feeling. If you’ve been together a long time, it’s almost like grieving the end of an era.
But if this relationship didn’t end in a dramatic and upsetting way *e.g. cheating or something similarly devastating*, the fact remains that you spent a lot of time with this person. You share memories. In that case, you might want to keep them in your life.
[Read: The questions you should ask yourself if your ex wants to be friends]
A firm shift must happen. For example, you should go from relationship zone to friends-only zone with a clear intention in mind. If you can do that, it’s totally possible to stay friends with someone you were once in a relationship with. Some love might remain, but if you know it’s not going to be, you’ll find your feelings fade as time goes on.
However, if you are completely and utterly in love with them, then the chances are that being friends will only lead you towards a hell of a lot of yearning and misery.
Life is complicated, right? [Read: 12 reasons why the no contact rule always works]
The steps towards being friends with an ex you still love
There is a process to follow if you want to transition from ‘we were together’ to ‘we’re just friends.’ It goes a little something like this:
– Give yourself space and get over the end of the relationship
– Avoid rebound booty calls
– Ask yourself why you want to be friends
– Set some boundaries
– Have a discussion about the end of the relationship and put a line underneath it
[Read: 15 questions you need to ask yourself when your ex wants to be friends]
It sounds simple, but in practice it’s actually harder than you might think.
Firstly, give yourself time to actually get over the end of the relationship. If you weren’t the one doing the ending, then it’s likely that you want to remain friends with them because it retains a connection. In this case, you’ll likely want to rekindle the union at some point. You harbor hopes of things ending up perfect. Reality is that the relationship ended for a reason.
Giving yourself time means you can be at peace with the ending. While you still have feelings, you learn how to manage them *e.g. keeping yourself busy, distraction, and possibly meeting someone new at some point*.
By giving yourself space, you clear your mind of any longing. Longing isn’t good, people!
Secondly, be on high alert for rebound booty calls. Do not sleep with them again! You might want to, in fact you might desperately want to, but being friends with an ex you still love is not possible if you keep a sexual connection.
Again, that is your subconscious way of holding onto the past and not moving on. Not healthy! Friends with benefits might work for some people, but if feelings are involved then it can become very, very messy, very quickly. [Read: A guide to sex with your ex – when it’s okay and when it’s not]
Why do you want to be friends with your ex?
Once you can look back over things more rationally and your emotions are a little less raw, ask yourself why being friends with an ex you still love is so important to you. Why do you want to keep this person in your life? Is there a reason behind it, or is it as simple as it sounds?
The only acceptable reason for keeping this person in your friendship circle is because you enjoy spending time with them. It shouldn’t be because your feelings are leading you towards thinking that a future might be in the cards with them.
Ask yourself how you are going to feel if they meet someone new. Let’s face it, it’s totally possible. If you’re okay with this, go ahead and be friends. If it gives you a panic attack, it’s not time to enter the friend zone just yet. [Read: Should I talk to my ex? 15 simple questions for a revealing answer]
Boundaries are vital
You’ve grieved the end of your relationship, and you’re sure you want to keep your ex in your life. Now, think about boundaries. This vital step will help you retain your sanity and ensure that you don’t end up crushed by a future meeting between your ex and their next partner.
These boundaries aren’t difficult. Firstly, do not sleep with them ever again. Sex will mean feelings. If you’re working hard to manage them, it will set you back. Secondly, don’t spend time alone together at first. Make sure that you stick to social settings where you are with them, but not closely associated. A mutual group of friends going to a party is a good example of the right type of setting.
The final step is communication. Wait until you’ve been around each other a few times before you attempt a discussion, just to see how being close to them once more makes you feel. Only then can you really decide whether being friends with an ex you still love is a suitable option for you. Some people can’t do it, and that’s totally fine. [Read: How to be friends with an ex without any complications]
You cannot be friends with this person in a healthy and progressive way until you’re able to talk about the reasons for the relationship ending and you draw a firm line underneath it. To gain the closure you need, an adult conversation needs to be had.
If you attempt this and it turns into a blame game, it’s not the right time or the right option for you to be friends. If you can talk about it and reflect, agreeing that spending time together as friends only is something you both want, go for it. [Read: How to set boundaries and feel more in control of your life]
Does love really fade?
The problem with this topic isn’t the being friends part of the deal, but the fact that you still love your ex. It’s completely normal to still have feelings for someone long after a relationship has ended. Unless you can completely be at peace with the reality that you’re not going to be together in the future, a friendship is simply a way to hang on to the past. Healthy friendships are a good thing but know that your motivation is true.
Love does fade eventually. Sharing space with the person that you have feelings for isn’t going to speed up the process. In this case, keeping your distance until you feel that you have a firm handle on your feelings is the only way to ensure that you can keep this person in your life as a friend.
[Read: 20 firm ways to get over someone without falling apart]
Being friends with an ex you still love is a contentious subject. Some can do it, some can’t. If you try and find that it’s hurting your heart to be around them, there is no shame in admitting defeat and walking away.
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