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Friends with an Ex: 56 Reasons, Signs When It’s Okay or Not & More Secrets!

The question everyone wants answers to: can you be friends with your ex and avoid falling back into bed with them? It’s tricky, but it can be done! 

can you be friends with your ex

The chasm between lovers and exes is wide, and for good reason. Can you be friends with your ex? Sure, but it’s not the easiest thing in the world. You’ll need to make sure that you’re ready so you’re not going to end up in pain all over again.

Learning how to be friends with your ex takes time and plenty of know-how. Remember, this person saw you naked, you adored them once upon a time, and at some point, they’re probably going to meet another person and fall in love. Can you handle it?

Maybe you can and maybe you can’t, but it’s important to think carefully before cementing a friendship with someone you once had feelings for. [Read: How to get over a broken heart in 15 steps]

When a relationship ends…

When a relationship ends, there are 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.

If you want to keep your ex in your life, 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.

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?

The benefits of being friends with an ex

Being friends with someone that you’ve shared so much with can be beneficial to you both. Once enough time has passed, rekindling a friendship with an ex can be a positive decision. 

Not only can it help you to work on forgiveness and letting go of the past, but having someone in your life that knows you so well may give you insights that may be valuable in future relationships.

Being friends with an ex shows your maturity, the strength of character, and ability to heal. Whether the relationship was long-term or not, having that person in your life can bring a lot of joy. 

Perhaps you just make each other laugh like no one else can. Losing that just because it didn’t work out romantically doesn’t quite make sense, does it? By being friends, you get to hold onto the good things about each other. [Read: The questions you should ask yourself if your ex wants to be friends]

Scenarios when can you be friends with an ex

Let’s take a look at the types of situations when staying friends with an ex is a good idea, and when it might actually bring benefits and happiness to your life.

1. You’re single and the sex was awesome

Let’s face it. Sometimes, you may have a terrible emotional connection with your ex. But the sex could have been awesome.

No harm’s ever come off two exes turned sex buddies with no emotional connection. But do put an end to it when you think you’re ready for a real relationship, or if any feelings start to develop. [Read: Things to know before having sex with your ex]

2. When there’s mutual back-scratching

Both of you may have drawn swords out while you were in the relationship. But now that it’s over, do both of you need each other for emotional support or to succeed in life? Do you work together or have a few sticky situations that need both of you to stay friends?

3. You’re like siblings

If you were in a relationship where sex was nonexistent, then you should have no problems being friends. After all, sexual attraction is the biggest distraction for exes trying to be friends.

Get that out of the way, and you can be friends or even like siblings!

4. It was a happy breakup

Well, happy may be an exaggeration here. But was it a mutual breakup because you felt like the relationship wasn’t giving you the happiness that you both deserved?

Mutual and happy breakups are easy to turn into friendship. [Read: Relieved after breaking up? 20 happy reasons why it’s a very good sign]

5. The sexual tension has dropped

You may have been in a long-term relationship, and after a while, the sex may have started to feel more like a weekly or monthly chore than a pleasure.

If you’ve just broken up from a relationship where you’re more attracted to someone else than your partner, it’s safe to buy each other friendship bands.

6. There are lots of mutual friends

If you share a lot of common friends and don’t really want to separate your friends or create an awkward get-together when you bump into your ex, perhaps it’s better to stay friends. Of course, you can still stay friends and keep your distance, can’t you?

7. You bump into each other all the time

Do you work in the same office? Do you live next to each other or are both of you neighbors? If you find that you have no option but to meet each other all the time, perhaps it’s better to raise a peace flag and friend each other on Facebook.

You could just wave or say “Hi,” or even have a conversation once in a while.

8. When there’s a lot to gain

Have you just broken up with your boss or someone who can potentially give you a leg up or open a lot of big doors in your life? This is just dirty and you’re being friends for all the wrong reasons, but hey, this is life.

If you can work for someone you hate, can’t you stay friends with your ex? [Read: 22 sane steps to recover and feel better after a breakup one day at a time]

Scenarios when you can’t be friends with an ex

We’ve looked at the positives, but there are some situations in life when staying friends with someone you regularly bumped uglies with is a very bad idea.

1. You had an on/off romance

If you find yourself getting confused over your feelings for your ex-turned-lover-turned-ex all the time, perhaps it would be best to avoid becoming friends with them.

2. You’re madly in love with them

You may have put up a brave face and mutually broken up with your ex, but when you look back at the relationship, do you wish you were still in it? Sometimes, a relationship needs a breakup to really understand its real value.

But unless your ex wants to date you again, don’t stay in touch with them. [Read: Reasons why the no contact rule always works]

3. You can’t bear the thought of your ex being with someone else

It’s not jealousy. In fact, you know for certain that you would never want to date your ex ever again. But somewhere deep inside, you can’t stand to see your ex in someone else’s arms.

This is a confusing emotion to experience, but don’t worry, you’re not alone. Just stay away and lose all touch with your ex.

4. There is nothing to gain

Really, is there any point in staying in contact with an ex or staying friends if you really can’t gain anything out of the new relationship? [Read: 43 must-knows to deal with a breakup & move on from your ex-relationship]

5. Your ex is annoying

Is your ex an annoying pest who needs you to nanny them even after breaking up? Do they call you and ask for help or favors all the time?

If your ex still needs you as a personal assistant, there’s really no reason in being friends and demeaning yourself.

6. Your ex dumped you

While it’s acceptable to stay friends after a mutual breakup, it’s just not acceptable to stay friends with someone who walked out on you and left you with a broken heart. And don’t even consider it if your ex cheated on you!

7. You’re jealous of your ex

You may have broken up with your ex, but are you ready to give them up to someone else? If you’re secretly in love or find yourself getting tormented by annoying visions of your ex dating someone other than you, there’s just no point in being friends. [Read: How to stop feeling jealous of your ex]

8. You’re single and looking for love

Are you single and desperately looking for love? If you miss being in love and are having a hard time finding the right person, avoid being friends with your ex.

Even if you’re friends already, stay away from your ex for a while until you can find someone you truly appreciate. [Read: How to find love again after a breakup]

Reasons to not stay friends with an ex

Aside from the previously mentioned scenarios, consider these other reasons why staying friends with an ex may not be a great idea…

1. They’re your ex for a reason

As healthy or cathartic as you think staying friends with your ex is, remember that you are no longer together for a reason.

But suddenly those qualities that used to make you crazy, or hurt your feelings now don’t seem so bad. Do you know why? Because you’re not dealing with them anymore.

All the reasons it didn’t work out should definitely beat out the reason to cave in and stay in touch, no matter how much you miss your ex. [Read: Ways to resist the urge to call your ex]

2. They’ve seen you naked

Let’s be honest, your ex has seen you naked. Carrying on a friendship with someone who has seen you in the buff is usually considered a big no-no. Why? Aren’t we all adults here?

Unfortunately, no. Being friends with someone who has seen you in your birthday suit can only call for future disaster. At one point or another, you’re going to remember their touch, kiss, passion, dirty make-up sex, and that one drunken night you did that thing you swore you’d never do.

What’s worse is… You may be tempted to have a repeat session. [Read: Surefire ways to stay friends after having sex]

3. You may become friends with benefits when you don’t want to

Those late nights buddying it up post-breakup build so much sexual tension, one of you is bound to crack. Then you’re dealing with booty call rules, the morning after *call or not to call*, developing feelings, anger, jealousy, confusion amongst mutual friends, the list goes on… [Read: Brilliant casual relationship tips]

4. You may stay in love

While staying friends may sound ideal, the simple fact is that it isn’t good for your psyche. This new, incomplete version of your “relationship” may only leave you frustrated, especially if you weren’t the one who wanted the relationship to end.

In fact, instead of taking that much-needed step of hatred, you might actually stay in love with them. What’s fun about that? [Read: Reasons you shouldn’t be in an on-off relationship]

5. Your new partner will hate them

No one, especially your new beau, wants to know that you’re still hanging out with your ex. Whether or not you’re the one who broke it off, your new lover won’t be too happy knowing you’re still having play-dates with someone who used to make you come.

This kind of information can be intimidating for new relationships. After all, who wants to compete with all that history? [Read: Things you shouldn’t talk about in a new relationship]

Signs you’re ready to be friends with your ex after a breakup

We’re all about making balanced, careful decisions here. So, while there are certainly many reasons why staying friends with an ex might not be a good choice, you might manage to pull it off. It certainly happens.

If you can agree with the following signs, you may be able to pull this friendship off.

1. It’s the friendship that you miss, not the sex

2. You no longer think of them romantically

3. The relationship ended on safe and not-overly-chaotic terms

4. You’ve forgiven each other for anything hurtful [Read: How to forgive someone who hurt you and release the negativity inside]

5. The idea of them dating other people doesn’t make you feel terrible

6. You’re not playing mind games over social media

7. Enough time has passed and you both feel at peace

Signs you’re not ready to be friends with your ex after a breakup

But if you notice these signs, stay far away from your ex and do not attempt to be friends yet, or ever.

1. You’re still feeling hurt or angry and you’re still dealing with other unresolved feelings

2. You can’t talk about your ex without getting worked up [Read: How to deal with guilt and drop the baggage weighing you down]

3. The thought of your ex dating someone else sends you into a tailspin

4. You’re fantasizing about getting back together

5. You’re feeling lonely

6. You’re digging for information about your ex on social media or from mutual friends

7. You’re waiting for your ex to become the person you wanted them to be when you were together

How to be friends with an ex

Okay, we’ve explored both sides and by now you might have a leaning toward being friends. If that’s the case, good for you. But, there are some steps you need to take to make sure that the friendship remains intact and you don’t go crazy in the process.

Learning how to be friends with an ex is a process, and if you start to notice feelings creeping back in, it would be wise to back off for a while. [Read: 16 types of friendships, benefits, and how many you need to be happy in life]

1. Reconnect through social media

The first few weeks or months of a breakup can be hard for both of you. If you feel like you lost a special friend who’s important beyond sex, then perhaps the best way to reconnect with your ex is by using a social network.

Don’t chat your ex up or post a public message on their wall. Send a private message and a friend invitation *if you guys have cut each other off*, and explain that you may have ended the relationship but you still value your ex as a special friend.

Make it clear that you’re not trying to reignite any old love memories, but just intend to start a fresh relationship as friends who can be there for each other. [Read: Signs your ex is thinking about you]

2. Introduce your ex to your new lover

If you want to be friends with an ex, both of you have to be comfortable with each other and the dating lives that come with it.

On the other hand, your new lover may not be very comfortable knowing that you’re reconnecting with your ex and trying a shot at being friends.

By introducing them to each other, you can make your partner feel secure and at the same time, let your ex know that you’re completely off limits. [Read: How to overcome insecurities in love]

3. Accept the awkwardness

If you want to know how to be friends with an ex, you need to know how to deal with the awkwardness associated with this fragile relationship.

Both of you have to understand that you may be two perfect individuals who are just terribly imperfect for each other.

Even if both of you do become friends after a while, you can’t really be best friends. There will always be a hint of awkwardness in the air, you’ll just have to learn to deal with it if you want to be friends with an ex.

4. Avoid temptations

Having an ex as a friend definitely brings its own share of temptations. You may be in a perfect relationship with someone else, but you may feel like jumping into your friendly ex’s arms for some comfort and love the second things get bad in your present relationship.

Avoid all temptations to have an affair with an ex. Having an affair with someone you’ve been intimate with earlier is really simple, after all, but you need to learn to avoid all forms of temptations however strong the resurgence of feelings may be. [Read: Getting back with an ex for sex]

5. Don’t talk about old memories

Your old relationship may be special, but you’re trying to start a new relationship as friends now. Talking about your favorite hangout as a couple or the anniversary that never will be is not going to help either of you.

Completely stop talking about your old relationship and all those special memories associated with it. It won’t help you. It won’t help your ex. And it definitely won’t help your fragile friendship. [Read: Old love letters and love memories]

6. Take some time

If you hang out as friends right after a breakup, things can get dicey. Not only is there no room for closure or mourning, but there is a wide opening for jealousy to take over.

If you don’t give yourself and your ex time to get used to the fact that you’re no longer romantically involved, getting over the relationship can be obstructed.

If you’re planning on staying friends after a breakup, take some time to not talk every day. You may think continuing to send each other memes all day proves you’re both mature, but without space, you’re not moving on.

7. What will you share?

If you have agreed to stay friends, there should be some ground rules so no one oversteps. Friendship doesn’t mean best friends, so for a while you may want to keep things on the surface.

For instance, if you date someone else, your ex may not be the best person to go to share the news or ask for advice. Try to figure out how you want to transition.

Do you want to talk about future relationships right away or agree on taking some time before chatting about something that could bring up old feelings?

8. Don’t be passive-aggressive

Just as relationships only work when you’re open and honest, the same goes for friendships. So if you feel bitter about them moving on quickly or think they are bad-mouthing you around town, talk to them.

If you plan on staying friends after a breakup and want to remain on good terms, being underhanded or even pretending things are fine when they aren’t is not going to do you any good.

Be honest. Let them know if you are hurt by something they are doing so they understand why you might need some space. [Read: How to get out of a toxic passive-aggressive state]

9. Be respectful

You may think. “We’re friends now so they will understand,” but how would you feel in their shoes? If you are bringing around a new guy or girl for your friends to meet without any warning for your ex, they might feel caught off guard. Be respectful when it comes to moving on. 

You will be doing that at your own pace, but you don’t have to rub it in their face. They are your friend, but you are also theirs. Be as aware of their feelings as you would with any other friend you have.

10. Slip-ups happen

On-and-off relationships are usually dysfunctional and complicated. And they can often happen when two people try to stay friends after a breakup.

Maybe all the reasons you broke up aren’t there anymore, or there is no jealousy or nagging because technically you aren’t together.

All those things lead to an unplanned and regretful hookup or more complications that you did not sign up for.

So if that happens, don’t be too hard on yourself. It is comforting to go back to what you’re used to. It is human nature, but stay aware of the consequences. These events cause more trouble than they’re worth, so proceed with caution.

11. Is it too hard to see them?

Trying to be friends after a breakup is noble and mature, but that doesn’t mean it is right for you.

Depending on the specific circumstances and events surrounding the breakup, things will go differently for every couple.

So even though you tried, being friends after a breakup may not work for you. If that seems to be the case, tell the truth.

It can be hard to admit that you are still hung up on them or have difficulty moving on because they are still in your life, but they will get it. [Read: Try these things to help heal your broken heart]

12. If you have strong feelings, wait a while

If you are not over one another, it’s not best to even attempt a friendship. That doesn’t mean you can’t be friends in the future, but right now you need to focus on yourself and heal from the breakup.

This isn’t a failure, as we’ve just mentioned, being friends with an ex isn’t for everyone.

13. Is it different now you’re not dating?

It’s important to make sure that the relationship you have is different now you’re not dating one another. If there are similarities creeping in, you might want to take a step back.

While friendship is an element of a romantic relationship, the difference between being friends with someone and lovers is huge. And not just where sex is concerned.

Make sure that you aren’t slowly slipping back into old habits. [Read: Toxic relationship – what it is, 107 signs, causes, and types of love that hurt you]

14. Only engage as much as feels comfortable

Nobody is forcing this upon you, so only engage with your ex as much as feels comfortable. The same goes for them. Moving slowly is the best route here.

If you try and push things you’ll only end up feeling uncomfortable or getting hurt again. Baby steps are key.

15. Be honest and communicate your feelings

Don’t push feelings down because that’s just going to turn your new friendship rotten. It’s important that you’re both honest about your feelings from the past and now, but don’t constantly bring them up for no reason

Make sure you’re communicating openly and if anything starts to feel too difficult, pull back. [Read: Communication techniques to finally get them to open up to you]

16. Set firm boundaries and stick to them

The best way to learn how to be friends with an ex is to set boundaries and make sure that you stick to them like glue. If something makes you uncomfortable, set a boundary to make sure that you don’t have to face that situation.

Of course, your ex might have their own boundaries and you need to respect those at all times.

17. Remember dignity, respect, and grace

From time to time, you may have an argument with your new friend, but that’s not the time to start bringing up problems from the past and throwing them in your ex’s face.

Remember to show dignity, respect, and grace at all times, no matter what happens. [Read: Stand up for yourself – why it’s hard and steps to get what you want and deserve]

What to do with an ex who wants to be friends

Of course, it may be that your ex wants to be friends but you’re not keen on the idea. Remember, this is your decision too and if you’re not comfortable with it, you should not be pressured into it.

If your ex insists on being friends, here are some things you can do to ensure that they get the idea that you’re not interested.

1. Social media block

When your relationship progresses into something more serious, your social media apps become witness to every vacation trip, every date, and every aspect of your blossoming relationship.

However, when the relationship ends, you are stuck with them on your newsfeed and your friends list. They still see everything you post and may even comment on it from time to time. It gets awkward very quickly.

Thus, it may be better to remove them from your social media circle. If they become insistent, then block them altogether. [Read: The toxic dangers of social media and 19 signs and ways it makes you insecure]

2. Minimize contact

Sometimes, it can be difficult to deal with an insistent ex if they are part of the circle of people you interact with most of the time. If they are a next-door neighbor, your best friend’s sibling, or a co-worker, it can be quite difficult to maintain distance.

If this is the case, make a conscious effort to minimize contact. If they’re a next-door neighbor or a co-worker, try to avoid areas where you’re likely to see each other.

Avoid the clubhouse, the local bar, the canteen, or any place you’re likely to find them. [Read: What it means when your ex still crosses your mind]

3. Sever connections

If they still can’t take the hint, maybe it’s time to get serious. Sever all connections. That means blocking them from your phone, all your social media apps, and your email. Avoid meeting with people they might know and be with.

It’s a drastic decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you’re still unsure, the next tip is for you.

4. Talk it out

When your ex continually insists on being friends after a breakup, you might need to sit them down and tell them that you are uncomfortable with the idea.

Talk about their reasons for wanting to be friends and your reasons for not having the same intentions. Make a definite statement of your refusal.

Hopefully, they’ll understand that it’s for the good of both that you prefer not to be friends with them anymore. [Read: Positive and smart ways to deal with a hostile ex]

Does love really fade?

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: The bad side of googling an ex]

When all is said and done, the decision is yours. Use these tips on how to be friends with an ex with caution. It may seem like a warm thought, but the pain and effort can far outweigh the happiness.

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Vinod Srinivas Serai
Vin Serai
Vin Serai is the founder of LovePanky.com, and has delved deep into the working of love and relationships for almost two decades. Having dipped his feet in almo...