My best guy friend is also my ex high school sweetheart. It was not a pretty breakup — any of the times we split. But somehow, from the ashes of the scorched earth, we did it. We turned our romance into a bromance for the ages. I'd like to say that I was the emotionally mature party who resurrected the relationship but, nah. If I'm honest, it was totally him who taught me how to stay friends after a breakup, and I will always be grateful for that. I can't even imagine not having him by my side now.
As Erica Gordon, dating expert, founder of The Babe Report, and author of Aren't You Glad You Read This? points out, people tend to date people they enjoy spending time with. My ex and I had a ton of things in common, and we had a lot of fun together. “[If] you and your ex had a lot in common, enjoyed similar activities (other than sex) and your personalities didn't clash, a friendship just might work,” Gordon tells Elite Daily. It would be a shame to lose that from your life just because you don't want to make out any more, right?
However, Gordon warns if you do still secretly have residual feelings, then consider putting the brakes on rekindling a friendship. “Stay friends if you don't have an agenda such as ultimately getting them back, or an agenda of keeping tabs on them so that you're the first to know when they might be interested in someone else,” she warns. But here’s the good news: If you are actually over the romantic part of your relationship, you don’t have to forfeit that friendship forever.
“If your relationship was healthy and non-toxic, and you truly loved them as a human being, then it's natural to want to stay friends with an ex so that you can keep them in your life in some capacity," says Gordon. "Many people describe their partner as their best friend, so breaking up can feel like losing your best friend. Nobody wants to lose someone who uplifted them or added value to their lives in ways that weren't just sexual."
While it might feel like you'll never be able to be friends again (especially right after a breakup), having a genuine and fulfilling friendship with an ex can often be possible, as long you do it for the right reasons.
Here's how Gordon says you and your ex can turn your heartbreak into a lifelong friendship, so that when you say “Let's just be friends,” you can mean it.
1. Make It A Clean Break
If you want to have any hope of rekindling a friendship with your ex, the most important thing to do is make sure your breakup is as clean as possible, since that can help make the healing process go more smoothly. That means trying to avoid talking badly about them, getting into ugly fights, or saying hurtful things you might not mean. This is essential, says Gordon. “You can be friends with your ex if both of you no longer harbor any romantic feelings for each other, and as long as the relationship wasn't toxic or abusive. In order to be friends, it's also crucial that you no longer feel resentful, hurt or angry toward them,” she explains. In many cases, some hurt feelings are unavoidable, but there are ways to help mitigate the worst of it.
2. Mute Them On Social Media
If you want to heal and be friends with your ex in the near future, Gordon says it's best to disengage on social media. “It requires a lot of self-discipline to avoid stalking your ex's social media. It's unhealthy, and muting them on social media will help. Think about how many more productive, healthy activities you could be doing instead of stalking your ex on social media,” she explains.
While you have the option to delete or block them completely from — and if that's what feels right, don't be afraid to do it — you can also take a softer approach by muting them. After all, nobody needs the stress of watching an ex move on, but straight-up blocking them on social media might be the kind of clean break you're not willing to make at the moment. In the aftermath of a breakup, no one could blame you for wanting to scorch some virtual earth, but there are options to soften that approach in the hopes of a friendlier future. Instead, muting them saves you both the front row to their post-you life, and the awkwardness of sending them a friend request later when you're ready to be buds.
3. Spend Some Quality Time Apart
This one is just as (if not more) important as the clean break. Spend some "quality time apart" and take some time to heal and move on. “Many relationships actually started as friendships. Perhaps the romantic relationship didn't work out, but if you started as friends, it might work to go back to being just friends. Always take some time apart to get over the lingering romantic attachment, though,” says Gordon. “Take as much time as you need,” she adds. It's always amazing when that day arrives that your feelings, once so strong, have suddenly up and gone. That's a sign that you're free to rekindle a friendship with your former flame. Just be prepared, when you do reach out, that your ex may need a bit more time to get there, too.
4. Be Real With Yourself
Before you decide to make first contact, Gordon says to make sure to take a beat and really get honest with yourself. Why are you doing this? Is it just a sincere desire to be platonic friends with your ex, or are you secretly hoping that sparks will fly again? If it's the latter, then hit pause, because you might need more time.
“Your emotional self-inventory will help you check-in with yourself and ensure you aren't holding onto hope you'll get your ex back, feeding a toxic addiction by trying to stay friends, or holding onto an unhealthy attachment,” says Gordon. Anything less than total realness with yourself is a recipe for heartbreak.
5. Plan Hang-Outs Thoughtfully
So, the time has come: You've done some reflecting, and you feel ready to enter the friend zone. If that's the case, plan your first hang carefully, says Gordon. “Hang out in public settings, not alone,” she advises. It’s also probably a good idea to avoid anywhere romantic, or that will trigger your (or their) feelings. It's important to set a platonic and positive tone.
6. Play It Cool
When you hang out, Gordon suggests "keeping it light." In other words, don't make it weird. When you see your ex for the first time, you may feel a strong desire to rehash the past and process the breakup. Just don’t, advises Gordon. “Instead of rehashing the past, get to know each other again. Chances are, you're different people apart than you were when you were together. When a person is newly single, they often re-discover who they are, figure out who they are without a partner, and discover new hobbies and interest. Get to know your ex all over again, because chances are, they're different now,” she says.
In other words, even though you have a past, remember that you're forming a new friendship and starting fresh, so treat it like you would any new friendship.
7. Avoid Flirting Or Hooking Up
If you want to make your ex your friend, treat them like one. According to Gordon, this means “zero flirting.” It has the potential to confuse them, or make them think you're catching feelings again, which in turn might make them want to push you away. Either way, it's not great, so make sure to keep the boundaries crystal clear by always treating them like you would any platonic friend.
Also, no hooking up. I mean it!
8. Have A Game Plan For Dealing With Any Jealousy That Might Arise
“Would the idea of your ex dating someone else send you into a frantic spiral of jealousy?” asks Gordon. “If so, you aren't ready to be friends with your ex,” she warns. If that resonates, then give yourself some more time to heal before restarting the friendship. However, even if you know you're ready, seeing them with a new partner for the first time can still be a little impactful. Go easy on yourself. Try not to beat yourself up and say you should've waited longer. At the end of the day, their life is separate from yours now, and they are allowed to move on.
This is why it's good to have a jealousy game plan ready, since it's possible to feel an unexpected twinge of pain when you see them with someone new on their arm. Remember: There's a reason you two are no longer together. Try to focus on being happy for your friend rather than side-eying your ex.
Bonus tip: Stay out of their new relationship. If you really want to maintain a friendship, keep your opinions on who they date to yourself.
9. Stop Thinking Of Them As Your Ex
Yes, they've probably seen you naked and you used to draw little hearts with your finger on their back while they slept. (Just me? Whoops.) But the sooner you decide to start thinking of them as a friend instead of an ex, the sooner you'll start to feel that way, too. Gordon suggests focusing on really getting to know who your ex is as a person. “Find out who they are without you. Be supportive of who they are without you. If they've discovered new hobbies or rediscovered old interests, be supportive of that,” she says. And make sure to introduce them to new people as just your friend.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to time, respect, kindness, and a determination not to make it weird. It might be hard at first, but with a little time and a whole lot of patience, you can do it.
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