How To Stay Friends After A Break Up If You Don't Want Them Out Of Your Life
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 extremely 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 has my ride or die now.
Most of the people we date are people we enjoy spending time with. We have things in common and — before things got all weird — we have a lot of fun together. That all spells out great friendship potential. So it's a shame to lose that from your life just because you don't want to make out any more.
Fortunately, you don't have to. Let me be the one to tell you, while it might feel (especially right after a breakup) like you'll never be able to be friends again, I promise you it's totally possible to have a genuine and fulfilling friendship with an ex, as long you do it right.
Here's how to 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 a friendship with your ex, the most important thing to do is make sure your breakup is as clean as possible. In many cases, some hurt feelings are unavoidable, but there are ways to help mitigate the worst of it.
First of all, don't drag things out until they become so toxic you can't stand each other anymore. Don't be wishy-washy and give them false hope. Be kind, but firm. It may seem brutal in the moment, but it shows respect that they will appreciate down the road in the friend zone.
2. Mute Them On Social Media
Nobody needs the aggravation of watching an ex move on (or not), but straight up blocking them on social media is a bold move. 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, just mute them, which 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, and that's spending some quality time apart. That means no contact. Take some time to heal and move on. It's always amazing when that day arrives that your feelings, once so strong, have suddenly up and gone. That's the 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, 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 platonically friends with your ex? Or are you secretly hoping that sparks will fly again? If it's the latter, then hit pause, girl — you need more time. Anything less than total realness with yourself is a recipe for heartbreak.
5. Plan Hanging Out Thoughtfully
So the time has come: You've got your mind right and you are ready to enter the friend zone. Plan your first hang carefully. Pick somewhere public or opt for spending time in a group setting. Avoid anywhere romantic, or that will trigger your (our their) fee fees. It's important to set a platonic and positive tone.
6. Keep It Light And Fun
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. Even though you have a past, you're forming a new friendship and starting fresh, so treat it like you would any new friendship: fun, light, easy. Most of the time, people are looking at you to set the tone, so decide that you are going to have a positive attitude and chances are they will be grateful to play along.
7. Avoid Old Patterns
Every relationship has its own patterns. Maybe it's texting first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Maybe it's a romantic inside joke. If you find yourself doing “girlfriend things,” pump the breaks. It's essential to avoid those patterns like the plague because they are slippery slopes into confusing feelings and mixed messages. Epic friendship killers.
8. No Flirting And Definitely No Hooking Up
Along the same lines of not falling into old patterns, don't flirt! If you want to make your ex your friend, treat them like one. Flirting may confuse them, or it may make them think you're catching feelings again and push you away. Either way sucks, so make sure to keep the boundaries crystal clear by always treating them like you would any platonic friend.
Also, no hooking up, obviously.
9. Have A Jealousy Game Plan
It's always a little strange the first time you see your ex with a new partner, so even if you are sooo over them, don't be surprised if it brings up some unexpected feelings. Instead, have your jealousy game plan ready, know that it's possible you may feel some kind of way when they come breezing in with someone new on their arm, and remember that there is 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: Always stay out of their new relationship. If you really want to maintain a friendship, keep your opinions on who they date to yourself.
10. Stop Thinking Of Them As Your Ex
Yes, they've seen you naked and you used to draw little hearts with your finger on their back while the slept (just me? oh...), but the sooner you decide to start thinking of them as a friend and stop labeling them as an ex, the sooner you'll start to feel that way, too. Make sure to introduce them to new people as your friend.
See, it's not so hard after all. It just really comes down to time, respect, kindness, and a determination not to make it weird.
Check out the entire Gen Why series and other videos on Facebook and the Bustle app across Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV.