8 Ways Staying Friends With An Ex Is Unhealthy For Both Parties

by Morwenna Jones

We’ve all been there: the awkward moment at the end of a relationship when you’re no longer in love with your significant other, but for one reason or another, you can’t imagine your life without him or her.

Maybe you’ve been together so long, your significant other is practically family, or your SO is a close friend who’s been with you through good times and bad.

Maybe you’ve decided the pressure and expectations of a relationship simply aren’t worth the effort, but you still have feelings for one another.

Maybe you’ve been forced apart by circumstances, like distance. Maybe the relationship has simply deteriorated, but neither of you know what to do next.

Of course, sometimes, it works. You go from couple to close friends in the blink of an eye. You're happy when you each of you find "the one;" you are godparents to one another’s children, and you live happily ever after in a blissfully platonic friendship.

But, sometimes, it doesn’t work.

Sometimes, you cling to one another like survivors on a sinking ship.

You forget you probably need the space to remember who you are without each other and to meet new people.

You both refuse to let go of the idea that it’s not completely over, yet you resent one another for moving on.

Eventually, after days, weeks or months of fighting to come to terms with the changed status of the person you once saw a future with, you realize not only is the person in front of you most definitely not the person you once loved, but also not someone you like very much, either.

This is exactly why, sometimes, it’s easier just to rip off the Band-Aid, call it a day and go your separate ways.

These are just some of the times when that might be the case:

1. You no longer enjoy one another’s company.

It may seem obvious, but often, we want to avoid hurting people.

So, even when you know being friends will still mean gritting your teeth at your ex’s annoying habits, you agree to it.

If you know your ex’s inability to share or his or her political views will drive you crazy (even when you’re not together), you need to accept any relationship — even a friendship — won't work.

2. The things you have in common aren’t quite as in sync as they once seemed.

You may both know all of the words to "Les Miserables," always order the exact same food or both support the same sports team, but when it comes to the things that matter, you are at opposing ends of the spectrum.

If you both describe yourselves as "competitive," then perhaps your ex pursues his or her goals to the point of obsession, whereas you accept doing your best is all you can do.

If you’re both culture vultures, maybe his or her idea of culture is musical theatre, and your idea of culture is avant-garde cinema.

If you’re both "energetic," maybe your ex is the sort of person who’s up at dawn, meticulously organizing a schedule of activities, while you’re more relaxed and prefer to just see what each new day brings.

These differences might have been why your relationship ended in the first place.

They might also be the reason why, as friends, you clash too much to ever really enjoy spending time together.

3. You ex's new partner isn’t happy with you being friends.

This is a tricky one. If you know someone well (particularly, if you still get along well as friends), then you obviously want to continue spending time with him or her.

You might even think your ex's new partner is jealous, untrusting and insecure.

Regardless of what you think of your ex's new partner, if your ex wants to respect that boundary, you should, too.

You don’t want to complicate your ex's new relationship with baggage from your old one.

4. Your ex is emotionally unstable.

Few things are more confusing than trying to keep an emotionally unstable person in your life.

Suddenly, your inability to hold a coherent conversation after a few glasses of wine is reason enough for your ex to no longer have feelings for you.

The next moment, your smile, laugh and sense of humor makes you the gorgeous, beautiful and amazing love of your ex's life. Your ex might even tell you how much better you are than your new replacement.

It’s not just confusing, however. The constant romantic uncertainty is painful to deal with, and it’s inevitable that whatever happens, someone will get hurt. It makes it unfair for everyone involved.

We should all want to know that the people we choose to have in our lives want to be in our lives, too.

5. You were never friends to begin with, and it’s too late to start now.

If you were one of those couples who were friends for ages before hooking up, it’s probably quite easy for you to slip back into friendship (depending on how long you were together).

If, on the other hand, you met and immediately started dating, you won’t have the same history to use as a foundation for your friendship.

If you weren't previously friends with your ex, it's unlikely you'll have a strong idea of the boundaries you both need.

When your ex was your partner, it was okay to expect him or her to be there for you no matter what.

As a friend, however, you need to accept your ex will need to sustain other important relationships.

If you feel like you’ll never be able to let go of the high expectations you have of your ex, it’s often easier to simply let him or her go.

6. Your ex hurt you.

Whether we like it or not, we have all hurt someone. Since, most of the time, we do it unintentionally, we often don't realize when we've hurt the people we care about.

Your ex may have lied, been rude and dismissive or said something hurtful to you.

Your ex probably didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, but if you don’t communicate how it’s made you feel, it’s likely your ex will make the same mistake again.

These mistakes are especially common when you’re both negotiating the unfamiliar territory of friendship after a relationship.

Even if it’s only for a short while, it’ll be easier in the long run if you distance yourself from your ex so he or she can’t keep hurting you. 

7. Your ex cheated.

If you’re even considering a friendship with the person who completely betrayed your trust, you need to seriously reassess your life choices.

Lying, disloyalty and disrespect are not qualities any friend should have.

Cut your ex out of your life now and get on with your future. It’ll be a hundred times better without your ex in it, anyway.

8. You’re moving on.

Like relationships, friendships wax and wane. You win some, and you lose some. Sometimes, for whatever reason, certain friendships just aren’t meant to be.

However, losing someone this time doesn’t mean the end of the world. Use the time you’ve been given to work on you.

Grow independently and become the best version of yourself.

Hopefully, this means even if your next relationship doesn’t work out, it can still be the gateway for a beautiful friendship.