Can You Still Be Friends With Your Ex's Family? An Investigation

by Ginny Hogan

Breakups are tough, and it can be difficult to navigate the postmortem rules. Staying friends with exes is one thing, but staying friends with their families is something completely different. If you've gotten close with your ex's siblings or parents, you might wonder what the rules are around staying friends with an ex's family. I've had exes whose mothers I feel certain loved me more than them (well, I intuited it), and it can be sad to stop hanging out. Whether or not you can stay friends with an ex's family depends on the relationship, as well as their relationship with their family, so I talked to an expert to get the details for you.

If the breakup was a healthy one, it might be easier to stay friends with an ex's family. "The breakup has to be civilized," Relationship and etiquette expert April Masini tells Elite Daily. "Both parties have to have some understanding and empathy for what the other has been going through and why things didn’t work out. So, if you and your ex are okay with the way things worked out, even after a breakup, then it’s more likely that you’ll be able to befriend each others’ families." Even still, it can be best to give things time. Masini warns against trying to be friends when the breakup is fresh since the dust hasn't yet settled. No breakup is fun, but if you and your ex have been kind to each other and the breakup was as civilized as possible, you may be able to stay friends with an ex's family.

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Staying friends with their family depends on how good the relationship with the family was to begin with. "There should be commonalities that you hold an interest in," Masini says. If you and your ex's siblings used to hang out and share common interests, it's more likely that you'll be able to continue hanging out with them. Similarly, if your life was intertwined with your ex's family, then it's more likely that you can continue hanging out with their relatives. "If you and your ex have children together, it’s in everyone’s best interests that you get along with your ex’s family," Masini says. "Or if you hold a business together or real estate together, or even pets together." The more that their family was a part of your life, the more likely that you can continue to be friends with them after a breakup.

Make sure you're trying to stay friends with an ex's family for the right reasons. "If you are using your ex’s family to try and get back with your ex, or if your using your ex’s family so that you don’t have to face the fact that you’re not with your ex anymore, and you’re actually single, that’s not healthy for you," Masini says. "You should only be friends with an ex’s family if you’ve processed the breakup and have your emotional and social ducks in a row." You may have had a wonderful friendship with your ex's siblings or parents, but that doesn't mean you'll instantly recover from a breakup. Make sure you're not using their family to get back at them or to stay close to them. If you're still hanging out with their family because you genuinely want to, and not for any other reason, then you might be able to make a friendship with their family work.

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If your ex doesn't want you to stay friends with their family, it might be best to respect their wishes. Even if you spent time with their siblings frequently and considered them close friends, it can be good to prioritize your ex's feelings. "If your ex doesn’t want you to be friends with his or her family, you should respect that and back off," Masini says. "If you have children together, keep your relationships with your ex’s family, as it pertains to the children, civilized and cordial, but don’t cross the line to where your ex is uncomfortable. It’s important that you and your ex are okay, first and foremost, before you can try and befriend his or her family." It can be tough to lose a member of an ex's family as a friend, but ultimately, blood is thicker than water, and it can be critical to respect their desires as it pertains to their family.

There are also ways to stay in touch with an ex's family without staying friends, if that's something you're interested in. For example, maybe you're in a relationship with someone new, and you'd like to stay in touch with your ex's family, but you know that spending time with them will make your new partner uncomfortable. "If you are dating someone else, and that person is uncomfortable with the fact that you’re having Thanksgiving with your ex and his or her family, then it can be a roadblock to a new relationship," Masini says. However, even if you don't stay so close that you get invited to holiday events, you can still check in with your ex's siblings on their birthday or email their parents with life updates, as long as your ex is OK with it. You don't have to cut an ex's family out entirely after a breakup. There are ways to stay in touch without hanging out frequently, and this might be a better arrangement if friendship with an ex's family upsets either your new partner or your ex.

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Breakups can be rough, and it's particularly rough when you've gotten attached to an ex's family. You can have a totally healthy and normal friendship with members of an ex's family, as long as you're considerate of your ex's feelings. If you make the friendship work, you have even more people to go bowling with! And if not, a lot of people like bowling (me, in particular), so you'll find plenty of other people to be friends with.