Here's How To Actually Stay Friends With An Ex, Without Making Things Awkward

by Alison Segel

Sometimes, I wish that, when you broke up with someone, they were forced to go to an island where you never had to see them again: ex island, where all your exes live together for eternity. Can you tell I'm not exactly a friends-with-exes girl? I never used to know how to stay friends after a breakup, mostly because I always wanted to get back with them or they wanted to get back together with me.

I recently had to stop being friends with an ex because things got messy. We had broken up nearly a decade ago, and he'd moved on with a girl I was nearly certain he would marry. However, I slowly noticed he was watching all of my Instagram stories, despite not following me on the social media platform. Was he just constantly checking my page to see what was going on?

Then, one day, I started talking to him about a date I had gone on, and he said he couldn't hear about it, which was a red flag. If he didn't have feelings for me, why would this matter? As our friendship developed, I saw him get clingier and clingier, boundaries started to get crossed, and what started as an innocent friendship started to feel a lot more like emotional infidelity (on his end). I told him we could no longer talk. So what I'm saying is, being friends with an ex is tricky territory, whether a lot of time has gone by or none, and you have to tread very carefully if you're going to pull off a genuine, healthy friendship after a breakup.

So here's how to stay friends after a breakup, without making things awkward.

1. Make Sure Neither Of You Still Have Feelings For Each Other

Before becoming friends with an ex, make sure that neither of you actually have feelings for one another. Because if you do, this will only blow up in your face with time.

I've been on both sides of this situation. I've secretly had feelings for an ex and pursued a friendship with the hopes of getting back together. I've also had exes honestly think we could be friends, only to find that, with time, becoming close made old feelings resurface.

So in order to be pals with an old partner, you have to be truly, truly over one another. How I gauge if I'm over a partner is if I wouldn't care about hearing who my ex is hooking up with. If I'm certain knowing this wouldn't affect me emotionally anymore, then I know I don't have feelings for them.

2. Make Sure Neither Of You Have An Agenda

If you're befriending your ex just so you can keep tabs on them or give them bad advice about every person they date after you, then that is not an authentic friendship, and you know that.

A real friendship is one without an agenda. You don't expect anything from the other person, and they don't expect anything in return. So in the case of you and your ex, neither of you should be trying to get back together or sabotage the other's life.

3. Don't Hook Up

Just friends means no sex stuff. No P in V, P in B, P on P, V on V, 69, or whatever it is that you're into. Nothing screws up a friendship more than hooking up. So if you want an authentic friendship with an ex, that means strict boundaries when it comes to affection and intimacy. You actually need to distinguish the relationship you have now from what you shared together in the past.

4. Be Friends With Their New Partner

The last ex who I was trying to be friends with never mentioned he had a new girlfriend, even though they had been together for years and even lived with one another. It's like she didn't exist. And because of that, I obviously never met her, and I assumed she didn't know my ex and I were still friends either. The whole situation made me incredibly uncomfortable, and honestly, it felt like emotional infidelity, even though I was single and had absolutely no feelings for him whatsoever.

It came as no surprise that, one day, my ex and I were talking, and he told me he was still in love with me. No wonder he was hiding his relationship from me — he wasn't happy in it.

If your ex truly only wants to be platonic with you, then they won't be afraid to share news about their dating life with you, and more importantly, you won't care about hearing it. But if talking about that with each other still brings up discomfort and anxiety, or if you feel like you have to hide things from your ex, then most likely, you two still haven't moved on.

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