Can you be friends with your ex? The short, non-nuanced answer is no. The real, nuanced answer? Maybe.
Like most things in life, maintaining a friendship with a man or woman you once dated is a nuanced topic that has many considerations and caveats. The answer will vary person to person and relationship to relationship.
Here are some things to consider before deciding to befriend your ex.
1. How did things end?
If things ended on a negative note, then the answer is definitely no. You cannot be friends with your ex. Let it go, move on.
However, if things ended on a positive note, the answer is maybe.
2. Why did things end?
Again, if the relationship ended for any negative reason, then the answer is still no.
But maybe the relationship ended on a positive note. Perhaps he wanted to go to the seminary, or she discerned religious life. Maybe she wants to live in a different part of the country than you do. In these cases, then the answer is maybe. If you ended things on a positive note to seek better for yourself and for your ex, then there’s potential for friendship.
If it was a “no hard feelings” kind of breakup on both sides, then yes, you could be friends! You know you share certain things in common and it could be good to maintain a friendship with this person you’ve invested a lot of your time in anyway.
This can get tricky, so maintaining really open and honest conversation is imperative.
3. Were there any red flags during the relationship?
If there were any red flags at all, unequivocally, the answer is no, you cannot be friends with your ex.
Run away like you’re an Olympic sprinter.
4. How long was the relationship?
This is an important question, believe it or not! If the relationship was short and there were no red flags or hard feelings, then you can probably be friends. Sometimes people realize they’re better as friends than lovers, and that’s okay! Part of the purpose of dating is to see how friendships grow and if they can grow romantically.
In my experience, though, the longer the relationship, the harder it is to remain friends post-breakup. You need a certain amount of detangling from each other’s lives to see yourself and your future clearly without the other person in it.
There are always exceptions but start by thinking you aren’t the exception. Then, you can be pleasantly surprised if you are.
5. Would being friends help or hinder your healing process?
Some people need time, some people need people. If being friends with your ex affords you a level of familiarity and comfort that can help ease the blow and ease you through the healing process, then you might be able to be friends with your ex. The tricky part of this is maintaining healthy boundaries that reflect where you are as people and the current status you share with one another.
6. Will you have to interact in social situations anyway?
Finally, if you have to interact in social situations with your ex still, it may be worth considering how friendly you two can be with each other. Nothing is worse than suddenly awkward, semi-regular social situations!
If you’re both part of the same young adult group or sing in the choir together, you’ll need to at least be cordial. Sometimes just being friends after the breakup can keep these social situations running smoothly.
Sometimes, though, just learning how to avoid each other is the best course of action. This question will largely depend on your answers to the other questions.
I’m friends with some of my exes and there are other exes who I would not come within a ten foot radius of. It really just depends on the people and the relationship that was had. Like most things in dating and in life, it’s nuanced and there’s no one-size fits all.
But if the shoe fits, go ahead and wear it, Cinderella! And remember, you can always pull the plug on a friendship if that doesn’t seem to be working out, too, you’re never locked in for life until you’re on the altar and say, “I do.”