“Is it worth it staying friends with an ex?” is a question typically asked by anyone in the midst of a breakup, and unfortunately, it’s never an easy one to answer.
Remaining friends with someone you shared a life with can inhibit your ability to move on to a meaningful and compatible relationship with someone else, especially if you either consciously or unconsciously yearn to get back together with them.
Following a breakup, it’s necessary to take time to yourself, whether it’s because you need to mope, reflect, or just move on. Being in contact with your ex could interfere with your ability to do just that. Remaining friends with your ex also has the potential to leave you feeling insecure and jealous when you see them with someone new. Why put yourself in a situation where you’re constantly needing to suppress both valid and negative emotions? How does this benefit either of you?
Looking at Both Sides of Being Friends With an Ex
Sameera Sullivan, CEO and lead matchmaker at Lasting Connections, believes that “in most cases, no, it’s not worth it to be friends with an ex. If there are any sort of hidden feelings or anything else along those lines, stay away.”
That’s just one opinion. On the other hand, cutting an ex out of your life abruptly can feel like a wasted potential. Here’s someone you cared for (and probably loved) who shared the same feelings. You’re comfortable sharing secrets and being your truest selves around one another. They already know your family, friends, personality, routine, quirks, mood swings, and everything else about you. They also know your flaws and where you struggle in your relationships. That intimate perspective can potentially provide helpful dating advice once you eventually do move on to someone else. Why give that up if your romantic relationship can successfully transform into a platonic friendship?
Well, there’s some good news for those looking to keep in touch with a former partner. While it may not apply to every single pair out there, there are certain times and relationships when it is appropriate to give it a shot.
According to Sullivan, one of the few times you can attempt to remain friends is if you were friends before you started dating. Being friends prior means you have a successful template to revert back to after the breakup You know you can do it because, well, you’ve done it before.
“However, if the feelings became intense and the bond was deep, then it’s never a good idea,” says Sullivan. Sometimes, even with the template, too much has been said and too many feelings have been felt to go back.
Questions to Ask Before You Decide to Befriend an Ex
Lia Holmgren, a NYC-based intimacy and relationship coach, believes there are a number of questions to ask yourself before attempting to have a friendship with an ex: “How did you breakup? Was it amiable? Was it mutual? Did someone suffer in the relationship more than the other? Was she fair in how she treated you both during and after the breakup?”
“If the breakup went smoothly and there was no aggression, you know you can rely on them and become friends,” she explains.
Even if someone cheated on you, Holmgren believes that, depending on the circumstance, you can be friends after.
“I’ve seen many couples who become friends after an act of infidelity because it all depends,” she notes. “Not all infidelities are bad in the sense of, ‘Oh, you cheated on me, you are horrible.’ Oftentimes, people cheat because they’re not getting love and intimacy from the relationship, so it all depends.”
Both relationship experts made it abundantly clear that taking as much time as you need between the breakup and becoming friends is vital. The anger, sadness, or attraction you feel when you see your ex needs to dissipate before establishing a friendship.
“Sometimes, it may take three or six months. Sometimes, a year or more,” explains Sullivan. “It all depends on how long you dated, as well as how you feel about them, and they about you. It’s good to be aware of your feelings and not stay in denial.”
In the downtime, you should also be living your life, not constantly thinking, “OK, is now the right time to be friends?”
“You know you’re ready to be friends with them when you can genuinely be happy seeing them with someone new,” adds Holmgren.
If that’s the case, you should be proud of yourself for how much you’ve grown. You didn’t just make a new friend — you were able to keep a person in your life who knows the most intimate parts of you few others get to see.
That deep of a connection doesn’t happen often. Consider yourself lucky.