FRIENDS WITH THE EX

“No we can’t be friends, cos I don’t think I could take seeing you and knowing where we’ve been; I hope you understand.” ~ Lady Antebellum, As You Turn Away

“I’m friends with all my exes.” It was impossible to miss the obvious pride with which the beautiful stranger said those words. Watching her though, I could detect something else, an air of superiority that suggested a deficiency in those who were unwilling or unable to remain friends with their exes. It got me wondering, after a break-up with someone you really care about, is it better to remain friends, or sever all ties?

While I agree it is admirable to break up with someone and still maintain a friendship with them, for a long time I was inclined to believe that this could not possibly be the ideal; at least not if the relationship was a “real” one. However over the years I have swung to the other extreme, believing that if in fact your relationship was real, then the friendship ought to endure afterwards, and nowadays, I find myself somewhere in the middle.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who went “awww” watching Bruce Willis support his ex-wife Demi Moore throughout her marriage to Ashton Kutcher, and hasten to her side to hold her up when the marriage finally collapsed. As cute as this is, the truth is that there are numerous factors that determine a couple’s ability to maintain a friendship after they break up.

1. People are different. We all know people who vow they can never date their friends. For them, a friend is a friend, and a lover is a lover. Therefore, one can never become the other. If you are a lover, then you were never a friend and can never morph into one. After the break-up, it’s hasta la vista baby. People also handle pain differently. For some, staying in touch and knowing how their loved one is faring is worth the discomfort of having to maintain a friendship. I’m sure I’m not the only one who would rather hurt remaining a part of an ex’s life than hurt wondering, “How is he doing? Did that project at work go well? How many puppies did Missy have?”

2. It takes two. Many times, one partner wants to remain friends and the other is unwilling or unable to. A friend of mine, upon requesting that her fiancé with whom she had recently broken up remain friends with her, was told, “That will mean seeing you in another man’s arms. I can’t deal with that.” While some partners may simply not feel up to the emotional strain of maintaining a friendship after a break up, others may be unwilling to live with watching someone with whom they shared so much behaving “nice and friendly” towards them. “Did what we had really mean so little to you?” and other such questions are likely to arise. It makes sense to avoid them.

3. It may take three. What is the guarantee that a new partner, who should be your focus in moving forward, would be comfortable with your ex as an active part of your life?

4. Much depends on who walked. Few break ups are mutual, and on the part of the one who is left behind, love may refuse, or take forever, to die. When such a pair tries to remain friends, usually the one who instigated the break up may not be able to shake off guilt feelings over the pain they caused. The one who was broken up with is also likely to try putting the relationship together back again, sometimes by begging. Considering that some people hate to be begged, and that this may start an “on again, off again” relationship trend, this is a recipe for disaster.

5. Allowing time to pass is absolutely necessary. Whether or not you’ll remain friends, the truth is the healing process calls for time. Time allows the emotions to cool and in many cases both parties gain perspective that help build a genuine friendship. Seeing things clearly and realising why it could never have worked helps someone to let go of fantasies and ideals. Time does change yesterday. If you’re not ready, don’t rush things or force a friendship just to prove a point.

6. Sometimes, time makes no difference. When at least one party is willing to quit a relationship, the healing process is sped up, and soon both may find themselves in a civil, if not warm relational situation again. Not so for the couple who is forced to separate. For lovers whose dreams of staying together forever are dashed by circumstances such as genotype incompatibility or parental consent issues, moving on can be extremely difficult. With the embers of love still burning bright, a clean break is the only way forward. Hanging around each other can not only cause pain, but also make new romantic relationships with others impossible to initiate and sustain. Life without each other is hard enough without having to be constantly reminded of what they had to give up.

Nevertheless, it is a wonderful thing when, with time’s passing, the initial pain fades and the uncomfortable feelings die; you are left with a loyal and true friend who knows and understands you, and whom you can trust.

I’d like to know what you think. Does remaining friends with someone prove that what you shared was genuine, or does it in fact confirm otherwise?

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14 thoughts on “FRIENDS WITH THE EX

  1. Dear on point as usual! I think d most important factor in whether u remain friends wit an ex is d manner in which d relationship ended& d williness 2remain friends by both sides!

  2. staying friends with the ex is hard work. Like when i broke up with my ex. I couldn’t deal with it for months! And I kid you not. I always wanted to know if he had moved on or if he was suffering as much as I was. Now we both look back on it and smile as we share lunch together. It’s an individual thing…some people can’t ever handle friendship with the ex. It’s amazing after all this time, i still wonder sometimes : “has he moved on?”

  3. I belong to the first category. I don’t date friends. I don’t remain friends with the ex. I’m not saying I don’t make my boyfriend a friend, we’ll be friends eventually, but it must have been clear from the start that the relationship would exceed friendship.
    I can ask every now n then bout how the ex is doing, but I’ll rather have a clean break n not have his new life rubbed in my face. We broke up for a reason, so I’ll prefer to leave it that way.
    Although one can get satisfaction from staying in touch just so he can see how awesome your life is without him.

    • Yep, a clean break is the quickest way to heal, and usually the best way to go…except for some very, very special people…and even then some time off is needed for both parties to accept the end of the relationship.

  4. Sweetheart(I don’t usually call me pple I don’t know personally that,cos when I’m called the same by pple who I don’t know,it comes across to me as being condescending and over familiar),this piece is so relevant to the situation I find myself in with my ex fiancé at this time. It was the 2nd of 2 break ups I’d had with him in the space of the 10 on and off years we dated,and it had been him who let me off the hook both times cos he kept giving me signs and ultimatums that he had had enough, but he didn’t have the heart to tell me. Now married to my soulmate,and he’s called me last week to say how sorry he was and how he needed my forgiveness and all. But because I usually don’t know how to bear grudges again pple and stay angry for forever,I’d already told him about 6 months after the break up,when we didn’t speak at all,that we should put what happened behind us and be friends. So I told him I’d forgiven him a long time ago. Anyway,this is a long story. I’ll dm u on twitter. But its a very,very relevant and precise piece. Bravo,as we say in my husband’s homeland. 🙂

  5. It’s actually interesting. I’m friends with some exes and others I give a wideeeeee berth (total bad news) not because I have “feelings” for them but because I think they are a waste of space and a sign of my stupidity.LOL

    In any case, you are absolutely right as it all depends on the circumstances surrounding the breakup. I have fond feelings for the “friends” because the relationships played a part in making me who I am emotionally today but the truth remains “if we were so right for each other, we’ll still be together.

    Bottomline, do what works for you but always take your new love interest’s feelings in consideration because we are never comfortable with the “too friendly ex”.

  6. I can relate with being friends with an ex based on what brought about the break up. I am friends with all my exes except for one whom I cnt imagine being friends with and this is bcos of d nature of the break up. Haven sacrificed evrythg for d relationship and then breaking up cos of parent consent, its hard to imagine what’s goin on in his life and it been rubbed in ur face jst bcos u decided to remain friends. I can’t handle such pressure. Although, happily married now, I’ll rather jst leave him in d past then deal with a friendship dt might not be exactly healthy for me.

  7. I really enjoyed reading this:) Ah love, breakups, friendships. I agree with all your points. And thanks for reminding us about #3 – it is always wise (and kind) to be considerate and treat others as we would like to be treated. Thanks ~

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