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Staying friends after a breakup

Jesse Martin

January 04, 2020


Take-aways

  • You can be friends with your ex, but only when you both have no romantic interest in one another anymore
  • If you have romantic feelings you will not be able to separate them from feelings of friendship
  • If you have feelings for your ex and she doesn't have feelings for you then she is capable of having a genuine friendship, but your are not
  • If you're honest about your feelings, the friendship will quickly become awkward and she will distance herself
  • Most guys go along with being just friends because they don't want to lose a friend and secretly hope she will change her mind
  • If you try to be friends you will have to live a lie, face constant rejection and disappointment and you will have to deal with her moving on from up close
  • To lose feelings for your ex you need time and distance from your them. During that time you might lose interest in becoming friends entirely

Introduction

There are occasions where it is possible to stay friends with an ex after the relationship has run its course. In the majority of the cases, however, it's a bad idea. Your relationship might have ended because your ex lost romantic feelings for you. They might have told you: "I love you, but I'm not in love with you". This sucks to hear and it sucks even more that there's not much you can do to change how they feel.

Your ex wants to be friends because

Your ex doesn't want to lose you as a friend. If they're pushing for a friendship — that's why.

Because she's not romantically interested in you

They want to be with you, just not in the same way as you want to be with them. Because they've lost romantic interest in you, they don't see why the two of you couldn't be friends.

But she's still interested in having you around for comeraderie and support

And she would be able to be friends with you at this point

The truth is, your ex probably would be able to be friends, because they've become indifferent to you romantically. When they want to be friends, they really only want to be friends. When you say you'll go along with being friends, you're really interested in more than that.

It's tempting to stay go along with being friends

When they offer to be friends, it can be tempting to go along with them. After all, your ex is not only your former romantic partner they often also feel like your best friend or even like family.

We have 3 kids and we're together for 21 years, so she feels like family. It felt like losing a member of my family when we got divorced and it wasn't due to romantic feelings.

By staying friends — you believe — you're able to keep your best friend and stick around in the hopes she will change her mind.

In practice, however, friendships where one person has romantic feelings don't work out.

It’s better to move forward and not stay friends...I am telling you this because I sadly went the try-to-be-friends route and it’s filled with more heart break and disappointment.

The problem: You are not able to be friends at this point

If you're the one with feelings then you're the one that's unable to have a friendship right now. Unlike her, you are not romantically indifferent. Because of your feelings for her and your inability to turn them off, you are currently incompatible as friends. She wants platonic friendship, you want intimacy and sex. Those are two things that cannot be reconciled.

If you try to be friends, you will discover you can't turn off your feelings

Maybe there's part of you that genuinely wants to be her friend. But when you're still in love you cannot access the part of you without also activating that part of you that wants to be more.

If you try and later disclose your feelings you will make things awkward

If you choose to be honest with your ex about how you feel it will bring the topic of your feelings to the foreground of the friendship. As a result it will be hard for her to relax around you. She won't want to hurt you by repeatedly rejecting you. She also won't want to give you any false hope. At the same time, she doesn't want to worry about all this stuff when she's around someone that was supposed to be a friend.

The result is practically inevitable. She will distance herself from you. Not because she doesn't want to be around you (she does), but because she senses you're unable to. And you inability to be friends and your unwillingness to acknowledge are making her feel uncomfortable. The more you try to pull her back in, the more she will run from you. This can lead to a conflict and you might end up ruining any chances of a future friendship.

If you try and hide your feelings you will put yourself in pain's path

If you decide to hide your feelings, you're sabotaging yourself. Hiding your feelings means you suppress what you feel and you put on an elaborate act as if you don't have feelings for her. If she goes along with it, two things will happen. When you're considering staying friends, what you're often truly considering is hiding your feelings and pretending to only be friends in the hopes she changes her mind.

Living a lie will eat away at you

On the one hand your elaborate act will eat away at you in different ways. You will need to constantly lie to the person you love, suppress what wants to be expressed and experience never receiving love from the person you adore the most.

By living a lie you're not honouring yourself and your self-confidence will start to crumble. In many ways your beliefs follow from your actions. By choosing to hide your feelings you are embodying the belief that you are not worthy of someone's love. You are choosing to embody the belief that you are not worthy of someone's affection. You will feel anxious as you cling to any semblance of hope that her mind is changing.

I'm trying to figure out what to do because she's the love of my life. I don't want to throw it away when there is a chance but sometimes I feel like there is no chance. Other days it seems like she would work it out eventually but the exact opposite on other days

Staying friends means watching her move on up close

Meanwhile you will also have to deal with her truly moving on. She believes you when you say you're okay with being friends (even though you're dying on the inside). She might start seeing other guys, getting closer with them and she might want to tell you about it. How she starts to develop feelings for them and becomes intimate with them for the first time. It's hard to imagine something more painful, yet when you try to stay friends, this is exactly what you're inviting into your life.

I made the mistake of staying as best friends for a few months and it was the worse decision I made. Better put to words, you'll see your ex interacting with other guys that may lead to a lot more. This would certainly drive you crazy and you'd constantly keep tabs on her seeing who's she with now. Your life would become miserable and toxic.

If you protest or if you respond negatively, you will broadcast to her that you're not okay with her evolving romantic life. She will resent that, after all aren't you her friend? Who are you to judge her for what she's doing? The truth is you can't be her friend, unless you're romantically indifferent towards her. As long as you're not, you will feel the need to voice your disapproval or you will telegraph with your body language it when you suppress it. If you truly value your friendship you'll value it enough to keep distance until your feelings have disappeared. By suppressing your feelings you're risking losing a friend for life.

And if you bring up the notion, she'll strike you down by saying we're no longer together and would ask you to back down, shattering you inside. You'll see some other guy get closer to her rather than you.

Better not be friends until you're no longer romantically interested

Agreeing to a friendship is not what you really want. The only reason you would make the unwise decision to go along with a friendship is because you're not ready to let go of her, the relationship and the future you imagined together.

In considering an attempt at friendship, you're not considering your own wellbeing. Once the relationship has ended you don't owe her anything anymore. You don't owe it to her to try to be friends. You don't owe it to her to stay in touch. You only owe it to yourself to look out for what's best for you and you can no longer rely on her to help do that for you.

If you truly consider yourself first, you'll come to the conclusion that it's probably not going to be in your best interest to try to be friends. Even if that means disappointing (and possibly confusing) her.

By choosing not to be friends it may sound like you're being inconsiderate. This is true. You're being inconsiderate to her (if being friends is what she wants) so that you can be considerate towards yourself. You see, your interests and those of your ex diverge here. Being friends works for her, but it doesn't work for you. By choosing not to be friends you are embodying the belief that you are worthy of someone's affection and that you will put you will take care of your own wellbeing.

Friendships are rare, but beautiful when they do happen

More often than not, things don't pan out this way. When exes realize they can't be friends, they start the process of becoming strangers. When they are able to happen, it can be beautiful, but it's rare.

I have an ex, who we fall in and out of friendship, but ALWAYS got each others back without hesitation... she has called me maybe a year into a 3 year fall out and told me she was in trouble with her bf at the time, dropped everything and went and helped, and she has helped me during tough dark times, we are actually talking again after a 4 year hiatus... didn’t miss a beat picked up right where we left off

Conclusion

If you truly value your friendship then you should value it enough to be honest about how you feel with your partner. You should also be honest with yourself whether trying to maintain a friendship is preventing you from recovering. You may want to consider asking your ex for some distance until you feel ready to enter into a friendship.

It's hard to say how long such a break would take and you should avoid making any promises or having expectations. It can easily take several months before your feelings disappear. Even a year or more is not unheard of. Only once you're indifferent towards her romantically you will also have evolved into a new version of yourself. This is when you are ready to attempt a friendship.

It's a hard pill to swallow that the loss of romantic interest also means you're losing your ex as a friend. Unfortunately, that's how relationships tend to play out. I'm not with friends with most of my exes[1].

[1] As I've gotten more emotionally mature, the partners I attract have also gotten more emotionally mature. With my last ex I was able to stay on good terms.

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