Let's start with why anyone would want to befriend their ex? In a recent poll that 2000 people answered, only 1/3 expressed interest in maintaining a relationship with their ex. The rest chose to have no contact whatsoever. If you do decide this is something you want, consider your reasons. As sex columnist, Zachary Zane, author of Boyslut: A Memoir and Manifesto, wisely says: "All too often, people attempt to rush into being friends because they feel like it's the "mature" thing to do, when in actuality, the "mature" thing, or rather, the thing that's best for your mental health, is to not speak to each other. Are you secretly hoping you'll get back together? Then don't be friends with your ex. Are you hoping to get some "closure" from them? Don't do it. Were they manipulative, abusive, or just a shitty person? Then why do this to yourself?" I'll add: do they even deserve your friendship?
So a huge disclamer that this isn't for most people. This is solely just a guide for those that would like to be on good terms (maybe even great terms) with people you were really close to in the past. Here are some arguments in favor and against of befriending your ex:
Unique friendship: Being friends with your ex allows you to maintain a connection built on shared memories and experiences. This deep understanding can lead to a unique bond that's impossible to replicate with others. What you had was one of a kind and now it can develop into a unique friendship. One follower shared: "One of our closest friends is one of my exes. My life partner and her have built an incredible bond, and we all just vibe on a deeper level than any of my other friends. It makes my heart so happy too"
Emotional Support: Your ex probably knows you more intimately than your regular friends and can offer valuable emotional support during tough times. They've been there for you before, and their insight and empathy can be comforting during hard times.
Personal Growth: As long as you're doing it for noble reasons, transitioning from partners to true friends requires maturity and resolution. If you manage to navigate this transition successfully, it shows personal growth and the ability to handle complex emotions in a healthy way.
Social Circle: By staying friends, you can continue to attend a lot of the same events and share a space with them. Mutual friends and shared events can allow you to maintain a social presence together, reducing the isolation that often happens after a breakup
They stay in your life!: Sometimes relationships end simply because you weren't compatible. Between never seeing them again and having them as friends, friends sounds like a much better option. You get to be friends with an amazing person you love (who you already know doesn't really work as a romantic partner) and stay in each other's lives. That sounds amazing to me.
You let go of the resentment: If something bad happened and your trust was broken or hurtful events took place, rebuilding this through friendship can help you heal in new ways. It shows your willingness to move past conflicts and welcome forgiveness, understanding, and the freedom to cultivate positive feelings. This isn't easy but definitely possible. I'm friends with an ex that cheated on me and I am so grateful for our relationship now. I have watched him grow and become an amazing partner to his current girlfriend.
Emotional Diffculty: Staying friends can blur the lines between your past romantic connection and your current friendship. This might stop your ability to move on and fully invest in new romantic relationships. Remaining friends might keep you from growing independently and meeting new people who could enrich your life.
Unresolved Feelings: If one or both of you still have lingering romantic feelings, being friends could lead to confusion, heartache, and potential misunderstandings. It might not be possible to maintain purely platonic feelings (I suggest to take more time apart when this happens).
Sabotaging New Relationships: Your new partner might not feel comfortable with your ex's continued presence in your life. This can create friction and even harm your current romantic relationship. This depends on your priorities a lot. For me, my exes are a part of my life. None of my friendships (including those) are up for discussion. Does this limit the dating pool? Maybe in the monogamous world a bit, but it's fairly common to be friends with your ex in the non monogamous community (which is what I practice).
It might not be the best: They might not even deserve your friendship so ask yourself if there's anything to gain from it. Even if this is a good idea and both have the best intentions, it could be messy not even worth the try. Choose what's best for you!
Ok now, if this is something you want, here is a rough guide on how the start of a frienship could look. Remember to adapt it to your needs and make it your own ◡̈ hope it helps.
Give Each Other Space: After the breakup, you have to find your feet again. Think of it as giving yourself time to figure things out, a bit like stepping back to get a bigger perspective. This can look a number of ways and will depend on the kind of relationship it was and why it ended. Some prefer no contact at all, even delete each other from social media. Others just take a step back and reflect on the whole situation. You decide what's best for you to heal.
Reflect on Your Intentions: Alright, time for a little introspection. Are you genuinely up for a friendship, or is there a hint of something more lingering? Honesty is the name of the game here – be real with yourself. What do you actually want?
Initiate Communication: It's time to reach out when you are clear on step 2 and know exactly what you'd like. If you've maintained a bit of contact, express your desires. If you haven't talked at all, casually reach out and see how they respond. They might be on a different page (or even book).
Be Honest and Open: Get a feel of where they stand. You can also straight up ask if they're interested in being friends (or at least friendly). Lay your cards on the table, the good, the bad, and the awkward. Give them some time to think about it, they might not have considered this as an option.
Set Boundaries: Boundaries are like setting up a comfy space. It's not about building walls, but more like creating a clear zone. Assuming they also want to be friends, negotiate what you're willing to allow and risk. What kind of friendship do you want? Are you willing to listen about their dating life (and be genuinely happy for them, not just to pry) or would you prefer that remains off limits? Can you confide in each other? How will you handle your friendship if you already have another partner? What kind of physical touch is acceptable, if any?
Respect Each Other's Space: Acknowledge that you're two individuals, with different interests, connections and lives. This will change over time, so navigate how often you'd like to talk/see each other regularly. How are you feeling? Is this taking up too much space in your life? Can you handle it at the moment? It it taking more than it's giving? I see one of my exes a few times a year and that's perfect for us. With another one I FaceTime most days, and that's also perfect for us.
Focus on the Present and Future: The past will come up from time to time, especially at first but try to focus on the present. You will need to sort through stuff in the beginning, more so if there was a betrayal of some kind. That's common, do it for clarity and undertanding but avoid dwelling on it for too long, especially if you're just looking to argue.
Be Supportive: I think true friendships are very special spaces where you can talk about anything. It will take time to be comfortable with this, their dating life being the hardest one to accept and embrace. Are you ready to give your advice, keeping the best outcome for them in mind? If the answer is no, let them know you're not ready and figure out what you need in order to be. Find ways to handle jealousy in a healthy way. You ask for their support and navigate through your feelings together or rely on outside friendships for this. Take a step bakc if needed.
Regular check-ins: They were needed when you were in a relationship and they're needed now. Regular check-ins keep the connection strong. It's like making sure the plant of your ex-friendship gets enough water to thrive and grow.
This is not for everyone and maybe (in some cases) we can stop looking at it as a red flag. I truly hope this offers guidance but, ultimately, the decision to be friends with your ex is yours to make. If you do decide to give it a try, remember you make the rules and it can look however you want it to.