Can You Truly "Be Friends" With Your Ex?
By Susie and Otto Collins
When a couple ends their love relationship or marriage, in the
majority of cases, both people want it to be an amicable break up.
Quite often, the two will promise to be "friends" as they make the
transition to single life.
We're completely in support of there being as much respect and
kindness as possible during and after a relationship break up.
However, many times the desire to stay friends and maintain a strong
friendship with one's ex causes all kinds of problems.
While it is absolutely possible to be friends-- even good friends--
with your ex, this needs to happen with a lot of clarity, honesty and
Take Jim and Candace for example...
When Jim and Candace got divorced, they were so intent on making the
changes easy for their kids, they pledged to be friends no matter
what. They promised one another that-- for the sake of their
children's happiness-- they would continue to make one another a top
priority, they would all spend regular time together as a family and
they would always "be there" for each other.
This seemed to be working out well, until Jim started dating again.
He still had dinner with Candace and the kids a few times a week. He
still e-mailed and texted with Candace-- about the kids and other
topics too-- at least once a day. And, Jim willingly continued to be
the first person that Candace turned to with a problem.
As you might guess, when Jim's girlfriend saw how involved he
continued to be with Candace, she felt jealous. Even though Candace
was outwardly supportive of Jim's new love relationship, inside she
was devastated. Candace felt betrayed and hurt, regardless of how
supportive she was trying to be when she talked with Jim.
Jim felt torn and unhappy about the whole situation.
Can you be friends with your ex?
Is it always wise or in your best interests to be friends with your
Know your motives.
Before you promise your soon-to-be ex that you two will "always be
friends," stop. Before you continue to be best buddies with your ex,
stop. Take some time to examine your own motives.
When you're completely honest with yourself, are you only agreeing
to be friends with your ex because you are holding out hope that one
day the two of you will reunite?
Are you saying "yes" to a friendship with him or her not because you
really want to, but because you feel like this is letting your ex
Are agreeing to be friends as a way to feel safer, less lonely or to
have someone to help you take care of your home or other
There are all kinds of motivations that might be compelling you to
be friends with your ex. It is understandable that you might want
certain roles that he or she used to play continue. It is also
understandable that you might want to keep some level of interaction
alive-- even if it is not what it used to be (or what you really
You're not wrong for wanting to be friends- or even more than
friends-- with your ex. After all, you have most likely shared quite
a bit of life and yourself with this person. It makes sense that you
may wish to hold on to that connection in whatever form you possibly
What we're urging you to do is to recognize the reasons why you want
to be friends with your ex. Remember, being kind, considerate and
respectful are not necessarily the same thing as being friends.
Being friends with someone almost always involves a level of
commitment and emotional intimacy. Being kind, considerate and
respectful can make interactions with another person more pleasant
If you're starting to see that your motivations are leading you
toward heartbreak, bitterness or resentment, remind yourself of this
Allow space for healing.
Even if after considering your motivations you do decide that
remaining friends with your ex is wise and appealing to you, take
some time for just yourself and your healing. It's vital that you
give yourself space to start the healing process and to adjust to the
transitions taking place in your life.
It's just about impossible to wake up one day married or as lovers
and then the next day declare-- and really believe it-- that you're
Deliberately widen your pool of support people. Re-connect with
friends and family members who can possibly be there for you when you
need a hug, advice, help with a clogged drain or other things that
your ex used to do for you.
completions with your past relationship and grieve for its
ending if that's how you feel. Take the time to really listen to how
you feel and give yourself what you need.
Shift your expectations and create a new friend relationship, if you
Be clear with yourself and with your ex about your new friendship.
Let him or her know what being friends means to you and then follow
through with what you've stated.
If you feel
jealous of your ex's new partner or you are annoyed when
he or she doesn't call or e-mail you as much as you'd like, this is a
signal for you to once again explore your motives. Acknowledge your
feelings and re-visit the question of how healthy maintaining this
level of friendship or interaction is for you.
Again, remind yourself that your ex is not the only person in your
life who can be a source of support, companionship, fun and love. If
you're having a difficult time thinking of anyone else who can do
this, challenge yourself. Open up to new friendships with others and
to deeper connections with the people you already know.
Get help healing after your divorce or break up
so that you can create the kind of future you want for yourself by
clicking here for
Otto's free e-mail mini-course.