Should you be friends with your ex? It’s an age-old question, frequently debated with radically differing opinions.
Perhaps half of your friends issued an emphatic “hell no,” a few said “go for it,” and now you’re knee-deep in making a pros and cons list.
Welcome to the deliberation stage. It’s a complex space to navigate, requiring serious self-evaluation. I’m talking “get real about your intentions”-level introspection, the type that separates lustful fantasies from reality.
Consider these aspects if you’re looking for reassurance on being friends with an ex or a solid sign to tiptoe away.
Let’s get real: If you’re still reminiscing on the steamy times you shared together, it’s probably more of a recipe for a dumpster fire than a wholesome friendship.
Not a shred of judgment here — there’s nothing wrong with indulging in good memories. But if you’re trying to leave the door open when the relationship ended for clear reasons, you’ll do yourself a disservice in the long run.
We all know the “broke up but still sleeping together” story, whether telling it ourselves or hearing it from a friend. It may be downright thrilling and sinfully delicious in the short run, but more often than not, it results in Break Up: The Sequel.
Disclaimer: Have I always taken my own advice here? Absolutely not, but hey, self-awareness is everything. It’s perfectly OK to learn as we go.
The romantic attraction has faded like a fine sunset. You look fondly upon the old memories but aren’t clinging to them. The curtains have closed on the mental rehearsal of old stories. There’s no longing for more.
It might seem comforting to maintain contact in the hopes of rekindling things, but that can become a torturous waiting game with no end in sight. Not to mention, it basically holds you hostage from other potential lovers.
It’s natural to still have feelings for your ex after your relationship ends, so try not to guilt yourself. Sometimes, it feels like those feelings might never dissipate — but having space and time apart is the ultimate remedy, not diving into a platonic friendship before you’re ready.
What I’m trying to say is, save yourself the heartbreak. Focus on you. It won’t happen overnight, but it will get better in time.
Your breakup doesn’t have to be something out of “The Notebook,” but it should have at least been civil enough to consider friendship. You have to know and trust each other’s characters, even if your feelings were sometimes hurt.
Just make sure you broke up because it wasn’t a romantic fit, not for more serious reasons.
Sure, maybe you tossed out some of their old things in a hurricane of sadness. So, long as the relationship wasn’t toxic or straight-up dangerous, friendship could be on the table.
People can certainly change, but it can be hard to tell if an ex-partner is committed to doing the work. Keep an open heart, but never go back to a dangerous situation.
Have you mutually forgiven each other for the times that sh*t hit the fan? If not, you’re opening up Pandora’s box.
Forgiveness takes time. Even the most well-intentioned and emotionally intelligent people are capable of hurting others. We’re all human, after all.
Lingering resentment can make it difficult to move forward with a platonic friendship, so give it some thought. Have you buried the hatchet for good, or do you have one hand gripping a shovel waiting to dig it up?
Consider the experience of being around them in person and the emotions that may bring up.
Envision this: You’re having a lazy mid-lunch social media scroll, and a photo of your ex appears with their arm draped around someone else.
Are you cool as a cucumber, ideally happy for them, or does your heart feel like it’s skydiving? That bodily reaction will tell you exactly what you need to know.
Many of us know that horrendously queasy “saw my ex with someone new” feeling when we haven’t gotten over them yet.
If the thought of them with someone else makes you want to A) lose your lunch, B) set a bunch of stuff on fire, or C) beeline toward a box of tissues, you’re not ready yet. Time heals all — you’ll get there.
Breakups were difficult to begin with, and then the advent of social media rained down even more struggle for anyone trying to get over their ex.
Most of us have indulged in a one-off “what are they up to now” profile creep session out of curiosity, but if you’re playing games on how you interact with them on social media, it’s a no-go.
I’m talking to you, chronic Instagram story viewers, and anyone who posts something specifically to catch their ex’s attention. The tough love answer is: You’re making this a lot harder for yourself.
Sure, it’s natural to get a little dopamine hit from these types of things, but overly fixating on digital interactions is a red flag. It’s a sign you actually need distance more than anything else.
Shifting into friendship immediately after a breakup is like boiling pasta for 2 minutes and expecting it to be done — overly ambitious, and tough to digest.
While I can’t speak for every relationship throughout history, taking time apart post-breakup is an undeniably healthy route.
You’ll have time to process and let hard feelings fade away, softening everything month by month. Yes, it’s a bit of a puzzle if your social lives are enmeshed, but still doable.
You could read this entire article and micro-analyze yourself at each section, but deep down, you may have known from the get-go.
A friendship with an ex can be highly rewarding, but it’s more than OK not to have a relationship or be in contact with them.
Accepting the transience of connection and moving forward on your own path will give you much more peace than holding onto a past flame when there is no longer alignment.
Sarah Lempa is a writer and entrepreneur as the founder of Dang Fine Creative, a digital content agency. In her writing, she covers travel, mental health, business, sex and relationships, along with whatever else is currently inspiring. Her words have appeared in Business Insider, VICE, HuffPost, Lonely Planet, and more. While originally from the Chicago area, she’s called multiple countries home and has ventured across six continents along the way. When she’s not chipping away at a piece, you’ll find her jamming out to groovy beats or riding a motorcycle. Keep up with Sarah on Instagram.