Your relationship is over. Its time to call it quits. Still, in the back of your mind, youre wondering whether the two of you can remain friends.
Trying to be friends with your ex isnt recommended. Sure, it seems to soften the psychological blow of the breakup. It makes the end seem a little less final. But it can interfere with the important work you need to do to finish this relationship. First, theres a reason youre breaking up. There are obviously issues between you that you havent been able to resolve. Switching from lovers to best buddies fails to address these concerns and perhaps keeps them solidly in place.
You wont fully experience your emotions. If you caught him in bed with your roommate, youre going to be filled with anger and rage. The betrayal could take weeks, maybe months, to process. Anything less merely shoves it in the closet and prevents healing from taking place.
Any attempts at friendship interfere with moving on. Youre still talking and texting multiple times throughout the day, so youre not likely to close this chapter in your life.
This is especially true for people who have trouble saying goodbye. They cling to dying relationships with a tenacity that turns every breakup into a Dostoevsky novel.
A YourTango.com poll found that 71 percent of respondents admitted thinking about their ex too much and more than 57 percent of singles said that thinking about their ex prevents them from finding new love.
Friends and family are rightfully confused by your sudden attempt to shift relational gears. One night, they see you entwined in a passionate embrace; two weeks later, you swear up and down youre just good friends.
Their mystification is understandable and reflects your own lack of relational clarity. Youre not sure whether youre in or out.
Others are equally at sea.
In spite of all the pitfalls, many couples manage the lover-to-friend transition. According to a 2004 NBC.com poll, 48 percent of people surveyed said they stayed friends with their exes after the breakup. Those odds increase when theres been ample time for healing and conscious effort from all parties involved.
How to be friends with your ex
- Allow your relationship to end. Put all your time and energy into separating from your lover. Be lonely, disappointed and sad. Dont think about stopping by after work. Experience what its like to be out of each others lives. Dont even think about being friends yet.
- Get enough distance. Go off to college. Join a new gym. Move across the country. Take a job in another city. Let life redefine itself without your ex. This step may require several years.
- Date others. Get involved in new relationships. Fall in love and break up again and again so this one incident loses its grip.
- Forget about your past. When youre finally ready to reconnect with your ex, youll need to forgive and forget. Dont reopen old wounds. Dont seek closure for things that happened long ago. Relate in the here and now. If you cant do this, dont attempt to have a friendship.
- Keep sex out of it. You tried intimacy once before, and it didnt work out. And sex is a sure-fire way to ruin a friendship. Yes, your ex may be incredibly gorgeous, but dont go there.
- Recognize why you separated. Hopefully, you have a better perspective as to why your relationship failed. Perhaps you were too young, or one of you wasnt committed. Use that wisdom to guide your current behavior and choices.
- Keep it casual. Dont contact each other every day. Make meetings brief and in public venues. If the new relationship starts to feel awkward or begins to interfere with your love life, pull the plug ASAP. It wasnt meant to be.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit lindalewisgriffith.com.