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Is Being Friends with an Ex Really Possible?

Key Takeaways

  • Staying friends with an ex is possible but challenging and requires clear boundaries and expectations.
  • Both people need to heal from the breakup and be over the relationship before a friendship can work.
  • The friendship dynamic will be different than when you were partners.
  • Open, honest communication is key to making it work.
  • Sometimes friendships with exes are temporary or fade over time.
  • Consider if lingering romantic feelings or jealousy will prevent a platonic friendship.
  • Don’t stay friends out of guilt or because you feel like you “should.”
Being Friends with an Ex Really Possible

Ending a romantic relationship can be difficult and complex. While the love may fade, you likely still care for your ex as a person. You may have history, and shared experiences, and know each other very well.

So is staying friends possible after you break up? The answer is yes but with some caveats.

After a breakup, both people need space and time apart to process the end of the relationship. Even if you ultimately want to be friends, don’t try to rush into a friendship before you’ve both had time to heal.

Give yourselves a clean break for a few weeks or months with limited contact. This allows you to gain perspective and disentangle your lives.

Let Go of Past Relationship Expectations

The dynamic between friends is different than romantic partners. As friends with an ex, you can’t expect the same level of priority, intimacy, or support. The friendship won’t be exactly like it was before you dated. Accept that the relationship has fundamentally changed.

Managing Boundaries

Set clear boundaries and expectations around things like communication frequency, social media connections, whether significant others will be involved, etc. Boundaries prevent hurt feelings and blurred lines.

Being Supportive Without Getting Entangled

Offer support as a caring friend, but don’t get overly embroiled in each other’s problems as you did as a couple. Give advice at arm’s length without falling into old habits.

Finding the Right Balance

Aim for casual, low-pressure interactions centering on shared interests, not deep emotional support. Find a cadence of contact that works for both people.

Checking Your Motives

Before pursuing a friendship with an ex, introspect on your motives. Are you doing this out of guilt, loneliness, or because you think you should? Those aren’t healthy grounds for friendship. A friendship will only work if you both genuinely want it.

Look Out for Unresolved Feelings

Being friends soon after a breakup is hard. Feelings may still linger, making it painful or impossible to be “just friends.” If one person still has romantic feelings, space and distance are healthier. Give it time.

The Importance of Open Communication

Candidly communicate your intentions, expectations, boundaries, and any discomfort that arises. Don’t ignore issues hoping they’ll resolve naturally. Talk things through openly and non-judgmentally.

Jealousy Can Be Problematic

Seeing your ex date someone new can stir up jealous feelings. Consider if either of you will struggle with jealousy before pursuing a friendship. Set boundaries around discussing new romantic partners.

Dealing With Jealousy Constructively

Address jealousy as soon as it emerges. Talk it through, and reaffirm your friendship parameters. Jealousy doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t be friends, but you’ll have to actively manage it.

Taking a Break if Needed

If jealousy becomes overwhelming, it’s okay to take a step back from the friendship temporarily or permanently. Do what’s healthiest for you both.

Every Situation is Unique

There are no rigid rules. The best friends with exes dynamics will be different for every pair based on your personalities, relationship history, breakup circumstances, etc. Make choices based on your unique situation.

Don’t Force It

A friendship shouldn’t feel like an obligation, constantly requiring work. If either person is perpetually uncomfortable, that might signal this arrangement isn’t meant to be. Let it go without guilt.

Friendships Can Morph and Shift

Not all post-breakup friendships are lifelong. Some last for shorter periods to help both parties transition after the relationship. Even temporary friendships can be healing.

Friendships Can Morph and Shift

The Importance of Forgiveness

To become true friends, you must let go of resentment about the past. If you can’t stop bringing up old hurts, it will poison the friendship.

Forgive each other:

  • Make a conscious effort to release anger.
  • Don’t dwell on grievances.
  • Show empathy for their perspective.
  • Wish them well in life.
  • Focus on the present.

Shared History and Memories

Breakups don’t erase the fond memories you created together. As friends, you can reminisce and celebrate shared experiences without it being unhealthy. Cherish the good times.

New Chapters

A post-breakup friendship can be part of your individual growth. You’re showing maturity by turning a romance into a mutually supportive friendship. It’s perfectly healthy to have love for your ex’s well-being.

In summary, proceeding cautiously is wisest when establishing a friendship post-breakup. With open communication, healthy boundaries, and letting go of the past, it is possible to transition successfully into a casual, meaningful friendship.

But don’t force it. If transitioning to friends doesn’t feel right for either of you, that’s okay too. Your well-being comes first.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long after a breakup should you wait before trying to be friends?

It’s generally best to wait a few months before trying to be friends, to allow time for the intense emotions of the breakup to dissipate. Give yourself time to adjust to your new normal first.

What if only one person wants to stay friends?

Friendship requires mutual interest. If one ex is much more eager for friendship than the other, proceed cautiously. It may be healthier to part ways, at least temporarily. Don’t feel pressured into a friendship you don’t want.

Are there benefits to staying friends with an ex?

Potential benefits include maintaining valued parts of the relationship, keeping mutual friends, preserving shared memories, and retaining emotional intimacy. But these require both people to be on the same page.

Are there benefits to staying friends with an ex

How do you set boundaries with an ex?

Be explicit about boundaries like frequency of contact, whether you’ll interact on social media, expectations around significant others, off-limit conversation topics, and how much emotional support you’ll provide.

How do you stop romantic feelings for an ex?

Time, distance, and focusing on self-care help romantic feelings subside. Avoid physical intimacy or dwelling on the past. Date others when you’re ready. Immerse yourself in hobbies and friends. The feelings will fade.

Can you be just friends if one person was hurt badly?

It depends. If hurt feelings remain raw, space might be healthiest in the short term. But if both people can communicate openly and forgive, hurt can sometimes give way to a healing friendship. Proceed thoughtfully.

What if my new partner is uncomfortable with my friendship with my ex?

Reassure your new partner, but don’t end a friendship just to appease their insecurity. Set clear boundaries and involve your new partner occasionally. Transparency helps manage jealousy.

How can you tell if a friendship with an ex is toxic?

Signs include constantly rehashing old issues, frequent arguing, exploiting each other’s vulnerabilities, competitiveness, excessive jealousy, or lingering romantic feelings on either side.

Is it possible to stay friends with all your exes?

It depends on the relationship and the people involved. Don’t force yourself to stay friends if it doesn’t feel right or requires too much work. But if both parties are motivated, then yes, friendship is achievable in many cases.

So in summary, friendship after a breakup requires self-awareness, mutual interest, emotional maturity, healthy boundaries, and open communication. With intention and care, many find great fulfillment in evolving a romance into an enriching, lasting friendship.


Deciding whether or not to remain friends with an ex is a very personal choice that depends on your unique circumstances.

There’s no one “right” way to approach it. With open communication, emotional honesty, and clearly defined boundaries, friendship can often be successfully navigated after a split. But never feel obligated.

If you or your ex just don’t have an interest in friendship, that’s perfectly okay too. Prioritize your emotional well-being. Listen to your heart.

Transitioning from lovers to friends requires maturity and intention by both people involved. With care, understanding, and time, it can result in a mutually supportive friendship that adds value for you both.