As many of you know first-hand, breaking up is hard. You wonder where things went wrong and if there’s anything you could have done to make the relationship work. You’re unsure about whether you can stop caring for someone with whom you’ve shared so many good times. And, you consider staying friends with your ex. After all, when you’ve been with a person for a long time, it’s difficult to just cut that person out of your life completely.
Can ex-lovers just be friends? Yes, I believe it is possible, although it’s very challenging for most people.
One study found that when ex-lovers remain friends, those relationships were less satisfying than other friendships, because the issues from the past were never resolved. Also, the expectations of friendships are different than those for love relationships. For example, you don’t typically think of “exclusive” friendships, where exclusiveness is something you think about for romantic relationships.
The real question is this: Is remaining friends with an ex a good thing for you? The answer depends on four important questions:
- Can you move on?
You were once a couple, now you are not. Change is inevitable as you uncouple. You must be able to process your feelings, figure out what happened, and think of yourself as “you” rather than “us.” Make sure you’re not holding on, hoping for things to go back to the way they were.
- What kind of friendship do you want?
There are different types of friends. Ask yourself, do you want to remain close or simply cordial? Make sure you know the boundaries of your friendship and agree upon them early on. You might be used to sharing your most personal thoughts and feelings with this person, but in most cases, things will have to change.
- Does the friendship interfere with a new relationship?
It can be confusing and threatening to a new partner if you continue your friendship with an ex. Be open and honest, and show the new partner that your relationship with him or her is primary, richer and more intimate.
- What was the nature of the relationship and breakup?
There may be circumstances outside the relationship that you need to take into consideration. For example, if the two of you have children or a joint business, it is best to stay on decent terms. If you have children, you know there will always be decisions that you will have to make together.
Dr. Terri Orbuch (aka The Love Doctor®) is a relationship expert for OurTime.com, as well as a professor, therapist, research scientist, and author of 5 best-selling books, including “Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship,” available on Amazon.com. Learn more about her at: DrTerriTheLoveDoctor.com.