Can You Stay Friends With An Ex?

Jennifer Lopez arrives with husband Ojani Noa at a film premiere on April 7, 1997, in the Westwood section of Los Angeles. Lopez is suing Noa, now her ex-husband, claiming he demanded $5 million to keep him from publishing a book containing private details about the star and their relationship. (AP)

You’ve both said your peace and the decision has been made.  The dating thing just isn’t working out and you want that phase in your lives to finish.  It’s weird, however, to think that this person who has been such a fixture in your life for the past several months will just disappear completely.  In order to soften the blow, many couples will add the ol’ “let’s still be friends” clause.  Even when born within the best intentions, is this really possible?

1) Was the relationship respectful?
It’s hard to forget being hurt and it’s really hard to forget how someone was hurting you on purpose.  That sort of strain doesn’t just disappear.  Yes, some guys are very different to their friends than they are to their lady friends.  And, yes, sometimes being their friend actually feels like it should’ve felt when you were dating.  Suddenly, you find yourself with someone who is fun, friendly, supportive and without ridiculous barriers.  The issue, however, is that this guy who made you feel terrible during a relationship continues to underscore those issues in the ways that he talks about other girls.  Or, even worse, you have to see him treating other girls the way you wished he had treated you.

2) Was the breakup respectful?
Two people I will not be able to be friends with:

  • The guy who dumped me and then had a new Facebook girlfriend exactly one week later.  It’s one thing to be dating someone and another to have one that’s official on Facebook.  You know that stuff was going on for awhile.  This is the same guy that I tried to leave when I thought he wasn’t ready to commit and he told me that he wasn’t “just going to let me leave.”
  • The guy who sent me myriads of e-mails describing in exacting detail every physical imperfection, how he wanted to get with his female friends the whole time, called me every explicitive under the sun and would show up at my apartment at 3 a.m.

You can’t really go back after that.

3) Did you take time between the breakup and the friendship?

You need to give eachother time and space to separate from the relationship identity.  If you try to lunge into a friendship, there will inevitably be troubles wrapping your head around this new found “just friends” idea.  Someone is going to move on first and someone is going to get hurt and jealous.  You both need to re-establish yourselves as individuals before you can even consider the friendship thing.  Also, you absolutely cannot continue to hook-up and just call eachother “friends”.  That will never work in the long-term friendship thing.

With this said, my best friend is my ex-boyfriend Kent.  He has seen me through some of the roughest and lowest moments in my life.  He has even credited me as “the only way he got through law school without losing his sanity.”  We are going on four years of friendship, which is one of the longest and strongest relationships I’ve ever experienced.  He always says the exact thing I need to hear at the exact moment I need to hear it.  He’s a very important person to me and I to him. 

In addition to the above three rules, there are a few additional distinctions that have made this friendship possible.  Long distance, we’ve never crossed the physical boundary post-breakup and Kent has not had a “serious” relationship since our breakup.  This translates to the fact that I don’t know yet if I will be jealous of his girlfriend…or vice versa.  I know that our relationship will have to change.  Because, regardless of how important it is, no girlfriend is going to let an ex-girlfriend call you at midnight because she “can’t sleep.” (Another post pending on this one…)

What is your policy on friendship after the break?


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  • I agree with your first point that you've made; it really just depends on the level of maturity that's present. I have two boyfriends that I still call good friends, which I think mainly has to do with the fact that they didn't trample on my feelings when we were together. Just like you said above too, it all comes down to how you were initially treated as the girlfriend. You can't really be friends with someone if they disregarded you to begin with..unfortunately that's an issue I'm having with a current ex; possibly the most disrespectful breakup (twice) that I've ever dealt with.

    I suppose these are all things that we learn lessons from, so that we can have awesome relationships AND friendships for the future :) Great suggestions overall.

  • If both people are mature and secure with themselves, it's possible and perfectly doable.
    If the people have been respectful to each other, and the break-up went smoothly (all things considered), then sure, the two people can be friends. It just takes some trust, compromise, and understanding. Good points in the article.

  • I still talk to some of the girls I've dated, and those are the more recent ones. I think it comes with maturity.

  • I also think it helps if you date someone with good intentions, if you really cared about the person. Even if things didn't work out, if you know you loved them, you can usually go on being friends and wish for them to be happy even if it's not with you.

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