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7 Important Tips on How to Be Friends With Your Ex After a Tough Breakup

Updated on August 3, 2017
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After seeing many friends (or himself) seduced by love, only to crash and burn afterwards, Jorge writes advice based on his observations.

When Your Ex Wants to Be Friends

Should you be friends with your ex?

It's actually not uncommon for someone's ex to still want to be friends, even after a hard breakup.

You may have had a good friendship with your ex before your relationship, so it's natural that they would be hesitant to throw all of that away.

However, could there be something more sinister happening here? Are there times when you should just cut your losses and let go?

Take a look at these tips to help you avoid problems when your ex wants to be friends after your break up:

Does your ex want to be friends after your breakup?
Does your ex want to be friends after your breakup?

1) Ask Yourself: Why Does My Ex Want to Be Friends?

Your ex's motivations actually make a huge difference here. Why does your ex want to be friends in the first place?

If it's because they value you as a person and genuinely enjoy your company in spite of the fact that things aren't working out romantically, then that's fine. This is especially true if you had a strong friendship before you got together.

However, consider carefully the possibility that your ex may want to be friends simply because they want something from you. Most people are heartbroken after a breakup, so they are often hesitant at first to be friends. They usually give it a little bit of time.

If your ex seems extremely eager to keep seeing you, there might be a hidden reason. Maybe you provided financial or sexual opportunities and they don't want to let that go.

This might not be a problem for you--but just be aware of it.

2) Think About Why You Broke Up With Your Ex

Why did you and your ex break up? This can help you decide whether or not you should be friends with your ex.

Was it that you simply were on different life paths and decided to part? Did you amicably decide that you were too incompatible as a couple? Did you realize that you had more of a friendship than a romantic attraction?

In those cases, it might make sense to be friends with your ex. They know you well and could be a great member of your support network.

However, did you break up because your partner cheating? Because they became abusive? Because they developed an addiction to drugs? Because they insulted your grandma?

In situations where you broke up with someone because they were a bad influence on your life, there's no reason to be friends with them. If they caused you issues while in a romantic relationship, they will certainly bring you down as a friend.

Is your ex trying to impress you in a misguided attempt to win you back?
Is your ex trying to impress you in a misguided attempt to win you back?

3) Watch Out For Manipulative Behavior on the Part of Your Ex

Some people are sneaky and say that they want to be friends after a breakup, but friendship is actually the last thing on their minds.

If you suspect that your ex secretly thinks that they can convince you to get back with them by being "your friend," then don't give them the chance. That is needy and manipulative behavior.

If they don't have the guts to be upfront about their intentions, not only does this make for a bad relationship, but it makes a bad friendship, too. Who wants a friend who is constantly pushing you to be something more?

Manipulative behavior to watch out for includes:

  • Criticizing your new romantic partners under the guise of "advice."
  • Coming to your rescue whenever you have a problem. (Maybe they're doing this because they like you--or maybe they're trying to get you to reconcile with them.)
  • Trying to make you jealous by flaunting their new partners.
  • Cutting you down or trying to make you feel less confident about your ability to attract a new mate.
  • Trying to impress you with how much they've "changed." (For example, if they were financially unsuccessful before, they might constantly mention their new car.)

Sounds terrible, right? It is, but some people do this--sometimes even without realizing it. Infatuation can make people do stupid things.

Your History With Friendly Exes

Have you ever been friends with your ex before?

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4) Have a Period of No Contact

If you do decide that your ex wants to be friends out of genuine platonic love and that they aren't trying to manipulate you, then great!

Even still, though, you should have a period of zero contact with them.

Why? Well, you can't just turn your feelings for each other off. Even if you are no longer attracted to your ex the way you used to be, there are patterns of behavior that you both have that are associated with the romantic part of your relationship.

To break these patterns, you're going to have to take a break from seeing each other. Give it at least a month, if not more. If you want to err on the side of caution, give it three months (a season). This will give time for the more irrational emotions to subside.

If you see your ex again too soon, you risk stirring up romantic feelings. Nothing makes us change our mind about breaking up more than missing someone and then seeing them before the grieving phase is done. This is a problem if you're trying to avoid getting back together.

5) If You Can't Get Over Them, Don't Be Friends

Most importantly, if you rationally know in your mind that you don't make a good couple, but you can't help but still have feelings for them, don't be friends.

If you try to be friends with your ex in this mental state, then you are laying a trap for yourself. You will either: 1) be tortured by the fact that you can't be with someone that you love and see often, or 2) end up getting back together with someone who isn't good for you.

Your will power will not be enough. Keep yourself out of the situation and don't be friends with an ex that you're still in love with.

If you're heartbroken still, maybe you shouldn't be friends.
If you're heartbroken still, maybe you shouldn't be friends.

6) Avoid Hanging Out Alone With Your Ex at First

Let's say that after considering all of the above, you decide to give it a chance. Your ex wants to be friends, so you decide to try hanging out as "just friends" for the first time.

Well, hold on a second. Are you going to be alone with them?

If you've waited a few months after the breakup, it might be okay to go out for coffee in public and catch up, but it's probably better to hang out in a group of friends at first.

Try to avoid being alone in a room with your ex until you know for sure that the feelings have subsided. Otherwise, unexpected things could happen in the heat of the moment. (On the other hand, if you want to get back with your ex, follow the opposite of this advice.)

7) Watch For Signs That Your Ex Can't Let Go

Finally, maybe you feel like you are over your ex and you are ready for a mature friendship--but is your ex the same way?

Perhaps your ex isn't a manipulative person and would never try to cajole you into getting back together with them. Still, is seeing you causing them emotional pain? Are they torturing themselves by being friends with you?

If so, you might want to do them a favor and cut them off. Here are some signs that your ex is not over you:

  • They seem hurt when you mention new partners.
  • They are having trouble finding a new partner themselves. (This often means that they haven't mentally let you go.)
  • Your mutual friends tell you that your ex isn't over you.
  • Your ex is still doing you favors or helping you in ways that usually only people in a relationship do.
  • They are protective of you.

It might seem convenient when your ex is willing to go out of their way to, say, drive you to your Yoga class every day--however, realize that you are actually being manipulative when you accept this. If you know that they're only doing it because they still love you, stop taking advantage of their feelings and let them go.

This doesn't mean you need to hurt their feelings. It's probably enough to say something like: "Look, I appreciate everything you're doing for me, but I can't help but feel that you're doing them because we used to be together. It makes me feel bad. To move on, I think we need to make some distance between us."

"Of course I'll carry you across the water, buddy! It's not because I love you or anything!"
"Of course I'll carry you across the water, buddy! It's not because I love you or anything!"

Be Careful When Your Ex Wants to Be Friends

So what's the final verdict? Should you be friends with your ex?

It really depends. If you take anything away from this article, just be careful and think it through.

Breakups can be messy situations and it's important to analyze both your motivations and your former partner's motivations when your ex wants to be friends.

Your Opinion: Should People Be Friends With Their Exes?

If your ex wants to be friends, should you agree?

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© 2017 Jorge Vamos

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    • dashingscorpio profile image

      dashingscorpio 3 weeks ago

      Great advice!

      "Have a Period of No Contact" - Extremely important.

      Too often people try to go from being "red hot lovers" to "platonic friends" resembling siblings and it fails.

      The reality is it's rare when both people want out of a relationship. The person being dumped accepts "friendship" as a (consolation prize) while hoping that by remaining close they'll have an opportunity to win back their mate.

      The person who ended the relationship oftentimes extends the olive branch of friendship because they don't want to feel like the "bad guy" for hurting their ex. 'We can still be friends...etc"

      This may lead to a moment of weakness where the two might have sex. One person views it as a step towards reconciliation and the other sees it as a one off "booty call" or "friends with benefits" event. This sets up things for another heartbreak.

      The best friendships between exes usually occur after a large gap in time where both people have moved on and found happiness with other people or at the very least have no romantic interest in their ex whatsoever. Take time apart.

      Your ex is the last person who can help you get over them!