From a reader: Jackie, neither one of us wants to get back together, but do people ever talk to their ex’s as friends? In other words, is it possible to be friends with your ex?
When I was in my thirties, living in Boston, I dated a guy for a few months and it didn’t work out. When we decided not to see each other anymore, he said, “I hope we can still be friends.”
I offered a sad sort of chuckle, rolled my eyes and replied, “Yeah, OK.”
Then he said something to me that I will never forget to this day. He said, “I really mean it and here’s why. If two people like each other enough to get into a relationship and then they break up, it makes sense that they would want to be friends. If they don’t, then they never really had anything substantial to begin with. I think we did.”
I have always thought that was a really, really smart way to look at a breakup. Why? Because, if you think about it, you got together with the person because you liked each other. If “like” is present and REAL, it will be there whether you are married, deeply in love, just dating, or broken up.
So, is it possible to be friends with your ex? I’d say it’s Impossible if you don’t like each other. If it was more infatuation based, lust based, or you loved him or her but didn’t particularly care for them (and that is a very possible scenario), or one of the people did something unforgivably horrendous, I’d say you probably won’t become friends after.
I have no idea how your divorce turned out—if it was ugly, devastating, sad, angry, etc. but the fact that you are talking as friends is a great sign!
So, let’s say “like” is there. Additionally, there are some other factors that could determine whether or not you can be friends with your ex:
1. Again, if anything really, really bad was done in the marriage or divorce, there’s less of a chance.
2. If one person really wanted the divorce and the other didn’t, it might be too difficult at first.
3. If one or both become involved in relationships where the friendship is an issue with the new spouse.
4. If there are children involved (that could bring a couple closer to being friends because they are forced to see each other more)
5. If one or both are still in love and so there is an ulterior motive of getting back together, then the friendship isn’t authentic.
6. If the person has a history of divorce (say his or her parents) and doesn’t know how to be friends because they never saw it any other way.
7. The legal process of the divorce was bad or one person walked away with a settlement they didn’t think was fair.
One really big factor in being friends with your ex is TIME. I think it is difficult to be friends initially, because no divorce or break up ends without a lot of hurt. Undoubtedly, one or both are devastated But as time goes by and the hurt fades, people move on and then I think a genuine friendship can develop.
I will say that if you become friends with your ex, there has to be communication about what the friendship will be, and boundaries established. For example, maybe talk about how comfortable you are going into each other’s houses. Or, what happens when one of you starts dating someone.
Being friends with your ex is a beautiful thing, in my opinion, and a tribute to the relationship you once had. Some people think being friends with an ex is just too weird. Or, they carry bitterness and resentment way too much to go down that road.
But if you can find it in your heart to become friends with your ex, I believe it can be a gift. If you think about it, wasn’t your ex your family? Why would you ever want to turn your back on your family?
Then again, you might be rolling your eyes and saying, “No, thanks, Jackie. I don’t need a ‘friend’ like her (or him.)” Just keep in mind that you might not always feel this way. Time has a way of changing one’s perspective.
By the way, I am still friends with my Boston guy. It is a gift.