Should I be friends with my ex? It’s one of the golden questions of relationships or perhaps rather, post-relationships. It makes people shift in their seats uncomfortably and begin to sweat profusely. There are side-eyes to be had; shade to be thrown. Basically, drama.
If you remain friends with your ex, how long should you wait to do so? Should you wait at all? No matter how many times we discuss this subject, there doesn’t seem to be an answer that leaves us satisfied.
There shouldn’t be a straightforward answer to this question. After all, every relationship is different. And thus, it follows that every end to a relationship will be different. Perhaps you were friends with the person before you started dating and so you want to maintain the friendship. Perhaps things ended in an amicable fashion and you’ve decided they’d make a better friend than significant other. Perhaps you just know a lot of the same people and you just can’t escape each other’s company. There are a plethora of reasons why you can technically remain friends with someone after dating them.
But still, should you be friends?
Depending on how long you were in a relationship with your ex, chances are you were in love with them. And regardless of the reason you broke up with them, that love most likely didn’t evaporate into thin air. Life would be so much easier for all of us if things were that simple. On the other hand, when a relationship ends, it is very easy to hold onto it in your head, all in the name of “friendship.” And in that way, it prolongs the healing process that a person needs to really truly get over someone and move on. You can’t just transition to friendship from a relationship in a way that doesn’t leave you vulnerable to getting into a messy situation.
When you end a romantic relationship, I think there’s a certain kind of death that happens, in a metaphoric way. If you think of relationships as something where two people come together and create meaningful love between them, when it’s over, the relationship died. Again, that doesn’t mean that the love died ,but it does mean that there is an ending. And there is a part of me that thinks trying to maintain a friendship from that sort of ending is a recipe for disaster.
There is of course another side to the death of the relationship which can give both people new life and a new perspective on things–and maybe even on each other. And maybe this new perspective can allow them to see each other as friends. But I have the feeling that before this can happen, both people need to be in a good space for it. And rather than staying friends what needs to happen is that you become friends with each other (again). But if this is not for you and your ex, I think that’s okay too. As that Uma Thurman quote goes, “I still love the people who I’ve dated, even if I cross the street to avoid them.”
Hopefully, regardless of how our relationships end with the people we once loved or liked a whole lot, even if we’re not friends with them, we can be big enough and brave enough to wish them well. Your exes weren’t perfect and neither are you. There is no need to romanticize the pain of having loved and lost. But there is no need to prolong suffering from it either. I believe that holding onto anything negative from the past affects your ability to live in the present, much less try to live the best and happiest life you can in the moment.