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Should You Stay Friends With Your Ex? Should You Stay Friends With Your Ex?

By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

 

       Breakups can be confusing. You know you can no longer be a couple, but does that mean you have to give up being friends, too? After all, you continue to care about each other even though your romantic relationship didn't work out. So, what should you do?

To help you decide, read through the following questions.  As you do, consider how they apply to you in the present, as well as how they might apply in the future.

 

What do you really want?

    It is important to be honest with yourself about what you are truly thinking and feeling toward your ex. Maybe you feel that the romance has gone out of your relationship, but your friendship is still strong. Some people, though, pretend that they want to be friends when what they really want is an opportunity to win back their former partner's love. This can leave them quietly pining or feeling tortured. If the last scenario describes you, it may be time to let go of your ex altogether. This would give you the chance to accept the losses, grieve them, and move forward in your life.

 

How well do you interact? 

    Couples who have an amicable break up may be able to make a relatively smooth transition to friendship. But if fighting or high drama describe you and your ex, you both may be better with more distance between you. You can still wish each other well while choosing to go your own separate ways.


How do your interactions leave you feeling about yourself? 

    If you and your ex continue to care for each other and communicate this in ways that leave you feeling good about yourself, then chances are that you have a solid friendship. On the other hand, if exposure to your ex leaves you doubting or critical of yourself, then you might want to rethink the wisdom of trying to maintain a friendship.

If the questions above leave you feeling that you need distance from your ex, follow up by asking yourself the next two questions.

 

How long do you think you need to distance yourself? 

    It may be that you simply need time to recover from the breakup and can reconnect when you are feeling stronger. In considering when to re-approach your ex, it's best not to give yourself a time limit. Instead, monitor yourself and consider what will work well for you each step along the way.

 

How much distance do you need? 

    The answer to this can, yet again, be found in how you feel in relationship to your ex. If even casually seeing your ex in person causes you great upset, then it may be best to do what you can to limit such contact.

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    If seeing your ex on social media is also triggering, you might want to limit your contact here, too. This might mean not going on social media at all for a while; or just reducing how often you go on it. Or, you might decide not to be ''friends'' on social media. Of course, this can be complicated when you see your ex through the social media of mutual friends. In this circumstance, you need to figure out how much you need to limit this contact, too. Keep in mind that your choices do not need to be a forever ones. Deciding whether to stay friends is very personal. So be careful when you hear people say what you should or should not do. Instead, decide for yourself the best way to handle your relationship with your ex.  In the end, you have to live with yourself, so it's important to consider what will make you happy in the long-term.

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