Opinion: Can You Really Be Friends with an Ex?
“I think we should just be friends.”
It’s the most infamous break up line in existence. Sometimes it’s an excuse to let someone down gently before avoiding them forever, but sometimes it’s a genuine request to remain friends. Or is it? That’s the question here. Is it possible to be friends with an ex?
A better question to ask is, “Should you be friends with an ex?” If the two of you went through a particularly bad breakup or had a harmful relationship, maybe you shouldn’t seek friendship with each other. However, if the breakup was mutual and handled respectfully, and there are no hard feelings between the two of you, there’s no reason the relationship can't shift from romantic to platonic. Here’s why.
You Know Each Other
From your deepest, darkest secrets to how you take your coffee in the morning, your ex knows you. The two of you already have a foundation for a relationship built on knowing the other person’s interests and habits and appreciating how they complement with your own. Making friends with someone who already knows you so well is easier than meeting new people and building friendships from scratch, and there’s no reason not to take advantage of that history.
It’s Better to be Friends Than Enemies
Broken up or not, it’s hard to avoid an ex. Chances are, they’re still going to be in your life to some extent, whether you see them in class every day or you run into them at the grocery store every once in a while. Maintaining a friendship with your ex makes it infinitely less awkward when you run into them post-breakup.
You Care About Each Other
It’s hard to abandon someone who meant so much to you, and you aren’t going to stop caring about a person just because you aren’t dating them anymore. If you genuinely want the best for each other, why not stick around to support each other as friends? You shouldn’t lose a healthy support system because of an unspoken societal rule that you aren’t allowed to speak to your ex.
On the flipside…
…there are plenty of reasons not to befriend an ex as well. If the two of you aren't on the same page about what you want out of your friendship, i.e. one of you wants to be friends and the other hopes to someday get back together, it’s unlikely that the friendship will last. Likewise, if the friendship starts too soon after the breakup, when emotions are still running high for one or both parties, jealousy, anger, or any other number of feelings are much more likely to get in the way and cause a rift in your relationship.
Ultimately, every case is different, and some exes are easier to befriend than others. Whether it tells you to stick around or hightail it out of there, trust your gut, because no one except you knows if you’re capable of remaining friends an ex. It may be hard, but it is possible, and there’s no reason you can’t try to forge a friendship out of a failed romance just because it’s a popular belief that you shouldn’t.