Can You Be Friends With Your Ex?

Q: Can you be friends with your ex?

There are two schools of thought on this.

One is of course you can! You’re two mature people who care about each other and your lives are richer for having the other person in them, and the time you shared together in the past is a precious touchstone that you want to share!

The second is of course you can’t, because men only want to be your friend in case they can sleep with you again, and that women only want to be your friend in case they need a backup plan for their current relationship, or need someone to make a new guy jealous, or to take to a wedding. This is the one that has a dimmer view of human nature. However, this is the one that seems to be more consistently true.

My experience was, when I got married, I lost all of my male friends. Either they backed off out of a desire to be respectful of my spouse and my marriage, or else they were a bunch of dudes who were hanging out in case I wanted to have sex with them at some point. Sometimes, “let’s be friends” is code for “Let’s see if I can get in your good graces through funtimes and beers.”
This is sad and unpleasant to think about. Are people of the opposite sex only worthwhile as romantic partners? Am I not fun to hang out with in public? Are women friends inferior to guy friends?

It might come down to, it’s a busy world. We’re all working, we’re pursuing our dreams, and we have limited free time for the friends we already have, so am I really going to make time to grab lunch with a sysadmin with a foot fetish that I didn’t click with? I’d rather spend that time with old friends or with potential new partners. If you’re not the right one for me, then let’s both move on.
When I’m friends with exes: I find that they have way more time for me if they’re single, and if they’re not single, I wind up being better friends with their girlfriends or wives, and they kind of recede into the background.

I think there are mitigating factors like, how long did you date? If you went on three tinder dates with someone, “Let’s be friends” is my favorite code for “Let’s never see each other again!”

Q: Can you be friends with your ex when you’re seeing someone else?

That depends. Is your ex a mature person?

If they’re not, they might be jealous or weird around your new guy.

Alternately, if you are committed to a new relationship, it might be better not to keep an ex around. Try to take a breath and look at your motivations. Are you still interested in your ex? Are you putting your best foot forward with your current? Keeping a string of old guys around smacks of commitment problems. Again, if your ex is from high school and you’ve known him almost as long as your siblings, that’s different- but if you’re getting brats and beers with your last serious relationship, it might give your current guy pause.  In the past, I always pursued friendships with my exes because I thought that was a mark of adulthood- but it might be even more grown up to let them move on with their lives.

Q: Can your friend be friends with your ex?

This is even subtler. If we’re assuming that friendship is code for “maybe bang”, I’d rather not. Friends dating our exes can be more hurtful than the breakup was in the first place. If you’d like to stay friends with a good girlfriend’s ex, proceed with caution and ask her beforehand. She might have important information that you weren’t privy to, that the guy in question was abusive, was a drunk, or was untrustworthy. Talking to her could save both of you a lot of trouble.

If you’re wondering, “Am I good enough friends with this woman that it should keep me from hanging out with Chad?” just ask yourself “would I be comfortable if she never spoke to me again?” If you are, it’s fine to be friends with her ex!

Good Times to Connect With Your Ex

Even if you parted ways on good terms, the idea of being friends with an ex is, well, weird.

This is a person with whom you were intimate with in ways most people will never be with you and, if you were in love, it’s a loss. Breakups, no matter how they ended, are never easy.

The problem with breaking up with someone is that you’re not just losing your partner, but your best friend. Personally, I’ve been able to move on easier from the idea of losing my partner than I am able to move on from losing my best friend. You go from having someone on who you can rely constantly, for the good and the bad, then they’re gone. And while you have other friends with whom you can share things, there’s a void if you can’t just call up your ex and share something with them. I can’t even tell you how often I pick up the phone to call my ex to tell him something, then I have to stop myself and say out loud, “Oh yeah. We’re never talking again.”

But, time heals all wounds, as they say, or at least some of them. Since that’s a possibility, there’s a strong likelihood that you just might want to talk to your ex again — maybe even pick up the friendship part of your relationship. But, before you do that, you need to get in the right mind set first. Here’s when it’s probably OK to start talking to an ex again:

1. When You’re No Longer Madly In Love With Them

This one can be tricky. You may miss them romantically, but you also may miss them as a friend. It’s not always clear exactly what you miss about them, but it’s important to determine whether these feelings are intensely romantic or not. Make sure you’re not setting yourself up for emotional pain.