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How to Stay Friends With an Ex (And When It’s a Good Idea)

Pretty much everyone agrees that breakups are rough. They’re an upending of normalcy, of stability. They force you to re-evaluate yourself and who you are in relationships. They can sometimes get really ugly, especially if a relationship was toxic.

But sometimes, relationships end for less problematic reasons. Maybe you had different goals, or lived too far apart, or just grew apart. In that case, sometimes friendship can follow a breakup, and be just as rewarding as any other platonic relationship. But how do you do it, and when it is right to?

When Should You Stay Friends?

First, we should talk about when staying friends with an ex is not beneficial. If they were verbally or physically abusive, your first duty should be to protect yourself. If they cheated on you, your heart may be too broken to consider friendship, and that’s okay. Being friends with an ex, even in the best of circumstances, also requires emotional labor that you may not have the strength or patience for.

Those cases aside, experts agree that there are circumstances when it’s a good idea. For couples with kids, being at least on good terms models healthy behaviors and respect for your children. And if you dated very casually or were friends first, chances are there are qualities in the person you really liked. It’s also equally likely that your breakup wasn’t messy enough to ruin things between you.

The bottom line is that you should only stay friends with an ex when you feel good about it.

Tips and Strategies

If you decide you want to remain friends with an ex, you need to be prepared and have a plan. It’s not easy, and it won’t happen overnight.

  • Give it time. Right after a breakup is not the time to discuss friendship. Give yourself distance from the other person to process things.
  • Maintain other friendships. Your friends will not only make you feel better, they’ll keep you from relying on your ex when you’re emotionally vulnerable.
  • Avoid social media. If you have to unfriend your ex for a bit, don’t feel ashamed. It’s a valid way to create distance between you.
  • Create boundaries and ground rules. When the time comes for friendship, have clear rules in mind that can keep you from breaking the peace you’ve created.

Going through a breakup – especially after a long-term relationship – can be really hard. Therapy can help get you back on the right track and prepare for the future relationships you deserve. If you’re interested in therapy, contact Azevedo Family Psychology today!

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