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Staying Friends After a Breakup: Can You Actually Make It Work?

If you break up on good or mutual terms, wanting to remain close makes sense. But is staying friends after a breakup really a good idea?

staying friends after a breakup

Breakups suck, especially when you still care about your ex. You do not want to part ways forever because you get along and are connected. But is staying friends after a breakup a good idea?

It depends.

Were you friends before you started dating?

You might be wondering why this matters? But if you were not friends before you started dating you may have nothing to grasp. Cutting out the romantic feelings and staying in each other’s lives will be more difficult if you didn’t have a basis of friendship at the beginning.

It will be easier to find common ground to base a friendship on without romantic feelings if you had that before. [Read: Here is why staying friends with your ex just doesn’t work]

Do you have mutual friends?

It may be easier to reconnect as friends if you have a mutual friend group. This way you can get into a routine of seeing this person in a platonic setting. You are both more likely to feel accountable for your actions after a breakup as well.

When your friends know the situation, not only can they help make the transition easier for you, but wanting to keep the drama and jealously to a minimum for their sake may help you get along better. [Read: 13 signs your friend are actually ruining your relationship]

Is staying friends after a breakup what you really want?

You might think, of course. This person is important to you. You don’t want to lose them. But do you stay friends because you feel guilty for something? Because you miss them? Because they make you feel comfortable? Or to make your friend group more at ease? 

Only stay friends if you really think it is a good idea for both of you. Often times it is not what’s best. So consider the pros and cons. Are there more benefits to being friends with your ex than there are possible issues?

Staying friends after a breakup can work

We’ve all seen Rachel and Joey from Friends make it work, but is that realistic? As a matter of fact, it is. You just have to know where to begin.

#1 Take some time. If you hang out as friends right after a break up things can get dicey. Not only is there no room for closure or mourning, but there is a wide opening for jealousy to take over.

If you don’t give yourself and your ex time to get used to the fact that you’re no longer romantically involved, getting over the relationship can be obstructed.

If you’re planning on staying friend after a break up, take some time to not talk everyday. You may think continuing to send each other memes all day proves you’re both mature, but without space you’re not moving on. [Read: 12 reasons why the no contact rule always works]

#2 What will you share? If you have both agreed to stay friends, there should be some ground rules, so no one oversteps. Friendship doesn’t mean best friends, so for a while you may want to keep things on the surface.

For instance, if you date someone else your ex may not be the best person to go to to share the news or ask for advice. Try to figure out how you want to transition. Do you want to talk future relationships right away or agree on taking some time before chatting about something that could bring up old feelings?

#3 Don’t be passive aggressive. Just as relationships only work when you’re open and honest, the same goes for friendships. So if you feel bitter about them moving on quickly or think they are bad mouthing you around town, talk to them.

If you plan on staying friends after a breakup, and want to remain on good terms being underhanded or even pretending things are fine when they aren’t is not going to do you any good. Be honest. Let them know if you are hurt by something they are doing so they understand why you might need some space. [Read: How to get out of a toxic passive aggressive state]

#4 Be respectful. You may think we’re friends now so they will understand, but how would you feel in their shoes? If you are bringing around a new guy or girl for your friends to meet without any warning for your ex, they might feel caught off guard. Be respectful when it comes to moving on. 

You will be doing that at your own pace, but you don’t have to rub it in their face. They are your friend, but you are also theirs. Be as aware of their feelings as you would with any other friend you have. And remember that just because you agreed to be friends, it doesn’t mean you’ve moved on and the feelings are gone.

#5 Slip ups happen. On and off relationships are usually dysfunctional and complicated. And they can often happen when two people try to stay friends after a breakup. Spending time with someone you’ve had strong feelings for in the past cause those feelings to resurface.

Maybe all the reasons you broke up aren’t there anymore, or there is not jealously or nagging because technically you aren’t together. All those things  lead to an unplanned and regretful hookup or more complications that you did not sign up for.

So if that happens don’t be too hard on yourself. It is comforting to go back to what you’re used to. That is human nature, but stay aware of the consequences. These events cause more trouble than they’re worth, so proceed with caution. [Read: These are the reasons you need to avoid an on-off relationship]

#6 Is it too hard to see them? Trying to be friends after a breakup is noble and mature, but that doesn’t mean it is right for you. Depending on the specific circumstances and events surrounding the breakup things will go differently for every couple.

If you don’t trust your ex as a romantic partner, odds are things won’t change as friends. If your feelings are still strong because you are constantly talking to them or seeing them that is not only unfair to you, but also them. Neither one of you should be pining over the other if you are truly friends. 

So even though you tried, being friends after a breakup may not work for you. [Read: How to turn down an ex who wants to be friends]

If that seems to be the case, tell the truth. It can be hard to admit that you are still hung up on them or have difficulty moving on because they are still in your life, but they will get it. Simply tell them that by being friends, your feelings are still there. You need space and time to truly move on.

And who knows, maybe after a while you can try again. But don’t feel defeated or like a failure because you can’t be friends with an ex. That isn’t the right thing for everyone.

[Read: Try these 13 things to help heal your broken heart]

Staying friends after a breakup sounds like the mature thing to do, but it is not always as easy as it sounds. Relationships are complicated, and you don’t want to carry that into a potential friendship. 

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Samantha Ann
My name is Samantha Ann. I am 28 years old. It was always my dream to become an advice columnist, so after years of off and online dating and eventually finding...