By Brook West
Friendship with an ex immediately after a break up is like Communism. It sounds good on paper, but inevitably leaves all involved feeling less than satisfied.
Can you really stay friends after a break up? Possibly. And I mean “friends” in the truest sense of the word. But being friends with an ex-lover is not always the wisest decision or beneficial in any way.
Let’s first consider the condition of the break up. Chances are it involved a toxic cocktail of emotions – sadness, anger, heartbreak, anxiety, panic, and for some, a twist of relief. These are not feelings that can be easily overcome to forge a healthy, mutual friendship.
Despite these emotions and resentments, “We can be friends” is still an offering given at the end of a relationship to typically lessen the blow. When someone suggests friendship during the actual break up, it can be a reflection of their guilt for ending the relationship. If someone has made a commitment to you, to take care of you, to be there for you, etc. they can feel guilty for dumping you because it means you won’t have that support anymore. To appease this guilt, someone may offer to be friends, or agree to remain friends, even though it is not necessarily conducive of moving on and moving forward. Even if your ex has the best intentions, a friendship nurtured by guilt is not a friendship you should participate in.
Nonetheless, it is possible to be friends with an ex. Maybe you know an ex-couple who has made it work as friends – that’s nice – but you have to consider a friendship with your ex within your context, and not based off the context of someone else’s situation. So, how do you know if it’s time to repair a friendship? How do you know if it’s time to move on? If you’re not sure what’s right for you, here are five signs you’re not ready to be friends with your ex:
1. You Try To Make Your Ex Jealous
Friends don’t make friends jealous. If you truly want a friendship with your ex, you should not be trying to remind them of what they’re missing. If you have an “I’ll show him (her)!” attitude, it is a sign that you are not over the relationship and you are not ready to pursue a friendship with your ex.
2. You Just Found Out Your Ex Is Dating Someone Else And You’re Freaking Out
Similar to how you should not try to make an ex jealous, you should not be jealous of an ex’s new interest if you’re trying to be friends. Although you may never be comfortable thinking about your ex being intimate with someone else, their new love interest should not throw you into a fit of jealousy. If you experience intense jealousy when thinking of your ex’s new lover, you are definitely not ready to be “just friends” yet.
3. You Want Ex Sex
This is one sex-puppet with way too many strings attached.
Perhaps you have accepted that you are not meant to be with your ex in a relationship sense – but you still want to rip their clothes off. Sexual fantasies about an ex are an indication that you are not ready for the “just friends” phase. Not to mention, ex sex can be complicated, and will prolong the recovery period after a break up. It can also give the impression that repairing the relationship is possible when it’s not.
4. Your Ex Can’t Handle Your New Relationship
The jealousy theme resurfaces here. Just because you’ve moved on after a relationship doesn’t mean that your ex has as well. If your ex is jealous of your new relationship, the nicest thing you can do is leave them alone and don’t be “just friends” yet. You don’t want to have an ex who pretends to be friends with you, but secretly wants to keep you from moving on. If you are meant to be friends, this will happen some time down the road.
5. You Want Your New Relationship To Succeed
When embarking on a new relationship, it’s easy to feel intimidated by an ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend. Even if you know things are fully over between you and your ex, your new boyfriend/girlfriend might not be as certain. During the initial stages of your new relationship, it’s best to let your ex be an ex, not a friend. Do this if you want to give your new relationship the best chance at succeeding, because it’s hard enough without the added insecurity caused by an ex hanging around.
It is possible for exes to remain friends, but keep in mind that no matter the circumstances, time is usually needed before both parties are capable of true friendship. You both will need space to adjust to life without each other, and trying to be friends during that period could extend the time it takes to move on. Also note, if you want to be friends but your ex wants more, or will not reciprocate the meaning of friendship, you might have to let the relationship go. Like relationships, friendships take the effort of two people, and if they are unwilling it is time to move on.
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