We’ve all been there – we’re not quite ready to let go and it seems unbearable to imagine a life without them…
…but how can you keep an ex in your life, and should you even bother trying?
As with most questions about relationships, there’s no easy answer here.
It all depends on who you are, who they are, how things ended, and about a million other things.
To make things easier, we’ve condensed it all into 13 key questions to ask before you stay friends with an ex.
1. Why do you want to?
We’ll ease you in to this absolute minefield with an easy question – why do you want to stay friends with your ex?
Okay, so this is actually way harder to answer than it seems. Just take your time to really think it through.
Consider what the motives are here and why it feels important to you.
Is it because they suggested it?
Is it because you’ve seen friends do it and it’s worked for them?
We’ll explore this more as we get to the later, juicier questions, but this is important to keep in mind when you’re going through a break-up.
2. Do you actually like them as a friend?
Sometimes, we end up in relationships with people who we’d never consider a friend outside that relationship.
Sure, we like them, we might love them, we may have great sex with them….
…but some relationships just don’t involve a meaningful level of friendship.
It might sound odd, and we all know the dream is to be with someone who’s your best friend (and more), but not everyone ends up in this kind of relationship straightaway.
Consider what you’d want from any friendship – comfort, companionship, someone who makes you laugh, someone who likes similar things to you.
It’s likely that you already get this from other friends, so what makes you want to be friends with this ex?
Are they a better friend or do they just know you better?
There’s not always a right or wrong answer to this, but it’s worth delving into and unpicking what exactly you’re feeling.
3. How will you get closure?
Closure is so underrated, and yet so important in getting over a relationship.
If you’re still friends with someone, how can you get closure?
Staying friends with an ex can be confusing – and that’s an understatement!
Will you be able to move on from them if you still spend time together?
Will you find it off-putting and become unsure of what you actually feel?
That leads us nicely on to…
4. Can you keep the distance?
So, you still spend time with your ex, you message, you chat.
How do you keep the distance and establish a boundary that you’ve never needed before?
We’re creatures of habit, so we tend to fall into patterns of behavior and often need something pretty big to shake us up and help us move on, and out, of those patterns.
If you’re still involved with an ex, in any capacity, can you really break the habits and see them as just a friend?
Will you feel very self-conscious of how you act in front of them?
Will part of you still want to flirt with them and impress them?
Will you find it weird when they talk about someone new they’re dating, because that’s what friends tell each other?
5. Who else can fill the role (even if temporarily)?
Sometimes, we keep someone in our lives because there would be a massive void if they disappeared.
This is what causes us to stay in bad relationships and to stay in toxic friendships.
We’re scared to not have someone filling that role in our lives – we’re so used to having someone to call at 2am, and someone to go on cute dates with and be loved up with.
Part of breaking up is losing a closeness, and it can feel almost like grief when we have to let go of this part of our lives.
We can get very used to someone meeting certain needs and the gap that’s left can feel unbearable at times – which is often why we think it’s a good idea to stay friends with the very person that met those needs.
We’ll do anything to avoid feeling that emptiness, so we think staying friends with an ex will prevent it.
However, think about other people who can fill that void.
You’ve got friends you can call when you’re feeling lonely, you’ve got loved ones who’ll take you out for a fancy dinner, and you’ll eventually find someone else to be loved up with.
Take some time to think about whether or not you want to be friends with your ex because you like them, or because you just like the idea of that role still having a place in your life.
6. Will you feel guilty if you don’t?
Some of us break up with a partner, only to feel incredibly guilty when they take it badly.
Your ex might tell you how hard it is for them, how horrible they feel, and how much they miss you.
While this is natural, it’s also unfair on you. It can allow them to manipulate your feelings and make you feel guilty about no longer being in their lives.
Consider whether or not you’re staying friends with your ex to help them or to help yourself.
And remember that it’s okay to be selfish and step away from something if you’re doing that thing for the wrong reasons.
You may also like (article continues below):
- 10 No Bullsh*t Signs Your Ex Wants You Back: How To Know For Sure
- 11 Tips To Move On From A Relationship Without Closure
- Why Do Breakups Hurt So Much? The Pain Of A Relationship Ending.
- How To Stop Loving Someone Who Doesn’t Love You Back
- Rebound Relationships: The Signs To Look Out For
- Why Some Couples Are Stuck In A Cycle Of Breaking Up And Getting Back Together
7. What do your friends think?
Ask those who know and love you best – do they think this is a good idea?
Most of us have someone we use as a bit of a moral compass. We ask their opinions when we know what the answer is already, and we know that they’ll tell us what we need to hear – even if we don’t want to hear it.
These are the kinds of friends to ask when you’re wondering whether to stay friends with an ex.
They know you well and they’ll probably have been the third person in your relationship. They’ll have heard all about any arguments and helped you write texts to your ex during the break-up.
See what they think – even if they can’t give you a definite answer, you’ll give yourself the freedom to openly discuss how you feel, which will help you come to a resolution anyway.
8. Is it sustainable?
Are you planning on staying friends short-term or is this something you think will last as long as a genuine friendship?
Think about what you want to get out of this friendship – is it just momentary comfort while you’re feeling upset about the break-up, or do you want this person involved in your life going forwards?
9. Is it just the easy way out?
Is staying friends just an easy way to deal with the break-up?
Sometimes, it can feel easier to keep someone in your life even if you don’t really want them there.
It saves any nasty confrontation, it stops you feeling guilty, and it gets rid of some of the awkwardness of no longer being with someone.
The practical side can feel easier, too, as there’s less rush to separate all your belongings, give them back their t-shirt, and get back your hoody – all the stuff that you have to deal with when you go cold turkey after a break-up.
10. Is it fear talking?
Are you considering staying friends with your ex because you’re scared to be alone?
Of course, you won’t really be alone, but the feeling of being rejected or abandoned can become amplified and can lead us to make decisions – like staying friends with an ex – that might not be the healthiest of choices.
Are you scared of how you’ll feel if you have no interaction with someone who was once a huge part of your life, or do you genuinely want to keep them involved?
11. Would you be okay dating someone who was friends with their ex?
Reverse the situation and think about the future – even if, right now, it feels very unlikely that you’ll ever find someone else, just think about it.
If you started dating someone who was friends with their ex, how would you feel about it?
Would you question whether there’s still something between them and be worried about unfinished business?
Would you wonder if they had full closure and would it make you feel a bit anxious and worried about whether something might happen between them again?
What if they go out drinking together and things end up happening? They were attracted to each other at some point and they like each other enough to stay friends… so… who knows?
Sure, we’ve spiralled a little bit here and this reaction is unhealthy in some ways, but this could be what runs through your future partner’s head when they discover you’re friends with your ex.
Of course, they might be fine with it, but it’s worth thinking about this from a different angle: is it worth staying friends with an ex when it may hinder your future relationships?
12. What if you can’t turn off the feelings/chemistry?
So, you’ve decided to be friends and you start spending time together as just that.
But what if it’s not just that?
You might have little flare-ups of feelings and end up being incredibly confused.
Imagine you’re out for dinner, as friends, and ‘your song’ comes on. Everything feels very cozy, and it reminds you of happy times when you were together.
They’re still attractive, they look good, and part of you is still interested.
A lot of us think we can turn feelings off, that the chemistry just fades, but, if you still want your ex to be friends with you, there might still be something there that you can’t get rid of.
If you’re comfortable with that, go ahead. If you’re concerned that it might not be a good idea, you need to think about what may happen if you discover you still have feelings for your ex.
13. What if they want more?
This is just like the above situation, but reversed.
What if it turns out they still have some feelings for you, or can’t switch off the chemistry that was once there?
You may end up feeling guilty for not reciprocating that sentiment, and they might not understand why you can’t feel that way again.
They might want to try getting back together, or put you under pressure to give things another chance.
This just puts you in a tricky situation and may end up making you feel even worse.
Be honest with yourself about how you’d feel if your friend turned around to you and admitted to still being in love with you – after you’ve broken up.
If you’re not feeling slightly sick at the thought of it, you’re a stronger person than I am.
So, those were our top 13 questions to ask yourself before you stay friends with your ex.
Sure, they might seem a bit harsh, maybe even too dramatic, but staying friends with someone you were once in love with, or lived with and had a life with, is a pretty big deal.
It’s something you really need to think about first, as it can have a lot of consequences that you should try to be prepared for on some level.
Of course, this does work for some people – we’re not trying to scare you into never talking to anyone you’ve ever been on a date with, but it can have a big impact on your life and you need to evaluate the benefits and risks.
If you’re worried it may harm you or upset you, or confuse you and stress you out, it’s probably not worth it.
If you’ve made it to the end of this list and feel okay, it looks like you’ll be able to make it work.
If you want to be friends with an ex, set some boundaries, keep things as honest as possible, and just see how things go. You know each pretty well, after all…