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Can You Be Friends With Your Ex? 12 Times You Can (+ How To)

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Can exes be friends? Are you fooling yourself for thinking that you can have a platonic relationship with someone you used to love?

That depends.

The truth is that exes sometimes can stay friends. But other times, they will be hooking up as soon as they end up alone.

Sometimes, they will go back to being a couple, other times, their friendship will fail so badly that it will hurt them both. 

What will the outcome of your situation be?

No one can guarantee that, but you can keep reading to learn about the times when some exes manage to stay friends.

Note that the following things need to apply to both of you, and that if they don’t, it’s better not to try to be friends just yet. 

You can stay friends if…

1. You have closure.

First things first, how did things end between you?

Was the breakup mutual, or do you at least both understand the reasons behind it?

Both of you need to be okay with the fact that the relationship ended, but you also both need to know why and accept that too.

Did you both get the closure that you needed to move on?

You can only be friends if you have closure and have accepted that moving forward your relationship will be platonic. There can’t be any secret hopes of hooking up again or it just won’t work. 

You also need to be clear on why it can’t work out between you as a couple. Understand the reasons behind the breakup and accept the ending of the relationship.

More often than not, when exes become friends, one of them is secretly hoping to get back together. This is a very wrong motive to start a friendship, plus the relationship, if it happens, will likely fail again for the same reasons.

So, understand why a romantic relationship is out of the question, and make sure that your partner does too. 

2. You no longer have romantic feelings for them.

Being friends with an ex who you’re still in love with is a very bad idea.

Just imagine what’s going to happen when they fall in love with someone else and ask you for dating advice because you’re their friend.

Don’t put yourself in that position because it’s not going to work out well.

You also shouldn’t be friends with your ex if you think that they’re still in love with you.

You were in a romantic relationship, so it’s safe to assume that you used to love each other. If the breakup was recent and not mutual, you or they are probably still attached. 

Give it some time after the breakup, and make sure that there are no romantic feelings between you if you want the friendship to work.

No one expects you to stop caring for each other completely. After all, friends do care for each other, but their feelings are platonic, not romantic.

This means that they’re not “in love” or tempted to sleep with their friend as soon as they get the chance.

Exes often sleep together again after a breakup, and this creates a complicated situation when one of them still wants things to end. 

3. You can guarantee things won’t get physical. 

Don’t become friends with benefits after being in a relationship. That’s just pretending that you’re not in a relationship anymore.

If you want to be friends, you both need to be sure that things won’t get physical. 

Being just one romantic moment away from falling into each other’s arms means that you can’t be friends.

If one of you is hoping for a kiss or a “Netflix and chill” night that is going to bring you back together, you can’t be friends.

Friends don’t make out and aren’t tempted to try to when they see their friend dressed up. 

If you do sleep together after deciding to stay friends, end the friendship and take some distance. It can be easy to get into an on-again-off-again relationship when you constantly hook up, even just for a night. 

Don’t be friends if you are still attracted to each other to the point that you’d sleep together given the opportunity. 

4. You can talk about the relationship and breakup without getting emotional.

Have you moved on, or are you still upset because of the breakup?

Can you talk about your past relationship and its end without getting emotional?

If you feel like crying any time your partner brings up something from your relationship, you’re not ready to be their friend. 

Similarly, if they get emotional when you mention the breakup, they haven’t yet processed it. 

To truly be just friends, you both need to be okay with the fact that your relationship is over. If you get nostalgic whenever the two of you talk about the good times, you’re still too emotional to be just a friend to them.

5. You actually like each other as friends.

Sure, you loved each other, but do you like each other without the benefits of being in a relationship? Do you like your ex as a person and a potential friend?

People act differently in their romantic relationships than they do in other relationships such as friendships. So, you liked this person as a partner, but do you still like them as a friend? Do you like them as a person?

Sometimes, someone who is your type when it comes to dating isn’t the type of person that you’d hang out with platonically. You need to actually like each other as friends to be just friends.

If you only like each other as potential or ex-partners, a platonic friendship isn’t going to work out.

6. You have no regrets about breaking up.

Do you regret breaking up? If you still feel sorry that the relationship ended, you’re not going to be satisfied with just friendship.

You will secretly hope that you’ll get back together again. Or you will let your ex convince you to try again because you’re feeling guilty for breaking up.

To be friends and only friends, you need to be more than fine with the fact that the relationship is over.

You might feel a little bad that things didn’t work out, but you are sure that they couldn’t. You’re not clinging to the hope that the reasons for your breakup will eventually disappear and make it possible for you to date each other again. 

Don’t be friends if you regret breaking up. Give it some time, and you might eventually come to the point where it’s okay to be friends, once you have no regrets.

7. This is the first time you’ve tried it. 

Have you tried being friends before, but you hooked up again, or it ended badly in another way?

Don’t keep trying to be friends if it’s not working out. 

Maybe you’ve broken up multiple times because you keep trying to be friends, but you end up hooking up again. Don’t keep doing this. 

You can stay friends if this is the first time you’re trying it. This is likely soon after the breakup or upon meeting again long after it. 

Make sure that you’ve both moved on, but if you haven’t tried being friends before, feel free to give it a try.

You should wait a while if the breakup happened recently before giving it a go.

8. Your friendship is similar to other friendships you have.

Do you treat each other the same way you treat your other friends? 

To truly be friends, you should stop being exes and work on the same type of relationship that you have with other friends.

For instance, you probably don’t talk to your friends for hours every day, but you did that with your ex. 

To be friends, talk only a few times a week if this is how often you talk with other friends too. Apply this rule to everything else as well. If you’re not overly affectionate with your other friends, don’t cover your ex with hugs and kisses. 

Treat them the same way you treat your other friends. Keep in mind that you don’t need to be best friends or even close friends with your ex. 

9. You want each other to date other people.

Maybe you went from friends to lovers, but you can be friends again…if you’re okay with the fact that there’ll be other lovers. 

Exes often give up on the idea of being friends when it comes to the question of dating other people. If you and your ex are really just friends, you will be okay with your friend dating.

In fact, you’ll be happy for them if they find someone and root for them to find the love of their life.

This is where many exes fail to prove themselves as friends and discover that they’re still clinging to the hope of getting back together. 

It’s not enough for you to be okay with your ex dating, you need to want them to date and find someone right for them.

Can you do that? If not, it’s better to wait before trying out the whole friendship thing. 

10. Your feelings for them are not intense. 

Surely you still have feelings for your ex, but how would you describe them?

Your feelings shouldn’t be intense, whether they’re positive or negative. 

You can’t be friends with your ex if you still yearn for them or are mad at them. Any kind of intense feelings means that you’re not ready to care for them only as a friend.

Sure, friends care for each other, but not as much as romantic partners, and certainly not with so much intensity. 

11. Your friendship is not too similar to your relationship. 

Does your current relationship with your ex remind you of your romantic relationship with them?

Maybe you’ve said that you’re just friends, but if you still act the same way you did when you were in a relationship, you’re not in a platonic one now.

Do you stick to all your old routines from back when you were together? Maybe you still text each other every day or go to romantic restaurants. 

Don’t keep acting like a couple if you want to be friends. Your relationship has changed, and the way you treat each other should change accordingly.

You would be kind to your friend, but you probably don’t send good morning and good night messages to any other friends. Treat your ex as any other friend you have. 

If your ex treats you differently than their other friends, it’s likely that your ex is pretending to be over you

12. You have had enough time to process the breakup.

You probably aren’t going to be friends as soon as you break up. Even if you understand the reasons behind the breakup, it can be difficult to process it. More importantly, it takes time to get over a breakup and move on. 

If you and your ex agreed to stay friends right after the breakup and you really meant it, that’s great! However, give it time for all the wounds to heal, and don’t rush this friendship. 

Take some distance and become friends when you’re no longer overwhelmed by the breakup or hoping to patch things up.

Give it some time and be patient with each other. It’s okay if you’re not ready yet; it usually takes some time after the breakup before you can be friends.

How To Be Friends With Your Ex

Now you know whether you can be friends, but do you know how?

Here are some tips for keeping your relationship platonic and making your friendship work despite being past lovers. 

1. Don’t rush things. 

Going from partners to friends takes time. It usually can’t happen right after a breakup.

You’ll both need some time and distance to process your feelings and make peace with the breakup. 

So, take all the time that you need and get in touch only once all the wounds have healed.

Don’t try to rush this friendship or push your partner into it when they’re not ready. It’s okay if you’re not there yet; it is best to take your time. 

Your feelings can’t turn from romantic ones to friendly ones overnight, even if you’re the one who ended the relationship. 

Let yourselves move on before meeting again as friends, not exes. 

2. Be sure that both of you have accepted that it’s over.

The key is that both of you have accepted that it’s over. More often than not, one of the ex-partners is hoping to get back together again. This makes friendships between exes fail terribly and hurts both parties in the process.

So, be certain that both of you understand why it can’t work out as a romantic relationship, but why it might work as a friendship.

If your partner is not a hundred percent on board with this, don’t push them. 

Don’t go into a friendship hoping that it will bring you back together. 

If you and/or your partner still feel nostalgic about the good old times, wait for a bit longer before giving friendship a try. 

3. Set boundaries.

How often are you going to talk to each other, and how frequently will you text? What kind of information will you share with each other, and will you talk about your love lives?

Will you spend time alone together or hang out only in groups? How much can you expect from each other when it comes to emotional support or the level of friendliness?

These are just some of the things that you need to discuss when setting boundaries. It would be best to treat this friendship as any other friendship that you have.

However, you can also agree to see each other only in group hangouts and avoid talking about your love lives. While this might not make you very close friends, avoid anything that you’re not comfortable with.

Communicate these things clearly and make sure that you both agree to them. 

4. Don’t make romantic plans.

When you make plans with your ex, make sure that they don’t involve anything romantic. Don’t put the two of you in a romantic setting even if you are sure that you’re just friends now. 

So, avoid candlelight dinners, romantic movie nights, walks on the beach… Avoid anything that you did as a couple that you don’t do with your other friends.

It might even be best to stick to group activities and hang out mostly with mutual friends. 

Avoid meeting at night, or when you’re drunk. Hang out at your favorite coffee shop, but avoid being alone at each other’s place. 

You should also avoid the places that you frequently visited together while you were dating. 

5. See each other in public.

In addition to making it less possible for you to get physical, meeting in public usually prevents loud screaming matches. So, you’re also less likely to fight. 

Pick non-romantic places and maybe even invite someone to join you. Hanging around only in group settings can also prevent getting emotional or intimate.

6. Don’t flirt.

You should be kind to your friend, but don’t cross any lines. Don’t flirt with your ex.

If you don’t shower your other friends with hugs and compliments, don’t do this to your ex either. Don’t lead them on and let them confuse your polite behavior for a flirtatious one.

You should also stop them if they try to flirt with you. 

It’s usually easy to notice when a behavior stops being friendly and starts being flirty. Pay attention to this to avoid crossing any lines.

It’s also a good idea to avoid seeing each other when you’re drinking. If you’re just a few drinks away from convincing your ex to play naked Twister at your place, don’t drink when you’re with them.

7. Don’t talk about the past or act the way you did when you were a couple.

Don’t bring up the relationship or the way it ended. Leave the past behind you and embrace this new type of relationship that you have with your ex. 

Don’t keep acting the same way you did when you were dating. You’re friends now, so act that way. 

You’re not going to share as much with each other regarding your private life. You’ll avoid telling them the details of your days and whereabouts, and you’re probably going to avoid talking about your love life.

Get used to the way your new relationship works and respect the boundaries that you agreed on beforehand.

If you only agreed to see each other in group settings and in public, do that. Get in touch only as often as you agreed would be appropriate now that you’re friends. 

This will probably mean that you’ll grow more distant, but you can’t be as close as you were when you were lovers. Be okay with being just friends now and know what that means for the way you treat each other. 

8. Don’t push it—and take some space. 

If it’s not working out so well now, don’t push it. It’s okay if you’re not ready to be friends.

Maybe you still regret the breakup, or your ex acts the same way they did when you were in a relationship. If the friendship is not working out, don’t force it. 

Maybe your ex is not even sure that they want to stay friends. Don’t push them into it. Instead, take some space and give it time.

Be patient. As time goes by and you take some distance, your feelings after the breakup will become less intense. 

You can reconnect with your ex at any point in your life when you’re ready to be just friends. For now, focus on getting over the fact that you broke up, and make that a priority instead of being friends at any cost. 

9. Prioritize your new romantic relationship.

You will get into a new romantic relationship at some point. When this happens, prioritize that relationship over the friendship with your ex. 

If you do the opposite, it probably means that you still want your ex. So, don’t forget that you need to treat them like any other friends.

If your new partner is not okay with you being friends with your ex, consider seeing them less often or only with mutual friends.

Make your new romantic relationship more important than this friendship. You don’t have to stop talking to your ex entirely, but don’t let that friendship damage any potential romantic relationship that you could have in the future.

Let’s face it, no one likes it when their partner is friends with an ex. But your new partner is less likely to get upset if it’s abundantly clear that you’re just friends.

If it does bother them a lot, consider whether they’re on to something that you’re ignoring. For instance, your new partner could notice that your ex is still in love with you. Maybe they’re just jealous, but consider their reasons for thinking it and end the friendship if they’re right. 

10. Know when to let go.

In the end, it’s important to know when to let go. Maybe your ex isn’t meant to stay in your life or be in it right now. 

Don’t forget that you can always reconnect and be friends down the road. If it’s not working out right now, let it go. 

When you want to keep your ex in your life at any cost, it’s not about the friendship, and the friendship probably isn’t a good idea. 

Remind yourself of all the things that you read about so far that need to apply to your situation for you to be able to be friends. 

If you’re not over the relationship, or the friendship just isn’t working out, let it go. You and your ex will cross paths again when you’re ready to accept a new type of relationship.

So, know when to let go of your ex completely, both as a lover and as a friend, at least for now.

About The Author

Ana Vakos enjoys writing about love and all the problems that come with it. Everyone has experiences with love, and everyone needs dating advice, so giving these topics more attention and spreading the word means a lot to her.