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Can You be Friends With an Ex?

28 Feb

I have been repeatedly beaten over the head with this question for the last few days. It seems everywhere I turn there is a situation that makes me question whether or not friendship with an ex is possible.

It all started when I was looking through old pictures on FB and realized that just recently Mr. Not Quite Right untagged every photo of us on Facebook. Ok, so, it wasn’t enough that you were an ass when we first broke up, and then blocked me on Facebook, and then told your friends not to hang out with me? Now, a year freaking later, you are still so worked up that you feel the need to erase all memories of us? CLEARLY I know where he stands on the “can you be friends with an ex” question. That being said, I feel like his actions were overly harsh and frankly, I think he sucks. Would it be so impossible for us to be civil? What have I done that is so bad that he doesn’t even want to at least pretend to be friends? And then I got some perspective…

Out of nowhere, Mr. Cute but Whiny started talking to me again on Friday (via FOURSQUARE of all things). He began commenting on all of my check-ins, which annoyed me because nothing is more of a buzz kill than getting messages from your ex while you are trying to go out and meet new people. And although he certainly wasn’t the love of my life, his stupid little comments were a reminder of him and of the fact that I walked away from yet another guy to live the oh so noble single life. Then after all the comments, yesterday, he Facebook chats me. (Obvi someone is lonely). He starts hinting around about us hanging out and I was just like, “Oh. Hell. No.” After the disastrous last time we attempted to hang out, it is clear to me that we can’t be that kind of friends. So then I had to explain all this to him and the conversation was awkward and awful and made me feel like shit — yet again. As he was going on and on about how he still wanted me in his life, I just couldn’t help thinking I wish he would just leave me alone. I started to wonder if maybe Mr. Not Quite Right had it right all along. Perhaps you really can’t be friends with an ex.

And then, today, there was my best friend, whose ex just spent the last hour full-on badgering her about how much he has changed (in the whole 3 weeks that they have been broken up, mind you) and how she should give him a second chance. Pretty sure she doesn’t need that kind of pressure and she sure as hell doesn’t deserve to feel bad about trying to move on from a very broken relationship. Why should she have to be here, crying, when a few hours ago we were celebrating her make-out sesh with a cute new guy? After witnessing that conversation I am leaning even more heavily towards ruling out the possibility of friendship with exs.

So the question remains, if you can’t be friends with an ex, what does your non-friendship look like? Does it have to be the way Mr. Not Quite Right handled it (aka zero contact, zero memories) or is possible to have a less dramatic, non-friendship? Can you truly move on if you two are still hanging out? Or talking? Or even just connected via FB and Foursquare? I’d be really curious to hear what you all think because, honestly, I’m not sure where I stand.  So tell me, can you be friends with an ex? And if so, what does that mean to you?

15 Responses to “Can You be Friends With an Ex?”

  1. Sophie February 28, 2011 at 11:27 pm #

    I’m good friends with an ex who used to be a friend before we went out. We fooled around for a bit but realised it wouldn’t go anywhere and ended it. Now we are good friends and have no hang ups about the past. I might not go for drinks just the two of us but only out of respect for his new girlfriend.

    I think it greatly depends on circumstance though. It seems to be that when you go through a break up the previous ex isn’t THE ex anymore just AN ex and they don’t seem bad. I wouldn’t have an issue with being Facebook friends with anyone past boyfriends (I might restrict privacy though!).

    I think it depends why you broke up and how long ago it was. Your friend’s boyfriend obviously misses her and wants her back. She needs a complete break of contact from him for a little while until her feelings for him go and she isn’t so emotional, then why not try and be friends. Always helps if you’re looking hot and have a new man on your arm though!

    • Cali Bradshaw March 1, 2011 at 3:07 am #

      I think that is key – being friends before you dated. That means you have a history of not hooking up and I think it is the only real chance of making an ex friendship work. I also really like your point about THE ex vs AN ex. I don’t know that it is dependent on chronological order tho. For me, Mr. Cute but Whiny was a much more recent relationship, but Mr. Not Quite Riight is still very much THE ex. I suppose it is a combo of chronological order AND the intensity of the relationship. Thanks for reading, Sophie!

  2. Sue March 1, 2011 at 12:57 am #

    I think it definitely depends on the circumstances – of your relationship and the breakup. I have a very good relationship with my ex-husband. He’s one of my best friends. I also have a decent, friendly relationship with an ex-boyfriend. But I have other exes that I don’t even talk to anymore – not necessarily bad terms, but there was no real friendship to continue.

    I also think that friendship is something that grows, and changes with time. So, maybe you’re not friends with an ex right after a breakup – that’s understandable. You both need time to adjust to the change. But eventually, you may become friends again.

    I try very hard never to discard or discount anyone.

    • Cali Bradshaw March 1, 2011 at 3:04 am #

      Hi Sue – I think you are onto something about friendship changing and not discarding anyone. I think that is what makes me so angry about the situation with Mr. Not Quite Right. I get why we can’t be friends right now, but for him to go so far as to make it so that we can never be friends… Not cool. Very nice to hear that you are able to have a good friendship with your ex husband. That actually gives me a lot of hope!

      Thanks for your comment, Sue.

  3. theromanticrealist March 1, 2011 at 1:32 am #

    Friends? With an ex? HA! I ABSOLUTELY am NOT capable of doing it! This is mostly because I usually can’t get rid of the sexual energy and connection I have with an ex.. and therefore that messes up any chance of our “friendship” staying platonic.

    My only super serious relationship and true “boyfriend” (at least what I officially count as the label) and I dated for a few years in college and we have NEVER been able to just be friends. In college when we were broken up – we thought we were “friends” but we always had sex. And friends don’t fuck.

    Then post-college he moved to Japan (and still lives there) and the one time he came back and visited – we STILL hooked up. Though I had enough control to stop it at only a makeout and clothes half-off. It felt so familiar.. but I knew it wasn’t the direction we needed to be headed in.

    So now he has been living in Japan for 5 years and we are friends. Facebook friends. :)

    On the other hand.. my best guy friend has been able to remain friends with his first serious gf (and they even lost their virginity to each other). They have more of a brother/sister sort of relationship now. I’m convinced they were able to stay friends because they were friends FIRST – before they started getting physical. But then again they dated back when they were 18. So does that even count?

    • Cali Bradshaw March 1, 2011 at 3:00 am #

      I totally have this problem too. That was a big part of the problem with the last time I hung out with Mr. Cute but Whiny because even though I KNEW I didn’t want to be with him, when I was around him it was so easy to fall back into old habits. An interesting perspective on your guy friend and actually I agree with you. My best guy friend were friends for 8 years before we were more than friends. Now we are still as close as we ever were and I think you are right, that it’s because we already know how to be “just friends” around one another. Thanks for your comment!

  4. Dan_Brodribb March 1, 2011 at 7:38 pm #

    I’m on good terms with almost all of my exes, although only one is a regular part of my life (she’s doing well though–graduates from school in the spring-I’m quite proud of her). There was a reason I liked them in the first place, I learned a lot from them, and I think it’s important to remember and respect that, even if things didn’t work out.

    Of course, there may also be a streak of pride involved. I can be pretty smug about my ability to stay friendly with exes, so when my string was broken a couple years ago, I was quite annoyed.

    • Cali Bradshaw March 2, 2011 at 5:22 am #

      Dan – I think you are right on about that streak of pride. That is what bugs me the most about the situation with Mr. Not Quite Right. Other than him, all my exs and I are at least friendly. But it annoys the crap out of me that he is the one exception. Ugh, complications! Thanks for your comment!

  5. Lex March 3, 2011 at 1:03 am #

    I agree that it is all fact-specific. And most agree with the distinction between “An” ex and “THE” ex. I’m friendly with my first love/bf, we’re facebook friends, but he lives in Europe, so we talk maybe every 6 months or so and so it’s easy to just be friends. Most importantly, I have ZERO romantic feelings for him. It was 7 years ago and in college. A lifetime away.
    On the other hand, with my two most recent exes – things get much more complicated. Why? Because in all honesty, I still have feeling for them, despite the fact I dropped both of them. I did de-friend them both on facebook – which in my opinion is absolutely NECESSARY if you still have lingering feelings for an ex to appropriately move on. One ex I have zero contact with because he hates how I treated him (which feels awful) and the other I still talk to rather regularly and flirt w/ via e-mail despite the fact I have a bf. I don’t think there’s a one size fits all answer. I think the rule should be you cannot be friends with an ex you still have feelings for?! Still unsure…

    • Cali Bradshaw March 3, 2011 at 2:11 am #

      Hi Lex,

      I think that is a very solid rule! I think the only hard part there is so many of us lie to ourselves about whether we still have feelings for someone. It is easy to convince ourselves we are over it, and therefore capable of being friends. Only to discover that we are not… But yes, you are right. There really isn’t a one size fits all answer. I sure wish there was though!

      Thanks for the comment,

  6. cortney April 27, 2011 at 10:50 pm #

    I think you can be friends with an ex, but not immediately. If one party is still in love – or even in like – with the other, you cannot be friends. Well, you can try, but it is too complicated and usually doesn’t work out in my opinion.

    • Cali Bradshaw April 29, 2011 at 8:23 pm #

      I agree, Cortney. I think time is the key to making it work. Thanks for reading and for the comment!


  7. Anna December 22, 2011 at 5:30 am #

    I think the committment (or lack) of each person within the relationship determines if a friendship can be salvaged.
    I had been dating a guy for almost a year. During this time we had been limited to hanging out one night during the weekend. We talked each night and texted sporadically during the day.
    Although distance was his biggest obstacle (we live about an hour away), or this was what he had said. . . I had been committed to just seeing him. However, during this time, he had dated (of course neglecting to tell me) other women; although to my knowledge, I had been the only one with whom he had been having sex.
    So, in view of this, I dediced I would start dating other men while maintaining a friendship with him.
    I had made the assumption we were exclusive, as I only have sex with the guy with whom I am in a relationship.
    This assumption had initially hindered me from accepting inviations to go out with other men. But, when I finally got over the idea that he was not Mr. Right, and that by being exclusive with him, I would never have the chance of finding him, I opened myself up to others who are a lot better matched with me.
    I remained friends with him throughout. After dating some other guys while still dating him, I have met an amazing man. Although it’s definitely leading in that direction, he and I are not exclusive, yet.
    However, when we do become exclusive, I plan on attempting to maintain a friendship with the other guy. It’s a matter of choice- do I want him in my life or not. He’s fun with whom to talk and with whom to hang from time to time, but he is no longer of that importance in my life.
    If a man can’t step it up when you are with him, I doubt he can after you’re not. That’s why I don’t believe in dating the same guy, breaking up with him, and dating him, again.
    It’s all a matter of how you view things. Does this guy bring anything positve and worthwhile into your life? If yes, then why not maintain a friendship?
    If he doesn’t, then you already have your answer.

  8. sarah January 4, 2012 at 12:10 am #

    Some of my exs are thoses you dont ever what to see again, however there are a few who you i still talk to and are on good terms with. for instance my last ex he was immature and we broke up after 3 months. after the breakup we stopped talking for 10 more months. then one day we started talking again, only now he has a girlfriend. im am happy for him and have no intentions of getting back together and he expresses his love for me still, some say hes still inlove with me but i believe we will remain friends.

  9. Bec January 4, 2012 at 8:59 pm #

    This really depends on the people and the severity of the relationship, I think. I’m still great friends with two of my exes, but the relationships lasted a short period of time. I absolutely cut off my more recent ex from my life as we had dated for a few years, it was serious, and he cheated on me a few times. That said, I think if the reason for your breakup was bad, the friendship can’t work, because you’ll both always be thinking about it and hoping the other person doesn’t bring it up, which will always lead to a fight.
    I tried to be friends with an ex of about a year and every time he spoke to me he just complained about how much his life sucked.

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