Staying friends with an ex is something that some people think you can’t do, for various reasons. One being that you’ll always have feelings and can never be “just friends.” Another being that there is too much hurt there for friendship to ever grow. I have had mixed results with trying to be friends with exes. My High School boyfriend and I stayed friends for quite a while after we broke up, then lost touch for a long time and now are friends on Facebook, play Words with Friends, message each other occasionally and say we’re going to get together for coffee but have yet to make that happen. I think because it has been so long since we dated, there are no hard feelings or unresolved emotions and we are different people now – being friends with him doesn’t present any real difficulties. Then there is a guy I dated when I was 18, and then again shortly after my divorce, and then again sort of within the last few years and we swore that we would ALWAYS be friends and wouldn’t let anything get in the way of that this time. However, because we have never been friends outside of also being intimately involved and because feelings seem to resurface every time we see each other, I don’t know that this will ever happen. We are still Facebook friends, but we don’t interact on there at all. He married his baby mama seemingly out of the blue two months after we last saw eachother, and I am pretty sure she is not okay with us being friends, so that places another obstacle on the friendship. There is also someone I was friends with for close to 20 years and then we dated very briefly when we were both emotional over other relationships, and our friendship has never been the same since…we’ve seen each other like once now in four years…some friendships are much better off staying purely platonic as it is extremely difficult to go back.
Last, but not least, there is the last guy I had a serious, long-term relationship with. I remember when we dated and were hitting some rough patches and he would talk about us always being friends even if we weren’t together. I would scoff at this, saying there is NO WAY I could ever go from being passionately, head-over-heels in love and wanting to marry him to being “just friends.” I said that if we ever broke up, I’d be too heart broken and would have to eradicate him from my life if I were to ever get over him. Well, here we are more than 3 years later and we ARE friends. Sure, we have spells (usually when he’s dating someone) where we don’t’ see each other or hang out that much. Sometimes the friendship can seem a little one sided, like where I still tell him about what is going on in my life and he tells me very little about what is going on in his, but I try not to read too much into that. For the most part though, he is still my rock and it is nice to still have someone I can go to with whatever is going on in my life. Someone who truly gets me, who can give me advice and keep it real. Has it prolonged the grieving period, has it made it more difficult to “get over” our relationship or my heartbreak? Maybe. Has it made the healing time take longer, has it made me less open to finding love with someone new? That’s hard to say – I tried dating immediately after our break-up, but whether I had been talking to him still or not, I just wasn’t ready and it was disastrous. I’m just not one of those people who can genuinely leave one relationship and wholeheartedly enter a new one right away. However, being his friend still has also made it easier and more bearable in a way. He is the “love of my life” and to know that he is still a part of my life, even if it may not be in the way I had hoped for and envisioned at one point, has lessened the feeling of loss. I think it also made the break-up easier on my kids, they got to see that his love for them was not dependent on whether or not he was with their mom and that has meant a lot, as they have had a strained relationship with their dad it has been healthy for them to have a male role model around who has been consistent and whose love hasn’t felt conditional.
Are there parts about being friends with an ex that are difficult? Of course. Even if we want the best for someone because we love them, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t still tough when we see them with someone new for the first time. My heart still sinks a little knowing that he is sharing parts of himself with someone else that he once shared with me, even though I have too. To see him upset by a break-up with someone else has made my heart cry a little. I hope that with time these feelings will gradually lessen. That someday I can see him with another woman on his arm and a smile on his face and fully rejoice for him without a tinge of jealousy or envy. When you spend a chunk of your life with someone, it seems like such a waste to end that relationship with bitterness and to never speak to them again, like you are just throwing that entire chapter of your life away. I learned a lot during my time with him, it carries with it some of the happiest memories of my adult life, he and his kids will always occupy a part of my heart – I don’t want to throw that away simply because it didn’t end in Happily Ever After for us. Will we ever be “just friends” – no, we will always have that shared history between us, but that doesn’t make our friendship less worth holding onto, it makes it more worth holding onto.