How To Know If You Should Stay Friends With Your Ex

The debate about whether or not to stay friends with someone after a breakup is an ongoing one. Most people are pretty firm on the fact that either it’s impossible to be friends with an ex, or they are friends with all their exes, with a few stragglers hanging on the fence.

There’s even a division among experts about whether or not you should stay friends with someone you dated. There are a lot of factors to consider when you’re making the choice.

There Are A Few Things To Consider

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Photo Credit: Unsplash
Photo Credit: Unsplash

As much as we would love to be able to tell you exactly what to do, most situations aren’t going to be that black and white. As with everything else in life, you have to consider all the factors before making the decision about whether to stay with an ex.

How Did The Relationship End?

man and woman leaning facing different directions
Photo Credit: UNsplash / Ayo Ogunseinde
Photo Credit: UNsplash / Ayo Ogunseinde

A big factor to think about is whether or not the relationship ended on good terms. If the relationship ended in a huge dramatic fight in front of all your friends, chances are you’re not going to feel like being very friendly post-breakup.

Why Did The Relationship End?

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Photo Credit: Unsplash / Priscilla Du Preez
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Priscilla Du Preez

Possibly more important than if the relationship ended on good terms, think about why the relationship ended. If it was an unhealthy or toxic relationship, it might not be in your best interest to be friends with them.

Let’s Start With The Reasons Against

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Photo Credit: Pexels / Andrea Piacquadio
Photo Credit: Pexels / Andrea Piacquadio

We’re going to start by giving you a few reasons or situations where someone should not be staying friends with their ex. If none of those is your reasoning, then you can advance to the “maybe it could work for you” section.

You Just Want To Get Back Together

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Photo Credit: Unsplash / Gift Habeshaw
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Gift Habeshaw

Please don’t be the person who stays “friends” with their ex-girlfriend or boyfriend just because you’re trying to find a way to get back together. Stop romanticizing a relationship that ended for a legitimate reason and convincing yourself that by hanging around, they’ll come to their senses and see how great you are.

You’re Only Doing It Because They Want To

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Photo Credit: Pexels
Photo Credit: Pexels

Breakups can be painful even if the relationship ended amicably. You have to do what’s right for you at the time—it doesn’t matter if they’re pushing to stay friends. Their feelings aren’t your priority, and they have to accept that.

You Don’t Want To Be Alone

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Photo Credit: Unsplash / Tom The Photographer
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Tom The Photographer

A lot of people stay in a relationship past its expiry date because they don’t want to deal with the alternative of being on their own. Staying friends with an ex because you’re looking to prolong the breakup or keep someone in your life because you don’t want to be alone isn’t fair to either of you.

You’re Digging For Information From Mutual Friends

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Photo Credit: Unsplash / Ashkan Forouzani
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Ashkan Forouzani

You may think you’re being subtle, but your friends all see through you and your non-specific questions that may or may not lead to you getting information about them. The fact that you’re still digging means you’re not over the breakup, and that would make being friends pretty darn difficult.

You’re Still Stalking Them Obsessively On Social Media

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Photo Credit: Unsplash
Photo Credit: Unsplash

Your friends have already told you that no, the hand that was in his Instagram story 4 days ago didn’t look like a woman’s hand, but you’re too tunnel-visioned to hear them. If you’re still at the point where you’re obsessing over their social media, friendship probably isn’t in the cards.

You’re Just “Taking A Break”

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Photo Credit: Unsplash / Joel Mott
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Joel Mott

Are you the couple that is on-again-off-again, always taking “breaks” that you don’t call breakups? If you’re taking a break, you shouldn’t also be trying to make a friendship happen. Focus on why you’re both taking the time apart, and see if you come back together naturally.

You’re Waiting For Them To Change

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Photo Credit: Unsplash / Stefano Intintoli
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Stefano Intintoli

If you broke up because they weren’t willing or able to make the changes you were looking for, they’re not going to make them afterward. Staying friends because you’re waiting around for them to become the person you wanted isn’t okay. You accept them as-is, or you move on.

Now That You’ve Ruled Those Out

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Photo Credit: Unsplash
Photo Credit: Unsplash

Okay, so you’ve gone through and decided that no, you’re not looking to stay friends because you have unresolved feelings or you’re afraid to be alone. Now it’s time to look at if you could stay friends after a breakup.

Is It Even Possible To Stay Friends?

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Photo Credit: Unsplash / Maggie McCauley
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Maggie McCauley

It’s absolutely possible if you ask anyone who has done it, but it might not be easy. Are you ready to see them in a relationship with someone else? To know that if they have a problem, you might not be the first person they turn to for support?

The Key To Success Is The Break In Between

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Photo Credit: Unsplash

While dating experts are split on whether or not to stay friends with an ex, any doc who is pro-friendship will tell you that the break before becoming friends is the most important part.

Your Feelings Won’t Disappear Overnight

man and woman laughing in cafe
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Brooke Cagle
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Brooke Cagle

You don’t suddenly lose all the feelings you had for each other, and chances are, being friends with someone you had feelings for is how you ended up in the relationship in the first place.

You Have To Take Time Apart

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Photo Credit: Unsplash / Allan Filipe Santos Dias
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Allan Filipe Santos Dias

You both need a period of time where you’re not in communication with the other person. Disengage, delete their number, unfollow their Facebook posts, do what you can to have some distance, and sort through your own feelings.

Your Friendship Isn’t Going To Be Exactly As It Was

woman pouring sugar into man's coffee
Photo Credit: Pexels
Photo Credit: Pexels

Even if you were friends before you started dating and you were best friends while you were together, you can’t start this new friendship expecting it to be the same. The way your relationship functions now is different, and you have to manage your expectations about that. If you go back to being best friends just minus the physical or romantic aspect, it’s going to be confusing.

Be Honest About Your Feelings

man and woman outside standing talking
Photo Credit: Pexels
Photo Credit: Pexels

Before you put on a happy face and blaze a path forward as the perfect example of exes who stayed friends, have an honest conversation about your motives. Make sure you and the other person are on the same page about what you’re feeling and what you want from each other in this new chapter.

Your Final Answer Is “Maybe You Should, But Not Right Away”

group of friends in kitchen
Photo Credit: Pexels
Photo Credit: Pexels

Again, I can’t give you a conclusive answer about whether or not you should stay friends with an ex, but if it’s two days after the breakup, the answer is always going to be that you need time apart. Once you’re out of the relationship, you might realize you’re not even interested in being friends!

It Doesn’t Have To Be A Forever Decision

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Photo Credit: Unsplash / Henri Pham
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Henri Pham

Remember that making the decision to not be friends with someone immediately after a breakup doesn’t mean that you’re never going to be friends. It just means that right now, you know that isn’t the best option for you.