Let’s be honest, breakups are a pretty crappy part of life and you’ll likely experience the pain of a breakup or two in your lifetime. Your relationship may have been on the rocks for a long time or the break up just came out of the blue, either way, you’re coming out of a big chapter in your life that’s going to throw you a bit.
Often when we hear of people being friends with their exes it sounds like a myth because you know there’s still some awkwardness and lingering hurt from the ghost of relationships past. We also have a tendency to look back at relationships and only see the hurt or suffering, and forget about the good times, as our brains generally focus on negative experiences.
Most of the time we don’t reconnect with an ex because of the not-so-great memories that present itself at the forefront of the relationship, even if it was a mainly happy one. This can also be a coping mechanism to help us leave the person in our past and move forward romantically, leaving us with a distorted view of what it was really like.
There’s an unspoken expectation within society for how to handle exes: we simply try to forget they exist and move on with our lives – this can be more difficult if children are involved. We don’t attempt to reconnect because it’s all too complicated and we put ourselves at risk of being hurt again. If you spent a great deal of time together in the past and have great memories that you can recreate in a platonic relationship, why are we still so reluctant to reconcile?
The more ingrained a friendship is between a couple from early on, the more likely they are to maintain a friendship if they were to break up; while this can be the case for some, it won’t work for everyone as it depends on the breakup and what happened during the relationship.
You already know them inside and out; in some cases starting a platonic relationship with an ex can help mend a broken social or friendship group, or help hostility if kids are in the picture. When reconnecting with an ex, you have to think about it like a change in the dynamics and structure of the relationship as opposed to starting from scratch.
You need real-time to heal and mourn; if you can help it, don’t interact with them in any way, unfollow their accounts and delete their number. If you can’t imagine seeing them in a new relationship without falling apart, it’s too soon to be friends. Give yourself a chance to be single, focus on yourself, and get stuck into things you love doing.
Reflect on why you want a friendship with them and identify the reasons you want them to be in your life again. Are your motives are centered around keeping a social group together? Or do you like the company and filling the void of being alone? Be honest and don’t do it for the wrong reasons.
If your reasons are valid you can start to get in touch with your ex but be wary! You’re ready to move into a platonic relationship but they may not want to pursue a friendship with you. Talk to them openly and if they agree to give it a go then great, if not don’t pressure them as they’ve decided to leave you in the past, respect their decision and move on.
Old habits die hard, so you might fall back into a pattern when it comes to your ex. Don’t text them every day, lean on them for your problems or flirt; it sounds like a no brainer but it’s easier said than done. Look at how you both behave, you need to agree that you won’t talk about your past relationship and remind each other why you broke up in the first place.
While jealousy can resurface as feelings of love can slightly come back when we hear of an ex seeing someone else, remove yourself from the conversation or avoid the group temporarily if you can. Give yourself a chance to regroup; they shouldn’t hinder you from finding a new love and you shouldn’t stop them either. Also, don’t boast about a new relationship, be considerate as they might be hurting too.
Don’t push the friendship if it isn’t working or is becoming awkward for your friends otherwise you might drive a wedge in the group. While it won’t be easy right away, it should get easier over time; keep tabs on the effort and your feelings after you see them.
While you’re here, check out Dr. Lurve’s perfect guide to navigating online dating post-breakup.