It happens. You fell out of lust with your significant other.
Something extinguished the flame, but you still love and respect your former partner as a buddy.
So now you’re wondering how to stay friends after a breakup.
Is it even possible?
Fortunately, yes, it is.
But making a smooth transition from lovers to pals requires a bit of boundary setting.
So today, we’re unpacking the rules for being friends with an ex.
Is It Healthy to Be Friends with An Ex?
Is it healthy to remain friends with an ex? It depends.
Was the relationship volatile? Is the other personal manipulative or toxic?
Will having them stay in your life cause difficulties?
Are you holding on for the wrong reasons? If you can honestly assess the situation and answer “no” to all these questions, then moving forward with a friendship is probably fine.
If not, think long and hard before embarking down “Pal Path.”
Setting Boundaries With an Ex
Setting personal limits is an integral part of maintaining healthy relationships and good mental health — but it takes practice.
Successful boundary establishment involves five steps.
- Engage in Self-Reflection: People usually leave this step out, but it’s probably the most important. Before you accuse other people of being the problem, first assess your role in the situation. Are your faults a contributing factor? Think long and hard about this question before moving on to the next steps.
- Determine Your Boundaries: Now is the time to determine your boundaries. A list of 11 suggestions is below. However, you know your relationship, so tailor them to your situation.
- Discuss Them with Your Ex: The wrong thing to do is not tell the other person about your “new rules.” And you definitely shouldn’t dictate them in an authoritarian manner. After all, you’re not a jerk, right? Instead, have a friendly and thorough discussion with your ex about why you need to set some boundaries and then delineate them. Try to be as cheerful, upbeat, and kind as possible.
- Be Consistent: Once everything is set, stick to the plan. Blurring the lines does not help the situation.
- Carry Your Rules to Social Media: Remain mindful of your social media behavior. Your boundaries should apply online and off.
How Do You Maintain Your Boundaries With Your Ex?
You probably landed here because you’re wondering how to be friends with an ex. As we’ve already established, boundary setting is critical. But before that can commence, clearing the emotional deck is a must.
How do you accomplish that? Here are the four steps.
- Grieve the Relationship: The end of a romantic relationship is like a death, and mourning its passing is appropriate.
- Expunge Residual Feelings: Ridding yourself of lingering amorous attachments is a top priority before starting a friendship with your ex. It’s impossible to maintain healthy, platonic relationships with people when you’re still lugging around feelings for them.
- Cultivate Self-Confidence: The next step is rebuilding your self-confidence. Insecurity can take us to dark places and cause us to act out — neither of which supports the development of a budding friendship.
- Determine Why You Want To Remain Friends: Be honest: Why do you want to remain friends with your ex? Is it because you’re afraid of losing them or genuinely like them? If it’s the former, lick your wounds and move on.
11 Boundaries For Being Friends With An Ex
We’ve gone over some general questions about how to remain pals with an ex and talked about the necessary prep work.
Now, let’s examine the nuts and bolts of developing a friendship framework.
1. Stay Far Away From Their Love Life
If you want to remain friends, staying far from your ex’s love life is the number one rule.
Romance wasn’t in the cards for you two, so leave the topic in the wind. It’s safer.
Jealousy is typically irrational, and even though you separated amicably, the green-eyed monster may rear its nasty head if you become entangled in each other’s love lives.
Sure, if it’s been a few years, and you’re way over each other, then casual conversations about your respective lovers are fine. But remember that it also may be difficult for new partners to spend time with your ex — so be sensitive to their needs and emotions.
2. Don’t Flirt
Don’t tempt fate by flirting. It can trigger old feelings for one of you, which leads to awkwardness and a lop-sided relationship. When that happens, it’s challenging to remain buddies.
At first, this rule can be challenging to keep because you’re used to each other. Plus, it may be instinctual. But do your best to keep it under wraps.
3. Don’t Jump Back Into Bed
We get it. You’re in the mood for some loving, and your ex is “safer” than a one-night stand. So you think: Why not? Stop!
Do not pass go! Jumping into bed will only complicate matters. If one of you catches feelings again and the other doesn’t, a world of hurt awaits.
Plus, reinitiating intimacy smears lines, which only causes problems down the line.
4. Let Bygones Be Bygones
Grudges are heavy and have a way of distorting your perceptions. They fester, metastasize, and often explode when you insist on carrying them around. So take Elsa’s advice and let it go!
Remember that we all make mistakes and occasionally make terrible choices. If you want to hold on to a friendship with your ex, forgiveness is a key ingredient.
5. Give Each Other Space
When first transitioning from partners to friends, give each other space. Failing to do so will complicate matters. Instead of hanging out alone, plan group activities. Having other folks around eases potential tensions.
Also, there’s no need to call or text each other daily. Don’t be a social media stalker, either.
6. Ignore the Haters
There will always be people who will snarl and sneer and insist you shouldn’t attempt to befriend your ex.
They’ll regale you with stories about their former roommate’s cousin’s aunt who tried to do the same and ended up in a horrible situation.
Look, you know your relationship better than anyone else. Sure, sometimes, you may lose perspective, at which point a gentle nudge from close friends could be appropriate. Otherwise, brush off the negativity and give the friendship a shot.
Hey, if you’re anything like Veronica and Tim of 90-Day Fiance fame, you may discover your former lover fits much better in your life as a best friend.
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7. Keep Things Casual at First
The road from partners to friends usually works best when you start slowly. It’s akin to a couch potato training for a marathon. If you slap on sneakers the first day and attempt to run 8 miles, the probability that you’ll crash and burn is close to 100%.
In the beginning, walk, don’t run. Keep things casual. Over time, you’ll get better at just being friends.
8. Establish Emotional Shields
Love, they say, is a “many-splendored thing” — and emotions are a “many-complicated thing.” When they go haywire, life can be bumpy. If the relationship was serious, it might be wise to enlist a therapist to help you sort through your feelings. If counseling isn’t your jam, consider diving into some self-help books.
The goal is to acquire tools to help you better navigate the situation and protect your self-confidence.
Social media can be dangerous when we let unwieldy emotions lead the way. Sometimes, when we’re inside our feelings — or have had too much to drink — we say things in public forums that would better left on the cutting room floor.
So if you’re hurting, establish a self-boundary and stay off social media until you’re feeling like yourself again. It will save you lots of embarrassment, allowing the friendship to progress in a much healthier manner.
10. Don’t Be Overly Available
It may sound old-fashioned, but desperation doesn’t look good on anyone. Yes, we all go through it at some point or another, but it’s one of those things that turns people off.
If you’re trying to be friends with your ex, and you’re always at their beck and call, they may try to take advantage of your eagerness and start treating you like crap. Or, they may decide that being friends with you isn’t worth it.
Keep things on an even keel by holding time and space for yourself.
11. Be Flexible
This may sound counterintuitive, but flexibility is the last “boundary” — if you can even call it that. Frameworks are great. Rules are great.
But being too rigid can also cause problems. The most important thing is to do what works for you!
Transitioning from partners to friends is absolutely possible if both parties are game. Create a playbook and stick to it as closely as possible, but also make room for life’s little hiccups.
Keep a positive outlook and your goal in sight. If you do, you might just find yourself with a great new friend.