Can Exes Be Just Friends?

| 07/06/2010 | Comments (15)

A reader wrote to ask that question via the Skribit suggestion box. I’ve been pondering the issue from all sides as I look at couples and how they handled the “friendship” thing after a breakup.  I’ve come to the following conclusions:

  1. Unless a couple has a child or multiple children between them that would require seeing each other intermittently over an extended period of time (meaning decades) – interacting at school events, birthday parties, graduations, engagement parties, weddings, christenings, the birthday parties of grandchildren, etc. there is absolutely, positively no need for them to even try to “be friends”;
  2. Two people that dated and broke up because of incompatibilities, mistreatment, cheating or other bad behavior should not try to cushion the blow of the split by saying some fake “let’s be friends!” nonsense. Women are notorious for offering such an olive branch, as women are socialized to be pleasers and worry about hurting other people’s feelings. In such a case, whoever is offering the friendship bone is usually trying to ease out of the relationship with as little drama as possible, as he or she has no real intention of actually maintaining a friendship of any type.
  3. Two people that dated and broke up due to cheating, mistreatment, lack of affection, and incompatibilities have a negative history. The issues that caused you to split will repeatedly come up as you continue to interact. Even if your ex forgives you for your transgressions, he or she will never forget. Why subject yourself to repeated accusations, interrogation, anger and tears?  Just move on already!
  4. When an ex insists on being your friend though you would prefer that they go up in flames, it is actually their way of hanging onto the possibility that you will forgive and forget and come back for more pain. Sometimes though, all they really want is to be around in a moment of weakness when you are feeling lonely and vulnerable. The goal in these situations is to catch you when you’re feeling blue, so they can slide in and sex you down or ask you for something like money. Your “friendship” is really all about them creating opportunities to continue to use and hurt you.
To me, maintaining a close “friendship” with someone you formerly loved and had sex with is not going to do anything positive for a new relationship. Having this ex hanging around, calling, texting, and trying to see you will just make your new partners feel insecure, unhappy, unloved and jealous.
Why ruin what could be the relationship of your dreams hanging around with and talking to someone you already know is not good for you?
The bottom line is that even if exes CAN be just friends due to both having strict boundaries, firm standards for appropriate behavior, and no interest in being anything more than casual acquaintances, what is the point? Get a new friend – one you haven’t slept with! Once you break off a relationship with an ex, its best to cut all ties and move on.  Don’t call each other, don’t try to have lunch, don’t try to see how the other’s life is since you broke up, and don’t invite them over to “talk” and hang out as you used to do in the past.
Clear the path to your mind, heart and spirit by eliminating all ties to former lovers and any associated baggage. You cannot live in both the past and the present at the same time. Old loves and damaged relationships belong in the past and need to stay there. Let your ex go be friends with whoever is stupid enough to want that job.
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Veteran social researcher, relationship advice columnist, author and radio host. Author of hundreds of articles on American and black culture, gender issues, singles, dating and relationships. Author of "Sucka Free Love!" , "The 24 Types of Suckas to Avoid," "The Black Church - Where Women Pray and Men Pray," and "Why Vegan is the New Black" all available on Amazon.Com. Her unique voice and insightful commentary have delighted fans and riled haters for 20 years. Read her stuff on SurvivingDating.Com and AskHeartBeat.Com.

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Category: Date Smarter, Not Harder

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Comments (15)

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  1. Rosalia says:

    It’s fine to be civil to an ex, but I would never be friends with someone who I didn’t want to be with (or who didn’t want to be with me) in the first place. If a guy wanted to dump me so that he could be “friends” with his ex, I would gladly send him back to her so that they can continue beating a dead horse.

    I find it interesting that the majority of people who are friends with exes can’t justify themselves without insulting the new boyfriend or girlfriend. These people have no boundaries in a relationship they don’t have anymore. Unless they have kids together or it’s for business reasons, exes have no reason to be in contact.

  2. Selena says:

    I agree that it’s not good to be friends with an ex, especially if there was a bad breakup. I have done this twice with ex long-term boyfriends.

    I thought it was a good idea to try to be friends just to avoid bad feelings even though I was the one who took the most emotional hurt in the messes. In the end, it was to their benefit that I remain their friend, not mine. When I was on the phone with them or having dinner, I was not on the phone or having dinner with a potential guy who would treat me right. Honestly, it is like pulling the scab off of a wound repeatedly, and never letting it heal. And as Babs said, you end up being Friends with Benefits, which can be hard when you have been in a relationship. It gets confusing.

    That’s why I have moved on.

    • Raz says:

      Selena “I thought it was a good idea to try to be friends just to avoid bad feelings even though I was the one who took the most emotional hurt in the messes.”

      Thanks for sharing. Women are too darn nice! Why be nice to an ex boyfriend. So what if there were bad feelings at the end of a breakup. That’s normal. People are supposed to be hurt/angry/upset and experience bad feelings. The ending of something is usually sad. Women try too much to placate an ex boyfriend and open themselves up to being used for sex and more hurt. Once a breakup occurs, that ex boyfriend can go kick rocks!

  3. Aabaakawad says:

    This just shows why it can be a very poor idea to get romantic (or even FWB) with a friend, if you really value that friendship. Sure, you might fall and stay in love, but most relationships don’t succeed, so more likely you’ll just lose a friendship.

    Although I’ve never had a nasty break-up, I knew better than to hang around afterwards.

  4. Mace says:

    Sociologist Tina says “To me this comes down to what love really is, and also what it means to be mature. And honest about your motives.
    Is love such a scarce and fragile thing that it becomes threatened by a past love?” If there was no mistreatment., why can’t a less intense relationship survive’

    You don’t seem to know what love really is, nor do you know how to treat love once it comes into your life. You certainly don’t have any respectful boundaries in your relationships as Deborrah and Raz said. It doesn’t come down to what love really is,, rather it comes down to ‘ego’ where you’re concerned. It makes your ego feel good that the guy who broke up with you or who you broke up with, wants to still be in your life. And you’re so self centered that you care more about that person’s feelings and your own than your boyfriend and your relationship. You don’t need to be in a relationship when you think like that.
    Oh and BTW Tina, if there was no mistreatment, then seems to me you’d still be a real couple so there wouldn’t be a need for a ‘less intense’ relationship to develop’.

  5. Raz says:

    Tell it Deborrah! That Sociologist Tina sounds like a quack to me and someone who has so little friends that they have to desperately hang on to a so called ‘friendship’ with an ex. Why do these folks like her advocate continuing to interact in a hurtful situation and promote that BS as healing?

    Her comment here tells me more about ‘her personality than any advice she is trying to give to others. “Are good friends so easy to come by that you can afford to drop one whom you have already invested so much your time, energy, and self into?”

    Uh yeah, I have plenty of friends before my boyfriend, therefore I don’t need to have an ‘ex’ in the role of ‘friends’. My good supportive friends have been there for me to lean on during times of crisis and good times, so what the heck do I need an ‘ex for my ‘friend’? To me ‘friendship with an ex is just an excuse to stay emotionally possibly sexually connected to that person. As that guy Gred Behrandt said in his second book, ‘It’s a called a breakup cuz it’s broken. Why would I want to continue to emotionally and potentially sexually engage someone who hurt me? That’s like asking an alcoholic to dry out by hanging out in a bar. If dude was ‘so great’ that I just can’t live without his friendship then we’d still be together as a couple.

    And her comment about ‘investing so much time, energy and self into an ex is crock. Just because time and energy was invested into someone doesn’t mean I need to continue doing that once the relationship is over. In other words she advocates continuing to ‘throw good money after bad’. I don’t care if I invested years, I know when to walk away from a losing investment and a breakup is certainly that. I’d rather use my ‘time and energy’ towards a new prospect.

    Sociologist Tina other statement really takes the cake: “Is your partner so insecure that they can’t stand to have someone around used to be very intimate with you? Are you so untrustworthy that you would keep somebody on the line, so that a jealous partner might have a basis for their fears.”

    Why would anyone start a new relationship while hanging onto baggage from another relationship? And this has nothing to do with a new partner’s feeling of insecurity/jealousy but everything to do with respect for your current relationship, respect for your new partners feelings and proper boundaries and expectations within a relationship. She doesn’t seem to know how a decent respectful relationship is run. No need to engage in behaviors that will undermine a new relationship with your current partner and then rather than take responsibility for ‘your actions’ you try to flip the blame and say your current partner is just jealous and insecure. That’s BS.
    It’s unrealistic for her to think that a man/woman should just ‘get over the fact’ that the person who claims to be their partner continues to actively engage an ex, someone who they’ve had sex with and shared intimacies with. How is that behavior going to strengthen a new relationship? You can’t ride a horse with two behinds.

  6. Deborrah says:

    Sociologist Tina: Your opinion as stated assumes that someone SHOULD even want to be friends with an ex. What the fuck for? If I am not dating you anymore and have no interest in what you do, who you do it with, or where you do it, what do I need to be “friends” with you for?

    I don’t care if you live or die, or how happy you are, or who you are happy with. I don’t want to be your friend. I don’t want to meet you for a drink. I don’t want to hear your stories. I don’t want to know who you are dating. I don’t care how your Mom or Dad or nieces or sisters are. I don’t care that you live or die. So in such a case, why should I waste my time continuing an “intimate” relationship?

    See, that is the part you shrinky people don’t seem to get. Just because a man wants to be friends with a woman does not obligate her to acquiesce and give him what he wants. It is not my job to satisfy him. I don’t care that he is happy. It is not a matter of insecurity, it is a matter of boundaries. You don’t seem to have any, and mine are very firm.

    Love is what it is, but women need to learn that if a man tells you that he does not love you, that women need to cut ties. Cut them immediately and cut them permanently. Do not joke, do not play and do not give an inch as you try to “be nice.” Fuck nice. He can kiss your ass as he moves on to whatever comes in his future. It is not your job to be nice to him, to meet his needs for “friendship”, nor to keep him around to screw up any future you may have with someone else.

    I say again – cut ties and move on. You don’t need to worry about being “friends” with some asshole that doesn’t want you to be his woman. Who gives a shit what he wants or what he thinks? Certainly I don’t and neither should you.

  7. I hate to be the voice of dissent hear, but I think it’s exactly the opposite: if you CAN’T be friends with someone you dated, that probably means that one of you (or both) DID mistreat each other.

    If there was no mistreatment., why can’t a less intense relationship survive? Are good friends so easy to come by that you can afford to drop one whom you have already invested so much your time, energy, and self into?

    Is your partner so insecure that they can’t stand to have someone around used to be very intimate with you?

    Are you so untrustworthy that you would keep somebody on the line, so that a jealous partner might have a basis for their fears.

    To me this comes down to what love really is, and also what it means to be mature. And honest about your motives.

    Is love such a scarce and fragile thing that it becomes threatened by a past love?

    Neither Ms. Heartbeat nor the responders have addressed these questions.

  8. DEE says:

    I see no reason for people to remain friends with an EX. Go find some other friends to chat with. This person hasnt made that much of an impact in your life where you feel your NEED this person around. Go get some friends elsewhere.

  9. Raz says:

    Trying to build a ‘friendship’ on the ashes of a broken intimate relationship is a recipe for disaster IMO. If the two of you couldn’t make things work as boyFRIEND & girlFRIEND, how are u going to make things work now as FRIENDS? I agree with the writer. This is just one or the other person hanging around looking to exploit vulnerable feelings. Usually in a breakup there is the dumper and the dumpee. Usually the dumpee is in a vulnerable position and can find themselves longing to be back with their ex. The ex who did the dumping maybe tempted to exploit their former’s feelings and sleep with them. (break up sex). This just prolongs the healing for both parties. As painful as it maybe, just leave the ex’s alone.

    Look at it as though you’re cleaning out your closet, getting rid of all the useless clutter so you can make room in your life for something new and improved!
    You’ve already been there and done that before and it’s familiar. The devil you know, vs, the one you don’t. That can be scary for a lot of people, who would rather be unhappy and with someone than to be alone for a while.

    But the longer you keep hanging onto the ex in the guise of friends, the more you prolong the pain. Let it go. You’ll be better off for it in the long run. And time really does heal broken hearts, if you don’t stay mired down in the misery of the breakup.

  10. Babs says:

    Can Ex’s be just friends?
    Nope, they can be ‘Friends with benefits’ LOL

  11. Cassie says:

    I feel the same way about FWB relationships. How can one clear the path for a new love in their life if they always have booty on call? What is the motivation to share physical intimacy with someone new, if one has ready access to an FWB. In a way these shadowy relationships always get in the way of a new relationship. Let the baggage go and clear the way for someone new.

  12. Renitta says:

    Thank You Deborah Thank You! And I thought it was just me! I never understood why some people felt the need to “keep in touch” or be ” just friends” with their exes, like, what’s the point?! I have been divorced for over a year now and I have cut all ties, emotions, and baggage from him. We had no children, joint debt or assets so there is no reason for us to stay in contact for anything.

    I’ve had friends & family members ask me on a number of occasions do I or will I stay in touch with him and the answer was always the same……No! I wouldn’t have left him if I wanted to continue communication. Case closed.

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