Call me crazy, but I’m one of those people who wants to be friends with anyone I’ve dated. Don’t ask me why this is the case, I guess I gain closure through friendship, or maybe I’m too needy or something.
I know some people I’ve dated just prefer to cut and run after something ends, and that’s okay for them. For me, I prefer the idea that there is a potential future connection beyond the sexual and romantic phase.
What I have learned through my own experience, and also observing others, is that in some cases it is possible to have a friendship with an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend. But it takes two to make it work. If it’s a one-sided attempt, you are better to let it go.
But if both sides are willing, here are the 3 phases to making it work:
The ‘Weird’ Phase (1-3 months)
There is no way around it, it’s gonna get weird for a while. The first phase is when you and your ex awkwardly hug as friends, have to explain to people you’re no longer together, and work out your new territories.
I have found that it’s better to be open about this and not try to fight the awkwardness. Just accept its gonna get weird before it gets friendly.
Oh yeah, and keep in mind that it might hurt. You will have pangs of emotions that want you to go back to the previous status of your relationship. Resist this urge and just accept that that time is in the past.
The ‘Reinventing’ Phase (3-6 months)
If you can make it past the first 3 months without getting back together or dying from awkwardness, then you enter the next phase.
The re-inventing phase is when both you and your ex start to become different people. You start having new experiences without each other, one of you might even date someone new. The main thing is that you are no longer doing things in your life under the frame of being in a relationship together. You are a single person once again, and so are they.
The best thing to do in this phase is to encourage each other to be the people who you want to be. See how you like the person they are becoming and fully support of them as friends. In return they should be doing the same with you.
The ‘Good Friends’ Phase (6-12 months)
If you make it through the weird phase, and the re-invention phase, then and only then do you reach the place you wanted to be to begin with: the good friends phase.
In this phase you are different people than you were when you dated, you have different goals and plans, and possibly even new partners.
It is often at this phase that you realize you don’t actually need to be great friends with your ex like you thought, but sometimes you actually become amazingly good friends. The past is a memory of mostly good times and you don’t worry too much where the relationship is going.
A friendship like this is a rare, valuable jewel. But it is possible. It is something that has transformed and become more valuable in the process, and it just takes the time it takes.
I want to reiterate that this process only works if both parties are willing to be a part of the plan to transition back to friends. If one of the two people is trying to do it to become lovers again, then it will fail. If one person doesn’t really care about the welfare of the other, then it will fail.
But if both people genuinely care enough to treat each other with respect and want the other to succeed in their own right, then being friends with your ex can work.