Can You Really Be Friends With Your Ex(es)? Or Is It All a Hoax?

By: Amina ElFarouk

We say a lot of things when breaking up with someone, in order to soften the blow. “It’s not you, it’s me” is a perennial favorite. As is, “I still love you, I just can’t be with you.” And then, of course, there’s “but we can still be friends.” It’s likely one of the first questions that come to mind when a relationship ends.

At first, post-romance friendship feels like a given, a necessary consolation prize for what was lost. “Of course we’ll still be in each other’s lives” , “We’ll always be friends” and “I still want to see you”. But can we?

Now I know some of you disagree. Some of your exes are now your best friends or remain a significant part of your lives. You, my friends, are special.

For the rest of us, trying to preserve a friendship with our former romantic partners mostly feels messy, complicated, and painful—which is why I sought to understand if it’s really something we should be pursuing in the first place.

Whether we know it or not, breakups happen because there was a lack of attunement between you and your ex. Therefore, rekindling a relationship with your ex could be emotionally dangerous . . . especially if the breakup had to do with trust issues.What’s to prevent these issues from recurring if you got back together? no sis we do not need to try that. 

Let’s face it, every single person you’ve ever heard advocating for staying friends with an ex is annoyingly self-righteous. (Or a psychopath). 

The “I’m friends with all my exes” crowd usually proclaims their values of unlimited friendship for all creatures with a puffed up chest, looking at you from high up their mountain of moral superiority. They’re enlightened beings, who harbor not even one ounce of hate in their hearts, they’re just bursting with love, bless their pure, virtuous little souls.

Cue the choir of angels from heaven.

If this sounds familiar — and makes you want to throw up — I’m with you.

If you’re part of the “friends with exes” tribe: an extra hang in there for you. It’s time to completely reevaluate your life.

Some people are too liberal with the word “friend”.

They call every acquaintance, no matter how recent or superficial, a friend. They call everyone in their contacts list a friend. They think everyone they friend on Facebook is, well, an actual friend. In that case it’s  time to wake up and realise real friendships are rare and few. 

Real friendships involve a deeper level of intimacy, trust and love.A friend is someone you want to keep in touch with. Someone whose news you always want to hear, good or bad. Someone you can’t wait to share your news with, whether it’s a new job, a promotion, or a brand new relationship.

A friend has to be more than someone you used to be romantic with, but who now you don’t wish to hate or resent. That’s a noble sentiment, but not enough to characterize a friendship.

You can part ways in a friendly fashion, that doesn’t mean you are — or should — still friends.

Another reason to stay “friends” with your ex is “you want to remain friends? it’s cute as hell”. Of course, saying you want to be friends after a romantic breakup sounds better, cuter, than saying you don’t. 

We’re conditioned from infancy to be nice, to try to get along with everybody (at least most of us are), and for most of us, breaking up a friendship is a big deal.

We’re also raised to believe that mature people forgive, don’t foster hate in their hearts and always extend the olive branch of friendship. In this line of thinking, if you wish to break all contact with your ex, you’re “not being very nice.” You could be labelled as hateful, petty, and even vindictive. You become the immature one.

Well, guess what? There’s nothing immature in simply wanting some distance to move on. Having standards for who you keep as a friend sometimes involves not being very nice, and not wanting to keep around someone who hurt you is the very opposite of being petty.

And to be quite honest with you, how much do you actually respect someone who’s friends with just anybody?

We all know that person. The one who’s just so good, so nice, he’s friends with everyone he meets.

What a great guy!

But when you get to know him better, you realize he’s bland and boring, and now that you’re really thinking about it, he’s also a bit of a pushover.

Sure, he’ll be friends with everyone — including exes — but he’ll never be a valuable friend to have around, because if there’s no criteria to come up and join the club, the membership card might as well be made out of cardboard.

We don’t have much respect for the goody-goody who’s friends with everyone.

We respect people with consistent standards, people who impose some boundaries. Whether it’s giving someone they broke up with the space to heal, or it’s demanding that space from someone who broke up with them, having those standard is far more respectable than putting up a bland “I’m friends with my exes” attitude in the hopes of seeming like the mature one.

So to all the people reading this and thinking “bottom line: hate all your exes forever”.

Of course not.

As I said before, you can part ways in a friendly, respectful fashion. You can drive from your heart all hate and resentment, but wanting some distance and severing all connections to make accomplishing that easier is neither a sign of weakness nor immaturity. 

It’s a sign that you respect yourself enough not to fall for the fallacy that whomever still wants to be friends holds the moral high ground.

Because this particular moral high ground is an illusion constructed by the ego of the self-righteous.

So, think twice about the exes you call friends. Are you truly, will-do-anything-for-you, good times and bad times friends? Are you friends for ulterior motives? Or do you call them friends just because you don’t wish them ill?

The answers to these questions are, respectively: Unlikely. Please stop. Start calling them “somebody you used to know” (yes, just like in the song).

Save your friendship for a select few who actually deserve it. 

It will feel a lot more real.

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