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Should you be friends with your ex?

Similar to the age old question, can men and women really be friends, the answer is, of course, yes. But, only if there are literally ZERO romantic feelings on either part.

THE PROVERBIAL THORN in the side of every new partner – the cling-on ex that simply won’t take the hint that three’s a crowd.

Similar to the age old question, can men and women really be friends, the answer is, of course, yes. But like having a friendship with one’s sibling, only if there are literally ZERO romantic feelings on either part.

However, how on God’s earth can one be sure that no such feelings exist? Aside from protestations of he/she being like a blood-relative (which hold no actual weight at all) you really can’t.

If we are entirely honest with ourselves when we look back at our love lives to date, it’s practically impossible to say that each and every break-up was 100% mutual. And sticking with numbers to prove a point, in almost all cases one party was certainly at least 1% more injured than the other.

So, 50% of the partnership took it a little harder and harbours something of a feeling of unfinished business about the whole relationship. Enter ulterior motives.

Break-ups, where the question of remaining friends comes into play, typically play out in very similar ways.

For example, in a case where the man breaks up with his girlfriend, the woman (or hurtee) wants to stay friends in the hopes a romance will be rekindled. She loses the weight she thinks will make her more attractive to him, gains the social life she thinks he’ll be jealous of and adopts the devil-may-care nonchalance she thinks will make her mysterious enough to draw him back in and realise he made a catastrophic mistake.

The man, (or the hurter) wants to stay friends so he can still enjoy all of the privilege of the friendship, support and reassurance that he enjoyed in the relationship while being completely free to have romantic encounters with all and sundry. Having and eating all the cake as it were.

shutterstock_241351906 Shutterstock / Antonio Guillem Shutterstock / Antonio Guillem / Antonio Guillem

This is certainly the case when it comes to fresh break-ups. It’s a terrible idea to remain friends while there’s a storm of emotions involved. Neither party has had the chance to detangle their lives and get back on the dating scene unburdened by heartbreak or guilt.

It’s only fair to allow each other the breathing space to heal and move forward. Any attempt at a genuine friendship at this stage is utterly futile and fraught with disasters waiting to happen.

Further down the track when both parties have put some time distance between them and their romantic history, the question of whether a friendship is appropriate takes on a different shape altogether.

Technically “it’s been ages” since you were involved in “that” way so any current partners that are on the scene have a real job on their hands dealing with the friend that used to know their partner in the biblical sense. Time blurs the lines of what’s an acceptable level of contact with an ex.

There are just two sets of circumstances under which a friendship with an ex is acceptable. In the most innocent sense, some people who had a fleeting relationship once upon a time where nobody fell in love and both came to their senses quickly, sharing a giggle at how preposterous the romance was for them in the first place, could be friends, and just friends.

This scenario could produce the purest kind of boy/girl friendship actually because there’s no question that there is no sexual attraction involved – been there/done that so to speak. These are pretty rare cases.

Secondly, and in similarly rare cases, a couple whose relationship simply fizzled out over a long and agonisingly boring period could also maintain a fairly complication free and romantically dead friendship. But only if there was a collective sigh of relief when one of them finally called time on the blisteringly mundane partnership.

These cases usually take at least five years together to mature properly so they will be sure to have produced a fairly robust friendship, unless unadulterated hatred is the by product in which case future partners can breathe a sigh of relief- that ex is a goner.

shutterstock_262554149 Shutterstock / VGstockstudio Shutterstock / VGstockstudio / VGstockstudio

In short, unless there are literally no romantic feelings festering on either side, remaining friends is strictly a no-no if you want to move on and have a successful relationship with someone else.

While everyone should continue to maintain their friendships throughout no matter who they date, it is a simple fact that friendships with ex’s are dynamically different and so different rules apply. If you are not careful, it will cause problems in your future relationships.

In cases where your partner refuses to relinquish a friendship with an ex even though you’ve made it clear it upsets you, then that partner is using their ex to manipulate you and you need to move on and meet someone who considers your feelings.

Conversely, if at any time you seem to be placing your relationship with your ex ahead of the feelings of your partner, you need to rearrange your priorities. If that ex is in your ear telling you your partner is being unreasonable, there’s an ulterior motive.

Ex’s that are genuine friends will understand that they need to step back and let you prioritise the person you love that makes you happy, and if they don’t they aren’t really your friend, are they?!

If in doubt, follow this simple guide:


Rena Maycock is the co-founder and Director of Intro Matchmaking.

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