Whether you’ve said it yourself or heard it from an ex-boyfriend, we have all heard some version of the line, “I think we’re better off as friends.” And while in the moment it sounds like the worst idea you’ve ever heard, later you start to come around. Your ex is someone you care about, and you presumably had great times together, so having him in your life as a friend will be just as fun, right? Right! But there are some rules to follow to ensure your friendship is a success. To help, we have put together a guide to point you in the right direction!
Rule #1: Show Some Respect
Regardless of why the two of you broke up, at one point you cared a lot for each other. In order to stay friends, you must honor the relationship you once had. “After my boyfriend of two years and I broke up, I spent a lot of time trashing him to my girl friends,” says Jessie, a student at the University of Missouri. “I was really mad that he didn’t want to be together anymore, and I wanted people to think I had moved on. I said a lot of things that I didn’t mean, and they got back to him. He was so hurt that he didn’t want anything to do with me after that.” You may be thinking that he is the worst person to have ever walked the earth, but keep it to yourself. Someday in the future you may want him back in your life (in any capacity), and that will only happen if you have shown respect for each other after your break-up, which means no trash-talking, no spilling secrets, and no over-sharing of details.
Rule #2: Give It Time
Break-ups are hard, and they generally require a good amount of time to recover from, whether you were the dumper or the dumpee. Before you can be friends, you have to give yourself time to get over him. It’s pointless to be friends if you are actually hoping to get back together, and it will only serve to drive you apart. “My boyfriend and I were together for three years so when we broke up my world fell apart,” says Camille, a student at the University of Kansas. “Even though I still wanted to talk to him everyday, I told him that I needed some time apart to get over him and move on. It took awhile – almost 6 months – before I was ready to be friends. Sometimes those old feelings come back, but I think that time apart really made the difference for me.” While you will always hold a special place in your heart for your ex-boyfriend, it’s best to wait until you have healed from the break-up and really moved on before you move forward into a new type of relationship with him.
Rule #3: Let It Go
Yes, there are probably still a few unresolved issues between you and your ex-boyfriend. However, if you want to be friends, you have to let those things go. You are no longer a couple so you can’t act as if you are, despite how badly you might want to. “Every time I saw my ex-boyfriend after we broke up, we would end up getting into a major argument about things that happened during our relationship,” says Sarah, a student at the University of Kentucky. “I would say some snarky comment about something he did, which would result in him throwing something back in my face. Soon enough we were screaming at each other, and I would resolve to never speak to him again. It wasn’t healthy at all, and it ruined any future we may have had as friends.” After a break-up, you need to make peace with yourself about any issues that you and your boyfriend had as a couple. Since that part of your relationship is now over, it’s best that you start over as friends with a clean slate.
Rule #4: Move Forward
Another problem that many couples face after a break-up is feelings of remorse. Spending so much time together as ‘friends’ may make you reconsider why you broke up in the first place. However, you have to realize that you broke up for a reason, and those newfound feelings are probably just a result of your changed relationship status. “My ex and I started to hang out more after we broke up than we did when we were together,” says Brooke, a student at the University of Missouri. “We got along great as friends, which made us think we should get back together. That backfired almost instantly, and we went back to fighting on a regular basis. We had to accept that we didn’t work as a couple in order to be friends.” Instead of reminiscing about the good times and doubting your decision to break up, be grateful for a great relationship, even if it is only as friends.
Rule #5: Have Separate Lives
Even if you are completely over each other and happy as friends, it will never be easy to hear about last night’s hook-up, a great date or a budding new relationship. You may think that you can turn to each other about relationship drama because you are now friends, but it probably isn’t a good idea. “My ex would always ask for advice about girls he was hooking up with or interested in dating,” says Hannah, a student at the University of San Diego. “I didn’t think it would bother me, but it absolutely killed me, and I eventually had to tell him that we couldn’t talk about those things. It brought up too many emotions that interfered with my ability to be a good friend. I was really jealous and angry.” You have to realize that while you are friends, you don’t have the same relationship that you do with someone that you have never dated. There are certain boundaries that cannot be crossed, and you need to keep your romantic life private in order to preserve a healthy friendship with your ex.
It’s possible to have a great relationship with your ex even after you break-up so long as you stick to our five rules. Good luck, collegiettes!