10 Keys to Staying Friends With Your Ex

There’s a lot to be said for someone who can manage to keep themselves civil through a tough breakup, especially for someone who can actually stay friends with their ex after the relationship ends. Sure, it’s common to give your now ex-significant other the usual “I still want to be friends!” run-around, but how hard is it to actually make that happen? What factors into the possibility of actually developing a friendship with someone you had (or maybe still have…) romantic feelings for? There’s also a lot that can be said about these people. I mean... why would anyone ever want to be friends with their ex?

I’ll come right out and say it: At first, it just feels wrong. Sometimes it’s weird. Sometimes it looks suspicious and can leave people wondering if you’re still stringing your ex along or if your feelings were ever real in the first place. The good news is that their opinions are completely irrelevant where your relationships are concerned. If your ex is someone you genuinely like as a person, why would you mess up a perfectly good friendship just because the romance has gone?

As someone who has managed to keep close friendships with a number of my ex-boyfriends, I set out to uncover the *real* secrets to staying friends with someone after they’ve broken your heart (or vice versa). I analyzed my biggest breakups and talked to the two exes I’m still closest with to get their opinions.


1. Give your ex and yourself time to breathe. After a breakup, it’s crucial that you take your time to get used to being on your own again. You have to remember how to be your individual self and let yourself get unattached from your ex-boo.  

2. Make sure that you actually want to develop a platonic relationship. The biggest key to having a friendship is actually wanting that friendship. Take plenty of time to decide if you’re capable of a platonic friendship.  

3. Come to terms with the *real* reason(s) it had to end. “I just don’t feel the same about you anymore.” “I just feel like we’ve drifted apart.” “I just feel like we’re too different.” We all know and love the typical “I just” statements, the vague “reasons” that your relationship isn’t working out anymore. Learn to get past these and get down to the truth of your breakup. If you’re feeling comfortable enough, it can be really helpful to talk it out with your ex.

4. After that, understand that it probably wasn’t one-sided. In order to have a friendship, you’re gonna have to take responsibility for your part in the breakup. (Unless he cheated. In that case, cut him off, sis.)

5. Tell your ex that you want to be friends. In some cases, it’s just understood that you want to stay friends, but in most cases, boys are completely oblivious. You’re probably going to have to make an effort to create a platonic relationship.

6. Hang out in groups at first. If you want to be with someone in a low-pressure setting, hang out with your ex in a group. This is a great way to develop a platonic relationship because you don’t have to give all of your attention to your ex if you don’t want to.  

7. Focus on the things you two have in common. The easiest way to foster a friendship is to connect through the things you have in common. For me and my ex Ethan, we stayed connected through our tastes in music!

8. Don’t let yourself fall back into old habits. This is the biggest thing to be wary of when starting up a friendship with your ex. When you’re hanging out, be aware of how flirtatious you’re being and consciously keep as much distance as you need to keep it from being too romantic or too weird.

9. Remember that things will only be as awkward as you make them. If you’re feeling awkward, the experience will probably be awkward. Try to be open to the idea of a friendship, and don’t forget that your ex is probably feeling awkward too.

10. Let him move on, and learn to be happy for him. It can be really hard to accept the fact that your ex is moving on with someone else, but it can also be a great way to solidify the platonic-ness of your hopefully newfound friendship. That being said, let yourself move on! Don't be afraid of hurting his feelings by finding happiness with someone else. Hopefully he'll learn how to be happy for you, too.

I asked two of my exes that I’m still good friends with what they think makes it possible for someone to stay close to someone you've broken up with. Here’s what they said…

“I think it’s a multitude of things. You have to really actually like that person. I like you as a human being. Time is also pretty big. I think [this is] the biggest thing though, which is also the most vague [part:] what kind of person are you? I typically don’t hold grudges; I try to always keep moving forward. I believe you’ll often find a very complementary relationship between exes that remain friends.” -Ethan

“Well, I would personally say a firm foundation is warranted, that of which is built entirely of respect and love. To remain friends, I would say it must be entirely genuine; there can’t be any repressed feelings between them. I’d say it’s an emotional tether. For example, I’d say that I’m rather tethered to you, even if it isn’t in a romantic way at a [given] time. Yet I always respect and value your happiness and put that above any kind of romantic relationship. I greatly value your thoughts and opinions. I think you’re one of the best humans I know, so I’d do anything to remain friends. It’s all based on a well of respect the two share, built on memory of joy and love, where both can freely tap it mentally or physically in the presence of each other as friends.”     -Jeremy