The Do's and Don'ts of Staying Friends with an Ex

After a break-up it’s easy to not only feel hurt and upset, but lonely too. You’ve spent a significant amount of time with a person who is suddenly no longer in your life, either in the same way, or at all. It’s natural to want to maintain a relationship with that person – calling them, finding ways to bump into them during the day, or planning “casual” lunch dates. Sometimes, though, this is exactly the opposite of what you need.

Her Campus spoke with relationship and break-up experts Dan Lier, of, Ellie Scarborough, of, Dr. Ish. Major, of, and Dr. D. Ivan Young, author of Break up, Don’t Break Down for tips on when it’s OK to contact him, and when you have to just let go.

Here we list the do’s and don’ts of staying friends with an ex.


Don't enter into a "friendship" if you still feel romantic love.
Scarborough suggests a no-contact rule for at least 90 days after the break-up. “Instead of putting your energy into trying to be friends with the person you just broke up with, put that energy into other relationships like friends and family who you might have neglected a bit during the relationship,” she says.

After 90 days have passed, take a moment to listen to your gut. Can you really be friends with him yet? Will all your past feelings come flooding back if you hang out, even on casual terms? “If something doesn’t feel right,” Scarborough says, “don’t force yourself to be friends with him just because you think it’s the ‘right’ thing to do.” Keep in mind though, that everyone has their own relationship recovery time - you may need less or more than a full 90 days.

Don’t meet for dinner, unless you have a (good!) reason for it.
Meeting for dinner is as close as you can get to an actual date, and it often feels like one if you haven’t made the date or non-date aspect clear. It can be done, though, Dr. Major says, as long as you have ground rules set first. “It’s best if you’re meeting for a specific purpose – like discussing something [other than each other!],” Dr. Major says. It’s also important to keep dinner short, he says. Don’t stay for dessert, extra wine, or coffee afterwards. Dr. Major says, usually when ex couples choose to meet up for dinner it’s their way of seeing if they want to get back together. “There’s nothing wrong with that,” Dr. Major says. “But just be honest with yourself, and about why you’re there.” Definitely don’t send mixed messages! To help keep conversations and meet-ups brief, suggest grabbing a cup of coffee or lunch instead of the more formal dinner.

Don't expect him to be happy that you’ve found a new guy.
Seeing you with someone else will highlight the fact that “you now have someone doing for you what he wasn’t able to,” Dr. Major says. “Guys are totally task-oriented,” he says. “We don’t like the idea of walking away from something that wasn’t done well.” If your ex is truly interested in staying friends, he may tolerate hearing about your new man, but it’s not something he’ll ever want to know about. Keep the new relationship conversations to a minimum. Better yet, don’t bring it up at all. “Guys have an ego,” Dr. Major says, “and it bruises easily.” Don’t force the new-hook-up conversation on him. If anything, let him bring it to you, suggests Dr. Major.

Don't do double dates with him... Ever.
According to Scarborough this is a recipe for disaster in almost every case. “If you shared intimate moments with someone, it can be very difficult to see him potentially sharing intimate moments with someone else.” Dr. Major says that what usually ends up happening is “comparison shopping” – analyzing why he’s with that new girl, and what is different about her than you. “It becomes hard to concentrate on having a good time because subconsciously you’re trying to one-up your ex’s date,” Dr. Major says. If he notices your actions and body language, this will probably make your current guy feel bad and uncomfortable too – which is exactly what you don’t want to do if you’re trying to get involved with someone new.