Being Friends With Your Ex

"It didn't work out for us, but let's stay friends." Ever hear this? Ever say it? Plenty of couples whose relationships end have said this to each other, but do they really mean it, and more importantly … should they? Here are some down-to-earth answers to the question of remaining friends with an ex.

Be Honest About What You Want
Do some deep thinking before you really make the effort to be friends. The positives have to outweigh the negatives, and neither of you can have underlying motives about getting back together or preventing the other person from having a new relationship.

Be Sure You Both Want The Same Thing
Talk with your ex because you both have to be on board with being friends equally. If one person is too hurt, or too interested in reuniting, it won't work and will cause further pain to one or both of you. In that case, your break up should be permanent.

When Kids Are the Reason
If you have shared custody of children, an amicable relationship will be helpful to all concerned. But this is really not the same as an actual friendship in most cases. A true friendship and a cordial relationship are vastly different, but both serve their functions. If you are going to be friends and you have kids, you will need to set even clearer ground rules for your new relationship.

Why It's Hard to Do
History, memories and lingering wounds make it tough to move on to a new stage in a relationship. You might not think clearly if either one of you still feels a sexual attraction or if one of you is still hoping that the other is going to realize their mistake and come back. Another possibility is that the relationship will be on-again, off-again, which is difficult for both parties and keeps them from moving on to a healthier relationship. Factor in jealousy and scrutiny of any new relationships that may come along, and your relatively minor relationship issues could turn into one big mess.

How to Do It Right
Once you've decided that you want to stay friends with your ex for the right reasons, you still need to give yourselves time to heal so you can be friends. Here are some guidelines:

Have a three-month cooling-off period. Don't make any contact whatsoever during this time. This break will allow each of you to stop being the other's "special person"-the one you want to tell all of the little details of your day, your dream last night, the funny thing your dog did or the silly expression on your boss' face when he realized he spilled mustard on his tie. You need another outlet for the "special person" role, or else resentment will build up and doom the friendship. So, for three months, replace that role with a diary, dog, friend or even a new love interest.

Feel okay about yourself again. If you had been feeling down, not good enough or unattractive as a result of the breakup, you need the time to get over this and feel okay about yourself again. If you don't, you will be searching your ex's face for signs of attraction, evidence that they still love you, or signs of regret that you're not together anymore. This would set you up for a failure for a friendship because you're not going to find those things, and you shouldn't need them from a friend. It may be true that you were the best thing that happened to them, but they aren't going to say it, and you shouldn't need to hear it.

The very best way to start feeling okay about yourself again is to either date someone else or learn to enjoy being single. But, if that doesn't happen, the time should help you get to that place of self acceptance again, and, eventually, you will meet someone who is even better for you.

Avoid the love subject. You and your ex should not share or discuss the topic of love life for at least a year. That is really how long it can take to get over the fact that you were in a love relationship and get to a point where you don't have to deal with jealousy, extreme curiosity, comparing yourself, a return of insecure feelings or reopening old wounds.

Follow the no-going-back rule. You both should agree that the relationship is over and isn't going to be rekindled. That also means no flings with the ex, no spontaneous returns to intimate behavior and no crossing the boundaries of friendship with flirty behavior that could be confusing.

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