One of the most cringe-worthy breakup lines in mainstream dating history — “We can still be friends,” –is a harsh, heartbreaking blow that is rarely followed through. And when tried, typically ends with either one person desperately holding on romantically, or (in my case) becoming on-again-off-again friends with benefits, resulting in an emotional rollercoaster ride of regrettable hookups. Plain and simple, this polite breakup gesture with all its good intentions fails to live up to its promise of friendship and honestly just leaves both post break-upees without much room for closure.
However, that’s not to say that friendship after romance is always totally off the table. Under the right circumstances and with enough strength, being “just friends” can actually blossom into something so much better than what the romance itself was able (or unable) to accomplish. But before you go diving head first into grabbing a harmless cup of chai with your ex-beau, certain dynamics regarding the former relationship and your current feelings have to be carefully analyzed before you press send on that “how have you been?” text.
Personally, I have only tried to be friends with one of my exes and although we are still Snapchat buddies, we are definitely far from besties. In my failed attempt at remaining friends, I learned that when a relationship dies, sometimes it’s better to just bury the hatchet rather than haphazardly reviving a lost cause, and that ground rules not only need to be established but never ever broken (ensue awkward morning-afters if not fully imposed). From that experience, I’ve pulled together this checklist so you know when it’s right (and totally wrong) to still be friends.
Obviously if your ex having a hot, new girlfriend bothers you so much that you break down into (drunken) tears on a Friday night, then you are probably not over him and shouldn’t even consider being friends. If just a smidgen of love still resides in your heart for this guy, don’t fall into the trap of “I wonder if I should just say hi.” Just don’t. You’ll save yourself a lot of heartache by not desperately clinging on to something that won’t happen again.
And if he keeps bringing up the good old times every time you talk, or flat out blurt out, “I still love you!” then don’t keep the poor dude hanging by a thread of hope that you two might have another shot. You might say “we are just friends,” directly and bluntly to his face over and over, but if your ex is still secretly pining for you he’s intentionally ignoring what you say and wishing the friendship blossoms into something more.
Bottom line, if either or both of you are still in love (or crushing way too hard), don’t torture yourself further by trying to be friends.
So maybe you are both over each other, but still got the hots for each other sexually. While there is nothing wrong with a causal hookup between friends, doing this with your former S.0. is just begging to stir up trouble, whether it’s distracting you from fully moving on or reignites past feelings. Don’t give way to your physical desires no matter how good the sex was, because the results definitely breed disaster.
3. Too bad of a breakup
Will your breakup go down in history as some kind of war epic? Did you breakup because of cheating, abuse or something equally awful? If the breakup didn’t end softly, but rather like crashing an airplane into the roaring Atlantic in the middle of a lightning storm, don’t waste your time. There is just too much damage in the past to reconstruct a friendship.
4. The friendship isn’t even worth it
So maybe things ended on a neutral note. Maybe the relationship was a little boring, lacking passion, lacking love, lacking really anything of substance so much so that even trying to carry a conversation as friends is a struggle. Honestly, you two might have broken up because you have zero compatibility or common interests, and you probably won’t make it as friends for those same reasons.
If you checked no to all these factors and feel your ex is someone you like to spend time with and feel could be great friends, go right ahead! Just make sure not to rush right into a friendship immediately following a breakup. No matter how civil the split was, you both still need time to heal.
Are you friends with your exes? Have you ever tried to become friends and failed? Thoughts?
Related: Love: How to Let Go
Photo: hjl via Flickr; qhio.tumblr.com; chandler-getspedicures.tumblr.com; finding-excelsior.tumblr.com