Ex is Friend not Foe

“Fish is friend not food!” – Finding Nemo (2003).

Perhaps,  after your breakup, you have this urge to eat your ex up! Well, maybe you can try another method? Many people were surprised by the fact that I remain friends with most of my exes.

“How is that possible?”

“Isn’t it awkward?”

“What do you guys talk about?”

“What kind of relationship do you have with him now?”

The most common question though, is “HOW DO YOU DO IT?!”

So, here it is. How to be friends with your ex: a comprehensive guide to help you find a new bond with the past. Do note that this guide is based on the fact that both parties are sensible people to be reasoned with. If you had an overly attached, abusive, and/or crazy boyfriend/girlfriend, you probably won’t find this guide to be of much use. You probably want to stay away from the waters because those sharks are craaaazy.

The steps vary according to how the relationship ended and whether or not you were the one who closed the book of the romantic story. So, the guide is not to be followed rigorously, but I hope this will at least help your relationship in some way!

1. Acknowledge and accept what you have lost. 

Hey, don’t try to be a strong and fierce tiger after a breakup. Cry miserably, binge watch TV shows, empty yourself out, go clubbing, drink till you think breaking up wasn’t the worst part of your life…do whatever it is you do to piece yourself back together. And then take a deep breath, tell yourself it’s over and you are no longer with the person you loved. Tell that to yourself until the truth seeps through the cracks in the emotional wall that is obstructing your acceptance of the hard truth.

2. Don’t be a butt-hole.

Face yourself in the mirror and answer honestly: Did you cheat on your ex? Were you the messed up one that did something you shouldn’t have done, like sleep with his friend then ask for forgiveness? All right, that’s probably too Gossip Girl-ly. Did you make up plenty of excuses for what you knew was unequivocally wrong?

If you know you did something that is often considered negative in a relationship, and your ex is not willing to forgive you, then it’s time to close this article and go read this. And then if your ex is forgiving, thank goodness, or thank your good old judgment for giving you the opportunity to become friends with your ex. So you’re sure you’re not a butt-hole? Okay, then you can…

3. Reflect on the relationship you had with your ex. 

Why did you guys break up? What were the reasons that caused you to drift away from each other? Were you usually happy? Did your expectations change?

The relationship you had with your ex is usually the groundwork for your new friendship (or its lack thereof). If ending the relationship was mutual, there is a higher chance of staying friends in the future. However, if one person decided to conclude your shared story, then clearly the chance decreases. To start rebuilding a possible friendship, you just have to know where you two stood in the past. If the relationship didn’t end dreadfully, then you got a good chance to turn a new leaf.

4. Be honest about your intentions to stay friends.

It is absolutely necessary to be respectful of the other person. And by respectful, I mean conveying your intentions and getting his/her approval.  Just straight-forwardly tell them that you hope to remain friends because they are dear to you, and you wish to adorn your new friendship with the shared happy memories of the past. After all, that person was once the one you loved most, right? Be truthful and genuine about your feelings, don’t hide anything from them, and calmly receive your answer.

5. Respect the person’s decision, whether you like it or not. 

Keep in mind that you should not push them to a decision. Like I mentioned, respect is very important in this potential new friendship. If you cannot respect his/her choice, then there will be no friendship, and that’s probably not what you want since you’re reading this. Now, if they express the possibility of a friendship forming, then VOILA! You’re done with the hardest part (in my opinion at least).

6. Firmly establish new boundaries. 

You and your ex are no longer a couple, so it is necessary to pull out the boundaries you have for your friends and apply them to your ex. This may be particularly difficult for some people because old habits cling on like a piece of bubble gum: sticky, tricky, and hard to pull off.  Some useful tips for establishing boundaries:

(1) Always keep in mind that he/she is your friend now. How do you usually treat friends? You don’t buy friends dinner (unless you’re a very generous  person), kiss your friends , flirt with your friends. or stay up all night alone with a friend of the opposite sex—so don’t do that with your ex! You will give them the wrong idea, and your friendship will be tainted with your past mistakes.

(2) DO NOT, under any circumstances, become INTIMATE with your ex! NO SEX, NO “LAST SEX.” This probably should have been on the top of the list, but as I mentioned in the beginning of the post, “both parties are sensible people to be reasoned with,” so I assume you assume this is a definite no-no as well.

(3) Speak up if your ex is crossing your boundaries. This goes with the honesty rule: if you can’t be honest about something, then your relationship will just gradually fall apart. Let him/her know if something they are doing is bothering you. Perhaps they don’t have a good sense of the physical distance that should be kept between you two; perhaps they send misleading signals. Voice your disapproval to make sure the problem doesn’t happen again!

7. Let time and distance do the trick. As usual. 

Try not to talk to him/her as often as you want to. At first, restraining yourself would be quite difficult because you miss your ex, and wonder why he/she isn’t contacting you. But you can do it! Space out your meet-ups with him; I would recommend no more than once a week in the first month as it will help you clear your head and gradually come to rationality. Likewise, all communications should decrease, if not, seize for a while. Make sure you don’t spend over 30 minutes per day talking to them or else it will be difficult to establish a space between you two, let alone shifting from boyfriend/girlfriend to friends. Time and distance should get their abilities patented because they are dang good.

Who else better to be your friend than your ex? If you and your past love had been together for a while, they probably know you the best. Your little weird habits, your silly sides—you name it.

A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.
A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.

As my ex and I both agreed, who would be better suited to listen to you down the road? And who would be better suited to tell you not to listen to your other jaded friends?

If both parties have forgiven each other, you know you have a deep bond and deep trust for your ex. If all works well, you have a life-long friend who will always be there for you when you needed.

Let your past pave way to a new and beautiful friendship 🙂


One thought on “Ex is Friend not Foe

  1. It is not unusual to find the power or the courage to forgive, but with an open mind one can still try to love the person differently, as a friend of course.

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