Whether you can be friends with an ex tends to be determined by the two people once involved in the relationship. But as with anything else, there are some expert opinions on the matter.
Susan J. Elliot, author, relationship coach, counselor and speaker/ presenter, wrote an article on the subject that was featured last year on the Huffington Post. Elliot stresses that even after an amicable breakup, it’s extremely difficult to be friends, at least initially. The bond of the couple needs to break and sifting through the emotional aftermath takes time in order to efficiently heal.
“Each needs to deal with the breakup in their own way, apart from the scrutiny of the person they just broke up with,” she said.
“Most people cannot remain friends after a breakup, but if it will ever be, it will be later — much later. The atmosphere immediately following a breakup is too emotionally charged for it to happen right away, if at all.”
Elliot references a couple who had dinner together every now and then after they ended their relationship; two months into this new “friendship” routine, one of their meals turned into a heated fight. Both were moving on, which brought certain feelings to the surface.
If you’re the one pushing to be friends, Elliot suggests examining your motives. Perhaps you’re trying to avoid your grief or you want the benefits without the responsibility. If you’re on the receiving end of a “let’s be friends” agenda, she says to just be honest; there’s no long-winded explanations needed if you don’t want to venture into that realm.
“I think that maintaining a friendship with an ex or someone you previously dated is dependent on a few things,” Ashley Knox, who has her masters in social work, said.
“One, how the relationship ended, two, whether both parties have been able to move on successfully enough so that they can begin purely a friendship and three, whether any new boyfriends or girlfriends in the picture are accepting of you maintaining contact with your ex.”
Alex Karpovsky plays Ray, a witty, cynical 20-something on the award-winning HBO series, “Girls” (a show that’s entwined with relationship dilemmas). Karpovsky fielded questions on Rookie, a Web site for teenage girls. The second question that was asked in this quirky video-chat inquired about staying friends with an ex.
“I’m personally of the opinion that it’s hard,” he said. Karpovsky mused that the only way it’s likely is when you’re both completely over each other and have moved on.
Yet if someone still harbors a glimmer of hope, being platonic friends may prove to be difficult.
“Being friends with your ex can be a minefield,” Elliot noted. “Don’t try to cross it in the early stages of a breakup. The early stage is about taking care of you.”