Your ex is your ex for a reason. But he or she was also an important part of your life for a significant amount of time, and it’s understandable to want to hold onto that relationship in some capacity. Many former couples, whether dating partners or spouses, try to remain friends after a break-up, and some are able to manage this transition successfully.
The certainty that the friendship with your ex would turn out positive instead of a painful ordeal depends on the part of your motives, which includes those that you would not quite openly acknowledge.
But there are right reasons to stay friends with your ex as well as wrong reasons. If you’ve left a relationship but want to maintain the relationship, make sure you’re not doing it for any of these reasons. Remaining friends for the wrong reasons can end up hurting you both.
12 Worst Reasons for Staying Friends with Your Ex
If you find yourself staying friends with your ex for any of these reasons, it may be good to take a step back and reflect.
1. You feel sorry for them.
In the immediate aftermath of a breakup, it’s pretty likely that you both will be reeling emotionally. If you initiated the break-up and your ex is taking it extra hard, the last thing you probably want to do is hurt them even more by rejecting their friendship.
This is a lousy reason to stay friends with them, especially for your ex. If they’re still feeling bad about the breakup, even if they don’t realize it, the best thing for them is space from you. Don’t be friends again until you’ve worked through the breakup.
2. You’re feeling jealous.
Another reason people stay friends with an ex is because they find themselves feeling jealous of their ex partner. They want to keep tabs on them, know who they’re with, maybe even block them from rebounding or pursuing someone new. Even if you know that a relationship wasn’t meant to be, it can still be painful to think of your ex finding happiness with someone else.
Staying friends may allow you to stay in the loop about their dating life and even give you some influence over it – a tempting prospect. But becoming your ex’s confidant may not benefit either of you in the long run, especially if you have mixed feelings about their efforts to move on.
This cannot be your reason for staying friends with them. Get over your feelings of jealousy before you try to be friends again.
3. You miss them.
Nope. Don’t stay friends with your ex just because you miss them. If you’re missing them and still hanging around them all the time, you’re not giving yourself the space that you need in order to get over the feelings you have.
4. You’re lonely.
When you go through a break-up, it can feel like there’s a hole in your social life, and that hole can take time to fill.
If you’re feeling lonely on a Friday night, having your ex over for a movie and take-out might sound more appealing than making the effort to go out and meet new people. But it can also lead you onto the on-again/off-again relationship rollercoaster.
It’s understandable to miss the intimacy of a romantic relationship, but putting yourself in the danger zone of hooking up with an ex may not be worth the short-term comfort. When you’re feeling lonely, turn to friends and family instead, and find ways to make the most of your alone time.
5. You want them to change for you.
Maybe you broke up because your ex was unfaithful or drank too much, but you’re holding out hope that they will learn from their mistakes and eventually grow into the kind of partner you want. By staying friends, you’re trying to keep them in your life and maybe even help them make changes.
Once a relationship has ended, your involvement in their personal life in that capacity is over. If you wanted them to change while you were together and they didn’t, then they sure as hell aren’t going to change for you now. If they want to change something about themselves, that change will come from within. Don’t hang out waiting in the wings for them to be the person you want. Move on.
6. You want to keep them on the back burner.
A more cynical version of the preceding item is this desire to keep your ex around just in case you can’t find someone better. Needless to say, this approach is unfair to your ex, but it can hold you back as well.
Breakups can be extremely traumatic life events. They are not to be executed on lightly. Don’t break up with someone and then keep them around in case you can’t find anyone else. That’s not how it works. Either be with them or cut them loose, but don’t drag them along.
7. They won’t take ‘no‘ for an answer.
You might not want to stay friends, but what if an ex does, and won’t leave you alone? As stated above, you have every right to say no to friendship.
Make sure that you are direct with your ex about your feelings (and don’t be afraid to get the police involved if they push things too far). While a little Facebook “stalking” may be relatively harmless, true stalking is scary and unacceptable. And it is surprisingly common.
These behaviors included things like contacting an ex after being told not to, or showing up at an ex’s residence uninvited. Anger, jealousy, obsessiveness, and need for control all predicted greater stalking behavior, so beware of these traits.
8. You’re having ‘grass is greener’ syndrome.
If you’re not totally satisfied in a new relationship, you may feel more interested in keeping up contacts with your ex. It’s easy to romanticize the person you’re not with, since you’re no longer regularly exposed to their irritating habits.
But this way of thinking is a trap, because if the grass always seems greener somewhere else, you’ll never be satisfied wherever you are. If you’re unhappy in your current relationship, it’s worth trying to address those feelings with your current partner rather than turning to an ex for support or as an escape. Adding the ex to the mix when your relationship is already in a complicated spot is only likely to complicate things further.
9. You have the same friends.
Research suggests that if your friends and family want you to stay friends with an ex, you are more likely to do so. But that doesn’t mean you have to. Staying friends with your ex for the sake of social harmony is a noble goal, but if it’s your only reason for maintaining the friendship, it can be problematic.
You have a right to spend time with your friends without your ex present, and you also have a right to decline invitations to events that your ex is also attending. Even if you are okay running into the ex from time to time, this doesn’t mean you need to be friends.
It may be hard to see your ex as just another acquaintance when you have so much history together, but over time that history won’t be in the foreground anymore.
10. They still love you.
If your ex is still in love with you and you don’t feel the same way, the best thing you can do for them is to let them go. Spending time with them might make you feel good about yourself – who doesn’t enjoy being adored? – but it could be painful and confusing for them, especially if it gives them false hope.
Even if you make it clear that you just want to be friends, it may not be clear enough to your ex. People see what they want to see, and rest assured they will be on high alert for any sign of returned affection. Your best bet in this situation is probably to minimize contact and let your ex move on.
If you think that your ex partner still loves you, don’t foster those emotions with a continuing friendship. It’ll tear them apart. Do the right thing for them and give them space to get over you.
11. You still love them.
Being in love with your ex, and secretly hoping to win them back, can be a powerful motivation for staying friends with them, but it’s also unfortunately one of the most dangerous ones.
If your ex doesn’t want to be with you, there is probably little you can do to change their mind. Trying in vain will only lead to repeated heartbreak and make you feel bad about yourself. Spend time with friends who make you feel loved and appreciated. This ex is probably not one of them.
12. You aren’t sure of your decision.
Our final point goes hand in hand with #6. If you aren’t sure of your decision, you need to figure it out and fast. Breakups don’t happen on a whim and can’t be treated in such a cavalier way. If you can’t figure it out, do the right thing for them and just move on.