3 ways you CAN stay friends with your ex

by Eharmony Editorial Team - November 29, 2010

We’ve written about ‘3 reasons you shouldn’t stay friends with your ex’ but how about the other side of the coin? Are you ready to build bridges?

In our article ‘3 reasons you shouldn’t stay friends with your ex’, we gave you 3 good reasons not to try and extend the relationship. But, every situation is different and some relationships can turn into friendships

Here we’ve outlined three ways you might be able to turn that failed relationship into something positive.

1. Back off

However much you want to be friends with your ex, if you’ve only just broken up, you need to have a cooling off period. Feelings cannot be turned off like a light switch – whether those feelings are ones of love or anger, they need time to help bring them into perspective. It sounds like a cliché, but time really is a great healer. If you really do have your heart set on being friends again, you need to wait. We can’t tell you how long to wait – the assumed wisdom is half the length of the actual relationship – but we can place a guide figure of at least 6 months on it.

And when we say back off, we mean completely. No calls, no texts, no emails – cold turkey. This time will allow you both to gain some perspective on the relationship. It will also allow you the time to explore the idea of a new relationship. You may even decide after 6 months that you don’t want to pursue a friendship with your ex, but if you do you should have perspective on the situation at least.

2. When you meet, meet carefully

Let’s say you’ve had your cooling off period, and it still seems a good idea to cultivate a friendship with your ex – where do you go? Well, the most important thing to remember is that sometimes attraction never dies. It may have waned in your period apart, but it could rear its head at any moment.

With that in mind, you need to choose your meeting venue and activity carefully. For example, dinner and drinks alone is probably a very bad idea – a few too many glasses of wine and you could end up right back where you started. However, mid-morning coffee or meeting with mutual friends is much lower risk. Rules of thumb are keep it alcohol-free and keep it in the daytime if possible – at least at first.

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3. Change the tone of friendship

If you’ve been lovers in the past – especially if you’re now in relationships with other people – you need to establish new boundaries.  Having intimate conversations about your personal lives, being in constant contact and exhibiting close body language are all things that need to go out the window. Anything that you think opposite sex friends would avoid doing or be uncomfortable doing, is out of bounds.

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Your new friendship with your ex is the time to break away from old traditions as well. If there are certain restaurants, bars, museums etc. you used to visit together, you should avoid these places. Anywhere that’s going to spark a feeling of nostalgia should be off the list.

Additionally, if you find yourself hiding details about your new friendship from your other friends or current partner alarm bells should be ringing. Can you really be friends? It’s only for you to decide, but if you’re slipping back into your old habits, perhaps not.

Can you really be friends with an ex? Maybe. Some people might find it really easy, which is great, but most will find it a tricky situation to navigate. Of course it can absolutely be worth it in the end, whether you want to create a positive atmosphere for your children or you’re just able to get a great new friend from the relationship. Good luck!