The following happened nearly 30 years ago in the heart of Europe …
[me]: “I’m going out…”
[my dad]: “Where are you going to?”
[me]: “I’m going to see Sandra.”
[my dad]: “I thought you two were broken up?”
[me]: “We are. We just want to stay friends.”
[my dad]: “Whaaat? Friends? When you break up, you’re not supposed to see each other ever again. That’s how it was and that’s how it always will be!”
This was a real conversation after one of my very first breakups. And I kept having it many times as I grew older.
Why do we feel the need to being friends with an Ex after a break-up?
Is a platonic friendship between ex-romantic partners even possible?
Why we want to stay friends
There are many reasons why we usually try to.
Here’s the most popular one:
We want to keep them close, because the notion of losing them is unbearable for us.
“Broken up? We’ll see about that. I’m sure they'll change their mind …”
We are hoping that they will finally come around, and we want to be able to influence the process. Staying friends is the most practical way to do that.
Such behavior typically happens in one of the first phases of the breakup.
What to do if you still have to deal with them?
What are you supposed to do? Turn the cold shoulder when they come to see the kids? So why not make your life a little easier, since you have to see each other anyway? Right?
Because staying friends — while it seems like the ethical thing to do — NEVER works as long as one party suffers.
You can’t hope to stay friends if you are still emotionally involved in the relationship.
They WILL treat you as a friend, they will tell you how their new life unfolds, and they won’t spare you the details.
They WILL test you and constantly check whether they still have power over you — playing stupid games that you will lose.
You WILL suffer more than you should, and you will prolong your recovery unnecessarily.
Staying friends after a breakup doesn’t work.
At least, not at the very beginning.
That's what my failed relationships in the past have taught me, and this is what all of my clients experienced while being in the trenches.
What does science say about being friends with an Ex?
On the other hand, scientific research suggests that the possibility of staying friends with an Ex after a breakup or divorce depends on the amount of “resources” received once broken up:
“Results indicated that participants who received more resources reported higher levels of friendship quality with their former partner. Lack of family or friends’ support, involvement in a new romantic relationship, and the use of neglect as a disengagement strategy were all found to be barriers to friendship quality.” (Personal Relationships Journal)
Another study shows that if there was a friendship prior to the relationship, then a friendship has a good chance of survival after breaking up:
“Results indicated that being friends prior to romantic involvement was a significant predictor of friendship, both for people who initiated the disengagement and for those who were recipients of partner's desire for disengagement.” (Journal of Social and Personal Relationships)
It also seems that the quality of the relationship itself is an indicator of how likely a friendship after the dissolution of that relationship is:
“We found that the more satisfied individuals were during the dissolved romance, the more likely they were to remain friends and the more likely they were to engage in friendship maintenance behaviors.” (The Journal of Social Psychology)
So what’s the solution here? Staying friends or not?
The solution to this dilemma is called following the No-Contact Rule.
As you might already know, it’s cutting off contact with your Ex completely while you take time for yourself to heal for a predefined time period of 60 days.
(Why 60 days? Because this is enough time to reach a certain healing stage, after which your Ex cannot sabotage your recovery anymore.)
You inform your Ex about breaking off the contact, you don’t disappear into thin air (no “ghosting”) — this is the ethical way to do it.
And if you still have to deal with your Ex (because of kids or the same workplace), you just follow a set of rules to protect yourself (“Reduced No-Contact”).
And that is it.
Not quite as my father said — “not supposed to see each other ever again” — because at one point, you will want to see them again to make the final recovery test.
No-Contact is the quickest way to healing after a breakup or divorce. It’s simply a field-tested and proven fact (not just a theoretical concept).
I know you think that you can’t do it.
Everybody thinks that.
But you will be surprised WHAT you can do if you focus on one goal, which is being emotionally independent.
In our DETOX community, we have quite a few members who thought they could never ever pull it off and they DID it.
It was painful, it was hard, but they did it anyway. And they moved on from their Ex.
You can do it too.
If you are unhappy with the situation as it is, then start your recovery the right way:
We can help you do it, to sail through the turbulent waters of No-Contact and face all the obstacles (there are seven of them).
You don’t have to do it alone, because you are NOT alone — we are here for you all the way.
All you have to do is subscribe to my daily newsletter here:
What is your take on this topic? Is it possible to still be friends after a breakup or not? Please let me know in the comment section below.
Your friend and coach,