Break-ups hurt, even if it’s simply that you’ve grown apart. That emotional legacy will still come back to haunt you as you go your separate ways – thoughts of happier times and treasured shared moments. And it’s that emotional legacy that often triggers you to utter those immortal words, ‘I’d really like to stay friends’.
Not even the pain of the break-up or the horrified response from friends can stop ex-couples thinking it’s a good idea to try and be friends. In some cases it’s the feeling that you’ll be throwing away a great friendship as you already know you get on really well, and in others it’s that one or both parties are hoping they’ll get back together.
Whatever the reason, unless there are children involved, in the wake of a break-up it’s never a good idea to jump straight into friendship with your ex – for one thing your head will be all over the place. Still unconvinced? Check out these three reasons and tell us if you still feel the same:
1. You can’t just turn off your feelings
Unless you truly hate your ex for some reason (for example, they cheated on you), chances are you’ll still have some feelings for them. They may not be the same feelings you had when you met, and you may think you’re totally fine with being friends, but once you start to relax in each others’ company your guard will come down and you’ll start having those feelings again.
And if you’re the one who’s been dumped you need to be extra careful. Ask yourself if you agreed to stay friends in order to keep your ex close, and maybe even get back with them. How do you feel when you’re around them? Do you arrange to meet up alone or with a group? Do you engineer situations where alcohol is involved? This is a time to be incredibly honest with yourself as, even if you do end up spending the night together, chances are it’ll be a world of regret you’ll wake up to.
Conversely, if you were the dumper, be aware that your ex might still be harbouring feelings for you. The best thing you can do is try to create some distance between you and your ex. Maybe you feel guilty for dumping them, but you’ll just be causing more harm by keeping them close.
2. Lines can get blurred too easily
Imagine you’ve got flu and you call a friend for some soup and sympathy. Imagine that friend you call is in fact your ex and they dash round in order to nursemaid you. This is where things get tricky as one party starts thinking ‘oh they needed me’ or ‘they came to help me’. Suddenly the innocent action of a friend becomes a romantic gesture, and one or both of you are entertaining thoughts of getting back together.
The fact is, there’s a reason you broke up. But, even if you were the one who cut the ties, when you’re alone and your ex is there for you, or vice versa, you may start to think that being with them must be better than being alone. Unfortunately, getting back with an ex is far easier than putting yourself out there and looking for someone new. But remember that in the long run you know it’s not right, you’re just extending the pain of the break up.
3. You won’t be able to move on
In order to begin a search for someone new you have to have a clean slate, which you won’t have if you’re still in regular contact with an ex you have feelings for. Any new prospect that comes your way will be quickly dismissed because they don’t fit your strict specifications – the real reason being that they’re just not your ex. We’re not saying that having your ex out of your life is the answer to all your problems, rather that having them in your life is going to make moving on much harder.
Of course there are circumstances where a couple break up that really should be together. Maybe one of them needs to mature a little, or maybe there was a misunderstanding. But, even in this situation, the majority of the time distance is needed. We’re not saying you can never be friends with an ex – you may make great friends once time has done its healing. It’s just that in that initial post-break up period, space is healthy.