Dear Charly: can you stay friends with an ex?

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Friends with an ex

This week our agony aunt Charly Lester advises a reader who’s struggling with that age-old question: can and should you stay friends with an ex?

Dear Charly,

Is it possible to stay friends with my ex?

A x

Hi A,

Thanks for your question. Of course, everyone’s different and everyone’s relationships with their exes are different. But, in my experience, it’s a lot easier to properly move on from a relationship if you cut ties with an ex completely.

If you’re the one who ended things, you may find yourself trying to ‘do the right thing’ and stay amicable with your ex. Unfortunately, this can just end up misleading your ex and making him or her think that you still have romantic feelings for them. They might even believe that there’s hope of rekindling the relationship at some point.

But if you were on the receiving end of the break-up, you might try to stay friends with your ex in the hope that they’ll change their mind later on. However, you’re not being fair to yourself by trying to hold on to them.

In situations like this, I always try to apply the logic of ‘what would I tell my best friend if he or she were in my situation?’ The answer is normally some form of tough love. And in this case, the simplest answer is to cut your ex out of your life entirely, at least for the foreseeable future. It’s the only way that both of you can properly get over the break-up and move on. If you stay in one another’s lives, things can get really complicated and awkward when one of you does move on and becomes involved with someone else.

Of course, if you have children or financial ties that still haven’t been properly resolved, then it won’t be possible to have a completely clean break. Try to be as objective as possible and give yourself the space to process the relationship and get over it properly. Often, we make excuses to ourselves. ‘I’m only contacting him because I found his teaspoon and he probably really needs it’ or ‘I’m only texting her as a friend, I’d send this message to any of my mates!’

Step away from the relationship as fully as your circumstances allow and who knows – in a few years you might both be in a position where you can pursue a genuine friendship. But don’t push for that until you’re both properly over the relationship and you know there’s no ulterior motive.

Good luck!

Charly


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