Why You Can’t Stay Friends With Your Ex

Of all the broken relationship questions I get, the most common ones deal with friendship. And that’s because, for many people, keeping up some level of friendship after breaking up seems to be the ‘go to’ method for trying to stay in your ex boyfriend or ex girlfriend’s life.

“Hey Anthony, why can’t I stay friends with my ex?
Won’t that help in getting them back?”

I hate to say it, but the answer is no.  You cannot, and should not, stay friends – or even friendly – after the breakup.  NOT if you actually want this person back as your girlfriend or boyfriend.

Friends With Your Ex

Honestly, staying friends with someone who just dumped you seems like a great initial idea.  You get to still see them.  You get to talk to them, text them – by remaining on friendly terms you don’t have to cut them out of your life.

You’re staying in sight too, so your ex doesn’t forget about you, and you’re able to see what your former lover is doing… and with whom.

All of that sounds amazing, no?  The next best thing to dating them, right?  Well, if only any of it were true.

Why Being Friends With Your Ex is Torture for Them

Right off the bat, you have to understand something very important: after breaking up with you, your ex doesn’t want to see you.

For a lot of people this is very difficult to swallow.  Yes, I know, they told you differently.  Your boyfriend or girlfriend put on a brave smile and said “sure!” when you asked if you could still talk to them, keep in touch, hell, even hang out together.  And they meant it… for about as long as it took for you to get back in your car.

After that?  Your ex wants to avoid you.  He or she would rather go to the dentist than actually run into you right now.  And no, it’s not because they hate you.  It’s not “bad blood” or anything stupid like that.  It’s because your ex will feel totally awkward around you.  And that’s because of something even more important:

They’re trying to push aside any emotional ties they still have to you.

And so yeah, the last thing they want is to see you.  Or hear from you.  Or for God’s sake, hang out with you.  When you call or text or whatever, you’ll talk to them less and less.  They’ll cut the ties of communication slowly, so as not to upset you, but they’ll cut them nonetheless.  Which means that very, very soon, you’re going to feel utterly and completely alone.

Why Being Friends With Your Ex is Torture for YOU

Now if you think that’s bad, it’s an even worse situation on your end. Because while you’re friends with your ex girlfriend or boyfriend? You’re stuck in this weird limbo of no longer being in a romantic relationship with them, and not really being an actual friend either.

“Bullshit! I can totally be friends with my ex!”

Nope. You might think you’re doing it, but in reality you’re stuck in a very strange place. That’s because you’re not like any of your ex’s other friends. You’re a friend with an agenda.

A ‘friend’ who has the ultimate goal of getting back in this person’s pants again. THEY want friendship. YOU want more. And no matter how much you deny it, or think you can try to hide it? Your ex totally knows and sees this. They feel it without you even having to say a single word, and from that moment on, they’re going to have their guard up around you.

Staying friends at this point will be torturous.  You’ll have to smile and be ‘happy’ while your ex lives his or her life without you.  You’ll need to be supportive when they talk about their dating problems.  And when your ex finally starts seeing someone else?  You’ll need to put on your bravest face and act happy for them, even though it’s going to feel like you got stabbed in the stomach.

And hey, even if you could be friends for a while?  The second one or both of you get a new partner that person isn’t going to be too happy about the arrangement.  Remember dating that one person who just couldn’t let go of their ex?  The person who told you “we’re just friends”, even though you wish this ex would go the hell away?  Well now you’re on the flip side of that coin.

What Should You Do if Your Ex Wants to Be Friends?

Short answer? You tell them no. But the long answer? You have to do it in such a way that it actually makes your ex need to hear from you again.

It’s not as simple as refusing the friendship. You also need to convince your ex that you don’t want to be friends with him or her, and that you’re not just shrugging it off because you’re bitter or angry.

Breaking Up With Ex

Essentially, you want your ex to wonder WHY you won’t be friends with them. It should seem cold to them. Callous. Like you really didn’t care to begin with, if you could just break free of them cold turkey.

The fact you’re not willing to even maintain simple contact (like texting or Instagram) tells your ex a great deal about your independence, and how they had you pegged wrong as still needing them around. This is only one of several counter-rejection techniques you can employ to shake things up, making your exboyfriend or exgirlfriend question their decision to break up with you in the first place.

When your ex realizes you’re willing to walk away from them, without even attempting to be friends? They themselves feel rejected. Your boyfriend or girlfriend also has to face the grim reality of the breakup alone.

This is especially bad for them if they expected you to stay in touch. Most people who say “let’s be friends” aren’t 100% ready to let go just yet, and the post-break friendship is a way for them to do it gradually, at their own pace. But you denied them that luxury, which puts them out of their comfort zone. You just ripped the Band-Aid off in one quick motion.

If You’re Already Friends With Your Ex… What Then?

If the breakup already happened and you’re now stuck in the “buddy” role, there are a number of ways to fix things. First, you’ll need to climb out of the dreaded Friend Zone, even if it means severing what little contact you already have with your former lover.

Beyond that, there’s a four-step process to making your ex see you as a potential partner again, rather than just a friend. It might seem like a small step backwards, but sometimes you have to backtrack in order to find the right path.

Remember: “staying friends with your ex” is a consolation prize that you just don’t want. Read up on other ways to break out of the friendship trap by checking out the links below:

What to Do When Your Ex Boyfriend Wants to Be Friends

How to Get Your Girlfriend Back When She Just Wants to Be Friends

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