Breakups aren’t typically simple or clean-cut – they’re often messy, painful, and exhausting. When we imagine a couple ending things, we think of all the ugly fights that must’ve led up to the breakup, the tears that were shed, the moments where both or one of them realized the love they once felt has turned sour and bitter, feeling more like disdain.
It’s not difficult to understand why most people prefer a clean break from their ex, a no-contact approach that allows them space to heal and time to find themselves outside the context of that relationship. Typically, keeping the person we’re trying to get over in our life isn’t recommended – especially if things ended on bad terms.
But what if our relationship didn’t end with screaming matches and nights spent crying ourselves to sleep? What if it really wasn’t all that dramatic, and we don’t even hate our ex, but would actually rather keep things on good terms?
First, Be Honest with Yourself about Your Motives
The worst thing about breakups is that they’re not always mutual. Sometimes, one person desperately wants to stay together, but the other has already checked out. And if we’re the one who wanted to work things out, this might lead us to do anything to stay in contact with our ex, including staying “friends” with them, all while hoping we’ll be able to convince them to take us back.
It’s important before we try to redefine our relationship with our ex that we’re honest about our motives in wanting to remain on friendly terms. If we’re at all hoping for the relationship to go back to what it once was, we’re setting ourselves up for heartbreak. We should only pursue an “on good terms” relationship if we have zero interest in rekindling the relationship.
Take Time To Breathe and Assess
Breakups leave us with a jumble of feelings to sift through and try to process – which means that nothing after a breakup, even one that wasn’t particularly tragic, should be rushed into without allowing ourselves proper time to breathe.
This means that even if we’d like to be on friendly terms with our ex, we don’t have to hurry to get there. We’re attempting to redefine a relationship, place this person in a different “mind box” if you will, and shift the dynamic in a platonic direction, and this will take time – there’s no requirement that we do this immediately after ending the relationship.
Don’t Hang Out Privately and Don’t Flirt
It’s no secret that the way we interact with a guy friend will differ significantly from how we interact with a boyfriend – and because we already established a romantic way of behaving and communicating with our ex, this means we’ll have to re-learn our methods of interacting with them.
To keep ourselves from falling into old patterns, it’s best that we don’t hang out with them privately, like at one of our apartments, but instead meet up with them in public places. And since we’ll be used to flirting with them, we’ll need to ensure we aren’t treating them any differently from how we’d treat a guy friend we didn’t have feelings for. Otherwise, we run the risk of drudging up old feelings and getting confused about where we stand.
Set Strong Emotional Boundaries
Even if we can list off a myriad of reasons why the relationship ended and we know we’re both better off this way, we can’t erase whatever emotional intimacy or connection we’d formed with them. They were the person we called when something funny or awful happened; we expected them to answer our texts before anyone else; we learned to seek understanding, validation, and affection from them.
But we can’t count on them for this kind of emotional intimacy anymore if we want to shift our relationship into platonic territory. It’s important that we understand their devotion to us can’t be what it used to be and that we train ourselves not to lean on them for support, seek out validation from them, or expect the same openness from them.
Allow Him (and Yourself) To Move On
We might be feeling pretty secure in our new friendship with our ex, unbothered by hanging out with them and not tempted to go back and make things work. And then, they start dating someone new – and we feel an odd twinge of jealousy, hurt, or confusion.
If we want to maintain our new relationship with our ex, we have to remind ourselves that it’s not just okay that they moved on, but it’s actually better for our friendship’s chances. We have to allow them to find someone else, as well as ourselves to untangle our emotions enough to try dating someone else, should the right person come along.
Most of us would rather go no-contact, but if we’d prefer to keep things on more friendly terms, it’s best that we proceed with caution and set healthy boundaries, making sure to protect ourselves from further heartbreak.
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