Forging a friendship from the extinguished flames of a formerly romantic relationship is no easy task, but shutting him, her or them out completely isn’t always necessary – especially if you’d both like to separate amicably and remain on good terms. We break up for lots of different reasons, but there’s often plenty in common that can keep us connected to each other in one capacity or another – you were once inseparable for a reason – even when love and sex are no longer part of the equation. Here’s how.
Be honest with your ex about your intention and desire to become friends
You can say something like, “I really value your opinion, friendship, energy, sense of humor, point of view, and I would really like to be friends in some way,” or “We have too much history to not be friends,” or “You’re the only one who makes me LOL.” Don’t beat around the bush. Let them know what you’d like from them moving forward. If building a friendship is a mutual goal, move forward. If it’s one-sided, however, move on.
Give your ex (and possibly yourself) time to grieve the loss of what you had or expected the romantic relationship to be
It’s OK to be angry and express that anger as long as you express your anger in a healthy way. Refrain from saying anything hurtful. Keep angry statements to how you feel – “I” statements – and not about your ex being a bad person.
“Being angry is part of the process,” says David Strah, a Los Angeles-based psychotherapist and author. “Bad things happen to good people. We don’t always understand why a relationship fizzles. But not understanding can lead to feeling helpless and angry. Sometimes it’s better to accept that we are disappointed and can’t control the outcome. Break plates, punch pillows, scream, take a boxing class – let out your anger in a healthy way.”
Take responsibility for your part in the relationship ending
Taking ownership and responsibility can be healing for both you and your ex. You don’t have to rehash the past, but you can say things like, I feel badly about how I behaved, what I said, what I didn’t do, how I reacted, how things ended. This will help both of you move forward toward a positive, healthy relationship that leaves the past where it belongs.
Ditch the blame game
Forgive your ex and forgive yourself for anything that you regret doing or that you believe was done to you. If you’re not completely over that trauma, it’s probably not wise to start a transition to friendship; resentment is not a solid foundation on which to begin.
Show appreciation for your ex
Tell your ex how appreciative you are of them in both small and big ways.
According to Strah, “Examples might include ‘I am really appreciative of all the fun vacations we had together,’ or ‘I really appreciate all the support you gave me when I was going through a rough time at work,’ or ‘I really appreciate your willingness to help.’ If you have an on-going relationship with your ex that involves pets, kids, or financial support or investments, it’s important to show your appreciation for the positive ways your ex shows up – as a good parent, responsible pet owner, or provider.”
Be there emotionally for your ex
Let your ex know that you’re available in case of an emergency, if they ever need to talk, or need someone to walk or feed their pet on a busy day. Even better, don’t wait to get a call from your ex – just be there when you sense they need your support. But, like, not in a stalker-y kind of way. Don’t get all Fatal Attraction about it.
Make an effort to do things with your ex
In the beginning, shorter visits together are usually better because there is less opportunity to fall into old patterns and start pointing fingers, Strah says.
“If you enjoyed going to the movies or working out together, suggest you workout together or go to the movies,” he continues. “If your ex doesn’t want to get together, try calling or sending a text. Something like, ‘I want you to know that I’m thinking about you and care about you’ or ‘Thinking about you and hope you are having a great day’ can go a long way.”
Speak to a therapist
Sometimes family and friends just can’t provide the support and clarity that a mental health professional can – especially if a break up necessitates significant and overwhelming changes in our lives.
“Consider seeing a therapist to explore and identify negative behavioral patterns and negative, self-limiting beliefs – like trying to convince yourself that you’re not good enough to be in a relationship or that you’re unlovable – that are self-sabotaging and keeping you from being in a healthy, romantic relationship,” Strah concludes. “Don’t think of therapy as something you need to do to change, but rather an investment in yourself that will reward you 100 times over.”