I’m here to tell you a home truth: You do not have to be friends with your ex. Look, I get it, I really do: After a break up, it is so, so tempting to try to be friends with the person you were dating. You might feel this way for a lot of reasons. Regardless of whether you were the dump-er or the dump-ee, the idea of suddenly going from seeing someone all the time to not seeing him or her at all is simply unimaginable. Or maybe you were friends before you dated, so you feel like you should be able to go back to that. Or you think that, if you could just hang out once in a while, the break-up wouldn’t feel quite so terrible. Or maybe your ex is going through a rough time, so you feel like you should be supportive. But, regardless of your motivation, sometimes being friends with an ex simply isn’t possible, and trying to force that relationship to happen can make the break up worse, creating more bitterness and anger and keeping you from truly moving on.
I’m not suggesting that you can’t be friends with your exes. I’m a true believer that friendships between exes are possible. But you shouldn’t try to be friends with your ex simply because you feel like you have to or because you feel incapable of being alone. Being friends with an ex can be great, but it can also be fraught, so make the decision to do it or not based on what will best allow you to be happy and healthy. Here are 5 reasons that it is completely, 100 percent, A-OK to let your ex remain forever an ex:
1. Being friends will not make you feel better about the breakup
I know that when you’re in the throes of a breakup, completely undone by sadness and anger, it can feel like if you just see each other once in a while—as friends—then the whole thing won’t hurt so badly. The thing is, hanging out with someone you’re still getting over might make you feel better in the moment, but it won’t help the process in the long run—in fact, it might make you feel worse. There are lots of good reasons to try to be friends with an ex, but feeling better about breaking up isn’t one of them.
2. You have to practice self-care
You might feel like your ex needs help and attention—maybe he or she is having family troubles, or health problems, or a bad time at work—and you feel like you should try to be a supportive friend. But is being friends with your ex good for you? Are you happy and stable in this situation? If not, cut ties. You have to take care of yourself first and foremost.
3. It may not be good for your ex
You might want to be friends with your ex, but take some time to really consider whether you reaching out is good for him or her. If you get the impression that your ex is still really struggling to get over the relationship, it’s not fair for you to be a constant presence in his or her life, stirring up difficult emotions and uncovering old wounds. Be compassionate, and let your ex go.
4. You and your ex just might not have a “friend” mode.
You might have had romantic and sexual chemistry out the wazoo with your ex, but romantic and sexual chemistry don’t make a friendship. When you try to be friends with your ex, you may find that you two just don’t click that way, that when you strip out all of the romantic stuff, you have nothing in common or you don’t get along.
5. Any reason at all
You don’t have to have a reason to not want to be friends with your ex (or with anyone, really). If staying friends with your ex makes you unhappy or uncomfortable—even if you can’t really articulate why—then you don’t have to do it, period. Yes, it’s sad when relationships end and when people who were once important to you drift away. But that’s life, and that’s OK.
Images: Cia De Foto/Flickr; Giphy (5)