It’s a universal truth: Breakups are the worst. Falling out of love can be painful, confusing, strange, and isolating. We all go through various stages of mourning, but what happens when the dust has settled?
Is it possible to be ~*platonic*~ with an ex-partner? Or is friendship with someone you used to be in love with a recipe for disaster? How reasonable is it to embark on a friendship with an ex? Cosmopolitan asked relationship therapist Dr. Kalanit Ben-Ari if it can ever be a wise move. Turns out, there’s a lot to consider before taking the plunge—read on for her top advice.
1. Identify why you want to be friends.
“It’s a personal decision that one needs to make based on the circumstances of the breakup, the personalities involved, and the emotional state of the individuals,” says Dr. Ben-Ari.
“For some, a relationship with an ex is rooted in a fear of letting go, and being friends is a way of keeping the attachment and connection. For others, it is about keeping their options open.”
This is why it's important to work out your reason for wanting to be friends. If you feel it may be a means of re-establishing this person as a romantic option, or of healing any residual break-up pain, it’s best to steer clear.
2. Take some space before pursuing friendship.
“It can be a good idea to explore a full separation before reconnecting as friends,” Dr. Ben-Ari advises.
“This gives each individual time to process the split, make sense of their experiences, strengthen social connections and resources outside of that relationship, and rediscover themselves.”
3. Navigate jealousy and maintain your boundaries.
“Jealousy can come from a place of still being in love and attached to the partner, but when you are over the relationship, it can also come from a place of residual loss,” Dr. Ben-Ari explains.
It’s important to pinpoint the reasons for your jealousy, and decide whether or not you can deal with them in the context of a friendship.
4. Appreciate the uniqueness of your situation.
Whatever you decide to do, know that every relationship (and ex-relationship) is different, and therefore some friendships will survive and some won’t.
According to Dr. Ben-Ari, lots of factors can influence this, including your sexual orientation. She has observed, for instance, that more lesbian relationships survive as friendships, in comparison to heterosexual ones, but there is never a universal rule.
“With all sexual orientations, a ‘cool-down’ period is needed, and some jealousy management might be required,” she adds.
5. Ask what this friendship brings to your life.
Envision what being around your ex will be like, in a non-romantic way.
Dr. Ben-Ari advises that you ask yourself these questions: “Will I feel emotionally safe and comfortable with my ex? Is there respect for the new boundaries of friendship? Will a new relationship with the ex drain my energy, or is it a healthy and re-energizing one?”
So above all, it's important to consider if remaining friends with your ex will bring positive things to your future—and not just nostalgia from the past.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.
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