It happens to us all. You date someone for a few hot months before getting brave enough to admit that it's not working out. But you have so much in common and love spending time with each other! While you know that a romantic future with this person isn't possible, why should you cut them out of your life completely? Is it ever possible to be friends with an ex?
Here's what the experts have to say about transitioning into the friend zone.
You will need a cooling off period.
Michael J. Salas, LPC-S, a sex and relationship therapist at Vantage Point Counseling Services in Dallas, says he usually recommends three months to let things settle before beginning a new relationship as friends. "This can allow minor pain from the relationship to at least scab over before you start building a relationship as friends," he explains.
Don't have sex with them.
Yes, it needs mentioning! While you might be tempted to slip into friends-with-benefits territory, this is probably a bad idea. "If you're wanting to be friends, this can make things very confusing," Salas says. "It's extremely unlikely that this person will become a friend with benefits in a balanced, healthy way."
Establish solid mental boundaries.
Once the cooling off period is over, Salas explains that it's best to segue into hanging out within neutral environments like with other friends around. This way, there's less likelihood that you'll just stumble into bed together again if you're just meeting up for coffee at a spot midway between your homes.
Consider how your new partners will feel about the friendship.
Raffi Bilek, LCSW-C, a couples counselor and director of the Baltimore Therapy Center, explains that it's also important to look at how your friendship with your ex could affect any new relationships. If your new partner is uncomfortable with you being BFFs with your ex, you should consider that and take it seriously. "If you don't, it can destabilize your new relationship," Bilek says.
Make sure you're in a healthy enough place to start over.
"You should not be friends if you are incapable of not discussing your past mistakes and the reason you broke up," explains Katrina Pointer, LPC, a therapist based in Georgia. Simply ignoring whatever underlying issues caused your relationship to end doesn't exactly set the stage for the a super healthy friendship.
Ask yourself why you want to be friends with your ex.
Mark B. Borg, Jr., Ph.D., explains that sometimes people want to become friends with their exes too soon as a way to avoid the proper mourning process of a romantic relationship. If you genuinely love spending time together and have a bunch of shared hobbies, interests, and mutual friends, that's totally valid. Just make sure you're not trying to substitute a platonic relationship for your romantic relationship just because it's easier to still have them in your life that way.
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.