Guest Post by Sabrina Stone
Turning exes into friends may seem like one of life’s great conundrums. Thing is, though, it really isn’t such a mystery. My phone is filled with people I used to feel differently about and I’ve dated at least 2/3 of my Facebook friends (…that statistic might be a bit off— fractions have never been my forte). I suppose my philosophy about exes is, “If you can only build a happy romantic future with one person, why burn every bridge leading up to it?”
So here (batteries not included) is my 10-step guide to befriending your ex:
1) Be kind to your ex.
This is the simplest statement in principal and the most difficult to carry out. Making a sincere attempt to be sensitive and aware of the other person’s needs, even after they are no longer the center of your life, is essential in the post-breakup lull. (The next few bullet points elaborate on this idea.)
2) Let go of your resentment.
It’s not a competition. You had a breakup. You both lost. You’re even. It doesn’t matter who did the dumping. There’s just no way to pave a friendship on the anger of who-did-what. This zen philosophy may sound like bull, but, to give you an example, I was once kicked out of a moving taxi and I still exchange reading lists with the guy. It’s shocking what you can get past if there was enough good stuff there.
3) Give it time.
Being un-chosen is exceedingly painful. Both parties should acknowledge and respect that. Creating personal space in the immediate-afterwards is necessary. Patience, grasshopper.
4) Don’t try to make them jealous.
Unless you ended the relationship in order to join a nunnery, you’re eventually going to be seeing someone new. They know that. I know that. Still, no one is prepared to deal with profile pictures of how happy you are without them (until a fair amount of time has passed) and even then, it’s annoying.
5) Spend some but LESS time with your ex.
It’s important to not make them feel like they’ve been forgotten, but if you spend all of your time together, it’ll hold you both back from moving on. Then you’ll get into messy conversations about how comfortable and easy things are, how it feels the same as when you were dating, and how you should have never broken up…but that’s not the point of this! You’re building a new relationship, one with rules. Rule #1: Keep it in your pants!
6) Don’t sleep with your ex.
I realize I shouldn’t have to specify this. It’s sort of a “duh” statement, but people get lonely and they relapse and that makes it all super confusing. Break ups usually happen for legitimate reasons, so respect that concept. Give it time and perspective before you consider backsliding. This is the essential friendship-building period and lines this big can’t be blurred.
7) Don’t touch your ex.
This tip may sound like a conservative one; no need to follow it to the T (hugs are fine) but, in general, touching is a no-no: sitting on laps, holding hands, kissing on the cheek— that stuff is insidious. Plus, If you keep this step in mind, #6 will be much easier to avoid and you’ll have way less explaining to do when your next partner comes around.
8) Be Supportive.
Remember your ex’s birthday. Congratulate them on a job promotion. Go to their gig on occasion (feel free to bring a friend, but not a date). This is what friends do for each other! Exes sometimes get in their heads and think, “Oh, they wouldn’t want me there,” but if you’re still in their life, you’re still in their life. You know what’s important to them; make them feel good about it. This is the bedrock of any long-term friendship.
…for things you know you could have done better while you were together. Time + admittance of wrongdoing heals most ills.
10) Keep the inside jokes.
What better way to get over lingering sadness than with humor? Terrible jokes about your local bartender’s twitter feed and that time at the farmer’s market when you thought they said goat cheese and that other time when your mutual friend Maggie passed out in a casserole. These jokes may be of zero comic interest to anyone else, but they’re proof that you have moments to look back and smile on.
So, there we go, 10 steps. They might not be foolproof (not every relationship can be, or is worth salvaging) but if there’s any shot, I guarantee thinking about these tips will help. Also, keep in mind, not every current partner is okay with having exes on the periphery of the relationship, so, even after all this work, you might be forced to put the friendship on indefinite hiatus. In some odd way, that’s okay too. You’ve both gotten the extra bit of healing that can only come with knowing you are still important to someone even after the breakup. That’s worth a lot.