Can we really be friends after a breakup?
We connect and unite with people we are interested in for various reasons. We may be physically attracted to them, they may make us laugh, feel good and special, we may share common interests that bond our souls, or we just have that feeling about them that we can’t explain.
Eventually, most relationships will come to a fork in the road. Do we continue on and get serious and plan on settling down, or do we break it off?
If we break it off with a person we are romantically involved with, a big question emerges—do we remain, become or stay friends? Or do we go our separate ways and leave one another’s lives?
There are pluses and minuses to both sides of the coin here, and there is no one size fits all answer to this question. However, there are some constants that happen if a couple that breaks up chooses to remain, become or stay friends after their romantic run.
Most good and healthy relationships have a foundation of friendship as part of their connection. Not every moment is blissful physical intimacy and sharing deep intimate thoughts and conversations. Many aspects of all relationships have a basis of friendship involved within. I’ve heard many people say about their lover, “he/she is my best friend.” In many cases, that is true.
However, something might happen. One person needs a break, or finds someone new, or chooses to go down a different path that we can’t travel along side. The person calling it quits may say, “Let’s just be friends.”
First, we must question the sincerity of the offer. An easy out to any relationship we no longer value is to utter those words. Offering friendship may be one person’s way of saying “I don’t want to be intimate anymore, or I do not have those same feelings for you and I want to do my own thing.” They may still care about us, but just not in the same way we care about them.
Here we must decipher whether the intent is true or whether it was simply stated to lessen the blow of the break up and try not to hurt our feelings.
Let’s assume for a moment he or she who breaks up with us is sincere and wants to remain friends. We have certain needs we must consider. How strongly do we still feel for that person?
If the answer is extremely strong feelings, than being friends with the one who just broke up with us will be hard to do. We will feel jealously when that person spends times with others; we won’t have a clear understanding of what their interpretation of friendship entails. If we still have strong feelings, we may continue to treat that person as if we are still in a relationship with them and hold them on a pedestal.
We may even begin to make them feel uncomfortable with our actions because we are not treating them as a friend—we are in essence holding on to the relationship and hoping it will return by our actions during this “friends” stage. We will not be receiving any type of reciprocation from our feelings. In that case, it’s better to just walk away for the time being and begin to heal on our own. We can re-evaluate once our feelings have diminished and are under control and if the other person is still willing to accept us as a friend.
There are some relationships that may have been good ones while they lasted, but sparks never really developed. In fact, during this experimental phase of dating, we may have realized we have many common interests and enjoy one another’s company, but lack that raw physical attraction that is important for all relationships. The relationship was lacking those aforementioned sparks.
In this case, here’s a situation where remaining or becoming friends could be a positive outcome. You may connect with that person, but not deeply enough to want to share intimacy with them. We can still communicate with them, spend time with them, root for them and be on their team. Jealously will be a scare issue here. We may even become close and trusted friends and confidants.
Some people argue that it’s impossible to truly be friends with members of the opposite sex. That is a personal opinion that we each must decide. I will admit to have occasionally developed feelings for girls that I was friends with first, which leads me to my last scenario.
Picture this: we are friends with a member of the opposite sex. Over the course of friendship, we both develop feelings for each other. We date for a while, sparks fly, everything seems to fit and everything seems great. We have developed an amazing physical chemistry but then poof—one day one of us calls it off for whatever reason and states, “let’s go back to being friends.”
We know here the offer is sincere because we were friends before. However again we must consider our own level of feelings for that person. If we still feel a strong romantic attachment to that person it’s better off to allow some significant space before picking the friendship back up. If we jump back into the friendship too soon, our feelings and emotions will still be raw.
We may even feel a bit betrayed by that person and have a grudge against them for leaving us hanging and pulling out. We may feel we did not get enough of a fair shake or enough intimate time together to really connect deeply. We may feel cheated. We may even begin to lash out at them and perhaps even others to vent our frustration.
However, if our friendship was strong before- hand and our feelings are in control and manageable, then we should feel comfortable sliding back into the role of friendship. It may be a bit awkward at first since going from romantic attachment to the boundaries of friendship will be a challenge for the individual who was broken up with. It’s a personal decision we must make by weighing the pros and cons.
Overall, we must all make the decision if being friends with an ex-lover is worth it. Each situation brings forth new scenarios and factors to consider. We must understand how we truly feel and be honest to ourselves. Once we do that we can then determine whether the offer of friendship after a breakup is sincere and worth it for us.
I personally like to remain at the very least cordial with my ex’s because originally, something drew me to that person. I move on with my life and look for new romantic intimacy with people but I admit that my door remains open to them if they happen to cross my path again. Some I may wish to see again, some I may not, but I never want to rule out the possibility. It is not that I false hope, or cling to the possibility of reunification that I carry, it’s merely the possibility that I may see them and connect intimately with them again. I am not so good at goodbyes…forever.
Each one of my friendships with my ex’s is unique and no two are the same. I treat each of them differently, as our experiences together were all unique and special. Each one of my exes holds a piece of my heart and when I feel in control of my feelings towards them, I offer up and embrace the friendship.
Author: Adam Wilkinson
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