WebMD BlogsRelationships

Should You Stay Friends With Your Ex?

man and woman having coffee
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD - Blogs
By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhDPsychologistDecember 6, 2017
From the WebMD Archives

Breakups can be confusing. You know you can no longer be a couple, but does that mean you have to give up being friends, too? After all, you continue to care about each other even though your romantic relationship didn’t work out. So, what should you do?

To help you decide, read through the following questions.  As you do, consider how they apply to you in the present, as well as how they might apply in the future.

What do you really want? It is important to be honest with yourself about what you are truly thinking and feeling toward your ex. Maybe you feel that the romance has gone out of your relationship, but your friendship is still strong. Some people, though, pretend that they want to be friends when what they really want is an opportunity to win back their former partner’s love. This can leave them quietly pining or feeling tortured. If the last scenario describes you, it may be time to let go of your ex altogether. This would give you the chance to accept the losses, grieve them, and move forward in your life.

How well do you interact? Couples who have an amicable break up may be able to make a relatively smooth transition to friendship. But if fighting or high drama describe you and your ex, you both may be better with more distance between you. You can still wish each other well while choosing to go your own separate ways.

How do your interactions leave you feeling about yourself? If you and your ex continue to care for each other and communicate this in ways that leave you feeling good about yourself, then chances are that you have a solid friendship. On the other hand, if exposure to your ex leaves you doubting or critical of yourself, then you might want to rethink the wisdom of trying to maintain a friendship.

If the questions above leave you feeling that you need distance from your ex, follow up by asking yourself the next two questions.

How long do you think you need to distance yourself? It may be that you simply need time to recover from the breakup and can reconnect when you are feeling stronger. In considering when to re-approach your ex, it’s best not to give yourself a time limit. Instead, monitor yourself and consider what will work well for you each step along the way.

How much distance do you need? The answer to this can, yet again, be found in how you feel in relationship to your ex. If even casually seeing your ex in person causes you great upset, then it may be best to do what you can to limit such contact.

If seeing your ex on social media is also triggering, you might want to limit your contact here, too. This might mean not going on social media at all for a while; or just reducing how often you go on it. Or, you might decide not to be “friends” on social media. Of course, this can be complicated when you see your ex through the social media of mutual friends. In this circumstance, you need to figure out how much you need to limit this contact, too. Keep in mind that your choices do not need to be a forever ones.

Deciding whether to stay friends is very personal. So be careful when you hear people say what you should or should not do. Instead, decide for yourself the best way to handle your relationship with your ex. In the end, you have to live with yourself, so it’s important to consider what will make you happy in the long-term.

WebMD Blog
© 2017 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
Blog Topics:
About the Author
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

Dr. Becker-Phelps is a licensed psychologist in NJ and NY, and is on staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Somerset. She is dedicated to helping people understand themselves and what they need to do to become emotionally and psychologically healthy. She accomplishes this through her work as a psychotherapist, speaker and writer. She is the author of Bouncing Back from Rejection and Insecure in Love.

More from the Relationships Blog

  • giving advice

    Think Twice Before You Give Advice

    If only we were as good at solving our own problems as we are at solving other people’s. But like so many great ideas, our solutions for others often become less perfect the more we learn about the problem ...

  • photo of couple arguing in bed

    How to Keep Your Emotions From Overwhelming You

    If you’re someone who gets emotionally overwhelmed, relationship conflict can be difficult to manage. When you get upset with your partner, you don’t handle it well. You are too upset to think clearly. So you ...

View all posts on Relationships

Latest Blog Posts on WebMD

View all blog posts

Important: The opinions expressed in WebMD Blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. Blogs are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.

Do not consider WebMD Blogs as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.

Read More