Staying Friends With An Ex?

Splitting up with someone is terrible. Emotions are the worst and we should all just join a cult where everyone holds hands and compliments each other 24/7. Okay, so I’m being extremely dramatic, but getting hurt by someone you liked/loved is the worst feeling in the world. First, you will wallow. Then, you’ll gradually muster the courage to give their stuff back at a pub surrounded by young families who are feeding each other Sunday roasts, while a single tear falls into your pint. After this, you will sit on your bed repeating the mantra “everything will be fine”. And everything will be fine, although currently, it feels like you want to leave the country and explore South East Asia to ignore the pain. But hun you only have £35 in your bank and you burn easily, South East Asia can wait.

After the aforementioned breakup stages comes the age-old question, can we stay friends? This is often pushed by one half of the party. Often it’s the half that decided on the breakup and is insistent that a friendship can bloom from what feels like your heart concaving into your chest as you frantically look around for the closest exit.

In the beginning, it will feel strange being platonic friends with a person whose genitals you’ve seen as much as your own over the last few months. Luckily for you, I am friends with almost all my exes and can offer words of wisdom. Please see the below graph for statistical proof…

Can you be friends with an ex image 1.jpg

Some may call this incredibly sadistic, ridiculous and strange.  But here’s the thing, gay women have a habit of staying friends with almost everyone we date/sleep with/flirt etc. We exist in a smaller community: our exes will pop up at the all the same bars, her friends are yours, you’ll try to date again, and that girl from Tinder will have dated your ex’s best friend. Then there is the animal and potted plant dilemma, where you’ll try and share two cats and various ferns with an ex. No one wants to be transporting a cat across the Central line on a Sunday morning severely hungover because you decided a cat was a good way to show your affection six months in.

Before you roll your eyes at all us crazy LGBTQ+ people for hoarding our ex-partners in some bizarre friendship circle, the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships tells us that in the sample they took 50% of people said they have stayed friends with an ex. So, welcome my friends, it’s normal (ish). 

To date someone in the first place, you most likely had to get along with them. To end things, you must have then not got along with them too well. So how do we get to the third part? That happy middle ground, where you can be friends with a normal level of emotions. * I would like to note that I almost never have a normal level of emotions.

Firstly, some friendships cannot be forged from a past relationship. Relationships can end badly, people are dicks and you shall never speak their name again. They are now Voldermort. Don’t be that person who insists on a friendship when the other person just wants to forget that you ever existed. I remember pushing a girl to stay my friend after we broke up because I honestly thought we could be mates. She then sent me a Ted talk on empathy and the hint finally sunk in.

Reasons why we torture ourselves and continue with a friendship:

  • You are incredibly nosy and want to keep tabs on them
  • You have the same friendship group
  • You share an animal and/or child
  • They are a genuinely lovely person
  • They know you better than anyone else
  • Sex
  • You want to act chilled but then win them back eventually (FYI this never ends well)

Here you are, at the turning point of either keeping them around or deleting them. You may think the very thought is ludicrous but hang on and get to the end of the article. Ready for some more convincing? I’ve put together a list that you must read before even starting to think about a friendship with an ex-partner.

  1.    Take all the time you need: You can’t rush into being friends. You are not going to wake up one morning and suddenly be totally okay with the idea. If they truly want to have you in their life, then they can wait.
  2.    You need to be on the exact same page: As much as you think a beautiful friendship could grow, you need to be 100% sure that both parties want the same outcome. Don’t let either of you get back into bad habits.
  3.    Social media ban: Instagram stories will help no one stay sane. Until you don’t feel *that* pang of jealousy, just stay off their page.
  4.    Zero flirting allowed: When the wine is flowing, it’s fun to flirt with an ex, we all know it. But you know what sucks? When you see them with someone else and you are stuck eating a kebab alone in the rain at 3AM. 
  5.     Befriending their new partner: Okay breathe, if this last point makes you queasy then being friends with them might not be for you. If you are feeling slightly okay at this point, then you need to acknowledge that at a certain stage they will have a new partner. And you must allow them to find happiness. Please don’t be the person who throws a chair at a wedding cake.

The final takeaway from all this is- TAKE ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD. Put the friendship on hold until you are at a place where the smell of them doesn’t make you grab a bottle of wine and binge watch all 14 seasons of Grey Anatomy.

Chant after me, I can be the Gwyneth Paltrow to their Chris Martin but only if I want.


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