The Ex Factor
How to Forge a Friendship from a Bad Romance
Forging a friendship from the extinguished flames of a formerly romantic relationship is no easy task, but shutting him, her, or them out completely isn’t always necessary—especially if you’d both like to separate amicably and remain on good terms. We break up for lots of different reasons, but there’s often plenty in common that can keep us connected to each other in one capacity or another—you were once inseparable for a reason. Here’s how.
Be honest with your ex about your intention and desire to become friends. You can say something like, “I really value your opinion, friendship, energy, sense of humor, point of view, and I would really like to be friends in some way.” Don’t beat around the bush. Let them know what you’d like from them moving forward. If building a friendship is a mutual goal, move forward. If it’s one-sided, however, move on.
Give your ex (and possibly yourself) time to grieve the loss of what you had or expected the romantic relationship to be. It’s OK to be angry and to express that anger, as long as you express your anger in a healthy way. Refrain from saying anything hurtful. “Being angry is part of the process,” says David Strah, a Los Angeles-based psychotherapist and author. “We don’t always understand why a relationship fizzles. But not understanding can lead to feeling helpless and angry. Break plates, punch pillows, scream, take a boxing class—let out your anger in a healthy way.”
Take responsibility for your part in the relationship ending. Taking ownership and responsibility can be healing for both you and your ex. You don’t have to rehash the past, but you can say things like, “I feel badly about how I behaved, what I said, what I didn’t do, how I reacted….” This will help both of you move forward toward a positive, healthy relationship that leaves the past where it belongs.
Ditch the blame game. Forgive your ex and forgive yourself for anything that you regret doing or that you believe was done to you. If you’re not completely over that trauma, it’s probably not wise to start a transition to friendship; resentment is not a solid foundation on which to begin.
Show appreciation for your ex. Tell your ex how appreciative you are of them in both small and big ways. According to Strah, “Examples might include, ‘I am really appreciative of all the fun vacations we had together,’ or ‘I really appreciate all the support you gave me when I was going through a rough time at work.’ If you have an on-going relationship with your ex that involves pets, kids, or financial support or investments, it’s important to show your appreciation for the positive ways your ex shows up—as a good parent, responsible pet owner, or provider.”
Be there emotionally for your ex. Let your ex know that you’re available in case of an emergency, if they ever need to talk, or need someone to walk or feed their pet on a busy day. Even better, don’t wait to get a call from your ex—just be there when you sense they need your support. But, like, not in a stalker-y kind of way. Don’t get all Fatal Attraction about it.
Make an effort to do things with your ex. In the beginning, shorter visits together are usually better because there is less opportunity to fall into old patterns and start pointing fingers, Strah says.
“If you enjoyed going to the movies or working out together, suggest you work out together or go to the movies.” He continues, “If your ex doesn’t want to get together, try calling or sending a text. Something like, ‘Thinking about you and hope you are having a great day’ can go a long way.”
Speak to a therapist. Sometimes family and friends just can’t provide the support and clarity that a mental health professional can—especially if a break-up necessitates significant and overwhelming changes in our lives.
“Consider seeing a therapist to explore and identify negative behavioral patterns and negative, self-limiting beliefs—like trying to convince yourself that you’re not good enough to be in a relationship or that you’re unlovable,” Strah concludes. “Don’t think of therapy as something you need to do to change, but rather an investment in yourself that will reward you 100 times over.”
Mikey Rox is an award-winning journalist and LGBTQ lifestyle expert whose work has been published in more than 100 outlets across the world. Connect with Mikey on Instagram @mikeyroxtravels.