Why You Shouldn’t be Friends with Your Ex. ~ Kimberly Lo

Via Kimberly Lo
on Mar 7, 2013
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Spring is around the corner, and a lot of people I know are getting married. Likewise, a lot of people I know are ending relationships. ‘Tis the season I suppose…

It seems that whenever a relationship ends, there is the always the question of whether or not the two should remain friends.

Personally, I tend to be a libertarian when it comes to relationships. My motto could be summed up as “Whatever works for you.” What works for one person may not work for another and if you are one of those people who is best friends forever (BFFs) with your ex, then I am sincerely happy for you.

However, based on my experience and those of my friends, it probably isn’t a good idea to be friends with your ex.


Well, here are a few reasons that I can think of:

1. It’s awkward especially in those early days.

Even in relationships where both parties mutually agree to end it, there are often hurt feelings or some upset involved. If you are trying to move on, then having the other person in your life may prevent or delay the process. At the very least, give it a break for a while and establish a no-contact rule for a set period of time.

2. It’s even more awkward if you or your ex has a new boyfriend or girlfriend.

Often, it’s not just awkward for you, but for the new boyfriend or girlfriend as well. This is especially true if you go on and on to your new love about how great your ex was. No matter how understanding and sweet your new guy or girl seems to be, they probably do not want to constantly hear about your ex.

Even the most confident person may start to wonder what you are doing with them if it appears you are still carrying a torch for your ex.

Also, if your ex has a new boyfriend or girlfriend, it is possible you may feel jealous of them even if do believe that you are an evolved person and feel that jealous is mostly cultural. Even if it is cultural—and I have no idea if it is or isn’t as I don’t study these things for a living—jealousy is an emotion that nearly all of us feel from time to time which brings me to #3.

3. The awkwardness increases even more if you or your ex left the other for someone else.

Now, I have heard of people who were genuinely happy for their ex when they left the relationship for someone they thought was their soulmate, but much like the Loch Ness monster, I have personally never seen one of these people. (I am not disputing that either exist—I am just saying I have yet to ever see either with my own eyes.)

However, even if you are one of these people, the chances are your ex may not be on the same plane as you are. Often times, even if the person is the one leaving the relationship, there are a lot of feelings of guilt involved. Plus, if you appear too happy, then they may wonder if you ever really cared for them in the first place.

If you are ever in the situation where you or your ex left the other for someone else and then got back together with your ex, then please, for everyone’s sanity do not try to be friends with the person that you or they left the other for. While this makes for great drama and juicy gossip for your friends, most of the time these things do not end well or at least not based on what I have seen.

If you want drama, then stick to Mad Men.

4. Elizabeth Wurtzel put in best in her book, The Bitch Rules: “Most of the time people you end romantic relationships have hurt you deeply in some way.”

Friends, by their very definition, do not hurt you. Her advice is that if you want to want to keep in touch with your ex and see how they are doing, then meet for your ex for coffee once a year, write the occasional note or make the occasional call—but don’t try to be best buds. Not being friends with someone does not have to mean that you ignore that person or run the other way when you see them; it just means that they are not part of your life.

This brings me to my last point.

5. Just because someone was part of your life for a period of time does not mean that they have to be part of your life forever.

Think back to your best friend in elementary school. Are you still best friends with them? If you are, then wonderful. However, most of us have many people who have come and gone in our lives. People who cannot let go—and you probably have met someone like this—and are constantly calling, texting and sending gifts to their exes, even though said ex has not expressed any interest in being in touch, are usually not people who have moved on.

Also, if you are doing this and in a relationship with someone else then this could be a sign that you have some serious boundary issues.

In a nutshell, when people are no longer part of our lives, it doesn’t have to mean the relationship was a failure.

Rather, it can be a sign that we have learned a lesson and are ready to move on.

It’s a cliché, but it is true that sometimes if you truly love someone then some times the best thing you can do is to set them free.



Can We be Friends with our Exes?






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Ed: Bryonie Wise


About Kimberly Lo

Kimberly Lo is a yoga instructor and freelance editor & writer based in Charlottesville, VA. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework, travel, and photography. Connect with her on Facebook.


24 Responses to “Why You Shouldn’t be Friends with Your Ex. ~ Kimberly Lo”

  1. Cesare says:

    Wow this is so apt for my life at the moment. It makes me feel so less guilty for not wanting to be friends. Thanks.

  2. kimberlylowriter says:

    I'm glad you enjoyed it!

  3. nectar1269 says:

    Just what I needed to read. Thanks!

  4. Suzanne Joy says:

    Totally agree, but I miss a spot where you’d talk about the situation where you have a toddler in common…… I wish I shouldn’t have to talk to my ex or see him, but that’s impossible having a small kid together…. so hard!!!

  5. misterpete4u says:

    Well being friends with an ex is not for everyone. Not everyone can handle that initial adjustment period. Not everyone can end relationships without a lot of drama or needless insults.
    Personally, I believe that in many cases, being friends with an ex is just fine. We have shared parts of our lives with each other and have found that we were not a good match … ok. Now I am fortunate to have another friend.
    I have 3 or 4 exes I am still friends with, and am glad we are still a part of each other's lives.

  6. woobie21 says:

    I'm friends with 2 of my ex-boyfriends (in one of the cases, I consider he and his wife two of my closest friends). My ex-husband, I can be civil to when I have to speak with him, but generally, we don't interact. My most recent ex-boyfriend, I want absolutely NOTHING to do with and likely won't anytime soon (some bridges are worth burning – it's too bad he wasn't on it when it went up in flames). 😀

  7. @minusgreen1 says:

    My ex and I have both moved on but maintain a very amicable relationship because of the kids. We text and/or talk daily regarding them and have no issues. He's happy in his relationship and I'm happy in mine. My parents were a textbook case in how NOT to behave so I have that background steering me towards something more healthy.

  8. AKP says:

    This is easier said than done and it's for exes who don't have a child in common.

  9. Terri says:

    Awkwardness is not a reason not to be friends with someone. Your ex is someone you cared deeply about and was hopefully one of your best friends. If you weren’t lied to or treated poorly, there’s no reason not to stay friends (as with any friendship!). There are definitely some exes who do not deserve your friendship, but it shouldn’t be a general rule.

  10. fatatabata says:

    There's no do and don't in life.
    Everyone is different. Everyone has a specific way to deal with emotions.
    Additionally, relationships are unique combinations of 2 different soul/persons, therefore irelationships are impossible to be defined (or judged) from the outside.
    No rules as for emotions are concerned, please.
    Let everyone be free.

  11. lisavallejos says:

    Co-parenting and being friends are totally different. You can set up a situation where you can have minimal contact with your ex, even when co-parenting.

  12. Rick Henderson says:

    These points seem valid for a certain level of emotional safety, perhaps geared to people who are still really engaged in, perhaps struggling, developing the most critical of all relationships, the one with ourselves. But I sense a recommendation here to avoid complication and challenge. I don't prefer that because some of our stickiest connections are also those that are rich with opportunity to expand. And, yes, some are not, but that is not sufficient cause for me to abandon all of them.There is a level of self-awareness and confidence that is worth attaining first if you want to bring unabashed integrity to any aspect of your life, personal relationships being just one of them. The book quote in #4, for instance, resides in the old model of victim which I find useless if I maintain the consciousness that it is my attachment that "hurts" me, not what other people do. I have a number of ex's I count as friends, meaning we share mutual respect and caring without needing to be overly engaged. The moment that we we live in now, and that "present" that we share, can be completely independent of past reflection and future expectation if we make that conscious choice.

  13. MVF says:

    True that is the way I keep it with my ex. He left me for another woman and then got upset that I didn't stay and chit chat and be friendly with them when I pick my daughter up. Duh I was left for her I don't want to be friends with you or her after this and I am there to pick up our daughter not be chit chatty buddies. You ended the relationship not me. Sorry I am still angry but finally getting over this.

  14. naz says:

    there is no spiritual element to this viewpoint, you should never disown someone if you were in a relationship with them and had the opportunity to meet them and share your life with them, if you cannot face them that simply means that you have both not ended the relationship on conscious ground. You would have probably broken up for selfish reasons. The only reason you would not want to keep in touch with your ex is if it was an abusive relationship, and their also some exception to the rule in worst case scenarios.

  15. Leondrore says:

    I really don't find this to be true 100% of the time.
    Relationships CAN end without either party being bitter about it, believe it or not men and women can be friends even if they have been more.
    If you're in charge of your emotions, and your emotions aren't in control of you. Or maybe if you're a person that has restraint, you can be friends.

    The article was really well written and helpful to some extent, but it also perpetuates the idea that it has to be a certain way. There are many exes I'm friends with still without any kind of awkward feelings on either party's end. What bad there was, has been resolved long ago internally with me, or externally by us finally talking about things in an after-the-fact manner. Which can actually be VERY beneficial to both sides, giving much needed closure.

    Both in relationships where I've broken up and have been broken up in, and a relationship where it ended mutually the closure helped much more than if I were to never speak to them again.

    Many of these things just come down to self control or a lack of it. Not many people are able to maintain a healthy friendship afterwards and these reasons would be why, but not everybody is so weak minded that they succumb to a sort of jealousy or are unable to accept the fact things have moved on.

    If anything I feel you can't move on if you don't come to terms with things, and that just not talking to your ex anymore for the sole reasoning of "because they're my ex" is the opposite of going forward, it's more running away from your problem or previous relationship issues than confronting them in order to make yourself a better partner in the future or learn from your mistakes that ended the relationship.

  16. bonsoir says:

    To jump off where Leonondrore started, if you’re running or hiding from your ex, you’re running and hiding from yourself. What is it in your ex that scares you so much that you can’t face them? Look in the mirror.

    I’m not “friends” with any of my exes, but when we happen to meet we’re friendly. We have some friends in common, because we’ve all lived in the same town for most of our lives. I’m glad to see them, hope they’re happy, and hope they feel the same about me but there are no guarantees. If I chose them and loved them but a relationship didn’t work, why would I punish either of us by avoiding them after it ended?

    There are situations where if abuse occurred you should avoid crossing paths. If that happened in my relationship, I would take a hard look at myself and ask why I chose them in the first place. People aren’t as deceptive as we think. We deceive ourselves, and then blame it on someone else instead of owning our behavior. Look in the mirror before disowning or condemning someone you once loved.

  17. tamsyn says:

    I'm not slating the article, I don't like the title though. I never go out of my way to remain friends with my ex's but a couple of them are still close to me now. There is nothing that says because you can't make a love connection work you need to eradicate someone from your life altogether – what if you're better as friends than as lovers? What if you still care about one another and it isn't awkward? Two conscious people can do this, not force this… but just do it naturally. Granted it make take a couple of months for the raw feelings of initial rejection to dissolve but it doesn't mean that's it, not always. Obviously some ex's are people you'd never want to be friends with, but it all depends on why someone became your ex in the first place.

  18. magda says:

    I'd like to know if both people agreed to be friends, how do you go about that?

    In my situation, he broke it off with me (Jan'15) but said he'd like to remain friends and I said I was fine with that but we never discussed what that meant going forward, as far as communicating etc.

    A month after the "break up" and I ran into him in the neighborhood we both live in, exchanged the standard "hey how are you/what are you up to" then i said it was nice to see him. He responded "yea you too" . From the break up to running into each other we did not communicate at all and I have yet to hear from him. I'll be honest I do miss him.

    I felt that since he broke it off, I needed to step back – I figured if he wants to reach out to see how I am as "a friend" he should initiate communication. towards the end of our relationship, I was the one always reaching out to him etc so I feel like if I initiate anything now, I'd be the schmuck and fear another round of rejection or worry I might be "interfering" I dont know.

    Is it too soon for either of us to talk to each other again if the "lets be friends" thing is true? I feel he said that to get out the "nice" way. Esp since we live in the same neighborhood.

  19. Can’t agree with this one, because my ex and I are still good friends, we still love each other, and our children have learned un-conditional love and forgiveness. It’s never been weird, it’s the nicest way to continue on, our love has not been wasted, we simply did not want to live together anymore. Might be easier to just walk away without kids?

  20. Edwin says:

    You hit the nail on the head, especially with the bad boundaries. I have one Ex that calls me her BFF, and we have never intended to be anything else. We both set those boundaries.
    My last girlfriend was #5 as she had so many boundary issues. It ended when I insisted some boundaries be made with her Ex, and she refused. The funny part was she wanted to be friends until I spelt it out that she was stuck in her toxic relationships, and had very bad boundary issues. That solved any future awkward moments, as I have not heard from her since.

  21. Zoe says:

    I personally think it’s perfect to be friends with your ex after you have both taken a step back & moved on from the relationship. Not all relationships end on bad terms & we all move at different paces to process things differently. If one needs to pull back to progress & the other truly does care for their well being they should give them respect & allow there ex to move forward until they are ready to reconnect again as friends in the future.

  22. Ms Adventure says:

    It’s funny – I always used to pride myself on being friends with most of my exes, but I’m going through a breakup right now where I ended it because he wasn’t able to show up in the relationship in the way I needed to feel supported and secure.

    We still love each other very much and even feel ‘in love’, and we’ve had such hard time staying away because we feel so connected. I try to pull away and he pursues connection with me, then he pulls away and I pursue connection with him.

    I’ve deleted his number from my phone, unfriended him on FB, deleted all our e-mail threads and his contact info in my e-mail program.

    But I remember his e-mail address, so in moments when I can’t seem to control myself, I’ll send him e-mails, and then he’ll call or text, and occasionally we’ve even hooked up again, which makes me feel terrible, because then he disappears again to date his other women, and ignores my attempts to connect, and I get hurt.

    I know I need to cut off all communications, but it almost seems impossible. I know I’m torturing myself, but willpower has never been my strong suit. Sigh.

  23. Lyla says:

    Staying friends with ex'es only causes problems! Come on people, let's acknowledge that there's always those individuals who like to sabotage people's relationships through mind games and/or straight provocation and pretend they did nothing wrong. If people had the same level of maturity and respect, then being friends with ex'es could be a good idea but we know this is not always the case as people are different.

    Some people have big issues with boundaries, and for that reason, I demanded my husband to get rid of his ex. She used to drunk call him late at night to say she missed her mother who died 15 years ago! No one should tolerate this nonsense! Some people love to guilt trip others, to play the victim, etc. and I have no patience to deal with nonsense, specially from husband's ex'es!

  24. Adam Wilkinson says:

    I have an article in queue due out on this website tackling the very same issue. I took a slightly different perspective than you. We do have a lot of similarities and differences in our opinions though. I liked you article. I hope you get a chance to read mine when it comes out next week. Nice work!