Can You Be Friends With an Ex, No Strings Attached?

The text was quick, to the point, and included a photo of a cat in a party hat, but I still wasn’t sure I should have sent it. The recipient was my ex, it was his birthday, and the entire exchange represented something I had denounced for years: “The happy birthday ex-text is a thinly veiled pursuit of attention disguised as goodwill,” I used to say, with an irritating air of certainty. But as is often the case with things we staunchly believe while young, it felt different later; it felt different when it was me.

The question of whether it’s appropriate to stay in touch with an ex is a debate as old as modern love, and one that remains divisive in my circles. I’ve historically subscribed to the camp that believed, “If you’re still friends with an ex, you’re either still in love or never were” — perhaps because that’s always been the case in my own life. I’m not friends with any of my exes, nor do we maintain contact with each other. It’s not out of ill will, but rather a natural evolution of our decision to not speak post-split. It’s something that starts as a requirement to heal and is honored in perpetuity out of respect for wherever that healing brought us (new partners included). In my mind, letting love go always equated to leaving it be, letting it rest, no matter how gutting such a cutoff can feel.

The birthday text was a small departure, but I decided my motives were pure. Maybe I didn’t really care if his birthday was good, per se, but the date served as a small window of opportunity to wish him well, to let him know that he wasn’t torn out of my pictures, metaphorically or otherwise — that even though I’d moved on and he had too, I honored what we had and hoped he was happy. But his reply — “Lol, thanks!” — was sobering. Not because I expected more, but because I didn’t. What was the point of this whole thing anyway? I wondered. What sneaky emotional currents are guiding me into these arbitrary waters? I closed my phone and concluded we’d probably never be friends. We’d ventured too far out of context.

Still, I felt I’d disproved my zero-sum theory about the happy birthday ex-text. What is it, then, that draws us to remind old loves we exist, if not a result of latent feelings? Is it just nostalgia? A desire to be remembered, an extension of our fear of death?

A 2014 study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior found that with the ease of the internet, more people are staying in touch with their exes as a form of keeping tabs. “People use computers to keep romantic prospects waiting in the wings.” The researchers dubbed these “back burner” relationships — a way for people to evaluate the availability of past partners, even while in committed relationships of their own.

“The most frequent ways that people kept up with their back burners were through texts and Facebook,” The Atlantic reported in its coverage of the study, which revealed that 45 percent of the 374 participants reported texting back burners, and 37 percent reported communicating via Facebook. “There are a couple of competing evolutionary imperatives at play. … On the one hand, it makes a certain primal sense to explore all the potential mates available, to be sure to get the best deal.” On the other hand, lead study author Jayson Dibble notes, you’d think committing to one long-term partner would ultimately provide the most benefits. Researchers concluded they’d need to “examine the ways those conversations play out” in order to really understand back burner logic.

Years ago, I pulled over to wordsmith a text to that same boyfriend after he admitted to having lunch with an ex. “Am I allowed to say that bothers me?!” I remember asking my sister in a hastily made phone call from my car. “I think so, but why does it?” she asked. The truth was I thought his ex still had feelings for him. She was always around, commenting on his family’s social posts, grabbing coffee with his parents, dropping by around the holidays. I guessed her request to catch up came with an ulterior motive. I guessed he was on her back burner. But did that matter if I trusted him?

I opted to tell him the inconclusive truth: that it made me a little uncomfortable, but that I trusted him. His response was that he didn’t care enough to stay in touch with her, so he let their communication fall off completely. Only now, years later, does my insertion make me feel uneasy. By policing, even indirectly, who he spoke to, was I robbing him of his due agency? Perhaps I’d broken the golden rule.

I asked a friend for her thoughts on staying in touch with exes — she maintains relationships with a fair amount of hers — and her impetus couldn’t be further from romantic: “A lot of my exes are people I love hanging out with, and a few of them are people I was friends with before we dated,” she said. “Just because things aren’t right for us romantically doesn’t mean we can’t still hang out.” I asked if new significant others ever felt uncomfortable about that. “Probably, but I don’t stay best friends with my exes; I just don’t necessarily cut them out,” she said. “If someone new felt uncomfortable, I’d give them space.”

Is that because there is an element of flirting to these friendships?

“I think it’s kind of the opposite, actually. At this point, we’re so platonic because we tried dating and it didn’t work out, so there’s no what-if tension.”

She admitted that none of the relationships were all that serious, though, and it made me wonder whether there was a correlation between the depth of a romantic relationship and its viability to continue platonically post-breakup.

“I think it’s great if you can stay friends with exes,” another friend told me when I asked her thoughts. She’s in her 30s and doesn’t have a strict rule either way. “There are a few people who I ‘used to hook up with’ who I genuinely enjoy running into. I have one ex who I see every few years, and it’s always so nice, truly. I only have one ex who I’ve ever had to be careful about a ‘friendship’ with because lines get blurred and feelings messy. I have three I’ll never speak to again — one from college, and that’s mostly just distance, and two because when it ended, I was DONE.”

Perhaps the answer is there is no answer, that each relationship must be considered carefully in its individual context and motives properly analyzed in equal measure. In a New York Times Modern Love column titled “Happily Ever, After We Split,” Wendy Paris details the evolution of her relationship with her husband through the divorce process and how separating brought them closer together. In a New York magazine Ask Polly column titled “Can I Be Friends With My Ex Now That I’m Married?” Heather Havrilesky parses the difference between innocent ex contact and not-so-innocent. (The difference is motive.) Context, it seems, is everything.

Debate aside, one thing the years have shown me is that true motives are often buried in our subconscious, only to be revealed in hindsight, and that’s why this remains tricky territory. What do you think? Are you friends with your exes? Have you had a partner who was friends with his or hers? Do you care about any of this, or does it all strike you as a little old-fashioned? I’m a swirly mix of hmmmmm across the board.

Feature collage by Emily Zirimis; Photo by Camerique/Getty Images.

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  • JennyWren

    I think it’s possible, but probably quite rare. I know divorced or separated couples with kids who get along really well, and others who keep civil for the kids, but I don’t know that they would describe their relationship as a “friendship.” One of my aquaintences inthis situation describe s it as being more like a work friends hip- you know you’re going to see this person a lot, for a long time, so you make the best of it and focus on what you have in common.

    I also think it depends on your romantic/relationship ethos as a whole. I like all my relationships discrete and compartmentalized. I’ve never dated an established friend, and I’ve never particularly wanted to convert an ex into a friend either. I can totally see the logic in keeping in contact with an ex because you appreciate them for non-romantic qualities, but for me it doesn’t feel comfortable.

    • Andrea

      so agree with this. I’ve never dated a “friend,” as I’ve met most of my boyfriends through online dating, so I’ve been frustrated when an ex says, when either he or I am doing the dumping, “I hope we can stay friends!” We were never friends. I have enough friends.

  • Adrianna

    Like with anything, it depends on your personality and what kind of relationship it was. (Was it mostly sexual or physical based? Was there a strong friendship?) I don’t believe in casting generalizations onto other peoples’ relationships.

    I don’t even communicate or maintain social media connections with my exes. It started off as a deliberate choice to move on because of negative break ups, but now I don’t have any reason to maintain a friendship that wasn’t there in the first place. I’ve also been with my current partner for almost six years, so reaching out to exes feels simultaneously harmless and pointless.

    My boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend started texting him and posting on his Facebook profile when we started dating. (Like, “my xbox isn’t working” “when am I going to see your dog??”) They dated for 3.5 years through college and had been broken up for 1.5 years when we started dating. She lived in a different state, and I got the impression that he wasn’t really engaging with her. It didn’t really bother me. I mostly thought it was kind of silly. I concluded that the ex-girlfriend was trying to process that her ex-boyfriend truly “moved on” and was the first one to publicize a long-term relationship.

    • ByeBeckz

      HA I dealt with those kind of texts with my ex from his long term ex-gf for 2 years! 2 YEARS! Just stupid small stuff, but then also 1-3am texts of “where are you”, “can we talk”. He would always tell me and I was casual about it but it obviously started building up so FINALLY we agreed on blocking her on all social media and texts. Sounds petty but as soon as she was out of sight she was so out of mind.

      • Adrianna

        I didn’t necessarily find it alarming or annoying since she didn’t live in our city, and I had the impression that they didn’t communicate for a while before we started dating. I think she didn’t want to feel forgotten when he got in a new relationship. This was early 2012, where everything was announced and validated with Facebook relationship statuses. She did the whole accidental friend request while checking out my account the morning we did changed the status. (All of this sounds silly now that I’m 28 and off Facebook for over a year.)

        I did ask him why she was texting him, and he gave me a response that I was satisfied with. (I found out because we had identical iPhones, and I thought I received a text notification.)

        2 years of “can we talk” is too much. You either have to block that person or try to have a conversation to establish some closure.

        • ByeBeckz

          If you trust him then that’s great and all that matters. I think what got me more stressed was listening to everyone’s input on the situation which came from people with WAY less healthy relationships than ours which was super open.

          2 years was too much but it almost became a running joke- “it’s thirsty Thursday, what time will she text tonight” (she was still in college). Sometimes it would be twice a week, but more often once a month and I really did it find it more funny/sad then upsetting- she loved asking questions about me. BUT I obviously don’t want to deal with that in another relationship, once was enough! 😛

  • Well, I didn’t have enough relationships before my husband to even consider drawing conclusions about myself, but speaking generally I tend to shed people whenever I move on … I would try very hard to remain friends with my husband though, because I appreciate him as a person so much.

    • Amanda Faerber

      I love the image of shedding someone … like an old skin. It makes me feel like even though things did not work out, you become better and maybe newer than you were before? I don’t know – I just like that.

      • Yes.
        I seem to firmly believe in personal development and am constantly on the move, may always be, as long as I live. So the relevant circumstances will inevitably change too.
        Despite the need to never, ever stop learning, my personality hasn’t changed in any remarkable way, it is just that the older I am the greater the need/the possibilities to openly avoid stuff I don’t want. But: the main reason I have left so many people behind is I don’t have the energy to invest in relationships that are suffering because I am moving on. I also don’t seem to think others should accept my situations and would hate to disconvenient them, so I start avoiding them just in case I might be too much. I guess I should also add an honest warning: if you shed people, there will come a time you don’t get to replace them. From certain age(s) on people are too fixed to freely mingle and it gets too messy for us hard-working folk to bear it … so shed people only when still young! 😉

  • I don’t remain friends with exes where there was a serious relationship, but occasionally talk to people who I had casual relationships with. I’ve broken up with all of my exes for very serious reasons, and for me, that typically means I don’t want friendship afterwards. For past, casual relationships, there wasn’t that much emotion/investment in the first place and I tend to run into those people more (just because of where I am regionally) than my serious exes, so maintaining a casual “Hey, how are you doing?” is easy/non-conflicting for me.

    • Fabiana Copelli

      length, intensity and depth of feelings play a huge factor in whether a friendship can be maintained afterwards

      • Yes, definitely. However, I think that if a long-term relationship ended on decent or good terms, I would still be friends with that person. Since that’s never really been the case though, I can’t really speak on that with authority.

  • K

    I have a friend that is good friends with ALL of her exes. She thinks it’s about work: you have to be prepared to work really hard at putting all the relationship stuff behind you. If you do that, you will end up with a good friend.

  • acococoa

    I have an ex who made a semi-frequent habit of sending flirty messages and come-ons, to which I succumbed (ugh) immediately after our breakup, but continued even after I entered into a new relationship. I should have cut off all contact, and did for a while, but I didn’t, because I still cared about that person and because it all happened during a big transition period in my life, and the patterns were familiar and therefore weirdly comforting, even while completely inappropriate and maybe even abusive. It was a mistake.

    It’s not all like that, though. Shedding people is hard — especially people who you have known very well, who know YOU very well, and who were (at one point) extremely important to you. I’ll advocate for strict post-breakup separation every time, but it’s tough to completely let go of someone you loved, and it’s not always for the better. I don’t think friendship is always possible, especially after relationships that harmed one party or another, but sometimes there’s a kind of detached, nostalgic fondness that powers ‘happy birthday’ texts or messages reminding someone of an inside joke, and I think that’s okay to hold on to.

    • ETM

      It is very hard for some of us! I am at that stage today. It is being very difficult for me to stop thinking about him. I lost my boyfriend, couple, my best friend, my almost everything. I have to start again, and don’t know how. I still love him so much, but knew this was going to happen eventually. I need to move on, I’m sure he has. It’s been 2 months. I really hope that soon I can be free of him, someway somehow.

  • Cristina

    I’m not friends with my exes, but mostly out of respect for my last long-term relationship (before my marriage). I would pretty much party and drunkenly hook up with my exes or guys I “talked too” and in that relationship, I could not confidently say that if I partied with any of them I wouldn’t take it a step too far and cheat on my then current bf. I do think that had a lot to do with that relationship, cause I would absolutely not feel that way in my marriage, but now I find myself occasionally hoping they also found their person and are happy!

  • ByeBeckz

    I think “ex” is such a vague term. It sounds like some of the people in this article were just friends with benefits, or casually dating. I consider an ex someone you dated for 1+ year, and you loved each other (or at least thought that then). I’ve decided you can only stay friends with those types of exes until its inconvenient for one of the parties, which ultimately means one party hasn’t quite moved on, sees the other party has, and needs to cut it off. Everyone I know who has stayed friends with exes does it despite either still holding feelings OR semi-hurting/annoying their new partner, which is why I don’t think those ex friendships are forever.

    I had a boyfriend for 2 years of college and then another one for 3 years of graduate school. I broke up with both. The first and I tried to stay friends but once he realized I wasn’t coming back to him, he straight up asked if we were getting back together, I said no, and he said we couldn’t talk anymore. We messaged every few months but then I’m guessing he saw pictures of my new bf- and he deleted every trace of me and no longer messaged. I just had the break up with the graduate school bf in July. He knows I’m certain about not getting back together, or at least I’ve repeated it many times. We message every day, talk once every few weeks, but I’m certain I’m hurting him. I think I’ve adapted to the friend relationship, but I know he hasn’t. He didn’t stay friends with any of his exes, they all had messy break ups and ours wasn’t as terrible (maybe!?) so who knows what will happen. It’s wonderful to still have him in my life but I take it day by day.

    Loved this article! At least now you know no more birthday texts lol.

  • Madeline C

    Having never had a serious relationship besides my current one I feel ill-equipped to speak with any authority on this. But I have witnessed many a friends/family deal with the issue, and I feel like people can maintain friendships with serious ex’s but usually only if there is a ‘reason.’ The reason can be kids or possibly a shared business venture. Maybe they were together a long time, and the ex didn’t have much of a family and bonded with theirs, and it would be cruel to make them completely sever ties. The ‘reason’ can vary greatly, but I do notice it there is almost always one other than just, ‘we want to be friends.’ I think it stems from this very idea you touch on that if there isn’t an obvious reason, is the reason you are still in love? It seems like we need a justification to keep them in our lives because then we can compartmentalize them into something new (child’s father/mother, business partner, family member). Something other than ‘ex.’

  • Kristin

    No. I am team smug-first-paragraph-Haley. With the caveat that hookups aren’t exes…and that is still iffy. Chemistry just doesn’t go away. Love cannot lead to friendship. And I don’t think divorced people are actually friends; I think they are family and they tolerate each other because they have to and choose to for their children.

  • Sydney JG

    This really got me thinking! Why do we spend so much time, infatuated with someone, telling them everything about our lives and becoming so close to just eventually break up one day, and almost never talk to them again? I feel like in some ways it feels pointless, to love someone and than one day just stop. But then again, the majority of my exes I have no interest in talking to anymore, but I sometimes feel like I wasted so much time and effort on someone who won’t care about us in the future. But my current boyfriend, who I care so deeply about, I love every minute I spend with him even though I fear the future and the inevitable break up. Is it worth it? Is the happiness in the moment worth it in the future, when things can change so rapidly? p.s. I love ManRepeller, this article was so well written (as literally every article is)

    • Lil

      I have been thinking the exact same thing. Dating and relationships are like taking a shot in the dark. It’s the most important thing in our lives, yet the riskiest.
      I’m at a point where I’m so tired of it, I’ve almost given up on dating altogether.

  • ByeBeckz

    Firstly, HALEY PLEASE WRITE MORE RELATIONSHIP ARTICLES. You have SUCH a normal/not crazy take on everything- I mean that in the best possible way- it’s so enjoyable to read, like I have a friend who just GETS it.

    Secondly, I think “ex” is such a vague term. It sounds like some of the people in this article were just friends with benefits, or casually dating. I consider an ex someone you dated for 1+ year, and you loved each other (or at least thought that then). I’ve decided through my own experience that you can only stay friends with those types of exes until its inconvenient for one of the parties, which ultimately means one party hasn’t quite moved on, sees the other party has, and needs to cut it off. Everyone I know who has stayed friends with exes does it despite either still holding feelings OR semi-hurting/annoying their new partner, which is why I don’t think those ex friendships are forever.

    I had a boyfriend for 2 years of college and then another one for 3 years of graduate school. I broke up with both. The first and I tried to stay friends but once he realized I wasn’t coming back to him, he straight up asked if we were getting back together, I said no, and he said we couldn’t talk anymore. We messaged every few months but then I’m guessing he saw pictures of my new bf- and he deleted every trace of me and no longer messaged. I just had the break up with the graduate school bf in July. He knows I’m certain about not getting back together, or at least I’ve repeated it many times. We message every day, talk once every few weeks, but I’m not sure it’s good for him and his ability to move on. I think I’ve adapted to the friend relationship, but I know he hasn’t. He’s actually in a great stage of his life to meet new people and be social, I’m the one who is slightly stunted- and I want him to go out and have fun but he doesn’t seem interested- which just makes me feel bad. He didn’t stay friends with any of his exes, they all had messy break ups and ours wasn’t as terrible (maybe!?) so who knows what will happen. It’s wonderful to still have him in my life but I take it day by day.

    Loved this article! At least now you know no more birthday texts lol.

    • I agree with “ex” being a vague term. I occasionally end up having a conversation via FB with two people I consider exes. We have all moved on, and discussion revolves around studying and life in general, sometimes nostalgia. Also, they are both on different continents (Australia and Canada) from mine, so its not like we would run into each other by accident.

      • Beasliee

        Similar story here. I am in the UK and he’s in CA.
        I write to his mom at Christmas, I wished him well for his recent wedding, I sometimes ‘like’ his or his brothers posts, his mom sometimes ‘likes’ pictures of me and my long term boyfriend….
        If he disappeared from my life (OK, FB feed) totally I’d be sad but he’s not really a meaningful friend in any way, it’s just nice to be vaguely in touch with someone that I didn’t have a dreadful break-up with!!

    • Robin

      Wow you penned down exáctly my experience there in that second alinea

    • Jay

      First @Haley, indeed, I like the way you write on those things… some might call it unemotional or sober (though stuff like that I think is talked about best over wine and cheese… or whatever your go to is…). But I think it is neutral. Not judging let be hurting anyone.

      (Or maybe I am that unemotional beast that is just not so much into all the whiny voices people might get on this – am in for the wine though…)

      Now, for my take on the bf thing, that gets a separate comment.

  • Amanda Faerber

    My partner is in touch with a few of his exes and at the beginning of our relationship, it bothered and fascinated me that he could remain in touch. It bothered me because I did not know him well enough yet, and we had not built the trust that we have, for me to feel okay with it. the back burner thing is so true, and if not true, feels true. It fascinated me because I have never remained friends with or kept in touch with an ex … because those relationships ended badly and not mutually. We have relationships with all kinds of people, all depths or shallows of seriousness and closeness, friends, lovers, etc. Sometimes those just end and it’s what was supposed to happen. Same with exes. To a lot of them, I say good riddance.

  • Samantha Serbus

    Ugh, this topic has baffled me for so long. I want to be so cool with my bf talking to his exes, but it ultimately makes me super insecure. I know it’s my issue and I need to figure my shit out, but I think it’s still acceptable to let him know that this is a struggle for me. I think part of the reason is that my current bf is my first real relationship and I’m his third-ish. So I’m going off limited experience and that makes me feel like I don’t have room judge him; I have yet to deal with a “true ex”. In the end, I can only do what makes me feel okay. Talking with exes makes my stomach turn, but limiting who he talks to makes me feel super creepy and icky. So I tell him “Feel free to be friends with whomever you want. I just ask you to be there for me if and when I need to work through my ‘stomach turning’ emotions”. I’m equally working on trying to undo what damage Disney has done to my younger self by establishing such an impossible standard of romantic relationships. Things are a little more fluid and I’m trying harder to be as well. Gotta communicate that fluidity! 🙂

    • Emily

      To me it sounds like you’re doing a great job! I feel like my boyfriend has done a good job of handling this: last year, my ex was texting me and sending me music, and my bf was like, “I trust you and I know you’re coming at this from a friendly place, but do you think it’s weird that he does this? does it bring up any feelings for you?” and suddenly having it posed as a question I realized it was weird, and did bring up complex feelings. Having it posed to me in that way, and having my boyfriend be accepting of the answer/able to discuss helped me a lot to figure out it was a weird thing that wasn’t super healthy for me emotionally or for my current relationship, and I basically cut out the communication myself.

  • I think it’s definitely all about context: the terms of the break-up, if you’d been friends before you dated, whether you still share friends or a social circle or even kids. I don’t speak at all with my first (most serious) ex as the break-up was quite difficult/one-sided and there wasn’t much left to forge a new friendship out of.

    But my second relationship began as a friendship, so we had a base/understanding of what us being friends could look like, and he remains in my circle of ‘home friends’ back in England. While we don’t message regularly at all, whenever I visit home he’ll be at the parties and catch-ups and we always have a really fun time when we see each other. We even went for dinner on my last visit and it was so relaxed – no sexual tension at all! I’m dating someone else now and we’re both happy with our lives and enjoy each other’s company, so being friends just seems like a rewarding option for both of us.
    However, if I lived in that town and spent more time with him (and others) on a regular basis, maybe I would feel differently… It definitely makes it easier having enforced distance.

    In terms of minding if my partner sees his exes – again it’s about context. I believe you can purely be friends (I’m living proof!) but also know a lot of people masquerade other intentions under the guise of friendship; I actually have a third ex who regularly ‘checks in’ and I can see it’s not purely innocent.
    It ultimately comes down to trust – as long as your partner can be trusted to cut off a disingenuous ‘friendship’, I see no problem in them testing it out.

  • Krista Grenier

    To me, it all depends on why the relationship ended and how long we were together. There’s a couple guys who I dated for a hot minute, and I’ll chat with them if I run into them, but there’s little communication beyond that. On the other hand, I’ve got two ex’s that I cut out of my life completely, no contact whatsoever. But, those were both long relationships, that ended BADLY. So, like with most things, it all depends on the situation.

    • ETM

      I share your way of thining. My boyfriend just broke up with me and I knew this was coming, so not a big surprise. We were in an on and off relationship for several years. He said that we would always be friends, but what kind of friends could we be? There’s so much history between us that even though I would like to get together again for whatever reason, it is pointless. Two months and I still long for him. Have written without answers. I need to move on, I know he has!

  • I’m still very close friends with one of my exes (and we were close friends before we started dating). It took A LONG time though to get over how awkward and weird it was…. But we broke up 8 years ago and we are still friends (and I’ve dated my current special man friend for 7 of those years), so it is possible.

    I want to second whomever said that it takes work to maintain the friendship. I think being friends with him really made me realize how much I had relied on flirting in my male “platonic” friendships. I quickly realized that I COULD NOT and WOULD NOT do that with the ex. I’m so thankful that I made that discovery – I feel like my friendships are so much more genuine now that I don’t rely on coy glances to make people like me.

  • Chloe

    This is a crazy coincidence because I had just rediscovered your other piece on ending a happy relationship. Couple of weeks ago my bf of 2 and a half years broke up with me citing that he no longer can commit to our relationship (citing law school and us being still in our early twenties). I was at lost because our relationship is truly good when we were both committed. After meeting up again for “closure” he mentioned that he still wants to be good friends because we are best friends. I’m not so sure what to think of this and reading what you’ve beautifully written, im still lost but comforted haha.

    • Andrea

      aww, so sorry to hear about this! break-ups out of nowhere are the worst! I think men have a harder time getting over their exes/stopping talking to them because they have so few people in their life they discuss feelings with. Women often have a stable of good friends they can process things with. So when an ex says he still wants to be friends, it seems selfish to me – like, get real friends! He doesn’t want to be in your life anymore, so why does he expect you to answer his texts? Granted, it’s a hard habit to break when you’re texting daily and share everything about your day, but it will get easier.

      • Chloe

        Aw thanks Andrea! I really do hope we can somehow stay civil. He mentions that maybe in the future we could work it out (or he could with his commitment doubts & the idea of settling in life) if we remain close friends.

  • Rachel Janfaza

    How ironic that I just sent this to my ex!

  • tmm16

    I wish I were different, but once I’m burned, I’m burned, and once you decide you aren’t 110% committed to me, we’re done. If you don’t want to date me and only want to string me along, then no, sorry, we aren’t talking “as friends” because I’ll never see you as just a friend and then it becomes a game of “what if” for me. Any guy I’ve ever talked to or dated, we no longer talk at all.

    I wish I was more of a “chill” woman in this department and could have platonic relationships with old flings, but alas, I am not. I am 110% a Miranda in this category.

    • Marcela Sp

      Preach! and ironically in the past week 2 exes have sent me friend requests on FB. Sorry not sorry?

    • Zauberwald

      I am 100% with you!

    • Sarah

      I completely agree.

      I have a best friend who technically isn’t an ex but who I went on dates with before he broke it off and I still haven’t fully gotten over it. He said some things to me that just made me feel ugly and undesirable. I loved talking to him and being around him more than any other person I have even met (even exs), so the fact that my best friend wouldn’t want me, despite telling me that I am the easiest person he ever talked to and that he felt stupid for not dating me, is extremely painful.

      But I feel that we all deserve someone who see’s are full value and cherishes us, and that part of loving yourself and practicing self-care is recognizing that, in addition to only keeping people in your life who will love you as much as you should love you.

      I’m actually on better terms with long-term relationships than short-term ones, because the men I dated long-term understood my value; we just weren’t the right fit for each other.

    • Chloe

      Right! If a guy hurt you and never sought forgiveness, etc….then why the hell should I let him back into my life?

      A guy who dumped me in a 7 word text message a few months ago (while I was home making him dinner and cupcakes) texted me recently and was super pissy that I had deleted his number and had to ask “Who is this?”. Why should I still have the number of a guy who dumped me via text? Nah-uh. I’m not looking for friendship. Hit me up when you want to apologize.

  • Haley, you know that feeling when you read a book and invest your feelings and thoughts into protagonists, who may even never leave you after you have finished the book?
    My guess is the same happens with important people in our lives – or can happen. We as autobiographers (damn, ist that an English word?) want to know about people whose paths joined ours in a significant way. I know I feel like that about people from my past regardless of the relationship. Damn, I wrote “relationshop” first. Might be the right word anyway :-DD

    • doladex

      love this

      • Thx. Might be true, no?

        • doladex

          So true. Was just talking about something similar with my current partner about how I sometimes get nostalgic urges to check in with past ones, wondering if they ever got to do that thing they wanted to do, or move to x place like they were planning. But in one particular case, my ex does NOT want to hear from me, so I just hold it in.

  • Mira G

    always friends wt my exes:) that’s my thing, and people find it weird but I do it because it makes total sense.

  • Fayla Garcia

    …it definitely comes down to the relationship you had.

  • Alex

    My best friend in the world was my first serious boyfriend when I was 17. We were together for three years and broke up on friendly terms. From the moment we split (20 years ago now), our relationship has been 100% platonic. Not a trace of romantic tension, no hook-ups, no kisses, nothing. We talk on the phone several times a week, we share stories about dates, other romantic interests, and relationships, and when we’re both single, we even go on holiday together. He regularly has lunch with my mother. We simply get on really, really well. We often talk about it — he’s like my brother and I’m like his sister. I realise it’s unique, but I’m very, very grateful I’m so lucky to have such a great friend in my life. No hidden motives.

    I’ve also maintained a distant but regular friendship with my long-term boyfriend during grad school — we dated for 3 years and also broke up on friendly terms. He’s now married, and we communicate pretty regularly via email, and meet up when he visits NY (he lives in LA). Like with the ex described above, absolutely no romantic tension between us. No hidden motives.

    These two men are pretty much the exception. I’m on friendly terms with most of my exes, although we don’t really speak. Then there’s my ex from undergrad — he’s now married and has 2 kids. He’s reached out regularly over the years, but it took me 20 years to get to the point that I’m okay speaking to him again. We broke up, because he cheated on me.

    Finally, I have one ex I will never speak to again. We broke up, because he cheated on me and emotionally abused me.

    All in all therefore, whether I stay friends with an ex depends largely on HOW we broke up. If the terms are friendly and respectful and as kind in a horrible situation as they can be, then it usually eventually becomes possible for me to maintain a friendly relationship. In some ways, for me it’s about honouring the connection we once shared.

  • Oh my god, thankyou for posting this.

    I think really exes are better in memory. I think it depends on your motive for staying in touch.

    I found out a few years ago my boyfriend was still exchanging xmas cards with an ex. I caught him reading the card she sent to his dad and recognised the same xmas card from our house. He put it back as soon as I walked in the room. I’m not sure he knows.
    I’ve felt insecure each xmas time since. And to be honest I let it ruin my xmas this year, I was so stressed about her card being more important than me. We had such good times together his year but I convinced myself he was thinking about her all xmas…
    I do struggle with it generally but I think it’s more insecurity in my part and occasionally pops out it’s ugly head into mine, like this xmas… I wish I could tell him I feel like this.
    She’s the one I know least about so I guess it leaves more to my imagination (and I have to keep reminding myself that it is literally my imagination).

    I cut all contact from my exes when I got together with my current boyfriend. One ex I didn’t realise was still on my fb, he contacted me 4 years into my current relationship suggesting sex and I immediately deleted him. Despite being over my exes anyway, I felt guilty and needed everything obliterated from past relationships/dating .

  • Shelby

    Oh man, this hit me hard.

    My partner had a very significant ex before me and they stay in touch, which has caused a lot of tension. It doesn’t bother me so much that they stay in touch. It’s this sense of intimacy in the way she talks to him. The happy birthday wishes aren’t simple “happy birthdays” they’re these long, emotional things or conversations are quite flirty.

    I have always had this slight fear she’s the real love of his life and I’m the consolation prize. They’re communication has dropped off, but I was quite clear that it upset me.

    I’m not sure if after reading this I feel justified, or guilty for expressing it upset me.

  • More relationship posts please , feels like a massive sleepover ❤️

  • Kay Nguyen

    Personally I find the whole thing is tough, I don’t see them but rather remain friends online. It’s so much easier to see them as bubble in my messaging apps. Though I always tell myself (and them) that I want to be friend after we breakup but I just never follow…

  • Ruth

    I’ve never commented on MR before (hi!) but this is topic that has been on my mind for literally a year and a half now!!!

    My BF is still friends with his ex and it makes me super uncomfortable and brings up horrible insecure feelings that I thought I had put at bay in the early stages of our relationship. They were together for four years and are part of the same friendship group, so she is at every social event we go to with his friends and she’s besties with all his mates, while I’m still struggling to connect with them. She’s also super touchy feely when she sees him (puts her hand on his arm, rubs his back, takes sips from his drink) and seeing that stuff makes me cringe and feel weirdly territorial.

    Kind of like Haley said in the article – I trust my BF completely and know how much he loves me. This is about the only issue in our relationship, and it only really comes up when we have social events with his friends. But going out with his friends is starting to make me anxious because I know the ex will be there and I don’t like having to deal with her. I should also say that this girl has been nothing but polite and nice to me, but while I’m sure she’s a lovely girl who I might be friends with in another situation I just can’t bring myself to be too friendly back. I stay distant and then feel like that bratty kid at the party who everyone is trying to placate. Ugh! There isn’t an easy solution here and I don’t want to dictate who my BF can and can’t talk to. This article kinda articulated my every thought on the issue (better than my ramblings have!!!).

  • tiabarbara

    i think you’re right that context matters for whether you can remain friends with an ex.

    my first “boyfriend” while i was in high school and i are good friends still, but we were good friends before we dated and our relationship was juvenile because we were 14 and 15.

    i’m on good speaking terms with my first serious boyfriend, but i certainly wouldn’t call us friends – more like ‘friendly’. i, personally, try to maintain some distance with him because he has consistently looked at me like the one who got away and tried to rekindle our failed relationship multiple times.

    my last relationship was a lot more serious and when we were together we were talking about our life together in the long term, but i fell out of love with him and the breakup devastated him so we don’t talk at all. i’m guilty of the happy birthday ex-text with this guy, just because i wanted him to know that i hadn’t completely forgotten about him, but i know we’ll probably never talk again.

  • Yem

    I actually live with my ex after having dated for 5 years! Some initial awkwardness when starting to date other people, but I think it works because we both knew that we’d outgrown the romantic side of our relationship. So it feels right to keep the supportive friends side of it, since that was the part that had always worked well.

  • fizpop

    my ex boyfriend and first love is still, a year after breaking up with me, literally my best friend and we talk every day and there are no extra feelings there and every time i tell people this they are SHOCKED

  • Sighhhhhh

    I’ve been waiting for MR to post an article like this. I had no idea my bf was still friends with his ex until we were road tripping and he was driving and I saw that he was messaging someone on Facebook WHILE WE WERE DRIVING – that’s when I was like “is this person so important to respond to that you put our lives at danger??” Is that dramatic? We got in a huge, lengthy, sob filled “discussion” while stuck in the car. Their relationship ended terribly with lies and sexual preference changes…it was bad. I just couldn’t understand why he would want to stay friends with someone like that. Earlier that year he had mentioned running into his ex at school and it put him in a weird mood the rest of the afternoon. So I could just see that this tie to her wasn’t a good one. She was his first relationship and I know the strong connection that comes from that, but it had been like 4 years since their breakup. I’m not friends with my ex because it ended extremely bad. Idk man… I felt bad for telling my bf that it made me uncomfortable that he was still talking to his ex. I felt like who am I to decide these things for another human. But on the other hand he has also said that there was really no reason to keep talking to her. I think it just held him back? My trust with him wasn’t shattered but it definitely wasn’t smooth sailing. I look back on that moment almost 2 years ago and I’m thankful for it because it brought us closer together. You learn to trust someone and understand where their heart is at. This is just a tricky subject. Sometimes I still feel guilty for asking him to cut ties with her. I feel like I’m just writing in a diary now…. Anyway this article makes me feel less crazy ty bless u MR

  • Delaney

    A week ago, I got out of a relationship. I am struggling to decide if it’s worse to cut off communication immediately or to sort of “taper off” our contact. Of course I still have some lingering feelings for him, but would I be putting both of us in a bad place by asking to meet up occasionally while in the initial wake of our relationship? I am new at this. Any advice is appreciated.

    • Emily

      You could try meeting up, and see how it makes you feel – if not good, then it’s totally fine to take a step back. If you feel comfortable, I think it helps to be really open about your feelings (and his) and go from there to find what feels right to you in terms of talking, hanging out. You can always step away for a while, and then begin talking again once some time has passed.

  • Emily

    I can’t keep in touch with the boy who broke my heart, as it’s just too painful. I only keep in touch with one ex, and very loosely at that. I think we’re able to stay in touch because we had a short relationship when we were very young (end of high school/beginning of college). We were good friends before starting to date, and I think when we do/did talk it came from that place of genuinely liking the other person as a friend. However, I wonder if it also has to do with our history. After we broke up, we continued to hookup and talk for about a year and a half, until I cut it off because i felt like I was still emotionally attached despite our decision to be ‘casual.’ Interestingly, my ex almost immediately after met his gf — showing he was probably emotionally hanging on to me as well until then. It’s possible we stayed in touch because we never had a clear cut breakup moment, and rather continued to connect in confusing ways for quite a while. As we’ve both gotten older and into happy, longer and much more serious relationships, we’ve started talking less and less and in more distant ways, which I think is for the best. I fall in love deeply and connect intensely when I do, so I think it is harder for me to emotionally sever ties after a relationship. I haven’t found that staying in touch helps me to manage that in a way that feels emotionally good to me.

  • Sabletoothtigre

    Weirdly the only ex I’m still friends with was the first person to really break my heart. I think it’s because we were friends beforehand but also the breakup was because neither of us was getting what we needed/wanted from the other and it wasn’t working — he just saw that before I did. I was very dramatic about the breakup but he still kept wanting to be my friend… so we’re friends now. I guess it takes someone showing you that they still care about you as a person and being a good person to you until you realize “hey, this person actually IS acting like a true friend!” I mean, that relationship was literally 10 years ago though and lasted less than a year, and it took… like 3-4 years after the fact to actually become friends.

    But ALSO here to say that I am EXTREMELY SUS of a someone who’s on bad terms with all their exes. Like, what have you done that every person who dates you ends up hating you??

  • kaitlin davis

    every time MR comes out with an article, it almost always mirrors my life in some way! The 10th was my first BFs birthday and i still talk to him from time to time. I was on the fence about texting him but at 4am I said fuck it and did it. I received a curt “thank you” and that was it. Of course I don’t still love him like that but I will always wish him well even if he is a total asshole. It’s just one of those things i guess(?)

  • Lily Peschardt

    Urgh, this is so weird. It was my birthday yesterday and my ex-boyfriend didn’t message me and for some reason, despite the fact that we’ve been broke up for four years and I’m in a really happy relationship, it really bothered me. I am sort of fascinated by my exes – the ones I don’t talk to I am desperate to know more about: what are they up to? Are they happy? Did they see that twist coming in the TV show we used to watch together? I know you give up the right to know those things about someone when you break up, but that doesn’t stop me wondering…

  • Amy

    I am literally having this internal conversation with myself at the minute. My 5 year relationship ended suddenly and out of the blue as we were trying for a baby and about to buy a house AND a week beofre my 30th. He decided he wasn’t sure of his capability of being in a relationship and that he would bow out now beofre we made any more irreversible decisions. To say I was devastated is an understatement. I dont remember much at all about those first few days after he moved out.
    However in recent weeks it has become apparent that he is on some sort of self discovery and I have discovered that I like myself and my life and that maybe just maybe I am going to be ok without him, without the house, without the baby. I feel up to imagining a different life for myself.
    We have stayed in touch but had a months break from seeing each other but now we are making plans to go for lunch and catch up. And up until reading this I felt so conflicted about it!
    I loved this man with all that I was for 5 years. For the most part, he was a great partner to me and I to him. I cant seem to ‘put that down’. It would feel like a greater loss to lose him as person altogether, an even greater loss than the romantic relationship.
    Everyone who is outraged on my behalf at his unexpected seemingly snap decision, tells me to sever ties and never speak to him again.
    But he has been a great man in my life, a great friend and I want us to be able to be as good to each other as we move forward as we were to each other as couple.
    I guess reading this has made feel that its doable, that its an option and the people come into your life and leave when the timings are right. And maybe its not time for us to leave each other completely just yet. Maybe he can be a great friend, maybe I can be a great friend ? Maybe all is not lost.
    Thank you Haley for this perfectly timed article. It made me feel slightly less mad for obsessing over it so much!

    • Suzy Lawrence

      same thing. 5 years, buying a house, and he backed out. AFTER, crawling back on his hands a knees a year earlier. everyone flipped out- except me. i respected his honesty and understood that we occasionally act irrationally out of heart break (in regards to him coming back and promising the world; he was just sad and genuinely thought his sadness was something more). more than anything, i was irritated with myself, initially thinking “what a waste of time…” but it wasn’t. there’s no one else i would’ve wanted to spend that year with, and the 4 years before. him and i still talk and we still tell each other we love each other (bc we do), but we give each other a lot of space and neither has any expectations of the other. it sounds like you’re know what you’re doing. best of luck.

      • Amy

        Thank you! Sounds so similar. I felt the exact irritation initially that has now passed also. I hope things work out in a lovely way for you. Whatever that ends up being. X

  • Tara MacDonald

    Hi Haley – I subscribe to the Man Repeller newsletter, and I have to say that the timing of this article landing in my inbox (and its eye-grabbing topical-in-my-life Title) made me click on the link, drop everything, and give this a read instantly. I had no idea what to expect with this read (ie. would it give me the fortune-telling, guiding answer I have been needing / seeking throughout this past week, as small ‘ex-files’ troubles arise in my new relationship) and it DIDN’T, BUT your article is such thoughtful insight and perspective that you shared regardless. I have been having this internal debate ( – and sometimes external) in the majority of my relationships and still have yet to come to a conclusion on my stance with this debate. There just can’t be a strict rule one way or the other, it varies depending on the situation. I think reading your thought process: “perhaps there is no answer” (other than individual context) could just very well be the answer I needed reminding of, in a sense. Given the freshness of the holidays, I was not guilty of the birthday text but the well-wishes for a “Happy New Year” or “SEASONS GREETINGS!” before muttering to myself what fresh hell motive was I getting at and WHY. I would love to start 2018 without the ex’s in my past (or some of them, at least?!). It can be enough to drive you crazy at times, and yet this collective, open forum piece also reminds me that here we all are, experiencing the same thing -as the great ex-debate continues. (As an aside here, I would like to add that yes, I’m still friends with *some* of my exes; yes – my current partner (and many others) have stayed friends with their exes; yes – I care about this subject matter (clearly); and no!! I do not consider this old-fashioned for as long as I can search an ex’s name on Instagram / Facebook and go back a few years to see pictures of their relationship, ugh / woops. Will join you in that resonating HMMMMMMM.

  • Micha

    Ahhh, heterosexuals. In my queer experience, being friends with an ex isn’t such a big deal!

  • Jay


    Big big thing in my life.

    I am that girl maintains „kinda“ friendships with all of her exbfs. Some more intense, some less (like just acquaintances I might text when on the train home to where I grew up, checking what’s new and whether there might be something fun going on – but hey: I would honestly meet them, if there would be time and place – normally it isnt though, but this Christmas I attended my ex of 16 years bday party?! And it was nice catching up…). Never ever had a bad blood situation.

    Until very very recently. And this is my fault, cause I kinda wanted out and well… didnt communicate that in the best way. Anyways. But even here, I dont know what it is about my personality… we kinda still talk. He congratulated to my bday, and occassionally gives me advice on tech stuff. I actually give him fashion advice at times.

    So… no. I am not sure about best friends. But well, the guy I was in a relationship with (and actually lived with) for almost four years, he has a very special place in my life. And while not my best (no no no, that is the person I never dated, but hope to marry one day 🙂 ) friend, certainly a close one.

    And I dont mind at all that he brings his new girlfriend to my bday party tomorrow. And I look forward to their wedding. Honestly.

    Cause I think what it really comes down to… is that you move on. Or have moved on rather. Once you are through, then everything is possible.

    For the last breakup it took a while and it will take some more time. But at the very least, we are kind to each other.

    And I am glad for that.

    While I love the drama on TV – German Bachelor started – right on my bday… best gift ever – I dont particularly like it in my life.

  • Zoe

    With my first serious relationship, where we lived together, and had a very intense relationship for about 4 years, it took me about 2 years of strictly no contact and then 3 years of very sparse internet contact before I felt ready to have a friendship with this person. It was interesting because we met up over the summer and we were two completely different people. It felt strange but oddly familiar. It’s something I don’t plan on doing again. But on the other hand I have an ex that is my best friend. It took us about 3 months of no talking before we met up again and it was like no time had passed.

  • Suzy Lawrence

    I’ve probably had about 10 people I’ve called my boyfriend. Of those 10, I now think maybe 3 were actual relationships (ah-hem, a guy I exclusively dated for 4 months while in undergrad was not a relationship even though at the time we were technically “Facebook official”). Those 3 men are amazing and I loved them deeply for as deeply as my then current life experience would allow (did I really love my high school sweetheart? Compared to my ability to love now, no; but, compared to my ability to love at 17, absolutely). People are always confused when I talk about my ex’s in a positive light, but why would you date someone you didn’t feel was an incredible person? I’ve been cheated on and had my heart broken, but hate isn’t the opposite of love. I can look all those men in the eye and be genuinely happy for them. I think disregarding those who actual left an imprint on you because of some taboo “rule” limits the depth of your life experience.

    • Cordelia

      Love this thought; my exes were also a generally positive experience in my journey as a person and even though it didn’t work out with them (and I don’t have contact with the serious ones), I don’t regret them; they’re part of the evolution of my wants/needs and of my life at that point in time. Like the places I’ve visited, I tend to reflect on them with vague fondness during relevant conversations.

      • Cordelia

        Also, thanks for the thoughtful article Haley.

  • rien de rien

    Slash and burn here. I cut exes off completely. No getting back together, no staying in touch. Even the casual ones. I learn my lessons, take it for what it was, and move on.
    I also don’t date guys who still “hang out” with their exes (whatever that means). On the rare occasion when I’ve made that mistake, the minute we get to the stage where I decide I like him enough to meet his friends, in swoops catty supposed ex, territorial drama begins, and the guy starts acting like he’s got some epic decision to make. Which is my cue to check out completely. I’m so over people who don’t have the backbone to move on. I don’t need up-front serious commitments when I start dating someone, but I have no interest in continuously competing for a guy’s attention, especially against someone he’s already decided not to be with. I feel like allowing that behavior is basically giving him permission to act like he’s the prize and I’m a backup plan, someone he can leave and come back to and I’ll still be there grateful for his attention. I want more respect than that. It’s part of why I don’t see my own exes either. You can’t ask for what you’re not willing to give.

    • S

      I pretty much operate the same way, although maybe I’d contact an ex if i knew we were both single, but not if either me or them was in a relationship. I actually think it’s kind of rude to go contacting ex’s out of the blue (if you don’t see each other as part of a friendship group) if they have a new gf.

      • rien de rien

        Yeah, I totally agree that it can be rude to contact an ex out of the blue. Exes can hold a lot of power, even if there’s zero chance of a hookup or getting back together. Comparative standards or digging up history, or just straight up destructive negative energy can be so disruptive to other people’s lives. It’s not fair to the ex or the person they might be with now. If you’ve got lingering feelings or hangups you can’t get past, it’s probably best to find a good therapist instead.

  • Tessa Neustadt

    Im personally of the mindset that if both individuals are truly ‘ over ‘ the other person and no one was burned too bad than there’s no reason not to be friends. I’m currently great friends with my ex of 3 years, we live about a mile away from each other and get coffee or breakfast a few times a month, have dinner with friends,I go see his band play, keep in touch with his family through Facebook, etc. We were friends before we dated, genuinely enjoy each others company, have a similar sense of humor and out look on the world – it seems silly to throw ALL of that out the window just because the romantic part of our relationship ended. Like Haley’s friend said above, because we tried dating and eventually came to the conclusion that it wasn’t the right fit, there is NO sexual tension left over and he feels more like a brother at this point. We’ve had long phone conversations helping the other through a break up and even given relationship advice! We are so comfortable around each other and know one another so well – I feel so lucky to have this special friendship in my life.

  • Chicha

    One thing that I know for sure is it takes some time to be friends with your exes again. Unless one of them want to be friend with you after the relationship has ended because he said that I could be a possible client for his job in the future. NOPE, just nope. Better find new friends.

  • Basil

    I have one significant ex who I’m not in touch with. We were FB friends for a bit and he used to occasionally get in touch with me, but now I’ve cut all contact for my own sanity. I knew with him that if we hadn’t been in a romantic relationship, I really doubt we would have been friends, so it makes sense. I am, however, friends with his sister. After he and I broke up, she and I continued hanging out and decided to carry on doing so, as we really like each other, we just NEVER mention him

    After my husband and I started going out, he had an ex who would occasionally get in touch with him (to keep tabs on him I’m guessing). It didn’t really bother me as she was in a different country. I think she stopped after we got engaged

    • Basil

      Though of course I have done some social media stalking of my ex, and was flattered / weirded out to find out that his wife looks a LOT like me

  • Mercedes Ayala

    “I honored what we had and hoped he was happy.” This, to me, is the whole point. Weirdly (but not so weirdly), we mirror each other again; I have had a very similar interaction recently. I understand why you were upset by his reaction – I think it’s about the other person, whom you used to spend all your days with, feeling suddenly so detached. That their feelings don’t match yours. There is a certain peace in both parties “honoring” what they had, but it’s just not always the case. Even if it is, he may not express it in the same way, and that ends up being off-putting or upsetting. If his reaction had mimicked the friendliness of yours, you wouldn’t have felt upset. You would have felt relief (again, from my recent experience).

    To your actual question – I always thought it was insane to remain friends with exes. You have already decided you don’t work, so what’s the point if not for residual feelings? The older I get, the less sure I am that I can say that with such certainty. I’m not sure I can say there’s a real ‘end’ to residual feelings. Depends on the relationship of course, but when you grew and experienced the world with someone for several years, the memories you have don’t disappear. The emotions attached to the memories don’t either. So being friends is tough, but not impossible. It’s more of a mutual understanding that you were not compatible, it wasn’t the right time, or for whatever reason, it just didn’t work. It’s about accepting that what you had was precious and still caring for it the same – while also accepting things are different. Yours and their new relationship is different than what you had with them, and there is no issue in caring for both. There is no comparison – they’re just different. So I would say you can remain friendly but not close, I think. I would not risk another relationship by remaining close, and I also just feel there’s a need to respect the new parties. However, the text you sent for example is the perfect level of friendly (to me). It overall will depend on both sides: both need to feel the same way about the relationship and have accepted it as it was, otherwise issues will arise at some point.
    Does this make sense? I did the thing again where I blabber off and not actually pay attention. I’m not going to reread and check that it is logical…
    Basically, just be chill and if they’re chill it’s chill ya knoww

  • Jolie

    This is SUCH a hard thing to think about, because each case has so many different nuanced factors. I’m still friendly with some exes and keep up with them mostly on Instagram, where we occasionally chat. A lot of them no longer live in NYC, where I live, so we only hang out when they’re in town. Others I flat-out never want to see again and cut off all contact with.

    I’ve always had weird feelings about guys I date being friends with exes, maybe because I haven’t trusted most of the guys. My current partner was friends with an ex when we met who I later learned was hardcore flirting with him. After we talked about it (without me giving him any suggestion on what he should do), he cut off contact with her.

    I thought that unless it’s a case of aggressive flirting, I’d be totally fine with my partner being friends with exes, but over the years we’ve been together, that hasn’t proven to be the case. My partner (and I, through him) still hangs out with a few girls he’s hooked up with or dated, and even when they’re perfectly lovely girls, I find myself with this feeling of seething resentment whenever we hang out with them. I guess it makes me feel weird that my partner, who’s so devoted to me, had feelings for other girls before me, even though that’s reality and was the same case for me. I keep it in check, though, and hang out with them nonetheless.

    • Ana Valladares

      I totally agree with this!

  • ladle

    The one time I tried to still be friends with an ex revealed that I can do that, but he couldn’t really. Only after did one of my friends suggested that maybe one of the (many) reasons our friendship fell apart was that he was still hurt but hid it. And while I could remain friends then, I want nothing more but to never see him again (but we work on the same project, so I still have him on my social media, but muted).
    I think there should be a period where you don’t talk. Just so that you can move on. that period might be different for everyone though and it’s always better for the slower to dictate the pace. And it also really depends on why you broke up, the easiest is if it was mutual and not anger based, I feel like then both people have a pretty good chance.

  • Ana Valladares

    I believe it all depends, as you correctly state, on each relationship. If there was pain and suffering involved in the break up, then a friendship is quite imposible. When they disrespected you as their partner, what makes you think they can respect you as friends? Maybe you can retain a “friendly” contact, but to build a real friendship – under those terms – is quite impossible. All of the hurt will not go away, unless you have an amazing capability of forgiveness.

    This may seem as a sad POV, but actually is quite realistic. My ex cheated son me, but more importantly disrespected me as a person, being rude, condescending and judgmental. While we run into each other all the time, I couldn’t quite salute him until recently, when I was finally able to forgive myself and him for everything. I wish we could be friends, but I find him undeserving of that friendship.

    On the other hand, one friend of mine has been able to hold a quite a nice friendship with her ex, all because, just as your friend said “they didn’t work romantically” but they do work as friends. They both understand that fact and thats whats makes them still care and be there for each other.

    I think it is safe to conclude that friendship with an ex depends on each case and what happened when it was time to call it quits, and of course, the honesty and motives with which you decide to brave the friendship waters.


    Greetings from Caracas, Venezuela. Your are the best blog EVER!

    Ana Teresa Valladares

    • ETM

      Hola Ana!

      Tienes totalmente razón! Depende de cómo y por qué terminó la relación. Mi pareja acaba de terminar conmigo. Lo venía venir desde hace mucho tiempo pero yo aún lo amo. Cortamos y regresamos en varias ocasiones (de ambas partes). La última vez, él fue el que cortó conmigo, dejó de comunicarse así como así, yo ya lo venía venir pero cuando sucedió me cuesta asimilar que ya no estaremos juntos ni vernos. Un mes después de dejarme de hablar, me escribió que cada quien siguiera su camino y que podíamos ser amigos.

      Aún no sé porqué quiero tener contacto con él si se iba de viaje con su ex, me decía que era con otros amigos, yo nunca le reclamé porque creía que me hacía un favor de estar conmigo. No creo que han regresado, pero han habido muchas mentiras. También como tú, recibí falta de respeto y también hubo cheating. También lo miraba en aplicaciones y tampoco reclamé. Nunca dije nada porque cuando estaba con él “olvidaba todo”.

      Como aún sigo obsesionado, le he escrito y nada. Unas veces me ha respondido con respuestas vagas, pero la mayoría de veces no ha respondido. No sé porqué no logro desprenderme de esta obsesión.

      Saludos desde Guatemala!

  • Jenny Tijing

    I think YES, you can be. It all depends on whether you’re over it, they’re over it, and enough time has passed that everyone else in your life is over it. By being “over it, I mean no one’s asking what happened anymore and you’ve settled with yourself why it didn’t work out.

  • Xaolynn Lee

    Yes, only when my current boyfriend is better and cooler than him.

  • wesc

    I’m very good friend with two of my exes, to the point of making floral arrangements for one’s wedding and going to yoga with his wife. I think it definitely this it IS possible. They key is that you should be SURE that it’s over and that the current relationship you have with them brings you honest joy.

    Sometimes you can realize that you love someone but not romantically anymore. If you’ve spent significant time with them, have a friendship, and don’t hold any “backburner” intentions, there’s no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  • Teresa

    There is no impossible way for being a ‘friend’ with your exes. I have been knowing my ex for 3 years as a good friend. And we only dating for 3 months after we split off because some problems. I feel hurt at first,losing him was broke my days.but as long the times goes on,after we doesnt talk with each other,not sending the message, i realised something is more important than that short dating relationship. He is my friend. I have been with him for good/bad situations. Even he doesnt hug me anymore,he always be someone that i’ve to care of. We built our relationship not become a lover but being a best regard. My ex already got the new girl. It hurts me a lot but now im just hope the great things will fulfill their days.


  • windmill

    I had a recent “a-ha” moment about my story in regards to all this great discussion.

    I recently broke up with my boyfriend of over three years 🙁 Although technically I think he should have broken up with me and was non-confrontational… long story sigh!

    It was a really beautiful, honest, loving, supportive, loyal relationship. For a long time I thought we would be have a family together, spend the rest of our lives together, etc. We had a good degree of not telling each other everything. I remember I held back in the beginning of this relationship and waited for him to say “I love you” first…

    Before breaking up, we took a break. It was super hard, but I initiated the break. We had rules of the break, including “don’t ask, don’t tell” and “don’t see anyone in our friend circles,” and eventually I learned he was seeing the ex of a good friend of mine by accident. It totally burned me, and I became this needy freak because I felt my relationship disintegrating before my eyes. When the break time ended, he told me he still wanted to continue the relationship, and we got back together for a little while.

    When we got back together, he read some of his thoughts he wrote down aloud. It was quite shocking, and I wasn’t sure where it was coming from. I remember one of the first things he said was how he had never told me before, but he had always been jealous of me talking to my two past ex’s, and that he had always felt insecure in comparison to them in terms of intellect or something. I’m realizing now that this was perhaps an excuse for his transgression or breaking of the rules. Although it still sort of baffles me. It also makes me realize that while I thought our relationship issues boiled down to lack of sexual compatibility, probably a deeper issue was lack of honest, back-and-forth empathetic communication. I think sometimes we were both often *too* positive in our relationship, and it became unhealthy, like having blinders on.

    I’ve been going through a really rough time in this breakup. Even though I was the one to initiate the break and also end things, I still feel like the needy one. I’ve had some emotional text outbursts lately. I try to control myself, and sometimes it works. I know it’s getting better over time. But now, part of me feels like his lack of communication makes total sense. He never liked to communicate much anyway. He’s stoic to a fault.

    I’m trying to decide if he and I will be friends after the breakup. In an emotional moment, I told him I didn’t think he deserved my friendship for a long time due to the way he behaved in the break. But I’m still not sure. But it seems like, based on the way he truly views being friends with your exes, maybe he believes in an ethics of cutting off past relationships.

    Anyway… phew know that kind of got off topic. Thanks for reading if you did 🙂 so glad to have discovered all your articles tonight, Haley. Thank you so much for helping me through this time. Grief is a form of praise.

  • Corey Waters

    I came across this article and I understand the concern. Alot is determined on trust, How much you trust the person your with. Secondly is facts. I think its completely possible to be friends with a ex with no strings attached. I dated someone for 4 years and we were friends prior. We had a bad break up but decided to forgive like two years later because we liked the same team, same sports. Whenever my tar heels played she would be like congrats. We became friends again and mutually decided never to cross that threshold. for 6 years we’ve been friends and do to current relationships not trusting me (take in account that was college when we dated) Ive had to stop being friends because of them only for them to cheat in the long run. She was always there with no strings attached to pray for me. Never once has she ever hinted towards being with me or me with her. Its always been about sports and uplifting each other.

  • Monica

    Full recommendation I would like to recommend to anyone suffering from breakup. 😟😟😟😟 dr_mack @(yahoo). com is a spell caster which you can rely on at any time. My boyfriend get back within 6 days. Great touch, great patience, and most importantly – it really works! 😟😟😟😟😟😟

    • ETM

      I’ll write him!

  • Edwin Parker

    Within the past week I am the casualty of having a friendship with an ex that just came to an end. I still had feelings for her and she had moved on and had a new boyfriend who she’s been with for 10 months. She wanted me to be the friend that could talk about “anything”. I tried to accommodate, but when she texted me last weekend asking what I thought about threesomes and admitted she thought a threesone with me and her b/f was one of her fantasies and a way to explore her sexuality, I did not react very well because of the feelings I still have for her. I always knew my motives for staying in touch was the hope of reconciliation and maybe to keep tabs on her. During the time of our “friendship” she occasionally would flirt with me or lament about how it would have been nice to stay together but because of the distance she couldn’t carry on our relationship. I considered her a soul mate and a once in a lifetime g/f which made the friendship even more susceptible to failure. It’s difficult to set aside romantic feelings especially when we were so intimate together. Her cutting me loose was the best thing she could do for me so I can find closure, heal, and move on. It also allows her to focus on her new relationship and her odyssey to explore her sexuality in midlife which seems to be a trend that is going more mainstream with women who are divorced, children grown, and finally being able to let go of the nurturing side of themselves and focus on more selfish pursuits.