Is It Possible to Be Friends With An Ex and Still Move On?

Is It Possible to Be Friends With An Ex and Still Move On

Your blog has been a godsend and I can’t thank you enough. After my 20-year marriage ended last year, out of the blue I fell in love with my child’s teacher. (He is divorced too.) We connected initially over our divorces and we had a 9 month whirlwind romance. I thought he was the love of my life until things spiraled downward-basically combine your “Peter Pan Syndrome” podcast with a few of the others and that was my boyfriend. (Scared of commitment, clinically depressed, and not sure he believes in monogamy etc.)

He would not text or call for a few days and then be back on board, loving and romantic. When we were together things were always amazing, but the time in between not knowing when I would hear from him or see him was a roller coaster. Despite all that, the one thing he was more than anything was honest. We talked about everything under the sun and developed a deep friendship which I think is what kept us together every time he starting to break things off – that and amazing passion which was also something I had not had. He was honest about his inability to sustain a long term relationship, despite the fact that he loves me very deeply.

All that to say – your infinite wisdom helped me “believe the negatives” and I’m trying to move on.

Towards the end, things were a bit grey and we fell into being friends with benefits (I thought we were still dating but was giving him space). When I asked him he said he was “enjoying hanging out and being friends”. I finally had to tell him I needed to cut all ties because I was still hoping for more and needed to get over him. My first question is, is that immature? It seems a little drastic to cut all ties with someone I care about so much but every time he would text or call I would get my hopes up.

I feel like I have lost a very deep, connected friendship. Not to mention I see him sometimes at my child’s school. I have read your blogs on being friends with exes and that you have many ex-girlfriends you stay in touch with. Our shared history and his help getting me through my divorce means a lot to me, and he has made it clear he would love to stay friends and always wants me in his life.

How do you know if and when you can be friends with an ex, or if it is even a good idea?

Sincerely,
Karin

Karin, I didn’t edit your question because I wanted you (and our readers) to see how painfully blind you are to the reality of your situation.

Sorry if that sounds like tough love. I just call it “love.” Anyone who cares about you would just as quickly point out why this friendship is a losing proposition.

He is – with no help from you – his own sinking ship – and you are somehow acting desperate to climb aboard and go down together.

  1. You’ve identified him as a Peter Pan who is scared of commitment, clinically depressed and not sure he believes in monogamy.

Run, Karin, Run!!! But, of course you don’t run. You stayed because it was too hard to let go of this heartwarming feeling:

  1. Not knowing when I would hear from him or see him was a roller coaster.

And if that roller coaster didn’t make you sick, you were gonna hold on for a second dose of unrequited love:

  1. We fell into being friends with benefits (I thought we were dating but was giving him space).

Evidently, giving him space didn’t do the trick, since he still didn’t want to commit to you. But, hey, give him credit. He’s an honest guy who told you the truth: You’re not “dating”…

  1. He’s enjoying hanging out and being friends.

In case you missed the first three red flags, hopefully that one hit you upside the head. But evidently, you need a little more proof that the hot stove that you’ve got your hand on, is, in fact hot.

So here you go, my friend:

It is not drastic or immature to cut all ties with someone you care about.

It is IMPERATIVE.

The last ex-girlfriend I had cut me off entirely. No texting. No social media. No returning my occasional phone calls. Cold turkey. Next time I saw her was when she accepted my Facebook friend request three years later when she was engaged to someone else. THAT’s how it’s done.

When I say that I’m in touch with ex-girlfriends, that’s a bit misleading. I probably have 50 Facebook friends I’ve gone on dates with. However, I don’t talk to a single ex-girlfriend anymore. I don’t need to. I’m happily married with kids.

You cannot be friends with an ex if you are still in love with the ex and secretly hope that he changes his mind and/or becomes a different person.

And that’s where things are different between us. Because you’re feeling sad, lonely, unstable and disconnected, you’re clinging to this guy like he’s a life raft in a vast ocean. The problem is that he’s a life raft with a gaping hole in it.

He is – with no help from you – his own sinking ship – and you are somehow acting desperate to climb aboard and go down together.

What you haven’t considered is all the other ships in the sea that aren’t sinking.

I don’t doubt the depth of your feelings or your connection, so please don’t doubt the power of my answer, which is a simple as can be.

You can be friends with an ex if you are satisfied with the state of the friendship.

You cannot be friends with an ex if you are still in love with the ex and secretly hope that he changes his mind and/or becomes a different person.

Now pick up the phone, tell him to stop contacting you, and don’t look back at the sinking life raft until it’s no longer tempting to do so.

98 Comments

  1. Been there, done that! One of the reasons why i am still single in my mid thirties is that i would fall for a man, and if he didn’t reciprocate, i would hang around as a platonic friend, hoping it would evolve into something more, that he would see the light and we would become romantic partners. This ate up years of my romantic life, until eventually the feelings would die down. The amount of time i was actually emotionally available for a new man was negligible, and it’s only in the past couple of years that i have been able to break this bad habit. Recently i started dating someone and he made it clear he didn’t see it becoming something serious. As lovely as he was, i wished him success and ended all contact. Now, instead of years, i feel able to start dating again within a week. What a difference!
    I know it’s very difficult to completely let go of someone who has made such an impression on you. The problem is that staying in contact with him is going to take up too much of your emotional real estate, and will stop you from being able to move on. There is an ulterior motive to your friendship, and neither of you will be very happy in it. Going cold turkey is difficult, but will also be very liberating once you implement it.

  2. GoWiththeFlow

    Malika,
    I hear you!  I think the big mistake I made in my last two relationships was hanging on and ignoring red flags because of sunk costs, fear of starting over, etc.  Really listening to what someone is telling me with their words and actions, accepting it as the truth, and then doing what is best for me, has saved me so much time and stress.  Going cold turkey is sometimes the only way to keep from diving for the reluctant partner’s coat tails as they’re headed for the door.
    Gotta say, if someone starts describing the relationship as a roller-coaster, the next action should be to get off!  Roller coasters are for amusement parks, not relationships!

  3. It’s very tempting to stay in these situations. Quite often the behaviour displayed is not done out of malice, it’s just all that they either can or are prepared to give. Fear of sunk cost, and the idea that each crumb of time and attention given to you is a signal that you are finally going to get what you want, blinds you to the reality that you are in a very unhealthy situation. Another blog describes it as a managing down of your expectations, and it is something a lot of us have fallen prey to.
    Being done with emotional roller coasters is such a good thing! Not only because it opens you up to stable dating situations, it frees up so much time for everything else! In the past year i have travelled around Europe, made great headway with my university courses and spent good times with my family and friends. Having the time and head space to date attractive and stable men feels like a bonus on top of all that.

  4. Hi Malika,
    I think we all know what she should do, but the question is how? How were you able to go from hanging on to dating again within a week? I remember dating too soon (one week after one breakup) and I just wanted to cry after going out. I don’t feel I gave those guys or myself with them a fair chance.
    I’ve gone no contact many times with different exes so it’s not just that.  I can still think about them and they can still take up emotional space even though I delete everything and never see them again.  The only thing that truly seems to work is to meet someone else.  Hopefully, someone better.  But then if that doesn’t work out, I could be back in a similar situation with the new guy.
    It’s interesting.  I broke up with one ex recently and never looked back.   With him, he just annoyed me and bored me that I can’t summon any emotion for him at all.  It’s not just cause I did the leaving. And even with him I was friends with him for a year after. I never wanted him back.  He was just too annoying. I thought I could take it in small doses as a friend.  My really good friend she gave me the best advice which isn’t for everyone, but worked for me, when I was thinking I wanted him back.  She said, “Spend more time with him and you’ll remember why you broke up with him.”  A month later I was out for good.  Again, that’s not for everyone.  But sometimes familiarity breeds contempt.  I think when I don’t see them I can make up all this crap about how they might have changed.  But when I see them again after a long time? The same as they were when I left? It’s not contempt, no.  That’s an expression.  But I see them more clearly.  No sexual haze.  And they are just . . . them. Nice and all but not for me.  And then I lose the desire to even speak with them.  So that’s me.
    I think cold turkey does work initially, but if I really had a real connection with a guy my imagination will go wild (even with me never ever contacting them) that they’ve changed. Or I’ve changed.  I’m learning to rein that imagination in.  🙂 It’s difficult because then with new guy I want to give him that space and hope that he’s different.   So Evan gave good advice, it’s just hard to actually do for everyone.
    S.

  5. Hi S.
    It’s not easy at all, moving on from a date you were really keen on and back into the dating game. And I think dating someone briefly is a very different kettle of fish than exiting a relationship, which is far more complex. That, unfortunately needs way more healing time. I get the familiarity breeds contempt argument from your friend as that can work. Even if they are a really great guy, the fact that the relationship is so dissatisfying can make your feelings dissipate. Why that never worked for me is that once i am having luvvy duvvy feelings i am all in and even the crumbs can feel amazing (‘wow, i am finally getting a sliver of what i want’), which is why the no contact works better for me and provides clarity for all parties involved. I was once in a FWB situation on a crush that lasted for a year and half. He liked my company, but was open from the start that he was going to keep on dating other women. As my feelings had so spiraled out of control, it took a year after me breaking it off before i could even look at another guy. That was two and a half years of emotional space that i could have devoted to dating men who weren’t going to treat me as an emotional sounding board/sexy on standby as another commenter termed it on another post. Never again!
    I ended contact with my last date two weeks ago, after the fifth date whereby by the end i could feel a distance that wasn’t there before. He was clear but respectful about his feelings afterwards and while that made me sad i at least didn’t feel misled or used. After a solid year of reading this blog regularly I learnt not to place too much value on the outcome of our wonderful dates and that, coupled with his respectful treatment of me, is the reason why i am able to move on relatively quickly.
    The imagination running wild that you are talking about sounds very familiar, and it is something that can drives us crazy. ‘What if we are the exception to the rule?, ‘What if he changes his mind’, ‘What if he suddenly gets over his ex and sees how great I am’. Maybe some other commenter has better advice on dealing with the thoughts themselves. My own, maybe trite, advice is to go out and have fun with your family and friends. Being surrounded by people who don’t give you crumbs can be one of the best healers in this phase.

  6. Hi Mailka,
    FWIW, I think the best way to move forward sometimes is to make a decision to take a break from relationships for a designated time period. For example, give yourself 6 months. During that time, decide what it is you need to work on so that you won’t find yourself in the same situation 6 months from now. For each person, it will be unique. Maybe setting better boundaries with people in general would be helpful? I’d also take this breather and indulge myself more than normal. A vacation, more frequent trips to the spa, shopping, whatever makes you feel good and a little spoiled. You could also try something new that you’ve always wanted to try.
    In my case, I’ve decided I’m taking a relationship hiatus until my kids are out of the house. I will date occasionally, but I won’t get involved with anyone or any situation that takes up more time or emotional energy than I’m wanting to give at this point. I want to really enjoy these last 2 years with my almost grown children. They deserve that and any future relationship deserves to be a priority, which it won’t be for at least a couple of years.
    One more thing. My marriage ended pretty badly. But I’ve come to realize that not only can I survive anything, I can choose to thrive as well. I believe in myself and I know that if I ever end up in another unhealthy relationship, I trust myself enough to know I will remove myself promptly; just like I did from that marriage. I also think I will choose better in the first place. For me, that’s what it comes down to. The confidence that I trust myself enough to be able to avoid potentially bad situations or to extract myself from one. I think that mindset takes the fear out of the future. So, believe in and trust yourself! : )

  7. Being surrounded by people who don’t give you crumbs can be one of the best healers in this phase.
    I think that’s the best advice ever.  Like having home-cooked dinner rather than takeout every night.   One friend once asked me, would I rather be alone or get what they had to give.  Wasn’t it better than nothing?
    No, it’s not better than nothing. If for the reason that it trains you to accept less than you want or deserve.  I’d rather be alone.  And I mean that for platonic friendships!  But it’s good for me to be who I really am instead of pretending I can live on scraps.  The right people, romantic and otherwise, are out there.  Just sometimes takes a while to find them.

  8. S and Karin, if you want your happy ending, you have to have nerves of steel when dating. Cut people off cold turkey who are just keeping you around and don’t look back.  Mourn, feel everything, acknowledge your feelings and then get back in the saddle and go out on other dates, with more than one guy at a time.  Usually I did this after about 1 week.  Sure you may have to go through a couple of guys before the last one fades, but as long as you don’t do anything stupid like sleep with another guy before commitment just to get over this guy (unless you’re one of those women who can have NSA sex), time will heal and you will forget about the last one when you’re on to the next one.  Eventually you will get there and find the right person.  You just need to have an unwavering belief that this will happen, keep your eye on the ultimate goal, and let nothing distract you or get in your way, including yourself.  If you can’t always find such a backbone, hire a professional to keep you on track and tell you the brutal truth when you need it.  Don’t rely on your friends for this.  They will have the tendency to tell you what you want to hear.  Evan will tell you I went through the dating process with somewhat brutal efficiency and it was really a great partnership to get things done and find my husband. We are very happy but had I gotten hung up on all those other guys I had dated over the course of a couple of months I never would have met my husband.

  9. Yeah, as I said before a week was too soon for me.  That particular guy (not even an ex) ended things in a not nice way that really hurt my feelings. I wasn’t in love with him or anything but my feelings were too raw one week out. I did try.
    One of the reasons I haven’t moved forward with Evan is that I don’t want brutal honesty. Hell, gentle honest words stay with me for years. I’ve always been very sensitive and have been since I was a child.  It’s not something to grow out of or therapy yourself out of.   I do take rather long breaks from dating.  So it may take me longer to find my husband.  That’s okay.  I’d rather it go this way.  Slow and steady can still win the race and I’d rather do it with honoring who I am and my process.  I do have a steadfast belief I’ll find him. And I still keep getting back on the horse.  I go on the sites, I go out and meet lotsa men. Just takes me some time to get back into dating mode. I rather enjoy my breaks.  Last year was one the best years of my life and I didn’t have a boyfriend at all!  (I did go on dates, but nothing official.)
    And I have tried to move through things quickly (graduate program, early-ish sex, breakups) and when I do usually things crash and burn pretty spectacularly.  But I’m resilient.  There is nothing that can crash that I can’t mend and learn from.  And that’s what I do. 🙂

  10. To clarify as i do not want to mislead: I ended things with my date two weeks ago, and feel that i will be able to date as of next week. Three weeks to get over a promising prospect might seem a bit much, but it beats the year or years of dating hiatuses i used to devote to deal with similar disappointments that i indulged in in the past.

  11. Malika,
    I ended things with my date two weeks ago, and feel that i will be able to date as of next week.
    Several people have told me that if you date multiple people and feel you have options, you won’t get hung up on one early prospect. I usually find one person I really like and decide on him: Him. I want him. But if it doesn’t work out, I spend WAY too much stewing about it.

  12. All of this! I spent YEARS in the pre-Evan dark ages stewing over different men and wondering whether by some miracle they would rethink their choices/come back to me. When i finally learnt later in life to still be enthusiastic about someone, but to value far more what kind of attention and effort the man was putting into dating me, that’s when love and dating started to be fun instead of a roller coaster that harmed my scholastic and work career.
    I have tried the multiple dating at one time, even though it’s seen as unusual in the country where i live. I’m either in maybe-but-probably-not mode with all parties involved, which feels very dissatisfying. Or i am really into one (your him-i-want-him), and the other is there as a sort of backup i don’t pay enough attention to, which just feels disingenuous. From experimenting with multiple dates i have found it really isn’t for me as i am not really giving all of them a fair chance. I do go out on lots of first dates though and during subsequent dating i suss out fairly quickly what their intentions are by the type of attention they are paying me.

  13. Emily, the original

    Malika,
    I have tried the multiple dating at one time, even though it’s seen as unusual in the country where i live. I’m either in maybe-but-probably-not mode with all parties involved, which feels very dissatisfying. Or i am really into one (your him-i-want-him), and the other is there as a sort of backup i don’t pay enough attention to, which just feels disingenuous.
    I didn’t mean you are going on a date Monday with one guy and on a date Tuesday with another, etc. I just meant that if you go out for the first time with one guy on, for example, a Saturday night, and then several days go by and he hasn’t asked you out again for the upcoming weekend, why not accept a first date with a second dude? (This would be if you were online dating and had other prospects. It may be more difficult to line up dates back to back with men you meet in real life.) I don’t know about you, but I have practically sat by the phone waiting for the first guy to call and I don’t think that’s productive. Plus, if you really like someone early on, you bring with you all kinds of expectations and put too much pressure on the situation.

  14. Hi Emily:
    That second type of multiple dating, i have definitely done that. YMMV, but if a guy doesn’t app/call you within a couple of days after the first date, that’s pretty much been a guarantee in my dating life that they are not going to call at all. So I go out on a lot of first dates, back to back.
    If i really like someone after the first few couple of dates, i call off dates with any other men i am e-mailed with or met. I have learnt that if you are really excited about one person, it’s pointless to date other men.

  15. Emily, the original

    Malika ,
    If a guy doesn’t app/call you within a couple of days after the first date, that’s pretty much been a guarantee in my dating life that they are not going to call at all.
    I had one text me THREE MONTHS after the first date! All I could think was: Is this mofo for real?!  🙂
    If i really like someone after the first few couple of dates, i call off dates with any other men i am e-mailed with or met. I have learnt that if you are really excited about one person, it’s pointless to date other men.
    Yes, agreed.

  16. I think dating multiple is optimal if you can manage it. Being a single mom it makes it harder for me to do that. But I do the best I can lol

  17. Hi Malika and GoWithTheFlow,
    In your opinion how important was
    1. Time spent together
    2. Other men that you were possibly dating?
    I ask because I am wondering if the difference between this guy and others from your past is the amount of time you spend with him-1 or 2 dates and maybe 3 “short” phone calls vs. a month of going out, spending entire weekends together and talking on the phone for hours. And also secondly, chatting with and going out on dates with other men.
    These two variables seem to lead to one thing-Focus.
    I wonder do we fall so hard for people who don’t really want us because we focus to much time and attention on them and the non-relationship?

  18. Hi Adrian:
    The last question is a good one and rather chicken or egg. We can also spend a lot of time and attention on someone because we have fallen so hard on the initial image which has been presented to us. That has been my experience. I have been guilty of the past of falling obsessively in love with someone’s potential without either gauging first what their true level of interest is in me or figuring out whether the image they present on the initial date is correct.
    Part of the learning process for me in the last couple of years is taking a step back and getting to know someone first before i dive all in with my feelings. In these instances, i clung on to the initial idea i had of them and the euphoria that came with meeting them and thinking i had met prince Charming, long after a barrage of subsequent information proved both the prince charming idea wrong and their motivation in getting to know me rather lacking (the latter probably due to my over enthusiasm after only a short date or meeting).
     

  19. GoWiththeFlow

    Hey Adrian,
    Let me give you a little more background.  I was in relationships with the men sequentially.  Broke up, after a year together, with ExBF #1, then two months later, the first guy I go out with after the breakup is ExBF #2.
    I wasn’t initially strongly physically attracted to Ex#1, but over the initial first few weeks my attraction for him grew exponentially.  We could talk for hours and that included controversial subjects where we had differing opinions that weren’t going to change.  So in the first several months we had an agree to disagree policy.  Until we didn’t.  Eventually I felt like I was with a true believing preacher who had appointed himself the difficult task of trying to convert me.  Except I was NEVER going to convert on some things.  I think he felt that partners in a serious relationship should agree 100% on cultural, political, and spiritual issues and it wasn’t enough that I could say “I see why you think that way.”  And he never said “I see why you think that way” to me.  I was just wrong or not being logical.
    I kept trying to be understanding and to give him space, and to avoid discussions that might cause disagreements.  I was so busy trying to navigate our differences and avoid any conflict that I ignored that I was often tense around him and I wasn’t having much fun.  Our break up was over the phone and non-dramatic.  We went cold turkey and as far as I know, didn’t bad mouth each other to other people.  The overwhelming feeling I had was that of relief.  I felt emotionally drained.  Upon reflection,  I realized I should have ended it several months before when it was obvious that for him, having a girlfriend with differing beliefs was a huge issue for him.  But I was so busy trying to make it work because of sunk costs, a ticking biological clock, and dread at the thought of having to start over, plus there were things about him that I REALLY liked, that I didn’t ask myself whether we should try and make it work.
    For ExBF#2 He love bombed me at the beginning and it felt amazing and was so different from how my previous relationship started out.  We went on our first date the second week of November and for Christmas he bought me a very expensive piece of jewelry, that I wasn’t expecting, and invited me to his sister’s house for christmas day where I met his whole family, including the parents. He took me out and introduced me to his friends, coworkers, and office staff and introduced me as his girlfriend.  His office manager said to me at the office holiday party, “Thank you for making boss man so happy.”
    Things progressed through the winter, and then in the spring I realized that we were still in a twice a week date pattern with an occasional long weekend or 3rd day added in.  Outside of planned holiday type events, I wasn’t invited to any events that involved his high school aged kids, like to one of their football games (his son eventually went to college on a football scholarship) or to just hang out and go to the movies.  He did these things with them by himself.
    So I tried to be understanding and I made excuses for him.  The divorce was hard on the kids, he’s just protecting them.  His ex is crazy and very difficult, I need to give him time. Yada, yada, yada.  Blah, blah, blah.  Then the in-between phone calls became shorter and further apart.  I was very anxious about and didn’t know where I stood.  One night at dinner (it was summer by this time) when there was an appropriate moment in the conversation, I segued into the question of whether I was going to be included in more every day activities moving forward.  Basically he said no.  And in a VERY hurtful way.  What I learned was that I was considered a perpetual part-time companion and fuck buddy.  If I hadn’t left my cell phone at home I would have called a friend to come pick me up at the restaurant.  Instead we had a very uncomfortable ride back to my house where he dropped me off, and hesitatingly said “Good night” and I replied, “No this is good bye.”  That was it.  Cold turkey.
    Looking back, at the latest I should have ended it when things stalled in the spring.  It was a huge learning experience about the difference between being understanding and making excuses for a partner’s behavior.  Also that someone could have valid reasons for something, but that didn’t mean I was obligated to accommodate that.
    Much later, after I read the book Attached and did more reading on adult attachment styles, I realized he is probably an avoidant (and his ex was anxious style which is why their relationship was so toxic).  I do have some anxious style triggers that I have to be mindful of, and looking back, I think I got triggered when he was pulling away as far as my emotions and thoughts were concerned.  But I did manage to not fall into anxious style “pursue” behavior, like calling frequently, or popping by uninvited.  I had gone full on anxious-crazy with a guy (a narcissist or sociopath) when I was in my early 20s and after I got off that crazy-train I had vowed to never let things get like that again.
    FWIW, since it was brought up in other comments, now that there’s water under the bridge, I could be casual friends with ExBF#1.  But not with Ex#2.  The reason being was because #1 and I had established a solid friendship.  We  had a basic incompatibility issue, akin to a religious difference, that made a marriage with kids impossible, but a friendship possible.  With #2, I feel that he was dishonest by omission.  He knew I wanted to get married and have kids (and early in the relationship he said he wanted to eventually remarry) but he didn’t see himself getting married to me, and he kept that information to himself.
     

  20. “I wonder do we fall so hard for people who don’t really want us because we focus to much time and attention on them and the non-relationship?” interesting question. I think for me personally I tolerated things I should not have tolerated because I was already invested. He knows my flaws I know his. We have good times and memories together. We seen each other nakey lol. I mean I don’t want to not be in a relationship. So instead of letting them go and getting back out there I am trying to make it work when they do things that just don’t work. But that’s just my 2 cents.

  21. amen to this post about before wasting years to only wasting a week! I am sick to my stomach when I think about the unnecessary time pining over a man after it was over! our time is precious!

  22. I was just dating someone who was dealing with an ex who was threatening suicide because they he had started dating again. They had broken up a year ago. While he was attending to her and feeling guilty and manipulated, I was put on the back burner. He didn’t seem to understand how this came across to me. I walked; it was obvious there was still drama there and he wasn’t truly available. It was very disappointing. If you are serious about your future, leave your ex’s in the past.

  23. This is my story. And has been for two of the three years I had been with this man. After spending time with him Friday only to be ignored the next two days I walked to my phone and blocked him. The roller coaster ride I willingly rode is over. No love is worth the pain I feel. Thank you for your tough love. It affirms that I’m doing the right thing.

  24. Yet Another Guy

    What you have is not love. Love is a bidirectional bond. A one-sided bond is not love. It is a relationship of convenience for one party and a heartbreak for the other party.

  25. “After spending time with him Friday only to be ignored the next two days I walked to my phone and blocked him. The roller coaster ride I willingly rode is over. ” im happy for you!

  26. Karin asked:
    “I finally had to tell him I needed to cut all ties because I was still hoping for more and needed to get over him. My first question is, is that immature?”
    Just taking these two sentences out of context, you’ve described the normal reason to cut all ties, even when you’re talking about two healthy people in a normal relationship.
    You were in an unhealthy relationship. Therefore, I agree with Evan’s assessment that it’s imperative to cut all ties.
     
    Karin asked:
    “How do you know if and when you can be friends with an ex, or if it is even a good idea?”
    You can be friends with an ex once you’ve completely moved on and have no interest in getting back together with them. Err on the side of caution.

  27. “How do you know if and when you can be friends with an ex, or if it is even a good idea?”
    The stronger the connection you had with the guy, especially on multiple levels (sexual, emotional, mental, spiritual) the worse an idea it is.  It’s almost like all the juice from that relationship has to be run out, nothing left, like a wrung-out washcloth.  And even then, can this person be a really good friend to you?  That’s the real question.  What does friendship really mean to you?
    I’m noticing that sometimes, ex or not, men don’t always know how to be a great friend in a way that I would like.  Evan said something about being satisfied with the state of the friendship.  We should, in my opinion, think about that with all our friendships.  If the person can’t really be the friend you want and need, if the friendship not consistently bringing you joy, why not look for friends who could?
    It’s rough, it’s uncomfortable, lonely and new decision.  The devil you know is certainly more familiar.  But there is the chance that you could find great people who could be real friends to you.  A great boyfriend.  A great life.  But that door can only open, by closing this one firmly.  It will be rough for some time, but I have hope everyone in this situation can make it to the other side. 🙂

  28. Yet Another Guy

    Your post is on the money. Men have a difficult time being platonic friends with a women for whom they feel passion. It is darn near impossible for a man to be platonic friends with a woman immediately after a hot and heavy relationship. Men are better able to compartmentalize sex and love.

  29. I sometimes think that men aren’t good with being friends with women the way women are used to being friends.   A platonic female-female friends can be very intense and well, like family.  I don’t know if men get that.  It’s not always that type of friendship, sure.  But sometimes it is.
    And if the men I meet aren’t good at relationships and some really aren’t, they aren’t likely to be good at being my friend.  Even men who aren’t exes.  I’m about to phase out a platonic male friend.  Zero interest romantically on both sides.  Both of us date other people.   He’s way older than me and divorced.  But he can’t be the kind of friend I want.  I didn’t think that type of friendship was exclusive to women–and maybe it isn’t–but he honestly can’t be that friend for me.
    So YAG, it’s not just about sex and love.  I wonder if men have trouble being platonic friends even with women they feel zero passion for.  Maybe the men can speak on that? Being friends with a woman can be very different than being friends with other men.  I wonder if men realize that. Not with every woman to be sure.  But certainly with women like me.
    I like this post.  It made me realize that it’s okay to set the bar high. Not just for romance but in general.  It’s not that it’s impossible to find what you want, it’s just you have to have the patience, determination, and tenacity to keep at it looking for it.

  30. Yet Another Guy

    It was nice outside, so I went for a walk today with a woman who I consider to be friend at this point. I met her online, but we have never been out on a date. I helped her re-write her profile as well as select better photos, which resulted in a significant increase in traffic. She is a bit of a well-educated tomboy. The photos that she selected and the text that she wrote did not show her feminine side, and it was killing her chances with a lot of men.
    Anyway, I have zero interest in being more than friends. I suspect that she may want to be more than friends, but I have made my intentions fairly clear. She knows that I am into “girly girls,” which is not her. She even mentioned it today. At this point, I see her more like one of my sisters. I know that it sounds weird, but I feel the need to care for her as only a male friend can care for her. I want to help her find a man with whom she can be happy, and I want to help her avoid being used. I do not usually behave in this way with women I meet online. Most women are either pursued or placed in my rear view mirror.

  31. NO to friends and all sorts of contacts. COLD TURKEY is the key.
    How…?! Easy – occupy yourself with something – project,work,travel..whatever.. When “he” comes to your head, tell yourself-Order yourself : ” I will think about this Tomorrow”..when tomorrow comes and this happen again,order yourself again.. The physical occupation you have and the “orders” to think about him tomorrow WILL make it so much easier and in 2,3-4 days everything will haze out.
    There is NO friendship with an ex / except may be in years time,as Evan pointed/. It is a scale – you meet someone, you like each other,you become friends, than become close in relationship..trust etc.. IF this top of the scale breaks for whatever reason, is NOT going back on the scale. Is Cold turkey Cut and Go. Much better for everyone.

  32. I hear you YAG.  I’ve been in hot and heavy relationships with a few women and they ended the relationship and wanted to be friends. My answer was always “No thanks.” I’d rather be raked over hot coals than burn in the purgatory of unrequited lust.

  33. Lots of great input. Malika, I so relate to everything you say. From the years of wasted on yearning for men who had rejected me to the years I wasted not dating because of the disappointment.   You sound very self-aware and like you are making progress on yourself. I hope this translates into better dating experiences for you because you deserve it. Also, I was in a similar situation as you recently and after four weeks I am just starting to Think about dating. Four weeks may be a lot for some people for such a short relationship, but at least I didn’t stay where or enter a relationship where I saw issues. It is hard to move on when someone seem so promising and some of the other prospects out there don’t match up. What matters is you’re doing it better than you use to and maybe one day we will both improve even further.

  34. Tron Swanson

    I’m guilty of this, sadly. My most serious girlfriend left me for another guy…but I tried to be friends with her, because I was convinced that it wouldn’t last. Well, it did, and I wasted years waiting for her. Now, that didn’t stop me from having FWBs (and even another relationship), but it definitely held me back in certain ways.

  35. Is this me? Did the letter writer reach into my brain and write my situation too? This is spooky.
    Thank you for this well-timed post and sage advice – it was the wake up call I needed today.

  36. I have been that guy, great connection with a girl but ended it when I realized we weren’t on the same page – I wasn’t going to able to move into her life for a number of years (young kids and she was an hour away) I think you did the right thing. Personally I have been open to talks with an ex to find closure (my wife did it for me when she left) but it takes time to be able to be friends, I think it depends on if you are capable of keeping boundaries. One ex, I have great trouble resisting her sexually so I cut comms, better for both.

  37. Evan is spot on. The only ex I have any contact with is my ex husband. The marriage broke up due to circumstance, not incompatibility. We remain friends today, years later. Other breakups were cold turkey; no calls/social media/seeing mutual friends/going to the places we’d go to. Hard to do in a small town with no other options but necessary. I no longer date in this area so I need never see the person again if things go south. The OP also needs to take a hiatus from dating, figure out why she was OK tolerating the situation in the first place.

  38. There’s simply never a good reason to stay “friends” with an ex. You are not friends, you are former lovers and one of you walked away at least mildly broken hearted, this is not how friends are made. Sorry but anyone who claims orherwise is full of shit. I would never date a guy who is in contact with his ex, nor am I “friends” with any.
    And yes it’s easy to cut it off. Just don’t contact him. Delete his number from you address book if you must, don’t make any excuses. No contact means no contact, not if there’s an earth quake in chile, not if its his bday or Christmas, not if you’re at your favorite date spot thinking of him.

  39. Stacy2 said:
    “There’s simply never a good reason to stay ‘friends’ with an ex.”
    I think it’s often necessary to stay civil, and preferable to remain friendly. I dated four women who attended my church. At least seven women from the dance studio. Another that was part of a different circle of friends.
    We don’t have to be good friends after the breakup. But unless one or both of us is willing to abandon the social circle we belong to, we will run across each other … frequently. The more amicable we remain after the split, the easier it will be as we continue to cross paths.
     
    If I met the woman through online dating, it never was a concern. I never saw any of them again.

  40. Absolutely, I think you should always be civil with everybody in social situations. A “hello how are you” and some small talk at a function does not equal being “friends”

  41. There’s no reason you can conceive of, Stacy2. Few things in the complex world of adult dating, friendship & social interactions are absolutely black and white. Karl R below gave you one example where being at least friendly and on good terms with exes is a good idea. I can think of others (if they share custody of children, live in a very small town etc).
    If you would never date a guy who was in contact with his ex you’re cutting off all single parents, or people who’ve dated people in their ongoing social circle, to name a few. It also implies that perhaps you’d be happier dating someone who hated all his exes, rather than someone who was at least friendly with one or more of his exes (for reasonable reasons).
    It’s not full of shit. Not everyone thinks the same way as you.

  42. No, sorry, there really  is no good reason to be friends. What you are talking about is not being friends. It’s called being polite. Being friends means being in more or less constant contact, knowing intimate details about each other’s lives, sharing feelings/thoughts/plans, getting together (the 2 of you) for coffee/lunch/drinks/dinners or doing things together or in small groups. This has nothing to do with simply being courteous in a social setting (which btw you can and should be even if you hate the person), or with having a transnational/logistical communication with the other parent of your children upon divorce (which is never one’s choice to begin with. i am sure most divorced people would prefer to never see the other again).

  43. Stacy2
    Out of curiosity, if a man was in all other ways perfect for you, would you dump him once you found out he was found out he was friends with his ex, no questions asked, because there’s “no good reason” and he must be “full of shit”? Or, would you suspend judgment, open your mind and try to understand why first?

  44. If he was friends with her under my definition above – I’d dump him. “Friends with ex” equals “i don’t have any real friends who i didn’t used to fuck and I just like keeping her around in case I need a booty call”. Not to mention no emotionally healthy woman would keep her ex in an orbit (she has her current b/f and girlfriends), so I would consider both of these bad news- they can have each other’s “friendship”, but i want no part of it.

  45.  “Friends with ex” equals “i don’t have any real friends who i didn’t used to fuck and I just like keeping her around in case I need a booty call”.
    Project much, kiddo?

  46. For yourself?

  47. No. You seem to always suspect the worst possible motives behind people’s actions, especially when it comes to men. In my experience, individuals who think that way just project their own flaws and insecurities onto others.
    Obviously, there would be a problem if someone was always spending time, one on one, with an ex. However, if the split was amicable and you share a history, I see nothing wrong with occasionally grabbing a drink/coffee together. This is especially true with an ex since there is no longer any sexual mystery or tension.

  48. I see nothing wrong with occasionally grabbing a drink/coffee together.
    And I do. Now what?
    What is the purpose of that drink or coffee? I have my current bf to talk about intimate details of my life, my life-long girl-friends to bitch about my current bf, my family to talk about anything but my current boyfriend, my colleagues and clients to talk about business and heck, i even have life-long platonic male friends to have some philosophical discussions with on occasion. What I don’t have is any need – or any time – for any ex-es. When i am done with them, i am done with them. YMMV

  49. Henriette

    @Stacy2:  Many grounded, lovely people maintain friendships with exes.  Evan is friends with some of his exes.  I’m friends with several of my exes.  Others posters here have mentioned that they are, too.  So, no one is suggesting that you can’t dump/ refuse to date any guy who is still friends with an ex.  However, this will narrow your field, significantly: a field that is already frightfully thin due to your income/ net worth requirements.
    Ty Tashiro’s  “The Science of Happily Ever After” (which should’ve been an article rather than a full book) is based on sound research.  The author posits that we can pick 3 non-negotiable traits to look for in a mate, but if we demand more than 3, we’re statistically unlikely to find them.  He points out that attributes like kindness, integrity and lack of neuroticism correlate most highly with happy marriages.  So if you’re already rejecting all guys who are friends with exes, and all guys who don’t earn as much as you, you’ve almost reached your “demands limit.”  We should all select, carefully.

  50. KK,
    Most of that article is completely misleading.
    What the researchers actually found:
    “The study found that while keeping an ex as a friend may not be the most practical option, the main reasons people wanted to stay friends was because their ex was reliable, trustworthy or if there was a strong sentimental attachment.”
    The additional sensational finding that the article focused on:
    “However, when people scored highly for dark personality traits – which include elements of narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism – they were more likely to choose practicality and the chance of hooking up as key drivers for remaining friends.”
     
    Putting it more plainly:
    If your ex is a normal person, his/her motives for remaining friends are benign. If your ex is a psychopath or narcissist, his/her motives for remaining friends will be pragmatic (for his/her own benefit).
    This may explain the broad difference in opinions expressed in this thread. None of my girlfriends were psychopaths or narcissists, so if they wanted to remain friends with their exes (or remain friends with me), that choice seemed completely benign.

  51. Evan Marc Katz

    Thanks for your reading (and reading comprehension), Karl. That alone sets you apart from folks who take confirmation bias to a whole new level by posting things whose headlines make their case, but whose facts actually undermine it.

  52. Henriette,
    Evan said, “When I say that I’m in touch with ex-girlfriends, that’s a bit misleading. I probably have 50 Facebook friends I’ve gone on dates with. However, I don’t talk to a single ex-girlfriend anymore. I don’t need to. I’m happily married with kids”.

  53. @Henriette:
    No, not so. Evan actually says:
    However, I don’t talk to a single ex-girlfriend anymore. I don’t need to. I’m happily married with kids.
    And that ^^ is exactly an example of an emotionally healthy man’s approach to this issue. He doesn’t need to. Makes perfect sense. If a person has a need to stay in touch with his ex – IMO he has issues and I don’t have the time to figure out what those issues are (though an armature psychologist in me opines that he/she is a narcissist keeping them around for an occasional ego boost and a booty call. Pass.)

  54. I never stated my case. I simply said, “interesting article”, because I found it… interesting.
    Never gave an opinion. Not negative. Not positive. Just… interesting.

  55. Henriette

    @Stacy2 & KK – I used the wrong verb tense.  Evan is not now friends with any of his exes.  But in the not-so-distant past, he was.
    I even wrote to my ex on Facebook today. She’s had us over for dinner multiple times. (from the Should I Let my Boyfriend be Friends with my Ex post)
    I’ll wager Evan is a healthy, loyal spouse now and that he was also a healthy, loyal spouse then.  The gist of that post was
    Good men and women stay in touch with their exes because their exes are kind people with whom they share a lot of history. What you forget when you’re jealous of the ex is that there’s a REASON they broke up. And if he’s with you now, trust that there’s a reason he’s with you, too.
    This post is different.  It’s about a woman clinging to an unhealthy friendship with a man for whom she holds unrequited feelings.  In this specific case, the friendship prolongs a painful, unhealthy dynamic so should be terminated, at least until the letter writer is able to treat it just like any other friendship.  However, in cases where a platonic friendship can be established, there’s no need to end contact on principle.

  56. @Henriette:
    This post is different.  It’s about a woman clinging to an unhealthy friendship with a man for whom she holds unrequited feelings. 
    I wouldn’t want to speak for Evan, but perhaps he could clarify – if a person is – allegedly – just a friend, why suddenly does he no longer “need to stay in touch with her”? Like, one day she’s having them over for dinner and the next day there’s no need to stay in touch? I am not trying to imply anything negative here just think it goes to further show that this isn’t real friendship. With my real friends, I will always have the need to speak with them, married or not.
    Now, I have always maintained that “friends with an ex” is bullshit. It’s just too complex of a situation to decipher – and like i said who’s got the time? May be 1 out of 100 of those will be “benign” – but even then how do you know that it is mutually benign so to speak? How do you know that the said ex doesn’t have inferior motives, is truly over your bf, is not going to get him back or try to seduce him? You don’t. Why is she hanging around with your b/f instead of her own? Too much hair on this situation. And i am not jealous of the ex, i just think its bullshit and recipe for complications and trouble and a red flag. And friends with more than on ex? Definitely issues.
    But, folks, by all means go date somebody who’s doing that. YMMV. I don’t think it is as prevalent even. In my entire life it came up exactly once – and yes that was bad news, just a personality who tried to surround himself with these women he used to date and constantly text them, or they would text him, they would get together for dinners and god knows what else. I mean WTF? This dynamic isn’t for me, has never been.

  57. Stacy2 asked:
    “I wouldn’t want to speak for Evan, but perhaps he could clarify – if a person is – allegedly – just a friend, why suddenly does he no longer ‘need to stay in touch with her’? Like, one day she’s having them over for dinner and the next day there’s no need to stay in touch?”
    I suspect the most relevant piece of information is “with kids”.
    There’s a group of friends (me, plus three other guys) who were getting together every Sunday afternoon for at least six years. This group was a continuation of a group that had been meeting regularly for twenty years (but most of the original group had moved, and others had been introduced to the group over the years).
    One guy was married with kids. The other three of us were bachelors. (We generally worked around the one guy’s daddy-duties.) Within a one year period, the other three of us got married, and two of them moved to the suburbs and became fathers. We stopped getting together, because our collective schedules became impossible.

  58. Evan Marc Katz

    That’s about right. I was in touch with many people I dated (especially briefly) throughout my early thirties. When I was childless and living in the center of LA with my wife, it was easy to see them. Then we got pregnant, moved to a suburb 45 minutes outside LA proper, and had two kids. I only see some of my closest friends from my first fifteen years in LA about twice a year – and they’re also guys who have wives and kids. The women I dated? Some got married. Some remained single. None were central enough to my life to actively make plans outside Facebook. The last time I was supposed to see an ex-girlfriend, she was going to come to my house in the suburbs with her son (she was divorced). As it turns out, my wife’s water broke that day and we had my son. Never rescheduled the playdate. Yet I have nothing but warmth and affection towards this ex-girlfriend of mine. It’s just life for busy people with responsibilities in their 40’s – friends are mostly out of sight, out of mind. My “closest” friends these days are guys who have kids in the same school as my kids. I left a Hollywood fantasy football league to start one with a bunch of suburban fathers that I saw more. This isn’t a gender-based issue or a sex-based issue. It’s a matter of all of us having a finite amount of hours in the day. Which reminds me: I should get back to work…

  59. Emily, the original

    Henriette,
    Ty Tashiro’s  “The Science of Happily Ever After” (which should’ve been an article rather than a full book) is based on sound research.  The author posits that we can pick 3 non-negotiable traits to look for in a mate, but if we demand more than 3, we’re statistically unlikely to find them.  He points out that attributes like kindness, integrity and lack of neuroticism correlate most highly with happy marriages.  
    It would seem like kindness, integrity and a lack of neurosis  would just be givens. As in, everyone would want that in a partner, but what would be non-negotiable would lifestyle choices/preferences, such as wants kids/doesn’t want kids, wants to spend lots of time with family of origin/wants to spend only 2 holidays a year with family of origin, values friends and sees them as important in life/has no or few friends and wants to see them once a year, values freedom and a sense of autonomy/wants to do everything together, wants to make and spend lots of money/doesn’t care about material wealth, etc.

  60. Henriette

    @Emily, the Original:
    It would seem like kindness, integrity and a lack of neurosis  would just be givens.  
    I know, right?  It would seem that they’d be “givens,” and yet I know far too many people who is unhappily wed to someone who is lacking in one or more of these traits.  Maybe people don’t bother to make certain that their mate has these qualities, perhaps because they just assume they’re there?  Or perhaps they’re so thrilled to’ve found someone who earns $x or who is gorgeous or who will run marathons with them that they just can’t be bothered to verify these more “boring” attributes?  Or perhaps their mate is a good liar for the first few years?  I don’t know why.  I do know that there are many unhappy marriages because one or both partners lacks these kinds of qualities.

  61. I’d have to agree with Stacy2’s definitions of ‘being friends’ versus ‘being polite’ (although telling people they have no good reason to do what they are doing is bound to tick them off). I also have zero contact with my ex’s, by my choice, so I found it difficult to understand why so many people are friends with their ex.
    For me, it’s not an issue of having a ‘rule’, it’s more of an indication that I’ve changed as a person, and no longer enjoy that person as I once did. I find that either I have changed, the other person changed, or our lifestyles have become incongruent (meaning, I was less healthy, and as I became more healthy I perceived my friend’s life choices differently).
    I see Stacy2’s comments as being reflective of that idea. If people still have the desire to share their life with that person, at a higher level of intimacy than just civility, that means something to me. It means this is a person I’m going to be sharing my life with also. Now, I might be able to tolerate that or not, depending on multiple factors, but the plain truth is I’ve rarely done it, and when I did, it fared badly. I think I could overcome it if the man in question made it unequivocally clear that he desired to share his intimacy with me as his first preference, without requiring him to restrict himself from intimacy with others, so long as it did not impact our relationship (from either person’s perspective).
    I know that sounds like it only applies to man/woman relationships, but I’ve experienced a relationship where my husband kept choosing to go out drinking with coworkers multiple times a week instead of coming home for dinner. I objected, based less on who he was with, than the fact that it meant we no longer had time to share intimacy in our marriage. His refusal to make more time for me was the death knell of our relationship. I’d put the unwillingness to make the primary relationship at high priority as a ‘turning away’ marker of the Gottman’s, something to take extremely seriously.

  62. I am one who believe in burning bridges with exes for me personally. I agree with stacy that most of the time the reason you broke up is because they did something that you wouldn’t categorize a true friend would do lol. my friend would be a BOYFRIEND lol. I will admit I am suspect of men who are friends with exes. I am not yet sure its a deal breaker but it definitely isn’t optimal lol. I don’t want to assume that men who are friends with an ex are going to be dogs. so I rather let him show me who is on whether he actually cheats or not. but it will be a lot easier for me to date a guy that doesn’t have that ex as a friend.

  63. Frank Von

    Not only is it possible, but I recommend it!
    Two of my very best friends are two of my exes.  And each counts me as one of their best friends.
    If you’re careful to treat your girlfriend/boyfriend with respect, if you come clean about any mistakes you make, and if you make a point of forming relationships only with people who are principled and compassionate, it can work.   It DOES take some hard work and dedication, especially after the breakup, and it’s not always fun.

  64. I agree with all the advice here – you cannot be friends with someone you actually want more from. I would say though that I am in contact with my ex husband even though we are both remarried. No Kids. We were together for 15 years. We have now been apart for 12 years. We live in different countries. We sent the odd e-mail or birthday greetings, we speak on the phone a couple of times a year. We were a big part of each others lives for a long time so i guess that’s why we like to stay in touch.

  65. This is the best answer I have ever seen to this question.  Some people say yes, some say no.  I agree that it depends on one’s feelings and expectations for that person.  Only when it is truly friends and does not disrespect your boundaries or your partners (should you be in a new relationship) then it can be possible, otherwise you are only fooling yourself and asking for a world of pain.

  66. For me, it depends.  I could not be friends with the women I’ve dated seriously or with my ex, too much pain and the need to move on.  There were a couple of women I dated short term and stayed friends with and it was fine and one woman I met online and we decided not to date but still meet for dinner a few times/year.  I have strictly platonic women friends and yes, sometimes I can feel sexual undertones.  The way I look at it, if you have a chocolate bar and a jar of peanut butter in the same cabinet, you might or might not make Reese’s depending on lots of factors.

  67. I love the way you guys put things.  This made me laugh out loud. Make Reeses!  Had me actually thinking about S’mores . . .
    I read this blog and have platonic non-ex male (read: no pining, no undertones, no angst) friends because of the way men put things and think and to remind me how funny and different they can be.  Something Yet Another Guy said a few weeks ago stayed with me:
    I personally do not want to deal with the head-trip that follows having sex with a woman before she is emotionally ready.
    I would have never put it that way but a few weeks later, yes, I will admit I’ve been on that not-very-fun head-trip.  It’s just so interesting to see how men see it.  So succinct and to the point.  I know me and my female friends agonize over these situations!  It’s a way of working them through and learning, but it’s just good to know that men (a lot of men, though not all) don’t always process the same way.
    Headtrips and Reeses. 🙂 I do remember these comments and am glad to read them.

  68. Scott, I did receive your reply to my comment to my e-mail.  I laughed so much I almost choked on my morning tea!  Instead  of online dating, maybe men and women should be provided with campfires, a few items from the grocery store, and some privacy. Hijinks ensue!
    😀

  69. Christine

    I do know some people who have managed to be friends with exes.  However, I notice that they all did that after a long “cooling off” period from each other first (typically, at least one year–sometimes even more).  I don’t personally know anyone who managed to jump from a romantic relationship to a platonic one straight away.  It was only after that period of no contact that they got sufficiently over the other person, to be able to be just friends.
    I would advise Karin to do the same and also have a no contact, “cooling off” period.  It wouldn’t hurt for her to take some time to herself, and figure out what she really wants–whether temporarily or permanently.
    Karin should also think of this.  What if this guy starts dating other women?  After all, he’s now just “friends” with Karin, right?  So he’s free to date other women, isn’t he?  Does she really want to be around to see that?
    If she could honestly see that without any feelings of pain or jealousy then yes, perhaps she could still be friends with him.  If not, though, why subject herself to that?  Then cutting him off is the best route, to avoid that possibility.
     

  70. Stacy2,
    Just read this on one of Evan’s other blog posts, and I think it applies perfectly here:
    The major problem most people have in dating – as we can see – is that they have a script in their head about how things are “supposed” to go, and when it doesn’t go according to this script, it becomes problematic. But really, that’s just a form of selfishness, or narcissism or social autism – as if every one in the world has to do things your way or they’re “wrong.”
    Or, more succinctly, Cheryl to Larry in Curb Your Enthusiasm: “Not everyone knows your rules, Larry”.
    Food for thought.

  71. These are not “rules”, these are personal boundaries, which we all set based on our own convictions, life experience, intuition  and comfort level. No ex-es in the picture is one of my boundaries. I am ok with you, or anybody else for that matter, disagreeing with it. Don’t like it – we’re not gonna date, makes perfect sense.

  72. Stacy2 said:
    “These are not ‘rules’, these are personal boundaries, which we all set based on our own convictions, life experience, intuition  and comfort level.”
    Several years ago, one of the regular readers asked me how a woman could be easy-going, and avoid being high-maintenance, without becoming a doormat. I explained to her that the difference involves boundaries.
     
    Example 1:
    Let’s say the boyfriend calls the girlfriend at 8:00 pm and invites her over for the night, and she doesn’t particularly want to do that. If she says no, she’s exerting her boundaries. If she says yes, she’s being a doormat. (This involves her control over her life, or if the  sexes were reversed, his control over his life.)
    Example 2:
    Let’s say the girlfriend would like the boyfriend to spend Saturday afternoon going to a craft show. He’s not interested, because he doesn’t find that fun. If she respects his decision and lets him hang out with his friends while she goes to the show, she’s being easy-going. If she starts pressuring him to join her, she’s being high maintenance. (This involves her control over his life, or if the sexes were reversed, his control over her life.)
     
    Stacy2 said:
    “No ex-es in the picture is one of my boundaries.”
    Looking at the examples above, you’re placing a demand on your boyfriends’ lives. That means you’re being high-maintenance. Moreover, the men with boundaries are going to tell you to get lost. The doormats will cave and agree to your terms.
     
    Exceptions:
    If a man thinks all of his girlfriends are psycho bitches from hell, he will probably agree to your terms, even if he has boundaries. (I wouldn’t recommend these men for other reasons.)
    If a man is jealous and insecure, he is likely to hold a similar “no-exes” position (at least for you, but that increases the chance he’ll hold himself to the same standard). However, he might not agree with your exact level of “no exes in the picture”. To him, that may mean no polite small talk at a party, no sharing the same social circles, no working for the same company….

  73. I too have a personal issue with guys who have exes as friends. Now I am not yet to the point that I rule them out. But I am aware and cautious. So I think I would prefer to be easy going and have a wait and see attitude as long as he shows himself to be respectful and interested in me. But I mean as soon as I see something out of hand concerning that supposed friend that’s an ex that is inappropriate then its over. To me I think this would be more realistic. She gave it a chance, she didn’t tell him what to do, and she activated a healthy boundary by walking away when he showed himself disrespectful.

  74. Stacy2
    Of course you’re entitled to your boundaries. Boundaries are necessary in dating. This, however is not a boundary :
     “Friends with ex” equals “i don’t have any real friends who i didn’t used to fuck and I just like keeping her around in case I need a booty call”.
    Neither is full of shit, no good reason etc.
    These are your rules or judgements about other people and their intentions.
    This is also why your comments get dissected and discussed so much. You make these judgemental, over the top comments that imply you’re walking around with a bunch of your own rules that you use to judge situations & other people rather than keeping an open mind.
    Can you see that?

  75. KarlR, Marika:
    i love how you guys are all criticizing my boundaries but nobody has offered a good case or reason to stay “friends” with an ex. Simply stating “we do not agree with your preference!” is not much of an argument. So don’t.
    First, KarlR, that is a boudbary. Same as – I will not date a smoker. Or a functioning alcoholic. Am I trying to control their behavior? Hell no. They can continue smoke, drink, or get together for coffee with their exes. I am simply not participating in such situations.
    Secondly, ok. Sell me “friendship with an ex”. Give it a try. Tell me how is it a good sign that a person needs to repurpose their former boyfriend/girlfriend to fulfill emotional needs in his life that should be filled by their normal friends, current romantic partners and family. How is this a positive? Just because you don’t hate someone or you split amicably doesn’t mean you need to be friends. Or you’d be friends with a billion people.
    Lastly, on married with kids. My friends with kids host bbq and pool parties at their houses where I happily go. I meet them for lunch in the city during the work week. My oldest ever friend on this  planet who I’ve known since we were teenagers, lives 2 states away and has 2 kids with the 3rd on the way (he’s a guy). We see each other regularly. They visit, I visit, we rent summer house together (our families are also close), etc. Now that’s friendship. People who you drop when you move to the burbs were never friends to begin with. They were never worth keeping in your life. They are human equivalent of those jeans that no longer fit, but you keep them at the bottom of the closet anyway. Declutter. That’s all I al saying.

  76. I guess you’re right, Stacy2, and everyone who disagrees with you or has a different experience is wrong. I’m seeing this pattern in many of your comments. You voice your opinions like they are facts.
    So I stand by my observation that you walk around with an inflexible rule book. Hopefully that’s working out well for you.
    (you’ll see in the above comments there are a few examples people have given of reasons for/ways they have successfully been friends with exes, I know that won’t change your mind, but the examples are there. I could give you other possible scenarios, but you’d likely tell me why each one is wrong/bad/ ridiculous etc. ). Don’t learn, grow or change, stick to your rules.

  77. Emily, the original

    Stacy2,
    Lastly, on married with kids.
    I agree with you on this. If your friends value you, they will make time for you. Certainly not the kind of time they had before marriage and kids, but nobody expects that. I don’t understand people who have no need for friendship, but there are those whose life revolves around the spouse, kids and extended family. I live in the small-town South, and this is quite common. A couple of years ago, I become friendly with a lady at work who had no other friends. She didn’t even have friends in high school. Always a boyfriend, but no friends.

  78. EmilyTO,
    I agree as well. When married, I remained friends with all my close friends. Like you said, it changes because you aren’t available every night or weekend, but you can still make an effort to get together regularly. And even though that happened less often, we probably still talked just as much and knew what was going on in each other’s lives.

  79. I actually think you are well within your rights to set your own boundaries for your own needs. There is absolutely no reason why one ought to remain friends with exes. But, since you asked . . . what if you want to?
    For me I’ve stayed friends with several of mine. I am a person who has a lot of friends, and so I am not replacing anyone by adding a new friend to that list. The more the merrier is more my philosophy. But sometimes, you aren’t adding someone new.  For example, I was friends with a guy for 10 years. We always were attracted to each other but nothing came of it. Finally we decided to give it a go. We tried for 8 months, realised we were so much better as friends than as romantic partners, and split amicably. Why on earth wouldn’t I want to return to the friendship we once had? Losing it would have been very sad for me. We are friends again as we once were, almost in a way it feels like we never even dated.
    That being said, I do think some people probably are not meant to stay friends with certain exes and that’s okay too. But there are many different kinds of people in this world, and many different things that bring different people pleasure. Keeping people I really like, who I respect and have a good time with and get alone with, in my life for me is one of them.

  80. but nobody has offered a good case or reason to stay “friends” with an ex
    Here’s one: love. Not erotic love, but the kind of love  – tenderness – that one has for their chosen, adopted family, such as friends.  If someone has meant enough to me to become a boyfriend, it’s a given I am going to care about him forever, as I would about a friend. Even if, for whatever reason, I do cut him out of my life – as has happened in one case – I will still care about a person that meant something to me once.
    It’s about simple (?) emotional memory, as I call it. I gather not everyone has it; but it certainly is a good reason for those who do.
     

  81. lol h I can love that person from afar. I forgive you. I will not speak ill of you. I will refrain from fighting you or causing any harm. Everytime you come into my mind I send well wishes. That is how I love you from afar. I don’t need to continue speaking to you. If you just so happen to find yourself trying to speak to me I will respond and say take care good to see you and keep it moving.

  82. In this instance, Karl R, I actually disagree with you (never thought the day would come!)
    I think Stacy is quite within her rights to set a boundary that she can’t handle dating a man who’s friends with his ex. Clearly she feels strongly about it, so it’s fine that she acknowledges that it doesn’t work for her. She may miss out on relationships with good men as a result, but she’s made it clear she’s willing to take this chance.
    In my opinion, the issue lies in how she expresses this. If she owns that this boundary exists for her (because of her past experiences etc), I can imagine a reasonable conversation with ‘Bob’ where he either recognises that it’s a problem for her and limits contact with ‘Julie’ (his ex) or he says it’s not going to work for him to do so and they amicably part ways.
    However, this is the issue, as I see it: “What, you’re besties with your ex??! That’s full of shit. There’s no good reason for you to be friends with Julie. No emotionally healthy person would do that or be okay with that! Unless you’re keeping her around as a potential booty call!”
    This is where the doormat feels shame and acquiesces and the man with boundaries runs away and never looks back (and quietly wonders if all women are crazy..haha).
    I’m not a man, though, so maybe men see it differently? But I think you’re allowed to have any boundary you like, as long as you recognise that the boundary is about you and what you can deal with and you’re not making anybody wrong. Also, a bit of flexibility may be in order (e.g. Julie is his sister’s best friend’s child’s godmother and he sees her at lots of events and it was a short relationship and there’s no ongoing feelings..)

  83. Marika,
    People have the right to dump someone for any reason they want. If someone wants to dump their boyfriend/girlfriend because today is Wednesday the 22nd, that’s their right. But in this case, Stacey2 would be dumping him for a rule, not a boundary. It’s her right to do so, but there’s a enormous difference in dealing with a boundary vs. a rule … boundaries are easier to find reasonable compromises for.
    Back when I was dating, it seemed quite possible that I might end up dating a vegetarian or a vegan. If that woman didn’t want to eat meat (or whatever else), that’s a boundary. I can accommodate that by eating something else. If she wanted me to share her dietary restrictions, that’s a rule.
     
    Boundaries  are inherently more flexible than rules. I didn’t need to change myself. I just had to find a way to not conflict with the boundary.

  84. Yep, fair point.
    This conversation is getting quite exhausting though, so may be time for me to move on…as whether it’s a boundary or a rule, it’s quite clear that she’s got a fixed mindset and isn’t able to see that there could potentially be another way to look at things (or that another reasonable, emotionally healthy person could ever be friends with an ex without having sinister reasons for doing so!). I was actually trying to cut her some slack by recognising that this could be a boundary, but maybe that was too generous!

  85. GoWiththeFlow

    Karl & Marika,
    Boundaries are limits you put on what you will or will not do.  As in Karl’s example, I won’t eat meat even if I’m dating a carnivore.  Another well discussed boundary is what EMK calls sexclusivity, or I won’t have sex with a man who is concurrently sleeping with or pursuing sex with other women.
    Rules are limits you put on other’s behavior.  For instance I won’t date a meat eater.  Or I won’t be in a relationship with a man unless he agrees to never go to a strip club.

  86. sounds like this was her deal breaker. she don’t do men who have exes. she don’t do men who smoke. she don’t do this or that. are deal breakers limiting? yes. they shrink your dating pool. I am in the process of evaluating mines. like for now my deal breakers (and maybe you think this is a rule tomato tomato it is what it is) thus far is I don’t do men who are married/separated, I don’t do men who live more than 30 minutes from me, I am freakishly tall and wish I was shorter and I don’t do men who are shorter than me im 5’11” I really just wish I was short and I can open myself up to all the wonderful short guys out there lol but I just cant stand the thought of having to bend down and kiss a guy as a woman lol, I don’t do men who cheat/verbal physical abuse, and is super distant (dont call spend time ignore me), I don’t do men who have been to prison, I don’t do men who do drugs/weed, I don’t do men who dont even try to see their kid if they have any when they can see them, so far that’s all I dwindled my deal breakers down to that I can think of right now. I know the distance and height is a very limiting one. but I really haven’t brung myself to compromise on it lol…she calls it boundaries. you call it rule. I call it deal breakers. can we all agree its the things we just not going to compromise on lol.

  87. What about being “best friends” with an ex? I certainly find it commendable and okay to be cordial and friendly with an ex, but I question being best friends with them. This questioning comes from both a gut feeling and also having experienced two exes return to their “best friend” ex after we broke up. I’d like to be open minded and more deeply understand this phenomena, but experience has shown me otherwise. Thoughts?

  88. Michelle,
    I think circumstances depend. I dated a guy recently for a month. Our our first date he told me he was still friends with his ex and that she lived in Canada. That they had broken up a year ago and after 6 months of licking his wounds, he then decided to date again. This sounded fine to me. What I heard: (a) not jumping into a rebound (b) took time to heal (c) is on good terms with his ex. Not a problem for me.
    Reality. Three weeks later his behavior towards me changes within a short period of time (well all is well between us). I guess my intuition kicked in because for the first time, I scope out and look at his Facebook. I see who the ex is and look at her Instagram. Her social media indicates she lives in the U.S.; in our city – not Canada. At the very least, I am confused. Next time I see him, I ask when they last spoke. He says Christmas. And that thereafter she threatened to kill herself because he was dating again. (When he acted oddly, I noticed it coincided with my trying to leave a message when his voicemail was oddly full). At any rate, by this time I am deducing that (a) they seem to speak frequently and (b) a year post-breakup there is drama that he feels guilty and manipulated about. So suddenly this ex situation I was okay with, I am not, because the facts change (and I am being pushed aside while he handles it).
    Funny ending: I confronted him after I walked away. Claims he was honest with me and that to his knowledge had gone back to Canada in November. Seems kind of odd that you wouldn’t know what country someone is in if they are telling you they are going to kill themselves over you. He was very upset that I look at her social media – I “crossed the line” – and told me he was very uncomfortable and to never contact him again. Totally played the “your crazy” card. The irony for me is that I believe his version of events, then (a) his ex lied to him about where she is living and (b) is so wounded from a break-up that happened a year ago — yet he still engages with her. So, I ask, who is really the crazy one?
    Even so, I wouldn’t let this experience cast me into a black-white rule. You always have to be observing and if the situation rises to a level that makes you feel uncomfortable, know when to speak up and/or distance yourself.

  89. “Best friends” signifies intimate friendship. “Ex” signifies ex-lover. That doesn’t appeal to me. It’s almost as if saying, “There’s someone so special to me that even though we’re no longer lovers, I still spend my free time with her and we know each other intimately”. If the intimate, opposite sex relationship role is already filled, he’s looking to fulfill the sex part with someone else. No thanks! And that’s really a best case scenario. One of my dearest friends had this off / on thing with her ex-boyfriend that went on for almost 5 years. After they broke up, they remained “best friends” and dated others. But… each time one was single and the other became single, they would hook up. They each left that part out when dating someone new.
    I think some people really struggle with being single and hang on to past relationships until it can ultimately be replaced. Whatever the reason, it’s not for me.
    Also, for whatever reason, some people seem to pass judgment as if this is a normal relationship you should just accept and be cool with. I disagree. It isn’t normal and I don’t have to be cool with it. Judge all you want. Like you said, you had a gut feeling. Always honor that and to hell with anyone who tells you otherwise.

  90. I agree that people struggle with being single — and ending relationships. And often, it sadly, has very little to do with the other person. It’s often that they find discomfort in being alone, having to truly start over, the loss of what that relationship was and wasn’t, the loss of who they wanted to be/who they wanted their partner to be in that relationship, etc…
    I don’t see how it can be replaced, if you aren’t genuinely giving things a chance with someone else.
    I know for me, in this situation my anger stemmed from feeling like I had been duped. I was observing, I was asking questions, I was trusting (until I had cause not to) and I don’t feel this person was forthcoming with the entire truth. Not even when confronted. It is frustrating to go out dating, connect with someone and not realize there is a hidden agenda. In this sense, a complete waste of time.
    I agree – a lot of times now I hear people promote the “accept and be cool.” Example: ghosting, fading and all that other non-sense. I understand that those things happen, but I don’t “accept” it as oh, okay, well this is how society is now so that’s cool. I accept it to the degree I know its not going away, but internally, I prefer to be around and engage with people who don’t behave certain ways.

  91. It’s almost as if saying, “There’s someone so special to me that even though we’re no longer lovers, I still spend my free time with her and we know each other intimately”.
    KK, I love how you expressed this. I’ve been wondering how much of women and men’s different opinions on this subject has to do with what they perceive as friendship. Meaning, men do activities together (sometimes including sex) and women see friendship as intimacy (sometimes including sex).  I could see a man perceiving having lunch with an ex as a non sexual activity which is low on the intimacy spectrum, which a woman might perceive as a preference to share intimacy with that person over the ‘primary’ relationship, which makes it more vulnerable to becoming a higher level of intimacy (a sexual relationship).

  92. I think the problem withe the idea of “friends” with an ex is all about what “friends” means to you. Stacey2 describes a level of friendship that I have only had as maybe a teenager with a best friend, and a lover who became my husband. I don’t have ANY friends, male, female, platonic whatever that I share all my intimate thoughts with. I have lots of male friends, but they are very different relationships to my female friends. But my female friendships are not all on the same level of intensity as what Stacey2 describes. If Stacey2 had a liver who had an ex-lover with a very intense friendship of constant contact and sharing of intimate details – yes, a major problem. But if Stacey2 had a lover who caught up with an ex-lover about 2 or 3 times a year with their other shared friends, maybe invited the ex and their spouse for dinner, or some shared joke facebook posts – surely no problem. The intensity of the original love affair and the intensity of the later friendship are relevant to whether being friends is ok or not.

  93. CaliforniaGirl

    I don’t see why you need to be friends with your ex, there are so many people you can choose from and from my experience it’s a slippery slop. You know, you had a fight with your current bf/gf, you go to your ex, you are already familiar with each other, you have a drink and things happen. And usually there are women who have hidden agenda, if a woman truly moved on, she doesn’t want an ex as her friend.
    You can be in some kind of social media contact or you dated many years ago and still talk few times a year – all these are fine with me and I do have few exes like this but seeing each other, having lunches/dinners, going out is unnecessary. I have male friends from high school/college, they are more like relatives and I am friends with their spouses/girlfriends as well. I never acquired a male friend later in life who just wanted to be a friend, it was also some sexual tension and with time it made me feel uncomfortable.
    One of my exes was “friends” with his multiple exes and I always felt these women do not just want to be friends. I wasn’t wrong, they all tried to sabotage our relationship one way or another and it was one of the reasons we broke up.

  94. see I agree with cali. like to me its an unnecessary and can cause a potential problem for like no reason. if I go into a relationship with a guy and I dont have friends that are male or were my exes he has nothing to worry about in that regard. he comes into a secure and respectful situation off the bat. like the guys who tried to be my friend in my mind im like “I dont need your friendship. you had your chance and blew that when you were my boyfriend lol. I got friends and family that fill that”. and you know what the ones that I have attempted to entertain that idea and allowed them to still contact me were they respectful? NO. they still tried to flirt and ask about my dating life and bring up romantic memories. so in my experience platonic friends/friends with exes im skeptical myself.

  95. Roxanne said:
    “if I go into a relationship with a guy and I dont have friends that are male or were my exes he has nothing to worry about in that regard. he comes into a secure and respectful situation off the bat.”
    A few years ago, two of my coworkers got involved. They sat in adjacent cubes. At that time, he was already married.
    I don’t think the guy was friends with any of his ex-girlfriends, or close friends with other women. But that didn’t stop him from meeting women and cheating on his wife.
    My wife met a lot of her ex-boyfriends through her work. Another one was her veterinarian. Another one was her uncle’s neighbor.
     
    Our situation is secure because I choose to trust my wife, even if she has male friends (including ex-boyfriends), works in a male-dominated institution, and constantly runs into men around the city.

  96. I am not at all going to disagree with you on men who didn’t have platonic friends or friends with exes and still cheated. but it doesn’t take away from the fact that I don’t like the idea of having them as my friends and that it can and has caused unnecessary problems. I don’t think platonic friends or friends with exes is needed. To me its one less problem a couple has to worry about. If we me and a guy im with both operate that way and the guy still cheated well it was not because we had platonic friends or friends with exes lol it was something else. I am not at all saying operating this way is full proof against cheating cause it can still happen as you gave an example and my ex husband is living proof of that unfortunately. I am just saying I don’t like it. I don’t do it. it has caused problems. I would prefer if the guy I am dating don’t have them but I am not telling him what to do either. I am not as far as Stacey in terms of saying its a deal breaker when it comes to dating someone new, because I am sure there are examples you and others can give of people with platonic friends or friends with exes that don’t cheat. but I prefer to operate this way for me personally and if my future guy operate this way well that one thing would be great for me lol

  97. Evan such good advice. I recently got out of a significant relationship and I am not going to lie I miss him but I cant ignore the unacceptable things he did and need to understand he is an ex for a reason. I keep a reminder in my phone listing all the reasons it had to end and realistically a long time ago and when I get the feeling of wanting him back I look at that list and shakes me back to reality. I am also listening to your why he disappeared which is super valuable information. Thanks Evan!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*