Love

How to be better friends with your ex (because you know you want to)

We get a relationship expert to weigh in on whether you can believe in life after love.

By Mahalia Chang
Photo.

Breakups suck. Anyone who's ever ended a serious relationship — be that ending long-awaited, mutual, drama-filled or out of the blue — knows that saying goodbye to a big part of your life can be difficult.

And the emotional roller coaster of breakups can often mean that you're not always on best of terms with your now-ex, after the dust has settled. Whether there's just too much history, or there's a strange awkwardness between you, maintaining a platonic friendship after dating someone is one of life's biggest mysteries — which is why we don't often do it.

But even though some exes definitely aren't worth the effort, there are lots of fish thrown back into the sea that would be great mates, or were great mates before you dated.

So why shouldn't you reach out? As long as both parties aren't toxic and are both agreeable, it can be a good thing to foster a friendship with someone that you spent a lot of time with.

We caught up with relationship expert and dating coach, Samantha Jayne, to find out the best ways to turn a past love into a present pal.

Why should I be buddies with my old flame?

There are a number of reasons to maintain a relationship with an ex. Whether it's because you simply don't want them to be completely out of your life, or because they're an all-around excellent person, exes aren't all bad.

"There can be benefits to staying friends with your ex, especially if you have a history," Samantha tells Cosmo.

"Maybe you shared a lot of good memories, maybe they are supportive of your goals, maybe you have shared resources such as a home, pet, friendship circle or social network.

"Rather than starting from scratch you can change the dynamic of the relationship… but only if there are is no sexual attraction.

"Staying friends with an ex has the benefits of providing you with security, emotional comfort, support and positive emotions," says Samantha.

"Some people transition into friendship once attraction is gone and some people transition into friendship once they have met someone else. There is no right or wrong. Do what genuinely feels right."

Are there reasons I shouldn’t let them back into my life?

Of course! Not all relationships are created equal, and sometimes relationships were ended for very, very good reasons. If your partner was incompatible, manipulative or abusive, it's not a good idea to get back involved with them — even if it's platonic, and even if it's at their urging.

Make sure to think about your relationship and your ex's personality and disposition before reaching out.

"Sometimes staying friends with an ex is purely about avoiding drama. Maybe they haven't let go of you and you are trying to be civil. This is not good in the long run as there is an unresolved attraction and tension," says Samantha.

"Sometimes people like to move on from the past and remaining friends can be a roadblock to finding someone new — keeping your ex in the background can fill the void of loneliness but will ultimately keep you from getting back out there."

New relationships on either side can be factors, too. "You might have moved on or they have moved on and the new partner is not comfortable with your friendship. This is understandable and should be respected."Friendships are also best to be avoided if your ex still expresses displays of control over you. "If they obsess over you or want to continue to control you, then they have problems letting go. It's unhealthy to remain friends in these situations because they might try to sabotage your new relationship. So it is best to adopt a zero contact policy."

How should I go about bridging the gap between my ex and myself?

1. Have some time apart. Mourn the relationship. Real time apart and completely disengage. No phone, text, social media. This will give you time to heal. You should do this for 3 months minimum — some may need more time. Use this time to focus on your hobbies, work, and living happily.

If you're still unsure if you're ready to reach out as friends, ask yourself "How would I feel if I saw your ex with someone new?" If you still feel pain or become emotional, then you're not ready.

2. Clarify your motives. Identify why you would like to maintain the friendship. Is it healthy for you? Closure, emotional support? Do you still feel attraction? Do they still feel attraction are you genuinely wanting to be friends or is it a power thing?

3. Get in touch with your ex. Be open, tell them how you feel and how you want to remain friends. Be prepared for anything. They could welcome your contact or reject it. If they agree, the best way to go about connecting is to take the pressure off and spend time together as a part of a group.

4. Don't fall back into old patterns. Keep up boundaries. Limit communication — try not to text them daily like you did when you were in a relationship. Don't put yourself in a position with alcohol, an evening date or go to places where you used to go when you were in love. Lay down the rules and be strong about them. Don't talk about your relationship. Look forward and be a true friend. No flirting or sex talk. Don't talk about the things that bother you like you would to a partner. This is a whole new dynamic. Most importantly, don't doubt the breakup and stick to your guns.

5. Be genuine about your friendship. Be prepared they may meet someone else. If during your friendship you notice that it ignites your feeling of love and attraction or vice versa, take a step back and time out until those feelings settle, then you can reassess. Be optimistic about your relationship and don't try to compare it to the past.

Go forth and be friendly.