One of the worst things about a breakup is that this person you thought you’d be with forever, the most important person in your life, is now gone. But what if it didn’t have to be this way? What if you could keep them in your life as a friend and not have to suffer the loss of the breakup?

This is one of the reasons that people will try to maintain a friendship with their ex after a breakup.

I’m here to tell you whether or not this is the right choice for you, depending on your specific situation. I’ll also tell you what other options you have here.

First let’s talk about the most common scenario I see that drives people to stay friends with their ex.

Chances are you’re in this situation even if you won’t admit it to yourself. And that scenario being that you want to stay friends with your ex because you want them back.

Basically you feel like you need your ex in your life and since they don’t want to be with you, you’ll take friendship as a sort of consolation prize. Beggars can’t be choosers, after all.

You also think that maybe, if you show them what a good friend you are, they’ll start to miss you and pretty soon they’ll want you back. But think again.

Why You Shouldn’t Be Friends With Your Ex

In fact, if you do want your ex back then you should NEVER stay friends with them because it will only hurt your chances of reconnecting and cause you more heartbreak and pain. 

Here are seven reasons why:

Number ONE: You’re not giving them a chance to miss you.

I remember when I was a little kid, I hated my little brother. He was always around, sticking his stupid face into my business, eating my french fries, and just generally being a pain in my ass. 

But then, one summer I went on a trip with my friend and their family to Kansas for a concert, and after a couple days I started thinking about how I wished he was there.

I missed his stupid face for the very first time. And when I came back, I was so happy to see him. From then on I couldn’t help but hate him just a tiny bit less. He still won’t stop eating my fries though.

My point is, you can’t miss someone when they’re still hanging around. Your ex gets to have their cake and eat it too. And in this scenario, you’re the cake.

Do you miss the sun in the middle of July? No, it’s only in the middle of winter that you truly appreciate the warmth it brings. 

You need to make your ex feel your absence. When you’re actually gone they’ll have plenty of time to think about how great you are and realize that they screwed up by letting you go.

Number TWO: You’re actually helping them get over you

Being friends with your ex is like vaping. Stay with me here. 

If you’re  a hardcore 3 pack a day smoker, you’d probably find it almost impossible to quit cold turkey. To stop the cravings and side effects of withdrawal, you might use a nicotine patch or a vaporizer to slowly wean yourself off the tobacco… and look super cool doing it.

If you’re still letting your ex be your friend after they dumped you, you’re literally weaning them off of you bit by bit. They don’t have to continue to be your partner to enjoy your company and all the good things you bring into their life AND they can date other people to get fulfillment that way.

Don’t be their emotional vape. You’ll just end up alone, smelling like artificial banana.

Number THREE: You’re letting them get away with it

So much of people’s behaviour comes down to reinforcement. If your ex dumps you and you reward them with friendship, then they’re going to see breaking up with you as the right choice. After all, they were able to keep you as a friend which is a pretty great reward, I think.

If you always give them exactly what they want, they’ll never learn that dumping you was a bad choice. You’ve given them a positive response to a negative action. This is classic psychology.

You shouldn’t punish your ex but you definitely shouldn’t reward them for hurting you. That means don’t be their shoulder to cry on, don’t drive them to the airport, and if you’re still sleeping with them, you’ve gotta stop.

Your friendship is a gift and your ex doesn’t deserve it.

Number FOUR: You’re taking a step backwards

This one is obvious. It may feel like going from exes to friends is a step forward but remember, you used to be a couple. Just a few days, weeks or months ago you were in love, looking into each other’s eyes, and creating a life together.

Remember how you’d cuddle as you fell asleep and wake up next to each other in bed? How does that compare to the last time you hung out and watched some terrible Marvel movie in theaters? 

Not the same, right?

Going from partners to friends is a serious step backwards in your relationship and you don’t want that. This is going to subconsciously lower your value in their mind. They can’t help it. There’s just so much more value in a romantic relationship than there is in almost any friendship.  

They need to know that you’re not interested in them as just a friend. You want it all or nothing at all. You’ll never get what you want if you don’t ask for it and by continuing to be their friend, you’re telling them that this is what you want.

Number FIVE: You’re making them see you as Just a Friend

I’m not a big believer in the “Friend Zone.” I think being friends is usually great but in this case, it’s counterproductive. Now that you’ve transitioned to just friends they’re seeing a new side of you. Whereas before they saw you as a lover and a partner, now they’re seeing you as just friend.

The more they just see you pretending to be their buddy, the more they’ll associate you with friendship. This can make your relationship fade into a distant memory even faster than if you were apart. You’re replacing sexy couple memories with memories of hanging out as friends, with maybe a little weird sexual tension. 

When they look at you you want them to hear wedding bells not an awkward silence.

Number SIX: They don’t feel the same way

You two are in different places. They may actually want to be friends, or maybe they just want to move on from you without losing you. But you want them back.

You can’t have a good friendship when you two want such different things. It’s not possible for both of you to get what you want and that conflict is going to prevent this friendship from really working.

You may be having fun now but you’ll just end up feeling bad about yourself and resenting them and your ex will end up feeling weird about making you feel bad and about being pressured to change their feelings. It’s a lose-lose.

Number SEVEN: You’re not really friends

Have you noticed that every time you hangout with your “friend” it’s one on one? That’s because none of your real friends want to be around this sad state of affairs. You make people uncomfortable. That’s because they know you’re just pretending to be friends with each other when really you’re just trying to avoid letting go. 

This is time you could be spending with your real friends, reconnecting with your roots and reestablishing your life that fell apart after the breakup.

Do THIS Instead Of Being Friends With Your Ex

So what should you do instead?

Now that we’ve established that friendship isn’t going to get your ex back, what should you do?

1. No Contact

No contact should be your mantra right now. And no, I’m not talking about wearing glasses. You need to cut off all contact with your ex for at least a month. Even longer if you dated for a really long time and your breakup was particularly bad.

This means no hangouts, no phone calls, no texts. Don’t even like their instagram posts.

This time off is crucial for getting your ex to come back to you. First, it gives you the chance to heal. If you went from a relationship right into being friends, you didn’t have a chance to properly get over the relationship. 

This time will help you get your mind right, get yourself together emotionally and by doing so, be a more attractive option for your ex after this period is over. Next, it means you won’t drunk text them at 4 a.m. like an idiot and ruin your second chance before it starts.

You won’t fall into begging and pleading with them to come back and you will just generally have more self respect.

And most importantly this time will give them a chance to miss you. This absence will have them thinking about what they lost when they dumped you.

2. Establish boundaries

If you’re already friends with your ex or you’re still in contact all the time, you need to cut it off. Don’t be mean about it but be clear and firm.

Depending on what the situation is you can either tell them you still have feelings and you want them back, or that it’s too hard to move on when you’re still seeing them all the time.

This will make it clear to them what’s at stake. They can’t keep playing with you and expect you to just hang around and keep them company while they look for someone new.

Don’t be a consolation prize!

3. Reconnect 

Lots of people find that after a month apart they’ve moved on and they no longer even want their ex back. If that’s you then, stop reading this and go, be free! Go make a bonfire with all the mixtapes they ever made you and dance naked around it.

If you’re still here, I’m going to assume you still want them back.

You’ll need to contact them to talk and then set up a meeting. Make sure you aren’t “hanging out” but either going on a proper date or sitting down to catch up like real adults. 

Coffee can be a great choice for this first meeting. Keep it short and don’t be too buddy-buddy. The primary purpose here is to remind them you’re around and re-establish yourself as a potential romantic partner.

Now let’s talk about a few other scenarios where you may be considering being friends with your ex. 

Maybe you and your ex lost touch for a long time. There are no longer any romantic feelings there but the two of you were great friends before and you’re thinking about reconnecting. In this case, this can be an acceptable arrangement. But I’d proceed with caution.

Think about it this way. If you two are both single, then there’s really no barrier here. But if you or your ex is dating someone, or plans to again in the future, then think about it from their perspective. Will they be okay with you maintaining a close friendship with your ex? Spending time one-on-one? 

Maybe the answer is yes. Many people wouldn’t date someone who felt jealous about something like this, but for many others, this would be a huge dealbreaker. So consider this long term. Would you be okay building this friendship only to have to walk away from it later? Are you shooting yourself in the foot romantically to build a friendship with your ex?

Here’s another scenario. You two have been broken up for awhile and you have a chance meeting. You think, “maybe we’ve changed and this time it could be different” but you don’t want to jump back into things without getting to know the new person they’ve become.

Well in this case, I’d say that friendship isn’t off the table but I wouldn’t necessarily frame it that way. There’s no reason to put a label on things until you two have hung out a few times and seen if the vibes are still there. At that point, maybe you two need to have a talk about what you’re looking for. 

I think many people think that by keeping it casual they can avoid being hurt but I find that this is almost never the case. Casual means unclear and a lack of clarity will cause conflict sooner than later. 

Now let’s get real here for one minute: At the start of this video, I said that your ex was the most important person in your life. But that’s not true, is it?

Your ex isn’t the most important person in your life. You are.

You are capable of happiness without them. You need to look at this relationship honestly and decide if it’s worth all this time, effort, and potential heartbreak. If not, walk away, and find someone new or just get to know yourself for awhile.

If you decide it is worth it, then congratulations. You must have found someone really special. If not, I know that you’ll be able to make it work with someone else once you’ve taken time to process what happened.

Dave Barker

Breakup Coach

About the Author

Dave Barker is a breakup and 'ex back' coach with over a decade of experience helping clients repair and improve romantic relationships.

View Articles