To Be or Not To Be…Friends

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by Lisa on May 21, 2009


Friends with my college sweetheart ~ July 2008

To be or not to be friends?  Ah yes, that often is THE question we ask ourselves and the ones we’ve loved AFTER we’ve broken up.  I suspect for many people it’s not a question that’s entertained immediately nor is a friendship something we venture into lightly especially if the relationship ended on a particular nasty note. Time and perspective may be the great healers of our hearts, but they also give our heads an opportunity to look at the relationship from a less emotional place and perhaps see for the first time the “real” reasons it ended.  From this place, the decision whether or not to be friends can be made with more discernment and wisdom.  But of course, there’s a catch. Just because one person has decided they’d like to be friends doesn’t make it so.  

Are we capable of having a different kind of relationship with our previous partners of romance? Is it possible to move on from what we had, forgive one another, and forge a new friendship with someone we’ve been involved with on an intimate basis?  i think so, but only if it’s what both people want and are ready for.  How do you know that’s the case?  There are a few key things I’ve noticed when it comes to being friends beyond romance.  I’ve observed and listened to what’s worked for friends and clients, but I speak from my own experience with my exes.  When I think about the men I’m friends with now (and those I’m not), it’s readily apparent why I’m still in contact with and connected to them. Here are those key things we share that has made a friendship possible: 

  • Respect ~ Genuine appreciation exists between us.  We’ve said our apologies, taken responsibility for the crap that was ours (that we probably blamed on the other during the relationship), and have acknowledged one another for the gifts and the hard lessons we gave each other.

  • Mutual Interests ~ Some of the things that brought us together in the first place are still things we share now as friends.  We still have enough in common that we enjoy talking about and/or doing those things together.  My mom calls mutual interests “common joys” and ever since she shared that term with me, it’s stuck.  It’s not important (nor likely) to like everything your partner likes and vice-versa, but it IS important that you share enough things in common with each other so that you actually enjoy spending time in each other’s company.
  • Shared History ~ There are experiences I’ve had with my partners that no one else but them can understand, appreciate and remember.  While some memories are best left in the past, there are others worth reminscing about and I love being reminded of shared stories I otherwise might have forgotten.  A couple of my exes and I can now even laugh about some of the stuff that was brutal back when we were together. 

Being friends with an ex certainly isn’t a next-day-after-we-break-up kind of happening.  I think it’s more of a gradual let’s-see-how-this-goes kind of thing when the two of you decide you both want to give the friendship a go.  Do you believe men and women can “just be friends” once a romantic relationship between them has ended?  Why or why not?  If you and a former partner are now friends, what are the things that have made it possible for you to reconnect with each other?  

And how about the flip-side…what’s made it impossible for you to be friends with an ex?  I’ll share that story with you in my next post.

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