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Gee whiz, I should probably be friends with my ex! If I befriend them and vice versa, they’ll keep me in their orbit and eventually begin to trust me again. Then it’s only a matter of time before they start missing being in a relationship.
And since I’ll be right beside them, what better relationship than one that is familiar. They’d virtually have no other option but to take me back. And if they do have options, since they trust me, I can quickly sabotage them. Radical!
Besides, that sounds way better than doing the whole no contact thing… Cutting communication with my ex, let alone staying away from them, is like pulling fingernails—no Bueno. I’ll pass. I don’t want to risk losing them. So, friends, it is…
Okay, let that sink in. What I just described is the thought process of most breakup survivors. If you got dumped, chances are, you’re indulging in a similar, if not exactly the same, one.
Now, do you notice anything odd about the above thought process? Perhaps the fact that it’s entirely based on one’s fear of loss? You know… that same fear that probably brought you into this heart-aching mess.
What you need to understand is that this fear will drive you to do pretty much anything to get your ex back — even stuff that impairs your mental health. One of which is — you’ve guessed it — befriending your ex. Therefore, as you’d expect, don’t be friends with your ex.
It won’t benefit your mental health. It won’t raise their attraction. It won’t improve your chances of getting them back. And let’s be honest, deep down, you don’t even want to be friends with your ex. You just want another shot with them, another go at the relationship.
But here’s the thing: by staying friends with an ex you’re a) allowing yourself to remain dependent upon them, b) end up having a sexually repressed, mildly deceitful relationship with them, and c) you’re only conditioning them that placing you in the friend zone is okay, even though you don’t like it there.
And if that’s not enough, by staying friends with your ex, you’re communicating that they’re some special snowflake, some fucking celebrity that’s better than YOU, that you have to please and suck up to. Unsurprisingly, this only leads to your ex walking all over you.
Think about it: you’ve just been dumped, yet you’re still giving your ex all they could want. So what’s the point of you sticking around as a friend? It has no point, no meaning, no benefit to your life. Plus, most likely, you’re still basing your actions on the fear of loss.
Look, I know you want your ex back, but the best way to increase your chances of getting them back is to first let them go. Don’t stay in touch. Don’t accept friendship. Let. Them. Go.
And if they bring up the topic of friendship along the way, let your true motives rapture through you. Tell your ex what you really want — a sexual, romantic relationship. Communicate unabashedly, fearlessly, and utterly unattached to the answer that comes back. Then, depending on that answer, proceed to let them go.
Yes, letting go is painful and scary and feels as though you’re abandoning all control — it makes you feel like you’re solving a problem by doing nothing to tackle the actual problem.
Still, counterintuitively, this “doing nothing and letting go” is your best shot at raising your ex’s attraction, getting them back, and recovering from the overall breakup.
That being said, you may be wondering at this point if there are any exceptions to the rule — any instances when being friends with your ex is actually a good idea. In short, no. Still, let’s go over a few cases where the answer may change.
Can you be friends with your ex if they insist (And why does your ex want to be friends in the first place)?
In my experience, the most prominent reason why an ex would ever insist on being friends after a breakup is to keep their options open. The thinking goes that if they don’t meet anyone better, they can always resort to reheating leftovers. However, there are also other reasons for wanting friendship:
They need to have/keep control: Perhaps your ex wants to stay friends so they can know what’s happening in your life and feel as if they still have a say in the choices you make. Odds are, your ex also wants better chances of intervening in your love life if they feel threatened by the certain choices you make.
They’re just letting you down gently: I know reading that stings but think about it. When your ex dumped, you probably felt devastated. And, since they still cared about you, they rather lied about wanting to stay friends, so you don’t go completely off the rails and hurt yourself — or them.
They don’t want to change: Letting you go would mean changing their life, changing the very essence of who they are, and falling deep into the vale of uncertainty. No shit, that’s a big deal! Unfortunately, not many people can stomach the change. And for this reason, instead of changing and potentially growing as a person, they resist. They instead cling to the familiar, to the comfortable, to everything certain and known — to you.
They’re battling with neediness, loneliness, confusion, isolation, grief, etc. We both know breakups are full of these things, and due to them, some people just can’t let go. Perhaps that’s the case with your ex.
Finally, there’s also a chance that your ex wants to stay friends for all the above reasons. Still, none of that changes the course of action you should take. No matter why your ex wants to stay friends, you shouldn’t befriend them.
First, because — let’s be real — you don’t want a friendship with your ex. You don’t want to hear about who they’re fucking this week or about their plans for the summer that — surprise, surprise! — don’t include you. You want to be their partner. You want to be one who fucks them, the one with who they go on all the trips.
Be honest about these things. Don’t settle for friendship—risk rejection. Or risk being treated as a second-class citizen, perennially trapped in the barren shithole called friendzone.
Second, because by accepting their request for friendship, you’re only rewarding their bad behavior and thus inviting more of it into your life. Here’s what I mean:
Let’s say I punch you in the face. Hard. The reason? I guess you just have a punchable face. If you then told me, “Sorry for standing in the way of your fist, Max. Please forgive me. Here’s a burrito for you,” you’re only enabling more of my shitty behavior. In other words, after our little interaction, I’ve learned that punches equal free burritos. And I fucking love burritos.
Third, because by becoming your ex’s friend, you’re helping them move on faster. And since you want them back, that’s not ideally what you want.
And if that’s not bad enough, the fact that you stay in your ex’s orbit only prolongs your recovery. Think about it: the more times you’re reminded of your ex, the harder it will be to heal. And since you’ll stay friends, you’ll be reminded of them a lot.
The whole thing is like you’re shooting yourself in the foot, then telling your friend, “Hey fuckface, shoot me in the other one too!”
Can you be friends with your ex if you work together or have kids together?
No. You shouldn’t be friends in this case. What you should do, however, is be friendly toward one another.
Let me be clear, though: this doesn’t mean having full-blown conversations about your dreams, ambitions, and whatnot. It doesn’t even mean talking about the weather.
When I say be friendly with your ex, all I mean is to keep your conversations respectful of each other’s time, to the point, and devoid of deviations.
For example, if you need to arrange something that concerns kids or a project you’re working on together, only discuss that topic and nothing else. And when you arrive at a mutually beneficial conclusion, end the conversation and walk away.
Can you stay in touch with mutual friends and your ex’s family members?
We’ve got our first! This is a conditional yes. Here’s how you should go about it: feel free to stay in touch with mutual friends and your ex’s family, but don’t discuss your ex with either of them. Hell, don’t even talk about topics semi-related to your ex.
If you fail to follow the above principle, you’ll risk making things awkward, weird, and embarrassing for yourself. If you’re all whiny, needy, depressed, and shit, and your friends tell your ex about it, your overall chances of reconciliation lower drastically.
Think about it: no one wants to date a needy, whiny, and depressed person. (Well, except other needy, whiny, and depressed people). It screams: I have no value, I base my entire happiness upon someone else, I need my ex, I’m nothing without my ex, and so forth.
As a side note, for the more insidious breakup survivors out there: don’t be a manipulative dipshit. Don’t ask mutual friends what your ex is doing, don’t ask your ex’s family about their emotional state or dating life or whatever. Leave that shit alone. Just focus on becoming your best self, and a successful re-attraction will potentially follow.
Can you be a friend with benefits with your ex?
It is possible, but it’s not easy nor simple, and I would encourage 99% of breakup survivors to avoid pursuing this kind of relationship. Primarily because most are not emotionally ready for it.
For a friends with benefits relationship to blossom, both you and your ex have to master communication and boundaries, be on the same page in terms of goals and intentions, and if that’s not enough, you both have to possess the willingness and emotional stability to accept the following:
- A friends with benefits relationship rarely lasts.
- The two of you will date other people in the meantime and talk about it at some point. No doubt there will be jealousy.
- There’s loads of emotional baggage tied to your relationship that can potentially cause all sorts of drama. And it probably will.
For perspective’s sake, I had four friends with benefits-type relationships when I was still single. One was with my ex-girlfriend, and the other three consisted of well-known friends.
After experiencing them, I can boldly say that all four relationships were exceedingly complicated, a source of great stress, and none lasted for more than half a year. And don’t get me started on the shallowness of these relationships… Sure, they were fun, but in retrospect, the negatives far outweighed the positives.
So bottom line, don’t be friends with benefits with your ex. Sure, you may reconcile through this type of relationship since it does promote heavy intimacy, but still, it’s just not worth it. So many things can go wrong, and odds are the whole thing will make you got nuts.
But, but, but… Won’t my ex forget me if I’m not their friend?
Nope, that will never happen. In fact, the opposite will; they will miss you more as a result. And I can prove it.
There’s a consensus that humans find mystery attractive. Meaning the less someone has you figured out, the more attracted they’ll be to you. This mystery comes with distance, space, and of course, silence. (3)
However, don’t be manipulative — don’t act mysterious for the sake of re-attracting your ex. That doesn’t lead to a healthy relationship or good mental health. Instead, find something more important than your ex that makes the whole breakup far less significant. Maybe even insignificant. That’s what will generate genuine mystery — the kind where you’re not faking it, the type that’s an inherent part of you.
There’s also something called the Fading Affect Bias that proves how cutting contact with an ex raises attraction. The theory behind it goes that memories associated with negative emotions tend to be forgotten more quickly than those associated with positive emotions with sufficient space and time. (4)
Finally, let’s discuss studies on attraction. All of them say the same thing: For someone to miss you, they have to be away from you. So give your ex a chance to miss you by removing yourself from their life. If you keep chasing and pursuing and pleading and begging them to get their ass back to you, they’ll only run farther away. (5)
Breakups are about ending and changing the nature of a relationship and moving forward. Sure, some exes do become genuine friends after it, but most don’t — and that’s how it should be.
Exes who are genuine friends after their breakup or who end up being in touch in a non-destructive and healthy manner do so organically. They don’t contrive to reconnect and rekindle things. They either bump into each other or cross paths while moving on with their respective lives and don’t seek to force, cajole, manipulate, or push each other into a reformed relationship.
To paraphrase Cheryl Strayed, you want your ex to be free to fall in love with you for real if you are really going to fall in love. Any tortured, half-assed, overheated game of faux friendship footsie the two of you are playing simply won’t do. So state what you want, then walk away.
You win either way.
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