If you had told me 18 years ago that my ex and I would be best friends today, I would not have believed you. We just broke up and I moved out and on my own for the first time since college. I was disillusioned by our break up and we were not speaking to one another. Our relationship had gone downhill for some time. I hit the tipping point and had to do something about it so I moved out of our apartment and into my place.
Eighteen years have passed and we’re in a much different place with our relationship. We have developed a deep one where we’re more like family. He even just helped host my 50th birthday celebration.
We’ve known each other for 29 years; we were just young pups when we first met. How did we do it? How did we last almost 10 years in a relationship and then 18 years as friends? Well, there have been ups and downs but we’ve managed to come to a place where we know we will remain in each other’s lives and will be there to support each other. Recently we talked about our friendship and while doing so, we uncovered some important aspects for success at being friends with your ex.
For one thing, we met at a stage in our lives where we were developing as adults. We were in college and were on our own for the first time, living away from home and finding our way in the world. We had some shared experiences which allowed us to become close early on in our relationship. We eventually had a 10-year relationship as boyfriends. There were some good times and not so good times but we eventually separated.
I don’t recall what prompted our reconnection but as we redeveloped our relationship as friends we allowed it to happen organically. We did not force it. We did have moments where we had to step back and say, “what are we doing?” so it’s important to put your boyfriend’s relationship in the past. You need to internally resolve the issues and come to closure so you can move on to form a new and different type of relationship. It also helps to have ended on an amicable note. We did not but we were able to get past the animosity we had for one another.
One thing that worked for us in the transition to friends was that we allowed some time after our break up to remain distant from one another. We did not force a friendship. We went our separate ways and lived our lives for a good year after the breakup. This allowed us to internally resolve issues and concerns of the breakup and reorient ourselves to a potential friendship instead of a boyfriend situation. It also helped that we were friendly with one another before we officially became boyfriends. Our relationship was based on more than just sex.
There also cannot be any kissing, sex, or intimate physical contact as you develop your friendship. If there is you’ll confuse the situation. You’ll have to step back and reassess if you are attempting to get back together as boyfriends or are you truly attempting to be friends.
Family and friends may have mixed emotions about your being friends with your ex. Some may be supportive, which is great, but others may not be. For those that are not supportive, you’ll need to find a way to reassure them that you’re intending a friendship only and that you’ve grown past any troubles that were part of your previous relationship. They don’t have to agree, but they have to respect your decision to become friends. Be mindful of how your friends and family will treat your ex and have the appropriate conversations with them if necessary.
As you form your newfound friendship with your ex, you’ll need to develop a certain level of comfort (even though there may be discomfort) discussing each other’s dating life. You or your ex may want to share some details and you’ll each have to be open enough to communicate your level of comfort with sharing that information and be respectful of the other person about dating. It’s a reality that will need to be addressed.
It’s also important to allow for a healthy amount of time with your ex. You need to maintain your own life and activities. And when one of you starts dating, the new boyfriend will likely be the center of attention.
Hopefully, you both love each other in a way that you want to see the other flourish in life. If you do, transitioning from boyfriends to friends is possible. If you are emotionally mature and able to let go of the past to look towards a new form of relationship it can happen for you too.