When relationships end, there are bound to be hurt feelings or anger, which can take time to subside so don't try and rush the friendship. “Whatever the case, let some time pass before you visit the possibility of staying friends,” advises Christina Steinorth, psychotherapist, relationship expert and author of Cue Cards for Life: Thoughtful Tips for Better Relationships. “Let the rawness of the breakup subside a bit and see where both of you are at.”
While it might be tempting to use every meeting as a chance to pick at old wounds, don't do it, says Steinorth. “Leave your past issues in the past and begin focusing on your friendship,” she advises. “Most of us don't argue and bicker with our friends so now that your relationship status has changed from romantic relationship to friendship, leave the arguing and bickering out of it.”
Sex with an ex makes it hard to be friends because there's a tendency to blur the line between a romantic relationship and a friendship. “When one of you wants to stop the sexual side of your relationship, the other may be hurt,” explains Steinorth. She adds that if you value your friendship, don't sleep together and keep your boundaries clear.
In her landmark marriage study, Dr. Terri Orbuch, marriage and family therapist, and author of five books, including her most recent, Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship, found that couples who blamed their spouse for the breakup had a much more difficult time with emotional healing. “To become friends again with the person you once loved, blame the relationship, not the person. This will help you see the person, not feel the hurt,” she says.
If you have a lot of bitterness or negative feelings about your spouse, it's too soon to try to be friends, notes Orbuch. “Get rid of mementos from your relationship, and avoid places or situations that remind you of him or her. This will help you move on. Once you feel firmly on your feet, you can try getting back in touch.”
Start slowly and keep things simple when it comes to being friends with an ex. Go out for coffee, rather than something more time consuming. “It's also best to avoid places where the two of you have a history, because these can trigger complicated old feelings that are challenging to deal with,” adds Orbuch.
It'll be tough, but if your ex has a new girlfriend, be pleasant. “This sends a very reassuring message to your ex and the new partner that you are not going to be a threat,” Orbuch explains. “You may even find that your ex welcomes a new friendship between you and his new partner.”
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