Here’s What To Do If Your Ex Wants To Stay Friends And You Don’t
While some may say being best friends with an ex is a badge of honor, you need to do what's best for you. But navigating how to communicate with an ex can be tricky territory, regardless of whether you want them to stay in your life or not.
First of all, forgive yourself for wanting to move on. "I believe that if you don’t want to stay friends with an ex, then you shouldn’t have to," Amy McManus, licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. "There is no rule that says that 'good people' stay friends with an ex, or that there is something wrong with you if you don’t." It's a little bit more difficult if the ex in question is not on the same page.
"Trust your own decisions. If you don't want to stay friends then do not doubt your feelings," psychologist Dr. Mindy Beth Lipson tells Bustle. You'll just have to figure out the right way to then communicate these feelings to your ex. Blocking them on social media without talking, or getting into fights no one wants are not going to help you heal. Instead, there are more concrete ways to ask for what you want, even as you transition out of a relationship with this person.
Here are seven things to do if your ex wants to stay friends and you don't, according to experts.
1. Tell Them Up Front
The most important thing you can do in this situation is to be honest. You just need to tell them how you feel, and be clear about it.
Dr. Danielle Forshee, doctor of psychology and licensed clinical social worker, tells Bustle that there are two good ways to go about this conversation. First, you can say: “I understand that we were together for a while and it is hard to be apart. Right now, being friends with you is not something I’m ready or able to do. I will reach out to you in the future if anything changes.”
Another option is to be a little bit more gentle. You could say: “This isn’t easy for either of us. I would love for us to remain in each other’s lives because we were so close and shared so many experiences together. Right now, it’s just too painful. ... Please let me have some time and space and I will reach out to you if I feel that I can give you friendship in the future," Dr. Forshee says. Of course, how you approach this conversation changes by nature of how you two broke up. Just honor you own needs by being clear with your former partner.
2. Honor The Relationship With Empathy
When you're talking to the person who used to be your partner, it's important to balance being straightforward, and — in a sense — loving, with them. As mentioned before, this starts with stating your needs. Then, as you continue the conversation, remember to keep a level head. This is because, as difficult as it sounds, it's best to honor the relationship with a level of kindness if it deserves it. So try being empathetic with your ex — even if they're being extremely difficult.
"Remember that relationships bring all kinds of complicated feelings with them," David Bennet, counselor and relationship expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. "Your ex may deal with this by wanting to stay friends. So, if you ever start to get angry at their friendship overtures, remember this." Even if it seems far away now, you once cared deeply about each other. And in the very least, being the bigger person might help you feel better about yourself.
3. Set Up A Timeline
Another way to help mitigate some post-breakup awkwardness is to simply set up a timeline. Things might be murky in the immediate aftermath of a breakup, so giving yourself some mandated emotional space could be a great way to clear your head.
"This may sound a bit contrived but that's OK," Eileen Purdy, master of social work and anxiety therapist, tells Bustle. "Pick an amount of time that feels right to you to 'not be friends' ... When the time is up you both will be in different places in your lives to reconsider and most importantly will have some emotional distance to continue making good decisions for yourself." When that time has passed, you can check in again. And you have every right to keep making these requests for as long as it feels necessary.
4. Stick With Your Boundaries
When you've set boundaries post-breakup, but only one person seems to be following them, it can be difficult to stick with the plan. But it's worth it. "Navigating this new type of relationship requires doing things differently than when you were together," Purdy says. There are reasons you are no longer together, so let those guide you.
And you don't need to be influenced by anyone else's experience but your own. Even if people use being friends with their exes as bragging rights, you get to do what is right for you. And that may include cutting them out. "It’s important to enforce boundaries, and this may include unfriending them on social media, or blocking them if they don’t understand those boundaries," Bennett says. It's all about finding a new normal as you navigate this next stage of your life — without them.
5. Find New Places To Hang Out
This simple step will both practically help by keeping you away from your ex, and emotionally help upending the routine of your old relationship.
"If you are likely to see your ex, ... then find some new places to hang out until things cool off. Asking your ex to not hang around places will just upset them, and requires direct communication with your ex, which you are trying to avoid," Bennett says. So just find somewhere new to hang out, like a museum perhaps, or a cool new coffee shop. Bonus points: you get to reacquaint yourself with the city you live in, on your own terms.
6. Put It In Writing
Whether or not you actually share your feelings with your ex, putting your feelings about the breakup in writing might help you clear your head. "Written words are more impactful than spoken. That is why contracts are always in writing," Kyle Wright, Relationship Expert & Co-Founder of Wright Wellness Center, tells Bustle.
And if your ex didn't react well to your initial conversation, or you need physical space from them, writing can be strategic. "Write down what you need from your ex (or what you don’t need) and email it to them," Wright suggests. "That way you both have a copy of exactly what you said, which prevents any miscommunication. Writing down what you want to say to your ex allows you time to think it through too — making sure that nothing is said in a heated moment that you both might regret." Plus, if it works well, it'll give you some added closure too.
7. Don't Fall For The Tricks
No matter what, if your ex is pressing for a friendship you don't want, things will probably get tricky. But you don't need to fall for any literal tricks.
Whether or not your ex knows they're messing with you, there are some behaviors that it's important to look out for. "Some exes have been known to send cards and gifts in order to have their former mate feel obligated to acknowledge their receipt," relationship expert Kevin Darné, author of My Cat Won't Bark, tells Bustle. "In other instances exes will try to reach you through one of your friends or family members by asking them to say 'hello' on their behalf." If they end up doing any of these things, you don't have to respond. Even if someone's "just checking in," you deserve to keep your distance if you need it.
Ending a relationship feels terrible, no matter what. And no one wants the added pressure of an ex who wants more than you can give. Hopefully, if you ask for what you want and stick to it, healing will come just a little bit easier. You're newly single — go have some fun.