Whether or not you should be friends with an ex is one of the big dating conundrums. Sometimes you've invested so much time, it feels weird to just cut things off suddenly. But being friends with an ex can be really, really hard. “If you want to actually be friends, you have to be open and transparent, even when it is uncomfortable,” Nicole Richardson, LPC-S, LMFT, tells Bustle. “If you are past your no contact period and you are starting to date again, it is important to let you ex know. You don't need to provide details but don't let it be the elephant in the room or, worse, for them to find out on Facebook.” And you can only hope they do the same with you. But if there are any lingering feelings or resentment, a friendship can get complicated very quickly.
So you know what? You don't have to do it. I have exes I'm friends with and ones I'm not, my girlfriend has the same, and a lot of my friends do too. Some friendships formed naturally. But others — well, with some, you realize you you'd never be friends in the first place or things just feel too weird. And that's totally, totally OK. Because not being friends with your ex doesn't make you a bad person or even a calloused one — and it doesn't mean that your relationship was awful. It's just means one or both of you are better off letting things go, no matter how hard it is at first. And there are a lot of benefits.
It'll Help Keep You From Making Mistakes
Sometimes, being friends with an ex turns into getting back together, if only for a night. “Talking to your ex is a tricky subject,” Licensed Psychologist Dr. Jennifer Rhodes tells Bustle. “One may choose to re-engage in hopes of getting back together or it accidentally happens.” I've been there. I've also full-blown started dating again, despite it being a terrible relationship. Being friends can turn into something more quickly.
It'll Be Easier With Your Future Partners
I have exes I'm friends with, as does my girlfriend, but it only works if they are genuine friendships, without any hurt feelings or agenda. “If it isn't over for your ex and/or for you then this is a ‘red light’ situation,” Gary Brown, PhD, LMFT, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Los Angelestells Bustle. “I don't see how you can be fair to your current relationship if there is major unfinished business with your ex — for either your ex and certainly if you still have significant feelings for your ex.” Now, if it's a real friendship then your partner should respect that, but it's definitely easier dating if you don't have a lot of exes hanging around.
You Don't Owe Them Anything
Finally, you may just not want to. Some people don't like to admit this, because it makes it feel like the whole relationship lacked value— but that's not the case. "Most people don't want to feel expendable, rejected, or out of control," sex and relationships therapist Cathy Beaton, tells Bustle. Beaton would advise people who are upset when their exes move on: "Put this person in your past where [they] belong, think of what you've learned from the experience, and get busy finding another partner who appreciates you." Just because this person and relationship once had value to you doesn't mean you owe them anything— especially if it's detrimental to you now. It's OK to leave some things behind.
If you and your ex realize that you're better off as friends, have no lingering resentment or jealousy, and can have an authentic friendship — that's great. But it doesn't always work that way. And if you just don't want to be friends with an ex because it doesn't make you feel good, that's OK too.