Should You Stay Friends with Your Ex?

Should You Stay Friends with Your Ex?

First of all, I am not an expert, but I do have a very strong opinion on the subject. That is because I often meet or hear of people who are hurting because they are dealing with their ex in a manner that is bad for themselves. My main goal in life is to minimize pain in people around me as much as possible, so therefore I feel very strongly about writing this post.

Now, my short answer to the question is a resounding NO. It is most likely not at all a good idea. My long answer is, well, long. This post is mostly based on my personal experience as well as on a little bit of psychological insight. I hope you will agree with some of my viewpoints.

Whether you can be friends with your ex depends on many factors, most importantly on whether you are:

  • the one who did the dumping, or
  • the one who got dumped

Next to this, it depends on whether you have hopes of ever getting back together with your ex or not.

Of course, most people who get dumped will have hopes of getting back together, while most people who do the dumping are finished for good with that other person. It may not always be this black and white, I know that.

Regardless of what position you find yourself in post breakup, I believe you will benefit very little from hanging out too much with your ex. And if you got dumped and want them back, then I would say that the no contact rule applies.

The no contact rules has been discussed many, many places all over the net, countless of times before. So you probably already know all about it. The idea is to promise yourself to break contact with your ex for a certain period of time. It could be 30 days; it could be forever, depending on the severity of your broken heart.

During no contact you are not allowed to:

  • Call your ex
  • Text your ex
  • Hang out with them
  • Email them
  • Leave your ex notes
  • Bump into them on purpose

During no contact you are encouraged to:

  • Better youself
  • Date other people
  • Keep busy
  • Just have fun!
  • Etc.

A lot of people, including people who try to make money off of the no contact rule, will themselves into believing that the purpose of the no contact rule is to use it as a psychological trick to get your ex back. (People want what they can’t have).

In my opinion, the purpose of the no contact rule is to free yourself from the psychological burden of pining after someone who clearly isn’t into you any longer. Do no expect to be able to change anyone’s decisions, in love, or in any other aspect of life.

My main reason for being so much against being friends with your ex is quite personal. I have lived out different of such scenarios. I have tried having casual sex with an ex. And I have tried having not much contact with an ex besides having her as a Facebook friend. None of these situations ended happily for me.

The casual sex only happened once in a blue moon, but it would completely warp my “friendship” with that particular girl. Every single time I would see her the sex thing would be on my mind, and its both not fair to another person to have a secret agenda with them as well as counterproductive for yourself to have your “dating efforts” go towards someone who does not want the same thing as you do.

Here is a general rule that applies to all sexual relations:

Always make sure that the people you date are in it for the same reasons as you are, no matter what those reasons may be! If you don’t, you WILL be hurt.

Even today, a couple of years after the last time we had a sexual encounter, I am not sure if I feel like seeing her ever again. It is not a healthy relation for me to carry on with, and success in life comes from letting go as much as from letting in.

Then there is the other girl I mentioned. She was the love of my life, and although it is embarrassing to admit, I never gave up on her. With time I grew to know that we would never, ever be back together, not in a million years, but it did not prevent my messed up brain from holding on to that tiny, little hope of reconciliation.

So after finally manning up, I deleted her number and I deleted her off of Facebook with the intention of never speaking with her again.

Life is too short for exes. There are literally so many other beautiful people out there for you to meet and connect with. And exes, they have a way of being in the way of you going out there and meeting those other people. You might not think so. But they will be. They might even be in the way of your current relationship flourishing, like it is supposed to.

The reason why I think you can never really be friends with your ex is one not often discussed in these kind of dating articles, and therefore one I would like to share here. It has to do with brain plasticity, or the fact that neural pathways are created every time we experience something new.

Some of these pathways grow strong over time, like the pathways responsible for us having addictions to stuff, and others, of course, do not linger. That is why we say that the brain is plastic: It changes and adapts to changes in our behavior and environment.

In simple terms, if we want to truly get over an ex we have to not activate all of the pathways that has to do with that person.

Let me come up with an example. If I think about Louise, my for this purpose fictional ex, in any context, my romantic memories of her will most likely linger on. Because, all of the pathways concerned with Louise are intertwined. The neurons fire off each other. In order to really get over her, I would have to not think of her and not have contact with her – at all. This is why cold turkeys can sometimes be the best way of overcoming addiction.

Of course the brain isn’t as simple as that, and the scientific field of neuroplasticity research is still in its infancy. But a very short summary of current scientific advancements would be that we now know that who we are, our identity, is not set in stone. We can make a a difference by setting rules and boundaries for ourselves.

The above is the reasons why I don’t think you should be friends with your ex. Not if you still have feelings for them, at least. Those feelings can and likely will linger on for years and years if you don’t remove them completely from your life. Do it. Life is too short for heartaches.

Now, if you truly are over your ex, then yes, by all means be friends with them. But I would never trust myself in deciding whether or not I still have feelings for them – my brain is constantly playing games on me, and so, I will never be trustworthy when it comes to things like this.

None of us will, because we are all wired more or less the same way. The best we can do is to ask a good friend, or someone else who are better suited to analyze our emotions objectively, if they think we are truly over our ex or not. Until then, don’t stay friends with your ex. Just don’t.

Was this post meaningful to you? If so, I always appreciate comments, likes and shares. Thanks!

Jakob Scheel

Jakob Scheel

Jakob is a Copenhagen-based Anthropologist who does Project Management by day and Photography by night.
Jakob Scheel

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One Reply to “Should You Stay Friends with Your Ex?”

  1. Hi Jakob, here’s Jessica.
    As you now already know, I have nothing to do this evening, so I decided to read some of your articles and comment about that.
    Yes, this article has been useful to me, and not because I want to be friend with my ex .
    I never thought about befriend an ex, because it’s simply nonsense. If you have decided to break up, then it’s better to look at the future. Same thing if you’re the one that got dumped.
    This article has been useful because I understood that my brain has his ways to let my thoughts wander towards my ex, and this has to be cut off.
    And, your articles reinforced one of my ideas about one guy I dated last november, who was proud to still be friend with all his exes. Later I discovered that he had the personality of an artichoke, and was only manipulating himself.
    Well… thanks!

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