I'll make this short. Is it okay to stay friends with an ex?
We’ve all seen it happen. Maybe we’ve even been through it.
Boy meets girl. The boy likes girl and girl likes boy back. Boy and girl date. Things don’t work out.
Boy and girl break up. Boy and girl feel hurt. And in order to try to make it feel less painful, boy and/or girl suggests: let’s stay friends.
While it may seem like a noble suggestion, let me be blatantly honest here….I know very few (if any) situations in which staying friends with an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend proved to be beneficial.
In fact, most of the time, it’s the exact opposite: risky. Usually, one of two things tends to happen when an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend try to “stay friends”.
1. You fall back into a romantic relationship (the exact one that didn’t work out to begin with).
When two people decide to break up, there’s usually a good reason. In most cases, something didn’t work out or maybe something was lacking in the relationship that led you to that decision. But when you break up and decide to “stay friends” with your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, often times what happens is that slowly your interactions with one another start morphing back into a romantic relationship, because that’s what you’ve had for so long.
Texting, talking, and getting together end up keeping you feeling emotionally stuck (and sometimes even intensifying your feelings) rather than allowing you the distance you need to move on. And in some cases, staying friends with your “ex” ends up leading your relationship back down the path of physical intimacy. Then you end up being “friends with benefits” – moving away from healing rather than giving your heart, mind, and body a chance at true healing and closure.
2. You end up harboring feelings of resentment and jealousy.
The other thing that often happens when you choose to hold on to a relationship after a breakup and stay friends with your ex is that you end up going semi-crazy. You know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you? The late-night Facebook stalking, just to see where your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend is and who he/she is hanging out with.
The mixed emotions start creeping in on you when you see them start to move on or begin interacting with someone else of the opposite sex. On one hand, you know they weren’t good for you – but on the other hand, you’re not ready to see them with someone else. You start second-guessing your decision and rip that wound open all over again.
Why put yourself through the roller coaster ride of resentment and jealousy? Why allow yourself to watch their life unfold in bitterness, rather than focus on living life for yourself? Stepping back is the best way to free yourself of any unnecessary and unhealthy doubt.
When I went through a difficult break up many years ago, the temptation was definitely there to continue holding on to hope by holding on to friendship. But what it ended up doing was causing more confusion, and prolonging the pain. It’s like I couldn’t really begin to heal until I finally let go – emotionally, mentally, physically. And when I finally did enter the right relationship, it was partly because I had freed my heart up for something new. Rather than being caught up with my ex, there was space in my heart and life for the next good thing.
Looking back, I really believe now that God was waiting for me to open my hands in surrender before He was ready to place someone new in my life.
When your fists are closed tightly trying to hold on to a relationship that isn’t good for you, you aren’t free to receive the new things God has in store.
In order for real healing to begin, you have to learn to let go and move on.If you were the one who was doing the breaking up, you have to acknowledge that there’s a reason you chose to break things off and trust your God-given instinct.
If you were the one that was “broken-up with”, remember that healthy relationships are a two-way street: two people loving, giving, and desiring one another. You shouldn’t have to “convince” someone to stick around, or try and make them come back. Wait for someone who is just as into you as you are into them.
Closure in a relationship doesn’t come when someone closes the door for us….closure comes when we choose to close the door ourselves. So do yourself a favor today – and say goodbye to your ex!
Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. Her newest book, Choosing Marriage, has just been released and can be found on her website, True Love Dates. Her work has been featured in numerous magazines and publications, including Relevant Magazine and Crosswalk.com. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter or book a session with her today!