Can You Be Friends With Your Ex?

What’s the first thing you’re expected to do after a breakup? Block them on social media, destroy the things they’ve given us, and shift the blame entirely on them. These actions have been popularised as ‘healthy things’ to do after the end of a relationship because, as the joke on social media states, “Staying in touch with your ex is like being in touch with your kidnapper after you are released.” And when someone says something like “I am still friends with my ex”, we automatically assume that they are ‘still in love’ with each other. But why is that the case?

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Before we delve into the complicated relationship we share with our ex (s), let me first define who an ex is.

Who is an ex?

An “ex” is someone we have been in a relationship with emotionally, physically and/or sexually. This relationship might have ended with mutual consent or a single-sided breakup (or divorce).

What makes our relationship with our ex ‘complicated’?

Being friends with an ex can be tricky as it brings up a hundred questions – Will it keep us from moving on? Will it interfere with our new romantic interests? Will we re-develop the feelings for them? and so on. But as we move into adulthood, we realise that relationships are very different from how we envisioned them during our teenage years, when cutting someone off was comparatively more straightforward.

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As we grow older, we may share office space or social circles with our ex. In instances where the breakup is not mutual, one person might still harbour feelings for the other and this makes the scenario infinitely more complex as they’d want to keep in touch for the wrong reasons. But when you share office space or social circles, avoiding them or giving them the silent treatment will lead to awkwardness. And this is why many of us are plagued by the million-dollar question,

Should we stay in touch with our ex? 

Ultimately, the only determining factor should be your level of comfort. How comfortable you are in staying in touch with your ex?

If the relationship was toxic or you faced abuse or were manipulated or cheated on, you might want to avoid contact with the person completely. That is perfectly ok. You might choose not to stay in touch even when the breakup was mutual to avoid awkwardness, and that’s ok too. On the other end of the spectrum, you and your ex might be comfortable with staying friends, without your history getting in the way of your friendship.

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The bottom line is that you have to do what’s best for you.

As we grow older, we realise that breakups and past relationships sometimes teach us more about ourselves than anything else. It helps us simmer down our expectations, work on our mental and physical health (if you become a gym freak after a breakup!), and help us understand what we are looking for and want to avoid in a future relationship. 

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Staying in touch with our ex allows us to accept that not every relationship is a fairy tale and every partner is a soulmate. Cherishing people and what we had with them is sometimes more beautiful than prolonging a relationship past its expiry date. So, it’s perfectly ok to stay in touch with your ex, provided it’s not something that affects your mental (and/or physical) wellbeing. And if you don’t want to keep in touch, that too is perfectly fine. Because ultimately, each relationship is different from another, and whatever you do will make sense to you. 

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