It’s funny how the idea of letting go of love and being friends is one that gives us hope.
You know what I mean – the ‘maybe we can just be friends’ concept. The promise that the connection will continue even if the romance and intimacy end. The idea of it makes letting go of someone not so harsh.
I know that the idea of letting go of love and being friends is a lovely one but, in my experience, it is (mostly) impossible to do so.
Let me tell you why…
#1 – Sex changes everything.
Have you ever found yourself in bed with someone who you considered a good friend? Did the friendship somehow evolve into something more, either intentionally or by happenstance? Most of us have at one point in our lives.
What happened to that friendship after sex was introduced into the mix? I bet things changed.
Why? It’s actually chemistry. The act of sex, and the hormones that run rampant, connect people in a way that nothing else does. Furthermore, the hormones can cloud our judgement and actually make us attached to someone in a way that might not actually be authentic. Women especially, after having sex with someone, become attached in a way they weren’t before.
Taking this idea into account, imagine it in the reverse – going from being in a hormonally charged sexual relationship with someone and then stepping back and eliminating that part of your relationship completely. Imagine being in the same room with your person and not touching them. Imagine watching them seduce someone else and knowing exactly what that looks like? How could you somehow not feel bad, to some degree, after having shared an intimacy with that person?
I have a male friend who I dated for about two minutes. He is one of my best friends and we share everything but we agree that if we had had sex, if we had connected so intimately, we wouldn’t have been able to be so honest with each other. The sex would have altered our relationship, whether we wanted it to or not.
#2 – The thousand little cuts.
Relationships don’t fall apart because everything is hunky-dory. Relationships fall apart for many reasons but one of the most common ones is a slow and steady death.
This slow and steady death involves a thousand little cuts, daily hurts, big and small, that gradually tear the fabric of the relationship, leaving it tattered and useless.
You know what I mean. When he doesn’t call when he says he will or when she spends more time with her sister than with you or when you disagree on how much to spend on a TV or when he chooses his work over you. Those thousand little cuts, things that hurt a little but, when accumulated, lead to the death of a relationship.
Now, think about being in a friendship with someone who had hurt you over and over and over. Would you keep a friend who had done so? Friendship is about love and trust and mutual support – how can you have that with someone who treated you badly, and who you might have treated badly in return.
So, as you decide whether letting go of love and being friends is an option for you, think about how much pain is between you and if that is something that you want to carry with you going forward.
#3 – Attachment disparity.
In my work as a life coach, couples who want to be ‘friends’ are couples who struggle with an attachment disparity, an unevenness of feelings that exists after the break up.
What this looks like is often the person doing the breaking up wants to be ‘friends’ only because they think it softens the blow of the breakup. They really have no intentions of being ‘friends’ but they throw it out there, trying to ease the pain for their soon-to-be ex. For the person being broken up with, the desire to be ‘friends’ is often a desperate attempt to not lose their person and to maybe even win them back if they can keep them close.
Is there an attachment disparity in your relationship? Are you reading this article because your heart is broken and you want to hold onto your ex in whatever way you can? Are you dangling the idea of friendship out in front of your ex because you think it will hurt them less, not because you actually want to be friends?
Being friends after a relationship, unless the break up is mutual and there is no attachment remaining, can be (mostly) impossible.
#4 – There will be no moving on.
When relationships end, the first thing that I advise people to do is to go ‘no contact’ with their ex.
This means no social media, no texting, no going out to places you know they will be, no talking to their friends to find out what your ex is up to. Nothing.
Why? Because it can be impossible to move on if you are still in touch with your ex, if you are seeing how they are getting on with their lives without you, hanging out with old friends, and new, and being successful in life, especially if you are struggling.
So how can you move on if you are trying to maintain a friendship with your ex? How can you stop looking to the past and missing what was instead of looking to the future and what could be? How does watching your ex flirt with another person at the end of the bar make you feel anything more than less than? How can you truly be available to another person if you are still hanging on to your ex?
Moving on after a break up is the key to future happiness. Being friends with your ex is a surefire way to prevent that moving on from happening.
#5 – Your new relationship could be dead on arrival.
Let’s say you get involved with a new someone, someone you see a real future with. And let’s say that your new person introduces you to someone they used to date, an ex who is now a ‘friend.’ How would that make you feel? Honestly?
I am lucky enough to have found a man who is secure enough with himself that he is not threatened by my male friendships but for many people, old lovers being friends is not acceptable.
Men and women, both, can be uncomfortable with the shared intimacy that this friend and you shared. They picture you holding hands and talking about the future. They see the connection that you have from being more than friends once. They wonder if there are still feelings between you, ones that threaten the viability of the new relationship.
Is being your ex’s friend important enough to threaten a relationship that you could have with someone who could actually make you happy and give you the future you want? Think about that before you decide whether letting go of love and being friends is the thing for you.
I know that the idea of letting go of love and being friends is an attractive one.
When we are connected to someone the idea of losing them can be so painful that we hold on to whatever we can so that pain is eased. But really, having a true friendship with an ex is next to impossible.
Having had sex, having hurt each other, having feelings for someone that might not be reciprocated, having the ability to move on and being able to have a successful relationship in the future are all things that indicate that being friends with your ex can be impossible.
I am friends with many of my exes. We weren’t friends at the time of the break up but, as time passed and life went on, we reconnected. And I do care about these guys but they aren’t truly my friends. Not in the way my girlfriends are. They have hurt me and I have hurt them and there is a degree of separation that exists between us because of that. Yes, I am Facebook friends with them and we occasionally text but truly our time has passed and I am very lucky to have the life I have now. One that I found all by myself without their friendship in my life.
So, think long and hard before taking this ‘friendship’ step. You will be glad you did!
If you have made this far you must really be struggling with being friends with your ex.
Let me help you, NOW, before you sabotage your future.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or click here, and let’s get started.
I am a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. My writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. I work with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.