How to Stay Friends With Your Ex: 7 Dos and Don'ts

man and woman high-fivingWhether you're the one getting the shaft or the person awkwardly admitting "It's not you, it's me," breakups suck. But if the two of you had a pretty strong relationship at some point, there is a good chance you can still be friends.


It won't be easy, natch. The Stir asked Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC, a psychotherapist and relationship coach based in McLean, Virginia, to explain how it's done.

A key strategy? Setting boundaries.

As in, figuring out what you can do to establish your new relationship as "friends," not "friends with benefits" or some other hard-to-explain hybrid. Doing so "sends a mixed message that could lead to misunderstandings, hurtful feelings, or the need to draw new boundaries down the road," Coleman explains.

A few parameters for your tender new friendship:

1. Do make sexual contact off-limits. Because, hello! Too confusing.

2. Don't spend too much time together. (You broke up for a reason, remember?)

3. Do agree that some topics will be off-limits, says Coleman, "like intimate details about your dating life or how your new relationship is going."

More from The Stir: 12 Ex-Wives Give Advice to His New Younger Woman (PHOTOS)

4. Don't text/call each other 24-7. Set limits for what you both think is appropriate, Coleman suggests. Otherwise, this could cause an issue when one or both of you moves on to a different relationship. And it goes without saying, "no late-night alcohol-infused calling," adds Coleman.

5. Do be consistent that your relationship is over. You want to be friends and only friends. That means no doing things you did as a couple, Coleman notes, or spending the night together under the same roof. There's no reason to still act like a couple. You broke up, after all. Doing so "will send [your ex] mixed messages," she says.

6. Don't give your kids false hope. You need to be clear with them: Although Mommy and Daddy are friends, there will be NO getting back together. (Then maybe don't let them watch The Parent Trap for a few years.)

7. Do re-set your priorities. Once you move on relationship-wise, give your ex a heads-up if he and your new man will be somewhere at the same time (especially if your kids will be there, too). True, your ex might feel awkward, but remember: He's no longer your first priority, says Coleman.

"Your children should come first, then your new beau, then your ex should come last," she says. You can still want the best for him, but your life should no longer revolve around trying to please him.

Doing so, says Coleman, may cause your other relationships to suffer. And chances are, you're ready to move on.



Image via Voyagerix/Shutterstock

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