Can You Become 'Just Friends' after Dating?
Tips for Navigating Sensitive Territory When You're Trying to Stay Friends with Your Ex
Dear April Masini,
I broke up with my boyfriend about a week ago. As breakups go, it was as good as it gets. We had an honest conversation, I explained that I wasn't in love with him anymore, and he took it all much better than I thought. He's my best friend and over the past year we have devoted a lot of time to one another, so I'm really glad that it looks like we can stay friends."
The problem is, he seems to want to continue our frequent contact and hanging out once or twice a week. This doesn't seem right to me; I feel like I am leading him to believe we're getting back together or something. At the same time, he's a great person and I have a lot of fun with him. I still enjoy hanging out with him.
My biggest concern is making sure we both have time to move on and enabling both of us to meet new people. I feel some responsibility as the person doing the breaking up. I'm wondering if I need to limit contact or if I should just keep going as we are. Do you have any relationship advice that will help me stay friends with my ex without leading him on?
Sincerely, Just a Friend
April Masini's Advice :
Dear Just a Friend,
No matter how mature the two parties in a breakup are, distance is absolutely imperative to moving on, and it doesn't seem that you are getting any distance at this point. While it may feel okay now, once you or he gets involved with someone new, it's bound to have its problems.
There are some basic rules to keep in mind when dealing with a breakup's aftermath. These should help you keep distance while maintaining the relationship you need to, one day, have a healthy and close friendship.
Rules for Contact:
– Keep any phone calls to a minimum (under five minutes or less).
– Don’t initiate phone calls unless you have something specific you need to know.
– Don’t check in to see how the person is doing. If the person happens to have a sick relative, and you feel checking in is the right thing to do — send a Hallmark card, flowers or some other small gift to show you’re there, but keeping your distance.
– In fact better than phone calls is e-mail. E-mails are less personal and circumvent the possibility of escalating emotions in the moment because even though they are fast, you still have to take the time to write the e-mail and press send before you can get a response. Sometimes words “fly” out of your mouth faster than the speed of light, and you can’t take them back once they’re out.
– If the person starts incessantly e-mailing you, tell them in no uncertain terms to stop. Even if it feels blunt, harsh and cruel to you, remember, clarity is more important than manners in this case. If they don’t, quit your side of the e-mailing altogether. Consider blocking them from writing you. You can call your internet service provider for help with this. It’s free.
– If the other person is intent on engaging in unpleasant behavior, avoid them for a reasonable amount of time to give them a cool down space.
Just because they’re not ready for closure, doesn’t mean it’s your problem. You’re out of the relationship — remember? Don’t send confusing signals. When bad behavior escalates – even if it’s one sided – clarity is the only thing that will stop it.
– If you’re the one who can’t let go, use your self-discipline, without repressing your emotions. Don’t engage with your ex – or the person you’re feuding with while you’re “hot headed.” Work it out in your journal, with your friends in conversations, with a therapist, with your understanding family members. If you have physical inclinations – you feel like you have to break something or hit someone – jog, play tennis, do something physical that will allow you to release that energy in an appropriate place. Balance the release of anger and sadness with trying to understand what happened and seeing where your life can go now.
– If matters escalate and the person shows up at your house to be unpleasant or engage you, do not let them come into your home. Keep any conversations at the doorway, and keep them short. If they won’t leave, tell them that you’re busy and leave — shut the door even if it seems rude.
– If the person continues to show up, don’t be alone if you think they’re going to be around. You don’t want to be a victim, but you want to be safe. If you’re a woman, have a man there with you.
– If the slightest sign of violence occurs, call the police. Immediately.
While 99% of break ups and closure are normally handled by the two parties involved there is a legacy of lovers scorned who turn violent.
Don’t be a victim of violence. Don’t be ashamed — if this happens, just take care of business. Stalkers are borne out of one-way relationships that they perceive as two-way. It’s not just something that happens to movie stars. It’s very common in real life.
Be safe, be healthy and move forward in your life.