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Friends With Ex: Should You Be Friends With Your Ex Post-Split?

Posted: Updated: 05/15/2012 2:12 pm

By Susan Elliott for

A big, looming question after the breakup seems to be, "Can we still be friends?" Unfortunately the answer is probably no. There are several reasons for this, but first and foremost is that even after the most amicable breakup, the people involved need some time so they can work through their feelings and sift through the ruins of the relationship. Even if it was not an emotional high-wire act, as many breakups are, there needs to be time apart to break the bond of "the couple."

Each person needs to separate and go back to being an individual and lose the "couple" identity. Each person needs to do their work and become an individual once again. Each needs to deal with the breakup in their own way, apart from the scrutiny of the person they just broke up with. Most people cannot remain friends after a breakup, but if it ever is to be, it will be later... much later. The atmosphere immediately following a breakup is too emotionally charged for it to happen right away, if at all.

Sometimes both people are okay with the breakup and try to be friends too early. I know one couple who had dinner every now and again after they broke up. They told everyone they were "friends" and liked to check in now and again. One night, about two months after the breakup, the dinner turned into a teary shouting match.

Neither was prepared for it but both were moving onto other people and the revelation at dinner brought up all kinds of emotions that neither knew were there. If you're going to be friends -- ever -- the first six months is probably not the time, no matter how amicable it seems on the surface.

The person who pushes to be friends is usually the one who has unfinished business but doesn't want to own that or doesn't want the responsibility of the relationship, but is unwilling to completely relinquish the ex. That is a selfish motive and not fair to the other person. Do your work and let the other person do their work and heal. It is not fair to string someone along as a "friend" because you can't deal with the pain of having them out of your life completely.

As with any post-breakup dealings with the ex: examine your motives. A coworker recently said to me, "I want to be friends after the breakup and she doesn't. She's a terrific person and I don't want her out of my life."

If you're the one who is asking to be friends, examine your motives. Are you trying to avoid your grief? Are you playing a game? Are you unwilling to really break all ties but don't want the relationship either? Do you want benefits without responsibility? Do you want to hurt someone else because you don't want to be in a relationship but you don't want to let go completely either? If so, that's dysfunctional and wrong.

Some people can't do endings. If you can't do endings (if you're still friends with absolutely everyone you've gone out with), you might need to think about that. Others just don't end things because they don't know how. If your ex is one of those, don't let him or her lead the way. Take charge of ending it and not remaining friends.

If you are the one who isn't able to end things, don't inject your inability to come to terms with the end of the relationship on the other person. It's simply not fair. Yes, she's hurt. You're making things worse. If you truly think she is terrific, then let this terrific person have her space to heal. You cannot have it both ways. Leave it alone.

If your ex is asking you to be friends, don't let him or her manipulate or guilt you into it. Your healing is what matters, not impressing your ex with your ability to be okay with the friends thing. It's okay if you don't want to be friends. It's more than okay, it's healthy. So, if you're the person who is being asked, say no. Short and sweet. Pure and simple.

Don't try to explain or rationalize -- just say no or maybe no, not now. The problem with saying "not now" is that it will usually be followed by "When?" and you just don't know. No is a one-word sentence. Say it and then go. No further explanation necessary. Again, being friends with your ex can be a minefield. Don't try to cross it in the early stages of the breakup.

The early stage is about you taking care of you. You need time and space to heal. Be good to you and the healing will happen.

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Below, celebrity exes that remained friends after their split:

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  • Courteney Cox and David Arquette

    Courteney Cox and David Arquette tied the knot in 1999 before separating 11 years later and filing for divorce in mid-June. But the two actors are both fully supportive of each other.

  • Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore

    Although Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher's marriage came to blows after the "Two and a Half Men" star allegedly strayed from his vows, the pair were spotted looking quite amicable at a pre-Golden Globes party. (Getty)

  • Jennifer Carpenter and Michael C. Hall

    This pair's on-screen brother-sister relationship may be heating up on "Dexter" (seriously!), but the ex-couple is also friendly when they're not trying to catch Miami's newest serial killer in town. (Getty)

  • Debra Messing and Daniel Zelman

    In December 2010, Debra Messing and Daniel Zelman split after 10 years of marriage.

  • Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon

    Reese Witherspooon and Ryan Phillippe found young love in 1999 before welcoming a son and daughter. But things weren't a typical Hollywood ending for the pair -- they split eight years later. The duo is still more than amicable as they co-parent their two children.

  • Demi Moore and Bruce Willis

    This power couple married in 1987 and welcomed three daughters before calling it quits in 2000. But the happy family is still very much a unit -- Bruce even poses with the kids, Demi and Demi's subsequent husband, Ashton Kutcher, on the red carpet!

  • Orlando Bloom and Kate Bosworth

    Orlando Bloom and Kate Bosworth made quite an attractive pair and got pretty serious with their relationship before calling it quits. Maybe with their incredible looks combined, they were just too hot to handle. But you can still catch the duo hugging it out when they run into each other in Hollywoodland.

  • Jack White and Karen Elson

    After Karen Elson appeared in the White Stripes' music video "Blue Orchid," the chemistry was undeniable. The pair tied the knot in 2005 before calling it quits six years later. But they definitely ended on an amicable note -- they even threw a divorce party!

  • Miley Cyrus and Nick Jonas

    The collision of the prince and princess of teen pop came when Miley Cyrus and Nick Jonas made sweet music on and off the stage. But the teen pop-star world is too small for any hard feelings -- the pair is still more than friendly on the red carpet. How mature!

  • Penn Badgley and Blake Lively

    They were the couple to beat on the Upper East Side but the on-screen "Gossip Girl" drama between Blake Lively and Penn Badgley seemed to spill off-screen into their real-life romance. But the show must go on! The pair still remains friends on and off set.

  • Pete Wentz and Ashlee Simpson

    This rockstar and pop princess collided in 2008 before calling off their whirlwind romance three years later. But the pair did get one thing out of their short-lived union -- baby boy Bronx. The couple still remains close in an effort to make things as normal as possible for their young son.

  • Fran Drescher and Peter Marc Jacobson

    Fran Drescher and Peter Marc Jacobson were married for 11 years before Jacobson admitted that he was, in fact, gay. Although it was shocking at first, Drescher finally got over her ex-husband's confession and now admits that they are the best of friends.

  • Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake

    The ultimate fun couple may have split after dating for three years but that didn't stop them from still having a ball. The pair even starred together in "Bad Teacher" and played each other's love interests -- and apparently it wasn't awkward at all!

  • Kendra Wilkinson and Hugh Hefner

    This former Playboy Mansion fixture and her Lothario lover, Hugh Hefner, made good TV while it lasted on "The Girls Next Door." But there were definitely no hard feelings for this ex-couple -- Kendra married Hank Baskett at the Playboy mansion!

  • Deryck Whibley and Avril Lavigne

    After three years of marriage, these punk rockers called it quits -- but Avril still insists that they remain quite close.

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Filed by Brittany Wong  |