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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