How to Be “Just Friends” After a Break-Up — Part 2

How quickly is too quickly?

Posted Nov 11, 2019

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels
Source: Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

“I want to be friends, but I need some space, first.”

There’s a reason a lot of us have said those words — or something similar.

Having some space after a break-up is typically necessary.

And while there is no set time frame for getting over a break-up — because the healing process is different for each person and each situation — one thing is pretty certain:

Romantic feelings can’t just be turned “on” and “off” like a light switch.

So, if someone truly wants to form a friendship following a break-up — one based on preference, not need — they’d be wise to not rush things.

Both sides invariably need time to adjust to the break-up and to being single. (For a while it may be best that there are no phone calls, texts and emails “just to see how you’re doing.”)

Most of all, both sides will most likely need time to deal with their feelings about the break-up. To honor these feelings and release them, safely.

And since the issues that drove the couple apart won’t suddenly be resolved now that they’ve decided to be friends, it’s important that each partner learns from this break-up — what went wrong and why. So they can relate differently — as friends.

(This learning curve is also important for future romantic relationships. Otherwise, the factors that caused the current split are likely to recur again, in one form or another, in a pattern.)

The wise use of “time apart” (and safe, emotional release)

It can be helpful to begin your healing by writing down how you feel about the break-up.

Free-style, no editing.

These types of phrases, or something similar, can be useful starting prompts:

• When I think about the reasons we broke up, I feel …

• The biggest thing I miss about our relationship is …

• I’m feeling so lonely and unsure that I’ll never …

Try to give yourself permission to express yourself freely, using as many sheets of paper as you want. And lots of tissues, as well!

When you’re done, you can read what you wrote out loud. Then rip it all up — creating more closure.

At this point, you may want to ask yourself:

• How am I feeling right now?

After that, you might want to write more, giving yourself permission to not hold back.

If strong feelings surface, like grief, anger, and or fear, it’s wise to respect and honor these feelings, releasing them safely, in private.

Here’s what many people have found useful for releasing ...

• Anger: Pounding a pillow and verbalizing what they’re mad about.

• Fear: Screaming into a pillow (it muffles sound).

• Sadness: Having a good cry (this can be so healing).

Break-ups can stir up repressed feelings, past hurts and losses.

But it’s unlikely that it will feel this way forever, as long as we take loving, respectful care of ourselves — mind and body.

To move towards achieving this, some people have found this exercise to be helpful: they pretend they are calling up their best friend, their mom, or someone else who loves them unconditionally.

And they wonder to themselves: 

• What would [whomever they’re pretending to call up] say to comfort me, right now?

Then they write those words down.

Next, they say those written words out loud (in private) and give themselves some love, wrapping themselves in a hug. They then repeat those words a few times, breathing deeply, until they feel calmer and stronger.

After releasing some feelings (about present losses and the past) that surfaced while they were doing this "phone call exercise," quite a few of them have felt a little more ready and comfortable with the thought of being friendlier with their ex.

But only if, and when, the time is right (which means: when both former partners feel ready). The friendship would need to evolve naturally.

It’s wise not to try to "make” it happen.

Far better to let things unfold — with mutual respect lighting the way.

In the third installment of this 4-part series, a significant question will be covered:

What if kids are part of the picture?

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Contact your qualified provider before implementing or modifying any personal growth or wellness program or technique, and with questions about your well-being.

Copyright ©2019 Dr. Suzanne Gelb, Ph.D., JD. All rights reserved.