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Should Exes Remain Friends?

5. Are you close to their family, or vice versa?

Key points

  • Some may welcome the opportunity to stay in touch with a person they once loved deeply, while others would not.
  • It's best to move on mentally and emotionally before jumping back into a friendship with an ex.
  • A friendship between ex-partners needs clear boundaries and expectations to ensure neither party gets hurt.
Vitezslav Vylicil/iStock
Source: Vitezslav Vylicil/iStock

So much happens when you’re in a relationship; so much is shared. Moments of joy bring you closer together; chaotic vacations and the drama that comes with the holidays both test and strengthen your bond. In some cases, you share any number of really special things: children, pets, ice cream.

Given how much emotional and physical intimacy exists in a relationship, a breakup can be devastating and leave you feeling a whole host of conflicting emotions. Maybe anger. Maybe sadness, or maybe a sense of peace and calm. Maybe everything all at once, and on the same day. The grief process after a breakup is unique to each person.

Perhaps your process is to make sure there’s a clean break, no contact whatsoever. No texting. No emailing. No sending a message through a friend. When it’s over, it’s over, you think, because you want time to process the breakup, to rediscover yourself outside of a relationship.

But once the anger, hurt, and sadness subside, you start to remember the good times you had together, or the kindness they showed you in a moment of crisis. As much as you hate to admit it, there are things about the other person you miss a great deal. After all, at one point they were your closest friend, your confidante, and your last phone call or text at the end of the day.

So you pick up your phone, wondering what to do. Is it terrible that I kind of miss their friendship? Should I text them? Should I call?

Whether you should stay in touch with an ex-partner is not something I can decide for you or for anyone, because there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Each scenario is different and unique to the people involved.

Although I may not be able to offer a straight answer, I can offer you a few things to consider when contemplating a friendship with an ex-partner.

The depth and breadth of your friendship

If you want to remain friends with an ex, it’s good to identify the boundaries of this friendship. How often will you connect, and how? Text, phone call, in person? Will you still call each other on birthdays and/or holidays? Can they reach out to your family and vice versa? Are there certain topics that are off limits, i.e. new relationships, sex life, dating, etc.? Being clear on boundaries and expectations will help you both navigate a friendship post-breakup.

You still have feelings for them

A relationship coming to an end doesn’t mean emotions vanish instantly. If you still have feelings for your ex, remaining friends will put you at risk of getting hurt again, especially if they start talking to you about their newfound dating life. Sometimes we want to remain friends because we hope they’ll change their mind and develop feelings for us again, but there’s no guarantee that will happen. Move on mentally and emotionally before you jump back into the friend zone.

You grew up together

Not everyone can say their ex-partner is someone they’ve known since childhood. If you were in a relationship with someone who literally watched you grow up and vice versa, someone who knows your family history, the color of your bedroom carpet, and how you got that scar just above your lip, it may be really hard to sever all ties. But it’s okay to proceed with caution and to make sure you’re both on the same page when it comes to being friends.

They still have feelings for you

Whether you grew up together or met three months ago, pursuing a friendship with someone who still has feelings for you can really do some damage, especially if a part of you feels bad about ending the relationship and causing them pain. It's okay to have compassion for them, but staying in touch could mislead them into thinking there's still a chance. It’s not easy to stay away from someone whose friendship you really value, especially when you share kids and/or pets, but it may be a good idea to give them whatever space they need to find peace with the break-up before you pursue any kind of friendship or connection.

You love their family or vice versa

Maybe you got super close to your partner’s sister, or their parents, and you don’t have access to them anymore. Maybe your partner loved calling your mom out of the blue to say hi, or they participated in all of your family vacations. In these situations, a breakup affects everyone in the family system, making it incredibly hard to part ways and never speak again. Provided neither of you still has feelings, set clear boundaries about what’s okay and what’s out of the question.

When you share a friend group

This is yet another thing that can complicate things post-breakup because if one of you is still angry and upset, getting together with your friend group will be downright awkward and uncomfortable for all. You might find yourself trying to draft some of your friends to side with you or vice versa, and nobody likes to be put in the middle. For things to work in this scenario, both parties have to agree that losing a friend group is just not worth it, and perhaps take time away from the group to work through unprocessed emotions.


When it comes to deciding whether or not you should remain friends with an ex, there’s simply no right answer, but there’s a right answer for you. Some people truly believe that any kind of contact with an ex is an absolute no, while others have a completely different approach and welcome the opportunity to stay in touch with someone they once loved deeply and with whom they shared many special moments. It just depends on what feels right for you.

If and when you do decide to pursue a friendship with an ex-partner, make sure the boundaries and expectations are clear, and that neither party is at risk of getting hurt.

Facebook image: Olha Nosova/Shutterstock

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