One of the questions people who read my advice on being friends with an ex ask is “How do you be friends with an ex you want back?
Very often when an ex says they want to be friends or agree to being friends, many people expect them to share the responsibilities of maintaining the friendship – reach out, respond to texts, ask questions about what’s going on with you an in your life and share what’s going on with them, want to meet and spend time together and all the things that “friends” do. But that’s often not what happens when you are friends with an ex.
What does being friends with an ex mean?
Other coaches may have their own definitions of what it means to be friends with an ex. I explain being friends with an ex you want back as “being in each other’s lives” in some type of way.
How two people decide to “be in each other’s lives” (be friends) is really up to them. If they want to be purely platonic or be friends with benefits, that’s what works for them. Personally, I don’t judge and don’t think it’s my place to tell other adults what they should want.
But if you want being friends with an ex to lead to getting back together, there are 7 hard facts you need to know about being friends with an ex you want back – what it takes to be friends with an ex.
1. Being friends with an ex is different from other friendships
If you’re expecting a friends-type relationship like you are friends with your other friends, you can’t be friends with an ex. It takes a lot more to be friends with an ex who knows you still have feelings for them and may want them back. This is why most people discourage it. Only a small percentage of people can be friends with an ex for an extended period of time.
2. You are always going to do more to sustain the friendship
If you are the one trying to get back together, the responsibility of maintaining the friendship is going to be yours the majority of the time, especially in the beginning of being friends and especially if your ex is an avoidant.
This doesn’t mean your ex doesn’t want to be friends, it just means that their emotional investment is still very low. It’s possible that your ex doesn’t feel safe with you even as just friends and is being guarded and cautious about being friends.
3. There will always be an imbalance in contact and texting frequency
This is an issue in almost all anxious-avoidant relationships because people with anxious attachment tend to overshare and avoidants share little to nothing. But when you’re broken up and just friends, the imbalance dips even more. With a fearful avoidant ex, every now and then they’ll reach out more and say more than you do, then pull back but with a dismissive avoidant ex, it’s like pulling teeth – until a time when they start to emotionally invest in the friendship.
4. Your “friend” may not want to meet up
Part of what makes a friendship a friendship is that you spend time and have fun together as often as is possible for both of you. If you’re lucky and especially if you are both extroverts, your friendship with an ex will involve spending time and having fun together, but most of the time, a friendship with an ex is mostly going to be texts, social media and again if you’re lucky, phone calls.
5. The same problems will show up
Being friends with an ex doesn’t insulate you from the old dynamic and problems you had in the relationship, especially if both of you haven’t done enough self-work. If one of you has significantly changed, the change may be able to stop the old dynamic from playing out in the friendship, or at least influence the outcome enough to make the friendship work.
6. There is a chance there is/will be someone else
Being friends with an ex doesn’t stop your ex from seeing other people, going out on dates and pursuing a relationship. You have to decide before you agree to a friendship with an ex if this is something you can deal with if and when it happens. If you decide you can still be friends even when there is someone else in the picture, talk to your ex about your feelings about it and establish some boundaries to avoid it getting in the way of your friendship.
7. There are no guarantees that you will get back together
Being friends with an ex you want back gives you a unique advantage and can put you steps ahead in the process; and works really great for some people and some relationships. But sometimes being friends with an ex doesn’t work. One of you may not be able to do it and ends the friendship. Sometimes an ex who said they want to be friends ghosts you. Sometimes being friends ends in a true lasting friendship-relationship. And sometimes being friends with an ex remains a way to be in each other’s lives in some type of way – with no label, no expectations and no end goal.