Many people feel strongly against staying in contact with an ex and even more strongly about staying friends with an avoidant ex. As someone who encourages “not burning bridges” you might need to cross at some point, I understand that there are real and legitimate concerns about why avoidants keep exes around and why staying friends with an ex is not for everyone.
Some people see staying friends with an ex as a ‘downgrade” from a romantic relationship and don’t want any contact with an ex unless they want to get back together. Others feel that staying friends with an ex you want back reduces the chance of getting back together. Many more don’t want to be friends with an ex because they just can’t handle the emotions of staying friends with an ex – too many unresolved feelings that being friends is mentally and emotionally challenging.
For some people, staying friends with an ex especially an avoidant ex triggers attachment trauma from past romantic relationships. They have been so traumatized by a relationship with an avoidant that the thought of staying friends with one of their exes feels like being re-traumatized.
There are also many situations where even if you want to be friends with an ex, they’re don’t want to be friends, or say they want to be friends but don’t make any effort to maintain the friendship.
When Being friends with an avoidant ex is makes more sense than not being friends
There are situations and relationships where being friends with an ex makes more sense than not being friends.
- Where two people were friends prior to romantic involvement and already have an established structure for relating as friends, being friends after the break-up seems like the logical option. Just because the romantic relationship ended, doesn’t mean the friendship has to end too.
- When children are involved. Having a friendly relationship with an ex makes co-parenting a lot easier. Exes who are in business together or have shared responsibilities may also benefit from a friendly relationship with an ex.
- Where both families are involved and exes have formed separate relationship with each other’s family members, being friends after a break-up may be unavoidable.
- When an ex wants to be friends because they’re not sure about how they feel about you, or not ready to get back together yet, and being friends provides the space and time for a new dynamic and new relationship to develop and grow without the expectations and pressure to get back together soon.
- You’d rather have them in your life than not at all. They contribute value to your life that’s more than “romantic value” and you don’t them out of your life whether you get back together or not.
Should you be friends with an avoidant ex?
This is a question only you can answer. In my opinion, the important thing is to be honest with yourself. If you’re not ready to be friends with an ex or if you can’t be friends with an ex, it is not a negative reflection of you. You’re just being emotionally honest with yourself, and shouldn’t feel pressured to be friends with an ex.
But if you can be friends with an ex immediately after the break-up, or if you need sometime before you can be friends with an ex, do you. You know yourself better, don’t feel that you’re doing the wrong thing because you’re able to be friends with your ex or feel pressured or shamed into cutting ties with an ex because everyone says you shouldn’t be friends with an ex.
If you’re friends with an ex, especially an avoidant ex however, it’s important to understand the reasons why avoidant exes keep exes around besides them not being sure about how they feel about you, or not ready to get back together yet.
What do avoidants get out keeping exes around?
Here are some main reasons why avoidants keep exes around as friends, and unfortunately many of them are either self preservation reasons or plain selfish reasons.
1) Avoid “hard feelings”
Some avoidants stay friends with an ex or accept an offer of friendship from an ex to avoid “hard feelings”. They want to be polite and “keep the peace” or avoid any awkwardness when they run into an ex. They see being friends as a less hostile alternative to complete no contact; and even a mature way of ending a romantic relationship. Similarly, accepting an offer of friendship from an avoidant could be the result of wanting to be polite or to avoid awkwardness and confrontation.
2) Not wanting to be alone
Sometimes avoidant exes want to be friends because they don’t want to be alone. Keeping an ex around because they don’t want to be alone is more of a fearful avoidant thing than a dismissive avoidant. Fearful avoidants though considered avoidant also want connection and closeness. They may fear closeness, but they often seek it in their relationships and after a break-up friendship offers a fearful avoidant the closeness have a hard time finding. An ex is someone they already have some level of connection with – they already have a lot in common, know each other’s likes and dislikes.
3) To meet emotional attachment needs
Keeping an ex around as a friend is sometimes an avoidant’s way of maintaining some level of closeness without the “threat” to their independence. Being friends offers the opportunity to remain in each other’s lives with out the expectations for closeness or commitment of a romantic relationship.
For fearful avoidants, staying friends has less risk of rejection and abandonment than romantic relationships. The attachment security needs are the same as in the romantic relationship but how these needs are realized is different in a friendship.
4) Sex/Friends with benefits
Friends with benefits is more a dismissive avoidant thing than a fearful avoidant, though some fearful avoidants too use exes to fill in the gap until they meet someone new, but only if they’re actively looking to meet someone for a relationship.
Many dismissive avoidants don’t actively look to meet someone for a relationship after a break-up. They’re quite happy with casual hook-ups or friends with benefits and can go for long periods of time without seriously dating anyone new if they have an ex with benefits.
5) Being friends works for many avoidants
Many avoidants are better friends and support system than they’re as romantic relationship partners. The reason may be because a friendship doesn’t have the same expectations and requirement as a romantic relationship. An avoidant doesn’t feel obligated to act in a certain way with a friend as with a romantic partner. For example, they can go for months or even years without speaking with or seeing a friend and it’ll not significantly affect the friendship; something one can’t do in a romantic relationship and hope to maintain that relationship.
And for fearful avoidants, a friendship is easier to end than romantic relationships. They’ll be sad to go or let you go as a romantic, but you’re not completely gone as a friend.
Are avoidants even capable of real friendship?
Yes, avoidants are capable of a real friendship with an ex after a break-up, but whether or not they’ll follow through on their good intentions is another story.