When a relationship ends, it is easy to forget what the foundation was in the first place and the situation can turn ugly really fast. Feelings of resentment, abandonment, anger, pain and a myriad of other emotions can swirl about. Sometimes once you are pulled from the emotional wreckage and time has passed, a long lasting friendship may emerge.
Can you be just friends with an ex? Some say no, it is too hard and you can’t move on if you try. Others do believe you can, especially if your relationship was built on friendship. It isn’t easy but it can happen. Lines and boundaries must be established and not crossed, like anything, if it is worth the effort, then you will make it.
Last Saturday was a real test for me in regards to this matter. After several months away, my ex-husband came to visit my son. Brad is leaving for college in September, and so I reminded my ex-husband that time is going very quickly and our little boy grew up. It is also means that he will no longer see me, except for special occasions. We had a very tumultuous time over the years. I worked hard to maintain a friendship with him. It wasn’t easy, but for the sake of my son, and for both of us too, it was important to not argue and maintain a good relationship. I didn’t always embrace his new life and family, but with time, I was actually happy for him and his new wife. They are well suited and I wish them well.
Later that same night, I was organizing my room while the IPod set to shuffle, played in the background. The song “Cool” by Gwen Stefani came on, which is a song that is about staying friends with an ex and embracing their new lives. It made me smile, when I realize that is what is happening. As if on cue, the phone rings and I look down to see the familiar number. It was my ex- boyfriend calling to see how I am, how Brad is, how work is going etc. I resisted the friendship at first, but when I receive these occasional calls, I see he is trying to keep the friendship. He was stellar through my job loss last summer, but once I started my new career, the relationship ended with no real reason for the break-up. After almost seven years of an on-again off-again relationship; it ended.
A friend’s recent break-up left her reeling. She did not expect it to end so abruptly, and when it did, she was floored. It brought a lot of feelings back for me as there were similarities to my break-up last fall; hearing from him was timely. Ironically, some of our most profound conversations happened after our break-up. We give each other advice, we have some intense discussions over past matters and with nothing to lose; I am blunt and honest. I think he is a little shocked at how much I have changed in the last eight months. For one thing, I have probably traveled more in the last while than I did the entire time we were together. Although I haven’t moved on with someone new, I have taken this time to determine what I really want. He asked me what I was looking for, so I told him. He laughed and said basically everything that I didn’t do, and that does sum it up. If we had communicated like this while we were a couple would we still be together, maybe so, maybe not. I do know that if I ever do get involved in a relationship again, I can’t be afraid to say what is on my mind. Honest, blunt and sometimes difficult discussions are crucial.
I have always been a little guilty of leaving the door open a bit. There is comfort in keeping a good connection with a past love. When I let someone get close to me, they have a place in my heart and my life forever. The dynamics change, but the residual feeling and an ability to still care about them, still exists. No I don’t see myself going out for an evening with him and his new girlfriend, but maybe someday I will thank him for letting me go so I can find the right one for me. It is a testament to both of us if we can keep our friendship, he reached out and I didn’t slam the door in his face, so to speak. If you leave a little space for someone you once held dear, a new friendship could emerge. So maybe being “just friends” isn’t something minor, because a real friendship withstands everything.