The real reason your ex still wants to be friends may not be in your best interest. Or maybe being friends after your divorce can be a good thing. Are you super confused?
I remember the first time my ex tried to hug me after we separated. My thought was, “what are you doing?”. I was so confused. I froze, “What should I do?”. He had clearly let me know he was done and now this. How was I going to handle this?
I really had to analyze the situation. There are a few questions I ask myself to figure out what to do. I hope they help you figure out what to do too.
When your ex wants to be friends what does it mean?
First, remember there is a big difference between being friends and being friendly or even respectful and kind.
Are you asking this question, because you are wondering if he wants to get back together with you? Are you asking the question because you want to get back together with him?
Yes, it is possible and even probable to go from lovers to kinda friends to lovers and back and forth. This can be exhausting and hard on your heart, so give this some serious thought to decide if you really want to jump on this roller coaster. You control if you get on this ride and if you get on when you get off the roller coaster.
Why did you break-up in the first place?
If you ended the relationship because of an affair or an addiction to alcohol, drugs, or gambling what is different now?
If addiction was the issue, how long has he been in recovery? Is his recovery solid, meaning is he actively working to recover and deal with stress and other triggers. Stopping the addictive behavior is only the first step, not the end goal.
What if you broke up because he was having an affair, emotional or physical. Is he willing to totally let go of that relationship? Are you able to forgive him (not forget) and trust him again?
Be clear about what has changed. Clearly answer the question should I end the relationship or give it another chance. Otherwise, you are jumping on a merry-go-round of the same song second verse and signing up for heartbreak.
If you can be friends why can’t you be life partners?
When your ex wants to be friends, but not partners you need to take a hard look at why being friends will work, but not partners. Friendship can grow into love, but it seldom works to back love down to friendship, especially early on after the breakup.
Reasons He May Want to Be Friends
Most likely it is about him wanting something from you. True friendship is mutual so seriously ask yourself in the light of day has he been good at considering your needs and feelings or has the relationship been more about what you can do for him. Is he a good friend to you?
Even if it feels mutual be clear on what is in it for him so that you are not blindsided later.
He really wants to be friends with benefits
Friends with benefits needs to be a strong NO unless you want to be used and have your heart broken bit by bit. Most women are not able to separate emotion from physical intimacy and end up thinking it means more than it does.
He wants emotional support
He wants emotional support but is not willing to be there for you. Remember friendship is a two-way street. You both give in a friendship. Do you really want to support him in his problems at work or with other women?
He wants to get back together with you
Staying friends is a way to stay connected and try to get back together with you. Are you done with the relationship, but you don’t want to hurt him? Don’t string him along if you are truly done with the relationship. The kindest thing to do if you are done with the relationship is to let him go so he can move on.
He wants to avoid paying child support
Telling you he wants to be friends can be a way to stop you from holding him accountable. I’ve heard this story so many times he has some supposedly good reason for not paying you child support. He is starting a business or he has fallen on hard times in some way. If you are friends he manipulates you into allowing him to not do what he needs to do to support the kids.
Why not be friends?
It keeps you from moving on and healing your broken heart
How can you let go of what was if you are continuing to spend time with him confide in him and allow him to confide in you? He is taking up at least some of your partner relationship space and you are taking that up for him.
Of course, you are probably feeling lonely and needing friends divorce and ending a relationship is an emotional wound. Too often we not only lose our partner we lose our couple friends when a relationship ends. This is a time to make new friends to build your support system with healthy relationships.
It deters you from starting a new relationship
If you are “friends” with your ex he is taking up a good portion of the boyfriend/partner/husband space. Do you really want that?
This keeps you from healing and keeps you from being available for another relationship. You need to heal that hurt and figure out who you are without him to be ready for another relationship.
He doesn’t get a chance to miss you
If you really want to get back together with him it is not likely to happen if he doesn’t have a chance to miss you. When he is getting your friendship you are still in his life. If you move away emotionally he may miss you and want you back.
He may not, but if you want more than friendship from someone who used to be your partner you need to take the risk and give him and yourself emotional space.
You are giving up your power
If you are the dumpee your ex has found something or someone they want more than you. If they want to be friends they don’t want to give you up. They want to be in a relationship with you and someone or something else.
If you have children together maintaining a civil relationship is beneficial to the children and even you when it comes to coordinating activities or plans that involve caring for or supporting the children.
What to Do When Your Ex Wants to Be Friends
As you can see staying friends with our ex is rarely a good idea. Most of us think we are the exception to the rule, but few of us are the exception, that is why it is called an exception.
Ending the relationship will give you a chance to move on and build a new life. Better to have intense pain for a few weeks or months than that nagging pain that goes on for years like death by a thousand paper cuts.
What is the answer?
It takes 2 people to make a relationship work. It takes one person to decide the relationship is over. If both people are willing to work on the relationship many things are possible. No matter how much you want to be in a relationship with someone, if the other person doesn’t want a relationship, then a relationship is not possible.
Ask yourself the hard question: Is this a mutual relationship where both of you have a healthy mutuality or is this a relationship where one person is giving and the other person is taking. An unbalanced relationship is an unhealthy relationship.
Is there an exception?
If you have children together it is healthy for the children for you to be respectful and considerate of each other. That doesn’t mean you are friends in that you are confiding to each other about your problems and insecurities. Friendly doesn’t necessarily mean you are friends.
Consider your relationship with your ex a business relationship. You are in the business of raising children together. Kids of divorce have lots of advice for their parents and were happy to share it with me. You can read the kids’ advice about shared parenting here.
Hi, I’m Tamara the creator of Empowered Single Moms, a single mom, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and the author of Thriving a Single Mom’s Guide to a Happy, Positive Life and Thriving a Single Mom Journal. I have a solo private psychotherapy practice where I treat anxiety, depression, and relationship issues.
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