As we celebrate the month of love this February, I decided to tap into personal experience and discuss platonic love. We often associate Valentine’s day as the day we celebrate romance. But as someone who has been (painfully) single for the past year, I have nothing to contribute to that narrative. I celebrate love every day in different ways, but since we have a whole day that’s dedicated explicitly as the day of love, I wanted to chime in too. Perhaps you’re in a similar situation like I am, and am friendly with an ex, or maybe you’re looking to reach out again but fear awkwardness and giving off the wrong impression. Either way, here are six takeaways from being friends with my ex.
Before I dive right in, here’s some context on the relationship I had with my ex. E and I met in 2015 in Melbourne while attending foundation studies. With almost an instant chemistry of sorts, we quickly went from friends to lovers. This being my first relationship, it was a very intense experience. I was younger and didn’t know better, and he was in a different state of mind then. Like most relationships, we went through the highest of highs and lowest of lows and ended the relationship after being together for 16 months.
For the record, he broke up with me, citing incompatibilities and unable to see a future with me. Of course, at 19, having my heart broken for the first time shattered me. And attempts at maintaining a friendship then, immediately after the break up failed miserably. But it’s been four years since we ended our relationship and now I can proudly call him one of my best friends.
Of course, you don’t have to go through a break up to know this. In the context of being friends with an ex, it is more of a reminder that just because it did not work out romantically, does not mean it cannot work out platonically. It is hard not to be friends with someone that was once part of something so intimate in your life. After all, there is a reason why you were able to connect on such a deep level in the first place.
When we tried to be friends immediately after, it failed miserably because we got angry at each other for reasons I cannot even recall. So, post break up, we were slightly hostile. But in retrospect, I understood that the hostility was fueled by broken hearts trying to make sense of the situation. Once the fog of anger cleared, I learned that we both jumped into an attempt at friendship too quickly. We did not know how to be friends after being partners.
Spend some time apart from your ex after the split; let your heart and mind recover. To stay angry, regardless of what happened that caused the separation is emotionally draining. Even if you don’t have any plans of staying friends with your ex, let go, because staying angry is not worth it.
I’m in a safe space, a judgement-free zone.
Perhaps one of the reasons why I will never fear judgement from my ex as a friend is because we’ve seen each other at our most vulnerable states. Due to poor communication, when E and I were still together, I actually could not tell him a handful of things for fear of his reaction. Now that we’re friends, and don’t have to be afraid of the repercussions of triggering each other romantically, I can tell him anything and know that I’m in a safe space, a judgement-free zone.
To be able to process a break up healthily and move on to being friends represents growth. You’re able to separate matters of the mind and heart, and you’re able to see past ‘what-could-have-been’ and understand that sometimes things do not work out and there’s no one to blame. There is no expectation for you to be friends with your ex immediately after the breakup, healing takes time, and with time comes growth.
There really isn’t a specific formula on how I got over the pain.
The journey from pain to platonic happiness is a long one. E and I did not speak for a year after the initial try at friendship—total radio silence. I still remember the anxiety I felt when I walked past him once at school. There really isn’t a specific formula on how I got over the pain. Still, I know that time apart and focusing on other things (i.e. other friendships) helped me get over it and eventually led me to be comfortable with the idea of being friends with my ex.
There is something about being on a different level of friendship with your ex, as opposed to friends whom you’ve not dated before. I believe that the level of intimacy that you once had with your ex would play to your advantage. Your ex would be able to call you out on your bullshit and remind you not to make the same mistakes you made in your relationship.
You’ve once been in such close proximity that now, even if you don’t spend as much time together anymore, they would be able to tell from the slightest change of behaviour that something’s wrong. And with the level of chemistry that I experienced with E, it would have been a total waste not at least to try to be friends after.
I was lucky that this relationship, while intense, was not a traumatic experience for me. I understand that many people end relationships for a plethora of reasons, some for more unforgivable reasons than others. And I can relate to that. There is beauty in staying friends with an ex, but of course, not all of them are worthy of friendships. If you were on the fence about reaching out to an ex, I hope my takeaways are good enough reasons for you to take that leap of faith.
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