Can you really be best friends with an ex? My initial answer would be, it depends on how you broke up. But if I give it a second thought, it's actually not that simple. Let me tell my own story.
I was in a relationship with I guy I had actually dated before. The first time we dated we were somewhat young, so when we found each other again a couple of years later, we thought it might actually work. Maybe we were meant to be together, we just weren't ready earlier. So we started dating. The thing that actually drove us apart was how similar we were. We knew what the other person was going to say before they said it, do before they did it, think before they fucking thought it. Every flaw of my own that I tried to ignore was so glaringly obvious in him, it infuriated me. Why are you so fucking stubborn!?! I would think, even though his stubbornness was only matched by my own. I wanted someone to challenge me to think in new ways and do new things, but because we were practically twins, of course neither of us were any more new to the other than a mirror reflection would be.
When I broke up with him, it was nasty. He was completely blindsided. We had just gone away together, so really it's no wonder he didn't realize this was the time I would choose to get out. There was a lot of screaming.
For a week I made no attempt to reach out, and neither did he. But then, I was about to go on vacation, where I wouldn't have wifi or my cell phone, I called him. I told him all that he meant to me, and the things I learned in our relationship, and all the things he had done during our relationship that I appreciated. I didn't expect him to say anything kind, I knew he could rightfully still be angry. But - believe it or not - I told him I thought him my soul mate. I thought we were extremely alike and got each other and that, though I couldn't make dating with my soul mate work, I wanted him to remain in my life. He wished me luck on my trip and hung up.
Because I wanted us to be friends, I avoided him for months and months. I wanted to give him time to heal. I didn't want to come on too strong. And then eventually, maybe 6 months after we'd broken up, I was at a place we used to hang out, and he was there too, and I asked him to sit with me and my friends (not the two of us alone). We laughed and made conversation awkwardly in a group. I avoided talked about guys, he didn't mention any girls. The day was admittedly awkward, but we made future plans. From then on, when I hung out with mutual friends, I always invited him too.
We eventually got to a point where I can call him one of my closest friends. We rarely hang out one on one because we have a strong friend group, but if we do, it isn't awkward. There's certain advice I only go to him for, because I think he would understand best. I think of him often and fondly. Not in a jealous way, and I never regret the ending of our relationship. But I love him, as a friend and as a human being.
I expect him to be a major part of the rest of my life. As a friend. Nothing more. But nothing less than a very, very dear friend.
I'm not saying I am the queen of being friends with exes. I have an ex I would spit on if I could get away with it. But I will say that I do think you can be friends with exes, real friends, and that there are certain things that are guaranteed to help if you're interested. Tell the other person that you care about them and are interested in being friends, and then step away. Do not pester them, asking to hang out next week. They do not want to fucking hang out next week. They hate you right now. And that's okay. Then, keep the pressure off until you know you're in the same place emotionally. Hang out in groups or go to things that don't seem date-like and don't seem romantic or anything. No pet names. No nostalgic remembering your greatest hits together. You are a non-pushy, aloof friend, until they come around and decide they will accept that friendship. And here's the kicker: they may never come around. You can't make an ex be your friend, and when you embark on this little friendship exercise, you need to understand that they may never be your friend and to not fucking beg or guilt them into it.
I hope this helps.
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