“I know it’s over” one of you says, “but we can still talk, right?”
That’s how it begins.
You’ve broken up. But you haven’t moved on.
You still text him. You share book recommendations, joke about TV shows, and send the odd photo of you at that brunch place you would always go together on Sundays.
This is…bad? Yes. But it won’t feel like it. Not at first.
It will feel like you’ve jumped back into that warm bath. Are your wounds healing? Nope. But at least the pain is gone, for now.
And that’s the real problem.
When you decide to stay friends, you can trick yourself into thinking you’ve dealt with the break up. All you’ve really done though is choose an “empty calorie” version of a relationship.
It’s like eating a load of junk of food – salty potato chips, a chocolate bar, a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts – instead of a nutritious meal. It’s not good for you, but it satisfies your immediate hunger.
This is the danger of deciding to stay friends: you get some of the benefits of a relationship, without getting the actual substance.
This means you:
- Don’t give yourself time to truly get used to life without your ex
- Feel a sense of closeness, chemistry and connection…but without any of the actual commitment and love that comes with a full relationship
- Don’t make space for a great relationship to come along (because you’re still spending time with your ex)
And there’s that secret part of you, deep down, that thinks: maybe if we just stay friends, we’ll figure it out and get back together.
If that’s your plan, then cut it off. Now.
The rule is always: you can stay friends, if, and only if, both of you have truly, honestly, no-bullshit, 100% moved on and no longer harbour any secret desire to be together.
That’s a big ask. And it’s for that reason that most couples can never really stay friends after a break up. Certainly not right away. Unless you want to feel a pang of agony and longing every time they enter the room. Yuck.
Is there a chance you’ll get back together? Who knows. It happens, certainly. But if that’s even going to be a possibility, it has to begin with time apart to figure out what went wrong, try life without one another, and assess with a more sober head if you actually are better off apart.
Otherwise, you’ll live in the halfway house: not really together, not really fully broken up.
And some people stay there for months, years, decades.
Take your self-care seriously. Treat your time like the precious jewel it is. You need room for a love to enter your life that serves you. Someone who really knows they want to be with you, and wouldn’t hesitate for a second to fight to keep you in their life.
And that person can never get in the door if someone else is still standing in the way.