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The REAL reason you can’t hang on to a friendship after a break up…

Stephen Hussey

“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.

Oh shit.

You’re friends.

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.





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5 Replies to “The REAL reason you can’t hang on to a friendship after a break up…”

  • “If you can remain friends with your ex, you were either never in love with them at all, or you still are”. I think the partners, who separated but are on good, or manageable terms with each other due to shared custody of children, are at least reasonable and mature adults. Not many behave that way after separation. Otherwise, I agree with the statement; I witnessed that with my friends, and it didn’t turn out well. There is a reason why someone has become an ex. I am not in favour of being in contact with my exes; I don’t keep any resentments against them, but I also don’t want them present in my life any more. The same holds for friendships, which have ended. I know that letting go of people, is difficult. But that’s a part of life; we sometimes hang on things, connections, whose time has expired, for too long and we can’t let loose of them. We need to make room for new people in our lives, but unless we do some “cleaning of energy ties” with them, we cannot move forward. During our life, we outgrow people for various reasons. We separate, and it would be quite unrealistic to drag all of them on our life journey; they are “emotional baggage”, which belongs to the past.

  • Hi Matt,
    This is so true. I didn’t realise I still kept hoping we’d get back together until he met someone else a year later. I loved being his friend though. We supported each other through some bad times past year and had loads of fun, because the expectations of commitment were gone and he really opened up. I was heart broken when he said his new love he only met 2 weeks was more important than me after 4 years. I am friends with other guys I dated,but that wasn’t real love. I thank my ex for everything we had, even the lesson to let go which I really needed. I am free now.

  • I was in a similiar situation a couple of years back. I started seeing a guy who i discovered had chosen to remain friends with his ex.We discussed about it and i got the assurance that they were just friends.He even introduced me to her as his new girl.To be honest,i was really naive about the whole thing.When i look back now,i know he was trying to have a serious acrobatic relationship with me .One day i got the shock of my life when the “alleged ex” confronted me in a public place about compromising her friendship with “my so called man”.I knew then that there were still unresolved feelings at play.I choose to walk away with my dignity intact when i realised that the guy was not willing to make a stand for me against the ex.Being friends with your ex is like that dark cloud forever threatening whatever relationship you choose to enter in.Lesson learnt there.

  • It is much easier to say Goodbye With Love … then walk away …. trying to stay in touch … or just friends … it will only cause you both furthur pain … and it leaves you both in limbo … especially if you still harbour feelings for one another … it is best to Love and let go ….

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