It's Not Being Friends, It's Being Friendly

The one thing I can’t tolerate to think about after a romantic split is the possibility of becoming friends. When I’m crying my face off, the last thing that’s going to make me feel better is agreeing to an emotional downgrade. Besides, if the other person really wanted you to be friends before breaking up with you, wouldn’t they have treated you better during the relationship?

Instead of saying, “Let’s be friends,” be more honest and say, “Let’s be friendly.” You don’t need to be actual friends.

I don’t think we make this distinction enough in our dating careers. Can you be friends after a breakup? Sure you can. But it doesn’t have to happen immediately after the breakup and certainly not for every person. Some deserve it more than others, but it’s just not going to happen that same day, week, or month.

This isn’t to say that becoming just friends is a bad thing, it’s just that it isn’t the right thing for everyone when feelings are involved, especially if those feelings were hurt pretty badly. What I’d like to do is explore with you the difference between being friends, being friendly, and the benefits of getting away from that person for a while before feeling like it’s time to be friends again.

We all stop dating for different reasons and some of those reasons are better than others. But if I stop seeing someone because they did things that I felt were dishonest and careless, the last thing I want to do is reward that person with a friendship. I believe it sends the message that there is no consequence to their bad behavior and that I’m willing to put up with unhealthy attitudes, which I’m not.

Maybe we’ve all settled for being just friends because we think it means we’ll still have a connection to that person. Truth is, they intend to move on and we should too, ASAP.

Last I checked, this is some of what friends do:

  • Text or call to see how you’re doing or to share a secret.
  • Invite you out to lunch, dinner, or drinks.
  • Hang out with you even if just to watch TV.
  • Get involved in your life events, like planning birthday parties or going to other parties with you.
  • Plain and simply, they just care about you and they maintain a relationship with you.

What I hate most about someone asking me to be friends after a break up is that I know they don’t intend to keep up with me the way a friend does. Therefore, I have realized that what they really want is to be friendly.

Being friendly means that you won’t be seeing each other anymore. You won’t be hanging out. You also won’t be texting to say silly things to each other, and basically you’ve agreed to just be acquaintances, but not real friends.

Being friendly means that if you run into each other somewhere, it won’t be a big deal and neither of you will have to leave because of the other person. It means tolerating that person even if you still resent them for something they may have done if it was a bad break up.

However, it’s not impossible to someday be friends. A few years ago I stopped dating someone because things moved too quickly between us and it later became clear that he had no intention to make it an exclusive relationship. Instead of trying to keep up with him as a friend, I had to completely let go for a very long time. It felt better to cut ties and move on with my own life in order to heal from how much it hurt to lose something that seemed so great. Over a year later, we reconnected and have realized that we were better off as friends. Once the romantic feelings dissolved, it was so much easier to view him through a non-romantic lens.

What I hope this helps you with is feeling confident about walking away from someone you dated, especially if you are hurting badly that things didn’t work out the way you thought they would. I hope you realize the distinction between being someone’s friend and just being cordial if and when necessary. And if someone ever puts that friendship offer on the table as you are breaking up, maybe you will have a better idea as to what will actually happen between you.

After you mourn the breakup, do your crying, and process the disappointment, you free your emotions and make room for something better. You don’t owe anyone a friendship, especially if the breakup was due to something very hurtful the other person did (or that you did, in which case they don’t owe you a friendship). And if you do agree to be friends, just know that you might set yourself up for disappointment when you realize they don’t intend to spend any time with you anymore. It’s just the way it goes sometimes, but I vote for behaving in a friendly manner even if you wish a bucket of slime would magically appear and spill all over that person whenever they come into your view.


Featured Image via ShutterStock.

  • Charlie Dalby

    This is a tough one for me, my partner broke up with me a few months ago and offered the ‘I still want to be friends’ line. I had moved to the area to be with him and so had nowhere to live once we broke up – he offered to let me stay (wtf?!). It’s taken a few months to come to terms with the fact that he could downgrade quite freely from relationship to friendship – so showed to me how he much he didn’t value our relationship/me as a person.
    I moved back to my parents and about to start a new job and exchange on my own house so it was all for the better but I still struggle with messages from him. When I go up to visit friends from that area I run the risk of bumping into him which still scares the pants off me (hasn’t happened yet)….but I hope one day I can be the better person and be ‘friendly’ – even though he doesn’t deserve it!

    • Marianna Tabares

      I appreciate you sharing this. After living together, it’s super hard to just move out and try to be friends. My last boyfriend did that to me. We got a house, moved in, and soon after that he broke up with me. Really wish he hadn’t waited until I gave up my apartment. Ugh.
      Getting the hell away for a while helps in so many ways. It makes you realize that if you do run the risk of running into him, well, the truth is that there is this whole huge world that he can’t possibly occupy all at once. The one thing, however, that you can fully control is the fact that if you DO have to run into him sometime, you must assure yourself that you are okay, that you matter, and that there is absolutely nothing to hide from. No matter how cordial the break up, it still hurts like hell that someone can be so cavalier about it. As if your feelings never mattered, and that’s the part that drives me nuts, which is why I cannot honor someone with a friendship.

  • Jess Bone

    I totally get this! I don’t want to be bloody friends I want to be gone from your life as quickly as possible and have nothing to do with you or I will not heal I will just obsess and hope that there’s even the smallest chance of rekindling – I see friendship and kindness as hope for that. There’s only one ex I am now friends with and it took two years. Another I still see often as he’s in our friendship group; I tried to be friends with him and meet up with him and chat to him when we were altogether in our social group until he told one his friends he still had feelings for me. I then cut all ties again because I realised he was like me; friendship is hope for rekindling things. Even three years on, I think he still has to suppress residual romantic feelings when he’s around me. I feel bad for the guy but at the same time… move on!

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