When it comes to investing my time, I am the stingiest little biotch you’ll ever meet. I only have a few close friends, because if someone has dodgy character or doesn’t appreciate my passion for soft cheeses, I immediately declare that person a WOT (waste o’time). Boyfriends are no exception. Even though I’m now happily married, I’m still proud of every guy I ever deemed worthy to be Keri’s Boyfriend, because they were all great men with big hearts who truly loved and supported me. (Even the ones who dumped me!) So when those relationships ended, you best believe I cashed in all that invested time and refurbished that ‘ish into a friendship.
Salvaging a friendship from a failed relationship sounds mostly impossible because ex-boyfriends are generally viewed as a crappy headache best forgotten. But not all relationships end with betrayal, and not all ex-boyfriends are monsters. Just because an otherwise smart and caring individual decided he didn’t want to marry and crap out kids with you, doesn’t mean he should be discarded on the side of the road.
Ex-boyfriends can be huge allies in life because they get to know you in ways most people don’t. All those date nights, lazy Sundays, and weekend trips, you were building a deep connection with another soul that was probably the most profound relationship in your life during that period. Turning that intimate connection into a friendly one isn’t easy, but there are a few rules that make it easier:
1. Make Sure He’s Worth It!
Let’s get one thing straight from the jump: Not all exes are worthy of your friendship. If he’s a cheater/liar/Beyonce-hater, then maybe he should stay a bad memory or lesson learned. Some relationships simply don’t work out, and there’s no one to blame. If your ex truly loved you, then he will always want what is best for you, just like you will always want what’s best for him. And isn’t that a great foundation for a friendship?
I was dumped HARD when I decided to move to Los Angeles, and I cried about my ex everyday for at least four months. The saddest part was losing a person that had been my emotional frontline for almost three years, so never talking to him again wasn’t the right choice for me. I found a way to reintroduce him into my life as a friend about a year later, because a truly good person is worth overcoming emotional hurdles to keep around.
2. Give That Wound Some Time To Heal
The most common mistake people make is trying to re-establish a friendship when they’re still harbouring romantic feelings. We’ve all heard variations of the rule that it takes a week for every month you were with someone to really get over them, which I’ve found to be true! Depending on which ex I’m talking about, it’s taken anywhere from a few months to a few years to really feel like I had healed. Seeing an ex before you’re ready is THE WORST, so the longer you put it off, the better. Don’t worry about “waiting too long” – the deader your romantic feelings are, the better chance your friendship will have at surviving.
3. Be Mindful of His Feelings, Too
Maybe you were the one that broke his little heart, or maybe he dumped you but it was the hardest decision of his life. You won’t be the only one that is navigating emotional land mines, and regardless of who ended the relationship, it’s easy for both people to get jealous or confused. Start slow when dishing the details of your new crush or boyfriend. Give him the chance to get comfortable with you in a better place without him. Friendships are about striking a balance of needs and wants between two people, so remind yourself that being his friend means taking his emotions into consideration.
4. Fake It ‘Til You Make It
You’ve established a new friendship with your ex and everything is going great until WHAM! suddenly his Instagram account is plastered with images of a new girl. Maybe she’s younger or prettier or more successful, and you find yourself stalking her on social media or hoping their relationship will fail (all totally normal behavior and emotions IMO). Initially, jealousy can (and will) rear its ugly head. It is important to to completely ignore these feelings and fake support and excitement until it actually feels natural, because it will. When you see someone as “yours” for so long, seeing them with someone else always feels unnatural at first. But remind yourself he deserves to be happy, and that he probably gets a little jealous when you post pics of your new guy, too.
5. Get Your Current Boyfriend On Board
Not everyone is comfortable with their S.O. staying friends with their ex. If your ex is really worth keeping as a friend, it might take some extra hang out sessions to get your new man to trust or even tolerate your ex. Be clear about why you two broke up, why you’re happy the relationship ended, and why you think your ex should have a permanent friend role in your life. They don’t have to be best friends, and it would probably be weird for you if they were, but they both have to respect one another and the roles they play in your past, present, and future.
6. Embrace Your Past
Finally, every friendship is unique, so your past relationship doesn’t have to be a taboo. I’m sure you had a blowout, drag-out fight with your best girlfriends in high school that you laugh about in your twenties. It’s the friends that don’t pretend their past didn’t happen that have the realest shot. Think of fictitious former couples like Jerry and Elaine or Hannah and Elijah. They don’t pretend their past isn’t there but they don’t focus on it, either. When two people are meant to be in each others lives, romantically or otherwise, it’s not always a simple story.