Remaining friends after a breakup can initially seem like a great idea. You get to quell the terrible sense of waste that denotes a failed romance (it wasn’t all for nothing, it can’t all be for nothing!), and the promise of friendship also provides a hopeful emotional life-line should the burden of singledom prove too arduous.
But hang on a minute, does that sound like the back-bone of platonic friendship to you? And if it isn’t, where is it going to take me, and what is it going to do to my chances?
The Soft Breakup
On the dumper’s side, staying friends offers a glaring set of benefits, unless they are being suffocated (in which case expect them to disappear or become indifferent instead of friendly).
- Breakup guilt is reduced.
- They are able to keep their romantic options open and can still count on their ex for a measure of affection and support.
- They get to avoid acute separation grief and potentially traumatic confrontation.
On top of all this, a dumper may well have subtly moved-on well before giving the dumpee the “bad news”, which means they may genuinely desire the emergence of a platonic relationship in the ashes of the breakup. After-all, breaking up does not necessarily signify the end of love, although it may herald the end of romantic desire (a distinction which can be highly confusing for the dumpee).
The problem with all this is that the chance that a dumper and dumpee are on the same emotional page immediately after separation is so rare, that any and every reason for attempting to stay friends will usually end in misinterpretation and resentment (sooner or later).
If staying friends with your ex is conditional, meaning that you are not open to the notion of having light-hearted discussions about their future romances (for instance), then let’s not call it friendship. Because it isn’t. What it is, is a last-ditched effort at hanging on for dear life.
The Chance Of Getting Back Together
Then of course, we have the apparent virtues of friendship from the dumpee’s perspective:
- The lines of communication remain open.
- The feeling that you still have a say in their lives (that your enduring presence can prevent them from drifting away).
- That contact which is initiated by the dumper, or reciprocated by the dumper is a potential sign they may be coming around. A highly addictive and draining cycle of over-analysis which will cement insecurity but continue to offer an outlet for hope.
- The overall fueling of hope, and the distancing of grief.
I personally happen to feel that when it comes to getting back together, none of these points are of any real value in terms of rekindling attraction and repairing romance because they are all products of insecurity. Instead of attempting to keep the relationship glued together with anything you can, consider the benefits of letting the offer of friendship slip for the moment.
Improving Your Chances
- Opting for space and time apart will give your ex the chance to miss you. If real, objective remorse over the breakup happens, it will not occur if you they continue to take your affection and attention for granted. They must be given the chance to know what life without you entails.
- Time apart will balance the emotional equation in your favor (if you are the one who was dumped). Time will promote healing passively, and usher in objectivity, giving you more control over friendship or reconciliation later on.
- Time apart will not hinder your chances at friendship “tomorrow”. Nor is it a betrayal of the history you helped build. If anything, it is a sign that you cared enough not to jeopardize it.
None of this means you have to forgo contact entirely. But it does mean erecting strong barriers aimed at protecting your feelings by promoting honesty. If tapping into a play-by-play highlight-reel of your ex moving on is something that we cannot digest, we should avoid putting ourselves in exactly this situation (and it will happen!). By unconditionally giving our exs both their romantic freedom and our friendship, support and attention, we are unwittingly giving them the best of both worlds at our own feelings’ expense. They have you, and anything else they want, at the same time — why would they want to change that?
Masquerading behind a facade of platonic friendship in an effort to stave off insecurity will destroy your chances of getting back together far quicker than putting yourself first ever will.