You know you’ve said it, or had it said to you, in the midst of a break-up: “Let’s just be friends.”
Most of the time, it’s a fairly empty statement, a way to mitigate the blow of the “it’s over” for both parties. But once in a blue moon, you really do mean it.
Let’s be friends.
The progression from friendship to romance is a natural one. But what about the reverse?
Can you really successfully “downgrade” from lovers to friends?
It’s a question I asked myself as my boyfriend and I became exes over a lively dinner, at the end of which we decided we didn’t want to lose each other — we’d carry on as friends, genuine friends, best friends. It’s not that we don’t like each other, we agreed, it’s that we just can’t be a couple.
In looking at other real world couples I know, my theory is yes, it’s possible to recast your romantic relationship as a friendship. For a myriad of reasons, you weren’t right together as a couple, but you just have too much in common, or too much fun together or know each other too well that to blindly wander the earth apart would be silly. There’s just a few things to consider as you start the transition and a few safety measures worth taking if you want to avoid what you managed to avoid up to that point in the relationship — real heartbreak.
First, give yourself some time.
When you’re dating, your partner is your go-to for outings and the person who you turn to when you need to talk. You break-up on Friday but decide to be friends. Don’t go to that concert together on Saturday…. or catch a movie next Friday. Wait a while. How long? As long as it takes for you to get used to NOT having your ex around.
Just like any break-up, you need the chance to separate yourself from the relationship that didn’t work. I’d go so far as to suggest going out on a few dates with other people before you and your ex-turned-bff hang out.
When you do start hanging out, avoid mimicking relationship behavior.
Don’t call or text each other everyday. If things evolve into “friends with benefits,” don’t spend the night at each other’s places. There are reasons why you didn’t want to continue as a couple, and the more things you do that mimic the relationship you had when you were a couple, the harder it becomes to move on.
And speaking of friends with benefits…
Friends with benefits are worth having — I mean, we all need a little foreplay and fun, and who better to have that with than someone you trust and who knows how to make your back arch and toes curl. But again, my advice here is to give yourself space before you hop back into bed together. The first time you see each other, emotions will run rampart — if the rhythm of conversation is still there, if you can’t keep your hands off each other, then you’ll start to wonder if it wouldn’t just be better to get back together. So, don’t make your first friendly romp your first meeting as just friends.
And watch making it too regular an occurrence.
Staying friends keeps the romantic door open for you two. There’s nothing wrong with that, just be aware that you’re more likely to get back together if you keep each other at arm’s reach.
So while you want to keep this person in your life, you also don’t want him/her to get in the way of finding someone new.
So go forth and be friends. Just don’t let your ex-turned-bff become an anchor on your love boat, because then you’ll have to bite the bullet and throw him/her overboard.