Ask Erin: Can Exes Be Friends?

Artwork: Tess Emily Rodriguez

Artwork: Tess Emily Rodriguez

She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.


Q.

Hi Erin,

Do you think exes can be friends?

My ex used to be my best friend. We were best friends all through high school and into our first year of college. We then dated for a year. When we broke up, it was really hard for me. 

After the first year, I stopped thinking about him and trying to communicate with him, and I thought I was finally over him. Fast forward three years, and I have come to realize that I miss him. 

When I say I miss him, I don't mean it in a boyfriend/girlfriend type of way. I miss him as my best friend. See, he was the only person who has ever been really close to me and who knew my whole life story. 

My question is: Should I tell him I want to be friends again? 

I really, really miss him, and I just want my friend back. We occasionally say hello, but we haven't actually had a conversation in years. We had a good conversation a few years ago, and it went well; we caught up. But I am afraid he won't care anymore or want me in his life anymore. At least not the way we used to be. 

Part of the problem is his family and I are really close. His sister (who is still one of my closest friends) and I see each other regularly (when he's not around). So we still have to deal with each other, I guess. 

It’s sad because we don't interact, and I sometimes want to, but I am afraid he will feel awkward about it.

Do you think it’s even possible? 

 

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A.

I really understand what you’re feeling. I always, or almost always, have wanted to remain friends with exes, even if we needed a little space and time before we could honestly do that. And, I understand what it’s like to lose the friendship of a person who knows you better than anyone else. 

I do think exes can be friends. 

However, before you communicate with him about this, a few things to consider. 

Be completely honest with yourself about your intentions. It sounds like you have that clarity, but check in with yourself, through meditation or some writing about it. I say this because I have seen this happen, personally and with friends, where they’ve insisted that they only wanted friendship, but underneath that, they really wanted more than a platonic relationship. 

If you are sure of what you want, you need to prepare yourself for what may lay on the other side of it. 

A friendship will require both of you to be on the same page.

He may not feel the same way as you. This can be hard to accept; I’ve been there. 

There’s another aspect which you did not bring up but is worth mentioning. If he is in a relationship, his significant other may not be comfortable with the two of you being friends. I have also been in this situation, and it was difficult for me to understand, but I had no choice but to accept it.  

Once you feel you’re in a good place with being able to handle his response, it’s time to let him know. 

There isn’t anything wrong with communicating to him that you miss his friendship and want to be friends again.

I am a big believer in the possibility of friendships with people we’ve been romantically involved with. It doesn’t always work out, but it often does, and those friendships can be rewarding. 

So be clear with yourself first, and then him, about what you want in a friendship. Be prepared for whatever his answer may be. And moving forward, as friends or merely exes, stay true to yourself and keep your communication honest. 


The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I’m not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I’ve gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendships, depression, parenting, sex, consent, what I’m watchingwhat I’m readingwhat I’m listening toVariscite, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me: askerin@ravishly.com. As always, your anonymity is golden. 

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