For many people, staying friends after a rejection seems like the mature and most emotionally generous course of action. That might very well be the case for some. Others though, find it painful, awkward or difficult to be close to someone who has rejected them or whom they have rejected. There are so many factors involved in an emotionally charged situation like this that the only clear answer is a resounding "maybe."
Do Both of You Want the Friendship?
For a friendship to work after a rejection, both people need to want the same thing. Knowing there is a common ground emotionally could certainly help in salvaging the companionship. But don't be surprised if one or both of you need to give it a little time before hanging out again.
Does One Person Need to Move On?
It can be very painful to stay close to someone who has rejected you. That person may want to stay friends because he or she truly values you or maybe because it eases feelings of guilt. In this case, time apart, either for a time or permanently, might be best in helping you move on. It will allow old feelings to diminish and new ones to begin without distraction. Some time apart could also aid in forgiveness.
Is Someone Else Being Hurt by the Friendship?
In the case of a romantic rejection, you need to define boundaries if you are going to remain friends. When one or both of you become involved in a dating relationship, the friendship needs to be respectful of that new dynamic. Remaining so close that your partner or your friend's partner feels threatened is probably not best. Ultimately, if things become serious in the new relationship, the friendship will have to take a back seat, or maybe even end altogether.
Is There Hope for the Future?
Remaining friends after a romantic rejection is more likely if both of you are still attracted to each other. This mutual attraction can aid in positive interactions when you are together. When there is hope for a romantic connection down the road, it is not only easier to be friendly, but to also deepen the friendship and actively pursue it. The drawback here is the potential for "on again/off again" relationships to develop.
Do You Have the Support of Others?
Having the support of family and friends who know you both well can smooth the path toward staying friends. When those closest to you both think highly of you, it can diminish a lot of awkwardness or needless conversation. There is a foundation of understanding that allows for familiarity and comfort to resume after a rejection has taken place.
- eHarmony: Should You Really "Stay Friends" After the Relationship is Over?
- Christie Hartman, Ph.D.: Dating, Rejection, and the LBF (Let's Be Friends)
- Pyschology Today: Studies in Applied Interpersonal Communication
- Science of Relatioships: “We Can Still Be Friends”: Six Ways You Can Stay Friends After a Breakup
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