Can You Be Friends With an Ex-Girlfriend if You Still Have Feelings for Her?

Participating in date-like activities creates mixed signals.
... Leonard Mc Lane/Photodisc/Getty Images

After the dust has settled on your breakup, you may realize that despite the fact that you are not romantically good for one another, you do miss the friendship. Keeping your relationship platonic after sharing an intimate bond may be difficult if you still have feelings for her, especially as she begins to venture out into the dating world again. However, you can salvage the friendship by maintaining personal boundaries and by being willing to allow the friendship to grow in a new direction rather than dwelling on your former relationship.

1 Clear Boundaries

Just because you decide to rekindle your friendship with your ex does not give you say over her personal life. Identifying appropriate and inappropriate roles and limits within your friendship is vital to maintaining the friendship. It is not appropriate to pry into her dating life or to dig for details about new boyfriends. If your ex tells you that she's going to meet a date at her favorite coffee shop, an appropriate response would be, "I hope you have fun"; if you show up at the coffee shop or ask "Why can you have coffee with Blake but you won't go on a date with me?" you've overstepped the line.

2 The Attraction Conundrum

Being friends with your ex means that you will have to come to terms with your attraction toward her. A study conducted by April Bleske-Rechek and her fellow researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire suggests risks associated with your attraction that include being jealous of other relationships, sabotaging your own dating life for a chance to rekindle your former romance and attempting to engage in a relationship with your ex even if she is uninterested. If your ex has expressed an interest in being only friends, respect that boundary, even though you are still attracted to her.

3 On Again, Off Again

The jury is out on whether two former lovers can ever truly be just friends. A study published in the "Journal of Personal and Social Relationships" by Sarah Halpern-Meekin and her fellow researchers found that about 44 percent of young adults reported reconciling with an ex within a two-year period. This data suggests that although you can be platonic with your ex, your previous emotional connection may result in revisiting a romantic relationship.

4 Your Needs

If you can't move past your romantic feelings for your ex, it may be a sign that you need to take a step back from the friendship while giving yourself time to resolve your feelings for her. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal suggests taking care of yourself by reducing stress and taking on a new passion, such as setting a goal that you've always wanted to complete. Whether that goal is running a 5K or mastering the guitar, focusing your efforts on it can provide time for your feelings to subside before you attempt to readdress your friendship from a new viewpoint.

Anthony Oster is a licensed professional counselor who earned his Master of Science in counseling psychology at the University of Southern Mississippi. He has served as a writer and lead video editor for a small, South Louisiana-based video production company since 2007. Oster is the co-owner of a professional photography business and advises the owner on hardware and software acquisitions for the company.