How to Establish a Friendship With an Ex

Make sure you're emotionally ready to be friends with your ex.
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Navigating a friendship with an ex can be tricky terrain. You've been romantically involved and emotionally connected on a very personal level. Stepping back and limiting your connection to a platonic friendship can be challenging, but it is often possible. However, keep some important considerations in mind when establishing this new relationship.

1 Give Yourself Some Space

Immediately following a breakup is not the time to try to establish a friendship with your ex. Even if your relationship ended amicably or on mutual terms, it's important that you spend time apart to break your bond as a couple, suggests relationship coach and author Susan J. Elliott, writing for YourTango. Take a time out and put some distance between you and your ex, to form separate identities independent of each other. For instance, reconnect with old friends, get back to your workout routine or start a new project you've been wanting to do. Focus on you, rather than focusing on becoming friends. Emotions run too high following a breakup to try to establish a friendship right away, says Elliott.

2 Examine Your Feelings

Consider how you feel about your ex before trying to establish a friendship with him. It's important that you're over your ex and that you don't continue to carry a flame for him. If you still have romantic feelings for him, it can make it hard for you to establish a platonic relationship. Rather than move forward strictly as friends, you may harbor hope that you will reunite as romantic partners. Trying to establish a friendship while having romantic feelings can also open you up to more pain and hurt. For example, if he starts dating someone new, it might be more than you can emotionally handle.

3 Reestablish Your Relationship

Becoming friends with an ex means reestablishing a relationship, independent of your past romantic involvement, and letting go of previous pain, hurt and beliefs, psychologist and author Judith Ruskay Rabinor tells "Redbook" magazine online. You have to work through your grief and pain and accept that her role in your life will now be as a friend, rather than a significant other. It's also important that your ex be willing to reestablish your relationship as a friendship and not have any ulterior motives. Be patient and take your time as you reestablish your relationship. You can't expect to go from partners to friends overnight.

4 Set Appropriate Boundaries

Boundaries establish the framework for what is an acceptable way for someone to treat you, writes Jane Collingwood on Psych Central. Establishing a friendship with an ex means that you will need to create new boundaries, due to a shifting of boundaries with the formations of a friendship. For example, calling your ex for emotional support or calling each other by pet names can blur the line between a romantic relationship and a friendship. You might be comfortable hugging your ex hello or goodbye, but not find it acceptable for him to put his arm around you when you are casually talking. Set your boundaries, discuss them with your ex and stick with them.

Stacey Elkins is a writer based in Chicago. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and a Masters in social work from the University of Illinois in Chicago, where she specialized in mental health.