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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Can You and Your Ex Transition From Being Lovers to Being Friends?

Many people attempt to remain friends with their exes, especially if the breakup of their relationship was mutually decided, amicable, and both people still care deeply for one another.  Sometimes this works out and other times, it doesn't. 

Tips for Transitioning From Being Lovers to Being Friends

Take Time Apart
Even when you and your ex both agree that you want to transition from being lovers to being friends, you will need time away from each other to allow for the change.  Even though neither of  you might still be in love, it takes time for feelings to subside and to mourn what once was.  You don't want any confusion or ambiguity about the transition.

To Transition From Being Lovers to Being Friends, Take  Time Apart

For most people, a period of at least six months without contact, is needed to make the transition.  For other people, depending upon the two people involved, you might need more time.

Don't Have Sex With Your Ex
You and your ex might feel you can have the type of friendship that includes "friends with benefits" and that having occasional sex might not harm the friendship.  But this can be very confusing for one or both people.  There could easily be misunderstandings if sexual intimacy arouses romantic feelings.  This isn't to say that some people can do this and there's no confusion but, most people can't.  So, as tempting as it might be to have sex with your ex, especially if neither of you is having sex with anyone else, I recommend that you refrain from having sex with your ex.

Don't Say "Let's be friends" With the Idea of Rekindling the Romance
This is a big mistake that many people make, either intentionally or unintentionally.  Be aware of what you want and what you don't want from your ex, and be honest about it.  Don't say you want to be friends as a ploy to rekindle the relationship.  Not only is this dishonest, it's also manipulative and it could ruin any chances for a real friendship with your ex.

Pay Attention to How Your Friendship With Your Ex Affects Your New Relationship
If some time has passed and you're in a new relationship, you need to pay attention to how your friendship with your ex affects your new relationship.  Be upfront with your new lover about your friendship with your ex.  A lot of new lovers won't be comfortable with this, so you might need to make some difficult decisions.  But it's more likely to go smoothly if everyone meets so there's no mystery about who is the friend and who is the lover.

Transitioning from Lovers to Friends:  There Should be No Mystery About Who is the Friend and Who is the Lover
Most people would feel uncomfortable with an ex and a new lover meeting, at first.  This is understandable.  But if you find yourself procrastinating about this or making excuses for not doing, you need to question your own motives about not making the introductions and helping everyone involved to be clear about who each person is to you:
  • Are you trying to keep your options open by keeping your ex in the wings "just in case" your new relationship doesn't work out and you decide to try to rekindle your relationship with your ex?
  • Are you more concerned about the possibility of hurting your ex's feelings than how your new lover will feel?  
  • Are you, intentionally or unintentionally, triangulating between your ex and your new lover by keeping them separate?
Make Your New Lover the Priority
You and your ex might have been together for a long time and, naturally, s/he would know you better than your new lover.  So, in some ways, you might feel more comfortable going to your ex, instead of your new lover when you have a problem.  But you need to make your new lover the priority if this new relationship is going to succeed.

This means that you take the time to spend with your new lover and make the effort to develop your relationship rather than going to your ex first for help or emotional support.

By the same token, your ex needs to learn to expand his or her emotional support system beyond you.  S/he was probably accustomed to relying on you during difficult times.  You can still be supportive of your ex, but when it starts interfering with your new relationship, you need to set some boundaries.  Frequent tearful calls at 3 AM (from your ex to you or you to your ex) aren't acceptable any more.

Making your new lover the priority also means that you don't go flying to your ex whenever you and your new lover have an argument.  This is another way to triangulate and it will quickly lead to problems.

Another mistake that people often make, usually when they're angry, is to compare their new lover unfavorably to their ex, by saying to the new lover something along the lines of, "She never would have done that!"  That's often the death knell for the new relationship.

Transitioning From Lovers to Friends...Tricky, But Not Impossible
Making the transition from being lovers to being friends with your ex can be tricky, but if you take time away from each other, you're clear and honest with your new lover and your ex, everyone is on the same page, and if you set clear boundaries, you might be able to make the transition.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or use this link to email me:

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