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Everyone handles breakups differently, whether it was a quick fling or a decades-long marriage. Some need to work through emotions of sadness for a long period of time while others move on quite quickly. Some cope by cutting an ex out of their life completely and immediately. But what do you do when an ex wants to be friends?
There are key considerations to think about when accepting an ex into your life as a friend. Keep reading for 5 reasons you may not want to be or stay friends with an ex-husband, wife, or partner when a relationship ends, according to therapists.
1. It Will Delay the Healing Process
It's difficult to heal the pain that comes with the loss of a partner who hurt you if they are a constant part of your life. In an article for HuffPost, Kathleen Dahlen deVos, a psychotherapist in San Francisco, says while it's natural after a breakup to have lingering feelings of hurt and anger, "These persistent feelings aren't appropriate to work out with your ex, as that version of the relationship is over."
Instead, relationship experts recommend that it's best to communicate only when it's absolutely necessary, and refocus your energy on processing any unresolved feelings you may still harbor.
2. It Can Be Emotionally Painful
Similarly, being around your ex under the guise of friendship when you're still healing may cause serious emotional pain. Instead, try spending time with yourself and focusing on what will make you feel your best. “Try seeking the support of a therapist or trusted, impartial friend. Or turn to personal practices, like journaling, to help release and clarify your thoughts and feelings,” deVos recommends in the same HuffPost article.
Try seeking the support of a therapist or trusted, impartial friend. Or turn to personal practices, like journaling, to help release and clarify your thoughts and feelings.
3. It May Be Fueled by Guilt
Even if an ex truly wants to remain on friendly terms with you, doing so is likely more beneficial to them than it is to you. For example, attempting to be friends with an ex-husband who cheated on you might mean "the person who is the dumper feels guilty about leaving the relationship... and wants to remain friendly with the dumpee to help ease their guilt," writes Terry Gaspard, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, in a separate HuffPost article.
It may be difficult to accept, but consider whether an ex wants to stay friends out of guilt; in which case, the relationship may be more beneficial to them than it is for you.
4. It Will Keep You from Moving on
Being friends with an ex may prevent you from giving a new relationship a fair chance to flourish or blossom, says Rachel Sussman, a New York City-based psychotherapist and author of "The Breakup Bible," in an interview with Time. “Sometimes that will hold you back from going into a new relationship,” she cautions.
5. It Will Be Harder to Let Go
Letting go is the secret to healing your pain, but it takes discipline, will-power, and time. There may be instances when you will feel the urge to contact your ex; but it's important to remember that the more contact you have, the less progress you will make. Susan J. Elliott, author of the book "Getting Past Your Breakup," tells HuffPost, "You need time and space to grieve the relationship.”
Admittedly, there are circumstances which require regular contact with an ex (if you share children, for example), yet "even after the most amicable breakup, everyone needs time to work through the split and all their feelings," continues Elliott.
On the other hand, Sussman says that couples who dated when they were young, were friends first, dated casually, or were together only for a short time are good candidates for friendship.