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Can you really be friends with your ex?

TLDR: Exes are exes for a reason, so for the most part, being friends with them usually isn't the best idea. While it might be tempting, it's likely not the best for your happiness and it's usually not the kind of friendship that serves you best. Caveat: if you have kids together, it's an entirely different story. Your kids will almost certainly benefit from you being friends (and they'll probably take on your baggage if you're not).

Tango's Take 🔮

Maybe you recently broke up and you're hoping to not entirely lose this person in your life, or you severed ties years ago and now it feels safe to invite them back in. Regardless of the circumstances, being friends with your ex can get messy. But don't just take it from us, here's what NYC-based psychotherapist Rachel Sussman warns against:

First, if they were toxic, abusive, or manipulative, it's a hard no. This person should not be in your life. Did you have a super magnetic connection and steamy sex life? If so, it might not be the best idea. Chemistry doesn't always change. Want to lessen the blow of a breakup by staying friendly so you don't totally lose this person in your life? You're not alone. But research shows that breakups can help improve personal development, and delaying the process of getting over someone can inhibit such growth. So it’s maybe not the best idea to stay friends. Regardless of your reasoning, research also shows that friendships with exes are more likely to have negative qualities, and are correlated with holding people back from pursuing new relationships. So usually, it’s better to go your separate paths.

So when is it advised to be friends with your ex?

There is research to support staying friends, especially when it's for practical reasons. If you have kids together, you should absolutely try to stay friends for the benefit of your children. You're essentially bonded for life, so it'll make everyone's lives easier (and trust us, you'll save your kids a LOT of stress). If you dated when you were young or you were friends first, it could also be fine. But the key is that neither of you still have feelings for each other.

Regardless, we recommend you take some kind of a break first. Breakups bring up a lot of emotions, and you'll probably want to give each other space and set boundaries. Many find it helpful to also take a social media pause by unfollowing each other to let things settle.

And ultimately it’s important to be honest with yourself - is this a friendship that is actually serving you well?

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