Even if you’re completely over them, staying friends with an old ex isn’t the easiest or most comfortable experience. Their constant presence is a reminder of what you had, and maintaining a level of intimacy can be a barrier to new relationships and moving on.
1. You tend to feel like the breakup was very recent, even if it was months or years ago. Staying friends with an ex constantly places your old relationship at the front of your mind. This makes it so that your more recent romantic conquests, if you’re single, fade from memory more quickly than that old relationship. Old memories constantly bubble up, and you feel like the breakup was so much more recent than it was.
2. There may be high levels of flirting. If it was an amicable breakup, there may be flutterings of old feelings and maybe even some backsliding. Because you’re still comfortable with each other physically, the flirting could go off the charts. It’s both confusing and exciting, because you’re constantly wondering if anything is still there to salvage. Probably not, but hey—everyone wonders.
3. The jealousy is real. You’re both going to move on, and are probably constantly meeting and seeing new people. If you’re both single and just dating around, knowing they’re spending time with new people—because you’re hearing about it or even seeing it—will cause those awful twinges of jealousy. It’s just fact.
4. You’re careful not to make things awkward. I tend to crack dirty jokes and my sense of humor is rife with innuendo, but I have to make sure to curb that tendency around my ex because that makes things ten times more awkward. It’s a reminder of your previous physical relationship and acknowledging that you’re both hooking up with other people now. Mentioning sex is never a good idea with an ex.
5. There’s confusion about your friendship. I’ve remained friends with an ex I care a lot about, but I always wonder if I care or did care more for him than he did about me. Are we friends just because it’s convenient? Does he wish he didn’t see me so often? What does he actually think about me now? It’s probably best not to ask these questions, but it’s also extremely difficult not to.
6. Your friendship will necessarily change. Remaining friends with an ex is usually done as a sympathy gesture for a partner you don’t want to hurt. “Let’s be friends” is notorious for a reason. But if you’re genuinely friends with an ex you want to keep in your life, you have to be comfortable with the knowledge that things have to change when one or both of you enters a new relationship. New boyfriends and girlfriends are understandably uncomfortable when their partner is buddy-buddy with an ex, so get used to the fact that one way or another, you’re going to lose your friend a little bit—or a lot.
7. Things are too comfortable sometimes. It’s strange—to say the least—to go from talking and seeing each other almost every day to maintaining friendly distance. So when you do meet up the tendency is to stick together like you did in the past. You may text for hours or buddy up for events, and when things get too comfortable, your emotions will be outta whack.
8. You will have to keep them at some kind of arm’s length. Do you want them there for every birthday? Every event? Every party? Probably not. Despite the effort you two are making to stay friends, the past will always be there, and you have to treat them differently from the way you treat your other buddies. This means drawing boundaries that you don’t always have to mention. That means creating barriers to certain kinds of intimacy, or excluding them from the knowledge of some aspects of your life. It’s only natural, after all.
9. It’s worth it, sometimes. If you’re really determined to be friends with an ex for the right reasons, and your heart and mind are in the right place (a RARE thing!), staying friends with an ex could be majorly rewarding. You’ve obviously picked this person to be in your life for a reason, and keeping them there in some capacity has to be making you happy. If it isn’t, then it’s not worth it. But if it is, then you’re doing the right thing.