What advice do you have for being friends with an ex?

Dating, Friendships
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Q: What advice do you have for a woman that is socially inept and just being friends with a guy after the two have decided not to date exclusively anymore? I want to cut people off when a relationship ends. I know it’s not the healthiest or mature way to handle it but it’s my defense mechanism. How can two people go from dating to just being friends? I’m clueless on it. ~Anonymous 

Hello, “Just Friends.” Actually, it’s not really unhealthy that you want to cut people off after the relationship ends. Not everyone is meant to be a friend or meant to be in our lives forever. I, personally, think it’s a matter of preference and depends on your willpower as to whether or not you want to keep him in your life as a friend (i.e., are you strong enough to just be friends). Some people – whether male or female – just happen to have a hard time being “just friends” with a person they used to date or they just prefer to leave the past in the past; while others may feel comfortable or prefer to maintain relationships with their exes.

This was actually a major difference that my husband and I encountered when we first started dating. I’m more of the extrovert of the pair, so I tend to be more of a “people person.” Unless you’ve done something extremely terrible to harm, hurt or betray me, it’s pretty hard for me to stop talking to a person and/or quit a friendship. My husband, on the other hand, is more of the “no-nonsense” type. He believes once it’s done, it’s done – no need for friendships, hanging out, etc. Obviously, we had to compromise on this in some ways because we’re married. Nevertheless, as a single woman it’s totally up to you if you prefer to be friends or remove him from your life completely.

Furthermore, it may be that it’s just too soon for you, which is totally normal. Sometimes, for guys it’s easier to go from being in a relationship to being friends, but if you were more emotionally attached, then it could be that it’s still too fresh, so you try to do what you can to prevent from being hurt again – especially if you feel like the guy is or was playing with your emotions.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be friends later; it just may take a little time to feel comfortable with the idea. It is possible to go from dating to friends just like any other friendship. It happens when and where there’s a level of trust, honesty and true understanding of real friendship – no friends with benefits, none of the “we’re just kicking it,” no dating and no strings attached.

Most of us have defense mechanisms for some reason or another when it comes to relationships and almost always because of something from our past like: old relationships, our family history and upbringing or the absence of a father or mother in our lives. We just have to remember to not let it control us and ruin potentially meaningful relationships.

For example, my father was never really a part of my life, so I used to have major issues with trusting men because my father never did what he said he was going to do. So, when it came to dating, a lot of times I had my guard up and I had such a bitter attitude because I didn’t want to let anyone that close to me and risk getting hurt. Even today, if I’m not careful, certain things can trigger “red flags” or emotions in me but I have to remember to control my emotions and not allow the past to hinder my present situation.

Some people are meant to be in our lives for a “reason, season or a lifetime.” So, you don’t have to force a friendship with everyone – especially exes. They’re exes for a reason. At the same time, it’s all a learning process, so don’t allow your social ineptness to keep out the friends that truly could matter.

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