Can We Still Be Friends?
Even when we know it's time to end a romantic relationship,
we're often reluctant to let go of our partners completely.
We've shared so much of our lives with our partner, it seems
almost callous to simply cut them out of our lives--especially
if we're ending the relationship on good terms. It's natural
that we want to hold onto the loving and supportive part of the
romantic relationship, and simply let go of the parts that
aren't serving us. This is entirely possible: we can remain
friends with our former lovers. We both need to want to build a
If we choose to stay friends with a former romantic partner, we
will have to establish new boundaries and expectations in the
relationship. The old checklists are no longer appropriate, and
it may take some time to make a successful transition to the new
relationship. It's best, in fact, if we do not spend any time
together once we've officially ended the romantic relationship.
A clean break is essential. We need time to separate our life
from our partner's. We need to reestablish our own boundaries
and our own identity. And we need to spend a little time
mourning the death of the romantic relationship. It takes time
for the emotional connections to adjust, and it takes time for
us to gain perspective on the entire relationship.
Once we're ready to spend time with our partner again, we must
recognize that any friendship that we build is a new
relationship. It is not an extension or continuation of our
romantic relationship. We will need to start slowly, and to
build up a new level of trust. It will take some time to make
sure we're using the appropriate checklists. We can't expect the
same kind of support or commitment in a friendship as we did in
a romantic relationship. By the same token, we may find that we
could tolerate certain behavior from a lover, but that we won't
accept it from a friend.
In many ways, friendships are far more demanding than romantic
relationships. We look for a higher level of shared interests
and compatibility with our friends than we do with our romantic
partners. We may discover that our former lovers don't make the
cut as friends--and there's nothing wrong with that. We have a
much easier time letting friends drift out of our lives than we
do with letting go of romantic partners.