It is a truth universally acknowledged that when a relationship breaks down, the last thing you want to do is just be friends.
This usually translates to watching them live their best life and feeling miserable about your own single state. But perhaps it doesn’t always have to be this way?
Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, who ‘consciously uncoupled’ in 2014, are turning staying-on-amicable-terms into an art form after Platrow shared a photo of her new partner, Brad Falchuk and ex, Martin, having brunch together.
Although this might sound like many people’s worst nightmare, perhaps there is something to be said about staying friends with your former flames?
Relate relationship counsellor, Gurpreet Singh explains the benefits of doing so.
Why it might be beneficial:
You’ve just broken up with someone and been left wondering whether you want to be friends or just cut them out of your life completely - so is there any point in trying to rekindle a platonic relationship?
It can help you bring good energy into your next relationship.
Gurpreet Singh said: “History sadly has a way of repeating itself and if you have unresolved issues from a past relationship [which is likely something that would stop you from wanting to be friendly with them] then you are going to carry this forward.”
By forcing a resolution with the ex-partner and parting more amicably you are likely to go into your next relationship with a more positive mental outlook.
It has benefits for mutual circles of friends.
When relationships exist for long periods of time, not only do your family lives intertwine (nothing worse than losing a good mother-in-law) but you may well have built up the same friendship group. Or even have had the same friends before you got together who are left feeling torn.
Although it is unlikely that things will go back to how they were pre-relationship, you can definitely work to ensure that things are not awkward and friends don’t feel like they have to choose between you both.
It stops you losing a relationship you heavily invested in.
Singh said that your reasoning might be as simple as the sunken cost fallacy - I’ve invested heavily in this so don’t want to have ‘wasted’ that time and energy on this person, without some kind of return.
He said: “Even if you don’t have children you will have developed a friendship with this person over a period of time, and it is possible you don’t want to lose that. You might be okay with the idea of a loss of romance but you may want to hold on to the friendship you have built - so why lose that?”
It is obviously better for any children involved.
This goes without saying that for any children involved, it is always better if you can remain friends with your ex-partner, says Singh.
It also helps in legal disputes as you might be able to resolve things without a third party needing to get involved (and all the costs that this brings with it).
How to be friends with your ex:
So you’ve decided that it is worth trying to be friends with your ex-partner, but still don’t have any idea how you’re going to make that work.
Ensure you have boundaries in place.
Singh’s single most important piece of advice for making sure that this friendship remains exactly that, is to set boundaries early on.
He said: “If you are going to do this you have to make sure that there are boundaries in place from the beginning - what checks and balances are you going to put in place to ensure this? Especially if you are both with separate partners now.”
Be aware that it could slip back into being romantic (and this isn’t good).
You decided to breakup for a reason, and although it might not feel like it at the time, there is a reason this should be friendship-only.
Singh said: ”“There is always a danger with these friendships, what was once there can resurface, so you have to make sure that you have checks on that right away.”