How to be Friends With an Ex: The First Hang Out.

When a couple breaks up on amicable terms the most common phrase uttered at the end of the awkward break up conversation is “I hope we can still be friends.” Excuse me while I choke on irony. Really friends? Friends don’t say things that break my heart, cause me to cry uncontrollably and make me want to punch them in the throat, but I digress. In my experience friendship with an ex is only possible if A) there are absolutely NO residual feelings for one another other than platonic feelings. B) enough time has passed that the hurt caused by the break up has become a distant memory. C) both parties are mature, actually want a platonic friendship with one another and have no plans to rekindle the flame. Once both exes have reached this point they can begin to start a friendship. And D) how could I forget, the most important part, there is no more sexual tension. This is by far the most difficult part to accomplish. It’s hard to go from seeing this person naked to asking how things are going with their new significant other. As long as you have A, B and C you can succeed at meeting up with your ex with minimal tension. If D is not possible avoid alcohol.

When initiating plans to spend time with an ex as a friend there are some ground rules that should be followed for the first few times you spend time together. The first, do not make plans to hang out in the evening. It will feel like a date and a date with an ex turned friend is not the feeling you want to go for. Second, make sure you meet at the location. Do not meet at your place or theirs. It will no doubt bring back memories of the relationship. Third, set specific time parameters for hanging out and make plans with someone else after. That way if it gets too awkward you have a way to escape. Fourth, don’t wear anything that has sentimental value to your past relationship with said ex. I once had coffee with an ex and made the mistake of wearing a necklace he had given me and the next thing you know it’s “You wore that cause you still love me didn’t you?”

The ideal situation would be coffee or lunch in a fairly public place that holds no sentimental value to your you or your ex. Alcohol is a slippery slope when it comes to spending time with your ex. Yes it can calm your nerves if you are feeling uneasy about the situation but it can also bring back feelings of nostalgia or attraction for your ex. One drink becomes two and then three and before you know it you and your ex are talking about old times and making drunk poor choices and everything gets more complicated than it was before. I’m just saying…

If you or your ex are dating someone new when you hang out for the first time, try to keep the details at a minimum or avoid the subject. Even if you are both over one another and have moved on, it’s still a bit of an awkward thing to discuss. In time you will be able to talk about your new relationships with your ex. My ex even comforted me when I broke up with the man I dated after him. But it took time for us to get to that point. If he had told me he was dating someone new the first time I saw him post break up, I’d probably burst into tears in the middle of the restaurant. When hanging out with an ex for the first time no doubt the conversation will turn to another sticky subject; the break up. Try to avoid the subject at all costs. What’s done is done, it’s in the past there is no use discussing something that was obviously painful for one or both parties. Blame doesn’t need to be assigned, just let it go.

When parting ways with an ex after the first hang out a quick hug is all you need. There is a maladroit way to handle the situation and there is a tactful way. Be brief and commit this to memory: “It was great to see you, (insert name of your ex). I’m so glad we can remain friends. Let’s do this again sometime soon.” That’s it. Unless you don’t want to see them anytime soon and hanging out with them reminded you that the only reason you could spend time with them before was cause at least there was the potential for sex, well then commit this to memory. “It was good to see you, (insert name of ex). I’m glad there are no hard feelings. Take care.”

Starting a friendship with an ex is the beginning of the new relationship. It’s not a downgrade from your past relationship or a continuation. In some cases a couple wasn’t friends before they dated so beginning a friendship is completely new territory. My most recent ex and I were not friends before we dated and now we are good friends. It a completely different ball game. Boundaries have to be established, pet names have to be erased from your vernacular, certain activities are out of the question, etc. A new kind of trust has to be established as the friendship develops. If you and your ex were friends before the romantic relationship then it is a lot easier to return to a state of normalcy.

The most important thing in starting a friendship with an ex is patience. A real friendship like the one you have with your platonic friends is not going to happen over night with an ex. In fact you may hang out a few times and find that it’s too difficult to see them. Time has to pass and wounds have to heal. I have stood in my exes living room and suddenly begun to cry while attempting to watch a football game with him on TV over pizza and beer. Now I could watch a football game with him with his new girlfriend and not bat an eyelash. Time, maturity and patience are the most vital ingredients when befriending an ex.

In the end, seeing your ex for the first time after a break up is a tricky situation and equally uncomfortable for both parties involved. But when handled with maturity and mutual respect it can be the start of a beautiful friendship. Or it can be a wonderful reminder of why that person is your ex.

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