Feb 062012
Authors: University Daily Kansan's Rachel Keith

Whether you dated them or it was just a fling, you broke up, whether you liked it or not.

And it seems like most breakups go the same way: you swear you’ll be friends and that not even your split or all the hard feelings associated with it will get in the way of that.

Often, these “friendships” dissolve or fail to launch altogether because they aren’t the friendships we really want or even care to maintain, and we don’t seem to mind.

It’s important not to feel obligated to make a friendship out of a broken relationship. If you don’t want to be friends with your ex, don’t suggest it. Being friends post-breakup is never a requirement.

But some people are actually worth having around, our exes included.

When a guy I was dating unexpectedly broke off our relationship in June 2010, he asked if we would still be friends. I nodded, but really doubted the chances of that even remotely happening. We weren’t friends before we dated; we probably wouldn’t be afterward.

But as it turned out, we wound up being more than friends again only six weeks later. That is, until our relationship fell apart once more a month after.

That time our split was amicable. We again agreed to “be friends,” but after two months of what felt like me suggesting plans and him blowing them off, I finally cut the thread that our so-called friendship was hanging by.

Just like after our first breakup, I figured I’d never see him again. I classified him as just a bygone. He was like an ex who merely existed somewhere else and was reduced to only a few memories.

Despite all that, though, nine months later we were sipping cocktails downtown together and reminiscing about the summer before. It was a good time, so we hung out again.

And even though we shared the most dramatic relationship I’ve ever been in, I love spending time with him now because I’ve stopped stressing about the barriers that existed in our relationship and can finally enjoy an uncomplicated bond with him.

But our friendship still has special boundaries that make it unique from my others. When it comes to really being “just friends” with our exes, we must follow certain cardinal rules of having a platonic friendship with someone with whom we used to be not so platonic.

CNN Living blogger Ami Angelowicz has it right when she offers some rules about being friends after a breakup.

Her first rule is crucial to maintaining a solid friendship: Allow a mourning period, and let both hearts heal. That way, sexual tension or resentment is significantly less of a threat. When these tensions burn out, a healthy friendship is possible and may even be better than the relationship.

We almost must understand our emotional boundaries. I love hanging out with my ex, but I make a point of keeping emotional distance, and I don’t mean that to insult or criticize him. I don’t rely on him when I’m upset, which Angelowicz also suggests. Keep the new friendship free of emotional entanglement that could make it complicated.

Finally, absolutely no hookups. Under any circumstances. Ever. Slipping here once can make it harder to resist later, and it forces the former couple to reassess the relationship. Hooking up post-breakup could cause both people’s emotional progress to relapse, which complicates what is supposed to be a simple relationship. Friends with benefits are not actually friends. You’re either dating, or you’re a booty call.

Breakups don’t have to be the end-all, be-all, but that doesn’t mean they can never be. There is nothing wrong with a healthy friendship after the fact. However, they are never obligatory.
But with that said, we shouldn’t always knock being friends post-breakup before we try it.
It could wind up being better than the actual relationship.

Rachel Keith is a columnist for the University Daily Kansan at the University of Kansas.

 Posted by at 1:43 pm

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