Jordan Gray says that the question of “Can men and women just be friends?” is an outdated one.
Having been a professional relationship coach for the past seven years, I tend to get a lot of the same questions on a regular basis. And when people ask me if I think you can be friends with your exes, I barely even know how to respond to them. To me, it seems like it’s as outdated of a question as “Can two people of different races really make it work in a relationship?” Of course! How is this even still a question?
Case in point: me.
(Side note: to the GMP readers who find my articles too solipsistic, you’re going to hate this piece.)
Here’s something that surprises a lot of people…
My two closest female friends are my ex girlfriends, and my only female employee is also an ex-girlfriend.
So is it possible for men and women to be friends? Of course it’s possible. Is it possible for exes to be friends? Also a yes. And in my opinion, not only is it possible, it’s EASIER to be friends with someone who you’ve already dated than someone who you haven’t dated before. Let me explain.
The crux of the argument that people bring up to me is “Doesn’t sexual tension inevitably arise in these friendships and ruin the relationship for one or both parties?” And if that’s really a big concern, then I would see exploring that relationship as a romantic relationship to be the easiest way out of that predicament.
Personally, once I’ve exhausted the possibility of me and a girlfriend working out as a couple, it’s that much easier for me to be friends with them and know with absolute certainty that we can simply be just friends.
When you’re deciding whether this is a good idea for you or not, all that matters is the following four things…
– The intimate relationship ended mutually, or the break up eventually came to be mutually agreed upon
The ending of the romantic relationship has to either be mutually agreed upon, or both people involved need to eventually see the ending of the romantic relationship as a good thing. If one or both of you is still holding on to the idea that you might be able to convince the other that you do work as a couple, then the potential friendship will be based on a lie and it likely won’t work out.
If you both try your best in the intimate relationship and come to the agreement that “Yes, we gave this our best shot but we really don’t work well as a couple” then the option for a true friendship is present.
– You treated each other well during your intimate relationship
It’s difficult to be friends with someone you don’t love or respect, and if you were jerks to each other during your intimate relationship then the probability for wanting to be friends after your relationship is pretty low. Treat others with love, respect, and kindness throughout your relationships (your relationships of any nature) and everyone in your life (regardless of the initial social contract you once had) can be a potential friend in the long run.
– You both have the desire to be friends
Just because you have the option to be friends, doesn’t mean that you need to be friends. It has to come from a place of genuine desire.
All friendship is based on a mutual need. You form friendships because you like spending time around each other for one reason or another, and that’s because you get something from spending time with them. Whether they make you laugh, or challenge you intellectually, or keep you grounded in times of stress… we all get different emotional needs met by our different friends. And that’s just fine. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person for benefitting from your relationships. It doesn’t mean that you’re using them. It just means that you’re a human being, living in a way that any social species does.
I believe that we should all be careful about who or what we add to our lives. Our time and attention are the most valuable resources we will ever have. And you don’t need to spend it on people that you don’t want to.
So if your romantic relationship ends with someone and you want to be friends with them, then great. Go about it in your own time and let the friendship emerge as is mutually agreeable. But if your friend-card is already full, then don’t worry about it. No one’s forcing you to be friends with an ex just because you’re able to. It’s your life. You can fill it with whoever you want and whatever relationship dynamics you want.
– The friendship is based on honesty, and not underlying or unspoken motives
This point bears repeating… if one of you is still secretly holding out hope that the other one will “figure out” how you two are totally meant for each other, and you’re just biding your time until you can convince them back into a romantic relationship, then this is not friendship. This is lying. This is manipulation. And in maintaining a relationship where you’re lying about your intentions, your self-esteem will take a huge hit (not to mention you’ll waste both of your time and feel gross and incongruent in the process).
So just be honest. It’s not always easy, but it’s necessary.
The choice about how you want to show up in your relationships, as always, is yours.
Photo courtesy of Jordan Gray