Can you remain friends with an ex?

By Mara Shapiro

For Autumn Langdon, sophomore in LAS, remaining friends with her ex-boyfriend wasn’t easy.

Two years ago, when Langdon was a senior in high school and her boyfriend was a sophomore, he ended things with her because of their age difference.

“Everything was great. We were really close. He basically freaked out because he was two years younger, and I was going to college,” Langdon said. “He stopped talking to me after he broke up with me. I didn’t know what happened.”

Langdon tried to get back together with her ex, but he refused, and the two stopped talking. After some time, the two resumed their friendship, and learned to battle their pre-existing feelings.

“We really liked each other as friends; it was the foundation of our relationship,” Langdon said. “A mutual teacher who he really liked passed away, and I called to check on him and make sure he was doing okay.”

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    While the two don’t talk as much as they used to, they do still check in on each other to catch up.

    Marie Pritchard, owner and therapist at New Dawn Counseling Center of Central Illinois, explains why people feel the desire to remain friends with current partners after a breakup.

    “A common issue with someone who is trying to be friends with an ex-partner is trying to do this too soon after the break-up. There may have not been enough time to grieve and come to a new understanding of what the relationship is,” Pritchard wrote via email.

    Langdon now sees herself as a sort of mentor to her ex, giving him life advice when it comes to girls, relationships and applying to colleges. And for Langdon, her ex is a piece of her hometown for her.

    Langdon’s current boyfriend of 10 months sees no issues with her maintaining a friendship with an ex-boyfriend, as he, too, keeps up a friendship with his ex-girlfriend.

    “He knows you can just be friends. He knows the entire history,” Langdon said.

    Michelle Kenny, junior in Social Work, also maintains a friendship with her ex-boyfriend. The break-up in April was mutual for the former couple, after they had been dating for a year.

    Kenny explains that she and her ex-boyfriend tried to stay friends right after the break-up, but it was not successful.

    “We decided to hang out as friends the very next day (after breaking up). It did not go well,” Kenny said.

    Kenny said they text each other everyday to catch up. She also said the two will hang out twice a week, both in group settings and one-on-one.

    “It’s enough balance between being alone and hanging out. It took a while to figure it out,” she said.

    Pritchard said that a one-sided friendship can frustrate the other partner.

    “I have had clients tell me how hard it is to get over someone when that person is calling and wanting to connect. Sometimes, you will find the person who did the breaking up feels guilty about hurting their former partner,” she wrote.

    But Langdon said closure can affect that reconciliation.

    “There can be hurt feelings. You can feel rejected and feel angry. My ex gave me an apology and gave me that closure,” Langdon said.

    Overall, Pritchard says that there is no correct way to deal with a former partner. Instead, she advises her clients to focus on what is best for that individual person above all else.

    “I would tell a student there are no right or wrong answers to the friendship question. Every situation is different,” she wrote.

    Kenny thinks that if a person wants to remain friends with an ex, they should have a discussion with their former partner post break up.

    “Talk it out, but don’t languish over the situation. Sit down with your ex and figure out clear-cut parameters for how you want the friendship to function.” she said.

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