Exploring the “Just Friends” Myth After a Breakup

Does being “just friends” after a breakup ever work? According to a YouGov poll, 37% of Americans say that they’d like to remain friends with an ex if they broke up. Additionally, 31% said they’d want to stay friends even if the ex was the one to end the relationship. In both cases, men were more likely to want to transition into the friend zone than women. Is it ever a good idea? This is a situation where motive can be everything. Let’s break down the “just friends” myth after breakups.

Does Trying to Stay Friends After a Breakup Work?

“Staying friends due to unresolved romantic desires resulted in negative outcomes, whereas staying friends due to security and practical reasons resulted in more positive outcomes,” according to a published paper that looked at the outcomes of staying friends with ex-romantic partners. Researchers also found that situations where exes stayed friends due to practical or civility reasons resulted in friendships being far less likely to last in the long term. If you’re struggling with where you stand in the aftermath of a breakup, I recommend grabbing my free Break-up Guide that provides a blueprint for getting through change and heartbreak.

Ways That Trying to Stay Friends After a Breakup Can Backfire

Going from love interests to “just friends” is a complicated transition. It takes an incredible amount of maturity to pull it off. It also takes a great degree of self-awareness to know just how chummy you can stay with someone you’re still carrying a flame for in your heart. Here’s are some scenarios where staying friends with an ex can be harmful:

  • You’re either consciously or subconsciously trying to use the friendship angle to keep the door open for the relationship to turn romantic again.
  • Friendship is being used for bargaining to stay in the other person’s life because you are desperate to stay in contact with them.
  • You feel that you “owe” the other person friendship because of the time they have invested in you.
  • You are using the term “let’s always be friends” to try to soften the blow of the breakup because you don’t like confrontation.

This isn’t to say that remaining friends can’t work in some situations. In some cases, exes decide to remain friendly because they share the same social circle. In other cases, there is true warmth shared between the two people even though the romantic spark is no longer there. Of course, deciding to remain friends instead of doing a clean break can sometimes bring up unexpected feelings. Make sure that you are truly okay with the thought of seeing your ex with someone new on social media. You should also have some boundaries in place for contacting each other once you are officially exes. Once you move into a new dating relationship, a new partner might not appreciate constant text messages or online comments from an ex. Ultimately, the “just friends” myth is truly a myth unless both parties are able to be extremely mature about redefining the relationship.