Why We Can’t Be Friends: When to Admit You Can’t Talk to An Ex AT ALL

A woman who can't be friends with her ex standing on top of a mountain.

When you’re going through a breakup, there’s an invisible checklist of questions that inevitably come up. Who did it? Why did it happen? Are you okay? After you’ve sat with the breakup for a bit and adjusted to the idea of moving forward, you’ll come face-to-face with a big one: Do you think you’ll stay friends?

First, know that the answer to this question is your business. It can be helpful to talk through your breakup with close friends and family, but at the end of the day, those personal details are nobody’s business but your own. Second, your answer may change. It might be different in a year, a month, a week, or even a few hours. And that’s okay.

It’s hard to cut communication with an ex. After all, you probably didn’t start a relationship with them thinking it would end in a breakup. This is somebody you once shared love, laughter, and countless happy memories with. But after your split, they don’t just disappear into thin air, though that would make the healing process easier. As you adjust and move forward, you must decide how your ex fits into your newly single life. Do you make room for them, or cut them out?

Some people prefer a clean break with no further contact; it’s the fast track to getting over your ex and moving on. Social media accounts are unfollowed, phone numbers are deleted, and mementos are stashed away or tossed altogether. But not every relationship is the same, and others opt to stay in touch after a breakup. Maybe you share mutual friends with your ex and know you’re inevitably going to be around each other, so you decide to keep your relationship friendly. Maybe you share children, in which case it’s nearly impossible to cut them out completely. But if your gut is telling you that you need distance, you should listen.

How do you know when it’s time to walk away from someone for good? There are many different clues: When you have that sinking feeling that you’re worse off with them than without them. When you don’t completely trust yourself, and suspect you’ll give into temptation if you’re around them. When your physical or emotional well-being are threatened. Let me restate that last one: If you feel like you’ll be physically or emotionally unsafe around your ex, it’s not only okay to cut them out, it’s imperative that you do it.

Every breakup is unique and has its own set of circumstances to navigate. The best advice I can give is to be honest with yourself. Set boundaries and stick to them. If you need space and distance, clearly define what that looks like for your personal situation. Communicate those boundaries to your ex if necessary, and enlist help if further necessary. It doesn’t matter if it’s been days or years since your breakup; it’s never too late to completely walk away, especially if you’re doing so for your own good.

Elizabeth Entenman

Freelance Writer

Elizabeth is a freelance writer, editor, and advertising copywriter in Brooklyn. Right now, she’s probably somewhere Instagramming her dogs.

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