How To Set Boundaries When You're Friends With Your Ex

Dealing with the repercussions of a breakup is like carrying your own cross. But remaining good friends with your ex kind of makes you a saint. Amicable breakups usually involve a cliché like "We'll always be in each other's life!" or "Let's hang out sometimes as friends." Away with formalities, how many of you who said that really meant what you said? Even if you genuinely want to continue to be in your ex's life, it's painfully awkward when both of you have new romantic interests. "I don't think you can segue from a passionate relationship into a friendship without there being quite a big gap," says relationship counselor Christina Fraser (via The Guardian). Some people can't accept the ending, so they'd prefer to stay in the friend zone than nowhere at all.


However, if both you and your ex have shared values and interests that make you potential besties, there's no reason why you should throw that chemistry away. If you and your ex share custody of a child or a pet, all the more reason to stay on good terms with your former partner. "Being friends with your ex can be a good idea," marriage therapist Weena Cullins tells mindbodygreen, especially when the connection is important to your personal growth and life goals. Cultivating an ex-friendly camaraderie is not impossible if you know how to preserve wholesome boundaries with each other. And here's how to do it.

Only hang out in group settings

It's normal if you want to keep your ex in your life post-breakup, but changes in your relationship status entail new rules and expectations. To effectively redefine your relationship with your ex and avoid sending mixed messages, keep your relationship as platonic and casual as possible, per Bonobology ... And one way to do that is to refrain from meeting your ex in private or reaching out to them regularly lest you catch feelings again. After a breakup, time and space apart are necessary to give you both fresh perspectives on your dating goals. If you're the kind of person who likes checking in on your friends, including your ex, you might want to alter your expectations. Get ready for minimum or nil response from your ex because you're no longer the special someone in their life, and they might need space to get over you.


If you have no uneasy feelings towards your ex and wish to keep in touch, consider hanging out in a group setting, says relationship expert Jane Greer to Women's Health. Not only does hanging out with your mutual friends loosen up your ex and reaffirm to your buddies that all is well with you, but it also deepens the friendship, the most reliable fabric of human affections, between you and your old flame.

No dinner, occasional lunch only

Dinner is the staple of a romantic relationship and the closest you can get to an actual date. That's why past lovers should never go there. Findings from a study published in the journal PLoS ONE suggest that people generally believe that meal sharing can take a relationship up a notch. According to the study, breaking bread with an ex tends to elicit more jealousy from current romantic partners than interactions that don't involve any eating or drinking activities. If you must have a meal with your ex, try to schedule it around lunchtime and near your workplace. A lunch date feels more casual and easygoing, and you can always make excuses to leave at your convenience for work purposes.


In case you must meet your ex for dinner to discuss specific matters, keep your meal short and skip dessert or extra drinks afterward, psychiatrist Dr. Ish. Major tells Her Campus. When you're there, Dr. Major adds, be honest about your motives and refrain from sending mixed signals.

Let your ex know you're dating someone

If you heard from someone else that he's been seeing someone, would you get hurt? Maybe you wouldn't if you and your ex are no longer in contact. But if he's still a part of your circle of friends, you can't help but feel blindsided. The same goes for your ex. As relationship coach Dr. Gary Brown tells Elite Daily, you should let your ex know about your new romance if you remain on good terms. Out of consideration, Dr. Brown recommends breaking the news to your ex first before going official on social media. It's better for them to find out from you than from the public.


If you and your ex co-parent, you should keep your former partner in the loop about your dating status. Letting your ex know who you're seeing will only cement mutual trust and strengthen your friendship. Another reason to let your ex know you've moved on is when you sense the person still has feelings for you and is secretly hoping to get back with you, per LoveDevani. Letting your ex know you're seeing someone else saves them the discomfort of chasing rainbows and encourages them to begin looking for a new relationship sooner. Plus, it's better to tell your ex in person rather than via text or on the phone because it shows you've put some thought into it and that you mean what you say.

Wipe the slate clean and tread on eggshells

When you're a couple, you throw parties together and go to each other's family gatherings. But when your relationship dissolves, you must respect your ex's wish to do things separately and avoid trailing into old habits. For example, if your ex throws a birthday party and invites everyone you know except you, don't show up at their door. You may think that being chummy post-breakup is harmless, but your ex might need more time to cope. If your ex has a new partner, it's normal ex-etiquette to not have you over to avoid creating awkward scenarios.


Even when you have children together, you should respect your ex's private life by not crashing every get-together your ex invites your kids to but not you. According to co-parenting counselor Dr. Jann Blackstone (via The Detroit News), a sensible occasion to reunite with your ex is at a not-to-be-missed event like your children's graduation or a traditionally scheduled family get-together. To avoid confusing your mutual friends and upsetting your ex, CBC recommends socializing casually and joining group hangouts rather than becoming besties with your ex's bestie. If your ex doesn't want you connected with their family, you should respect their requests. It feels uncomfortable to alter your habits and act all gingerly post-breakup, but it's how you can maintain friendly ties with your ex without upsetting the apple cart. 


Stop obsessing over your ex's new relationship

Whether you or your ex is the first to start a new relationship, watching your ex dating someone else is a hard pill to swallow. If you can't stop obsessing over your ex's new romance, like stalking their social media accounts or gossiping about them, you'll have a hard time staying friends with them. To experience a shift in your thinking, acknowledge your thoughts about your ex's new relationship and accept your insecurities. According to Sweety High, your obsession with your ex's new relationship might stem from your fear that the new partner is replacing you in your partner's life and that you're being betrayed. The truth is, your place in your old flame's life has changed, and you should move on to find your special place in someone else's life. Another way to not feel jealous when picturing your ex with someone else is to remind yourself why you split up with your ex, Brides advises. If there's no reason for you to want your ex back, why not let them be with someone else?


After a breakup, some people wish to never hear from their exes again. But for others who share meaningful years together, it's hard to cut contact and become strangers again. And that's a possibility. As long as you set healthy boundaries to redefine your relationship with your ex, a well-maintained friendship where you can support each other in your future endeavors is within reach.