I have had some relationships, y’all. None of them went super great (as you might have guessed since we’re no longer together). But I’ve managed to make friends out of all but one of those boys — four out of five ain’t bad — and I take a certain amount of pride in that. Staying pals with your ex(es) isn’t necessary — sometimes, if it’s toxic, you need to make a clean and final break — but there are benefits to ending things amicably. Here are five of the biggest.
- It’s easier to rekindle the flame.
Sometimes we break up because we’re not interested in being with our partners anymore, but other times we “break up” because we need some time and space to figure out what’s best for us individually as well as for the relationship. I recently separated from my boyfriend of two years; our cohabitation situation wasn’t heading in a positive direction, so I asked him to leave. But I only wanted him to vacate my house, not my life. After a few weeks of arguing, a bit of brutal honesty, and a whole lot of heartache, we were able to come back to why we fell in love with each other in the first place. We’re not moving in together again anytime soon, but the relationship is on the mend because we put in the work to salvage it. We’re both hopeful that we’ll be a stronger couple in the future since we’ve worked through these issues — and because of our dedication to being decent human beings to one another throughout the turbulence.
- The kids, if you have them, will appreciate it.
I don’t have kids myself — though I do share custody of my dog with my ex-husband (never an issue because we’ve remained friendly) — but many gay couples these days are parents, and it’s easy to use the kids as chips in their breakup games if they’re trying to hurt one another.
“I’ve watched children be used as pawns between parents who hated each other, and they weren’t willing to try and reach a compromise and realize that at one time this was a person they cared about, loved, planned a future with,” says Patricia Bubash, a licensed professional counselor and author of the book Successful Second Marriages. “Revisiting the reasons, the qualities that initially attracted you to your ex, is a good way of seeing them as a person versus just an ex. Keeping animosity and negative feelings toward an ex only hurts the person hanging onto those feelings. It creates inner turmoil, emotional distress — and for what? The other person either ignores it, goes on their way, or confronts it in the same angry way, leading to embattled, embittered adults.”
She continues, “Children, especially young children, often feel they are in some way to blame for their parents’ breakup. The few parents I’ve worked with who choose to remain friends — and even attend weddings, showers, and social events with the ex’s new love — have a better relationship with their children. It’s win-win for everyone.”
- It’s a sign that you’re a great catch.
One could argue that if you’re not friendly with any of your exes, it might be you who’s an asshole — at least according to Amica Graber, resident relationship expert for TruthFinder, a website that specializes in providing background checking resources for online daters.
“Typically, we don’t stay on friendly terms with exes who were horrible people or treated us like garbage, and it’s a huge red flag in the dating world when all your exes hate you,” she explains. “Being on friendly terms with an ex usually means you didn’t act like a complete jerk throughout your relationship.”
Relationship expert David Bennett, co-founder of men’s lifestyle blog The Popular Man, doubles down on that sentiment.
“Keeping a good relationship with your ex shows maturity and perspective,” he says. “I would consider someone who got along well with their ex — but [was] not still secretly attracted to them! — a keeper. It shows they have the qualities necessary to be stable in a relationship.”
- They can provide honest feedback on your current relationship problems.
Every relationship will hit a few snags along the way, and who better to help you work through them than an ex who knows who you are and how you approach and react to personal conflict? When my current boyfriend and I were having serious trouble, my ex-husband called to make sure I was OK, and we discussed the degradation of the relationship at length. It was helpful for me because he’s one of a few who know what it’s like to be in a relationship with me and, therefore, able to provide sometimes hard-to-swallow advice. And that’s what I needed. I didn’t want someone blowing smoke up my ass just to make me feel better. Rather, I needed a swift kick in it to wake up and accept my part in the relationship’s failure so I could start to effectively pick up the pieces and patch up the cracks.
- You don’t have to break up with mutual friends and favorite places.
For the most part, my partners and I have largely kept separate friends, but there are friends that we’ve met as a couple and who have an equal investment in each of us. If the relationship is so sour that you two can’t be in the same room together anymore, somebody will have to sacrifice those relationships too, which only adds insult to injury considering that your romantic relationship is already kaput.
“The end of a long-term relationship usually means a custody battle, even if you don’t have any kids,” Graber says. “Turning an ex into a friend means that you can still share those mutual friends, and even go to the same sushi joint on a Friday night without all hell breaking loose.”
That’s probably not the best course of action while the wounds are still fresh, of course. But over time, like when you’ve both moved on with new partners, you can start to forge a friendship together that perhaps has hints of your old life.