Every few weeks I receive an email asking how to remain friends with an ex. Sadly, the answer is often what these girls don’t want to hear: Only in very rare cases you can stay “friends” with an ex-boyfriend, and that friendship often looks very different than initially expected.
Whether you broke up last week or last year, you might be wondering why this post-relationship relationship is so…weird. The reality is this: It’s very hard to go from the higher level of emotional intimacy you used to have to the lower level you will have now. This is made even more difficult by the circumstances of the breakup—whether or not it was mutual, the timing and the presence of other “eligible” dates on the scene.
This is why distance from your ex is essential to your personal growth—for both of you. If you’re not sure why or how, read on.
Time Apart Grants Perspective
Taking time apart post-breakup prevents falling back into your old relationship devoid of the title (a very common problem when trying to “stay friends”). Rather than trying to force a friendship, be okay with being single for a time. Take time to process this with the Lord. Don’t rush to a new guy. Don’t rehash the breakup for the sixteenth time. Give yourself time to gain perspective, and give him time to miss you, or at the very least to begin the healing process.
Staying “Friends” Should Not Be Your Goal
If you decided to break up with your boyfriend—or even if he broke up with you—staying “friends” should not be your goal. You broke up. Getting back to a friendship stage is going to take time, and it may never happen at all. If you ended the relationship, there will be a lot of hurt on his part. Each time you try to hang out as “friends,” all he’s thinking about is the relationship he wants with you. It’s not “just friends” to him.
Conversely, don’t pander to an ex who breaks up with you and still wants to hang out. You need time to heal, pursue God’s wisdom and eventually move on from that relationship. If you are led to get back together, come back together as more mature people—not as rebounds.
Your Growth Requires Less Distraction
Growing spiritually, emotionally and relationally requires that you have little distraction. If you’re distracted by the constant presence of an ex, you’re not going to think clearly. Your prayers, desires and pursuits will all be colored by his influence. Give yourself space and time to pray through the future. Give him space and time to do the same.
We don’t like that kind of space because it scares us; we have to walk blindly forward, with no real structure to the future. When we’re dating, we often run a subconscious timeline in our heads. We make plans around the relationship, and when that relationship ends, we struggle to determine our direction. This is a human problem, but it’s one that shouldn’t be embraced. Instead of letting your boyfriend or your ex dictate your life plan, seek God’s wisdom for your life. Ask Him to direct you into His will. Then follow the opportunities as He leads you there—without distraction.
Letting Go Is a Lesson in Control
Letting go of an ex is difficult. We want to know that we matter in some way, that we’ve had an impact on his life. When he moves on, it makes us feel like we never really mattered.
But we do matter—on an eternal, lasting level. If our worth is dictated by how our exes treat us, we’ll be miserable each time a relationship ends. But if we find our worth in God’s identity for us, we can walk through a breakup into the arms of Christ and find peace and healing there. We can let go of control and follow God’s leading—the very best place to be.