Menu Join now Search

Friends, Shmiends

We've all tried at some point, but can you really be friends with an ex? The 4-way discusses how to "break up" with an ex/friend when it just isn't working out.

Shutterstock

Dear 4-Way,
A couple of months ago, I ended a five-month relationship with someone. I initiated the breakup and he specifically asked if we could continue our relationship as friends. I said yes, because on the surface, it seemed stupid not to be friends with him; he’s a nice guy, just not the guy for me. But after a couple of months of boring outings and awkward phone calls, I’ve decided that being friends is not something I want. I realize that I don’t miss him and don’t enjoy spending time with him. Not to sound harsh, but I’m busy and I have a lot of other friends who I’d rather spend time with; plus, I’d like to spend some of my free time meeting new people I do want to date. At this point, I feel like I’m just hanging out with him so I don’t hurt his feelings. Am I being a bitch? Should I try to develop a real friendship with this guy? And if not, is there a good way to tell him?—TR, New York, New York

The gay woman’s perspective: Jody Fischer
It sounds like you’ve really given this a lot of thought. You’ve been open to see if a true friendship is there and have found that it isn’t. Now what? Be honest, but not cruel.

Telling him that you want to spend time meeting new friends and potential people to date is truthful. Letting him know that there’s no friend connection there for you is unnecessary for now. Remind him that he too can be out meeting new people.

The part you can’t control is how he’ll take the news. He may push harder for the friendship or he may actually hear what you’re saying and what you need. Hope for the latter, but know that he may not want to lose you. In that case, you need to go to a deeper level of conversation with him. Ask him what he enjoys about spending time with you. Find out what he’s hoping for in your friendship connection. His answers will tell you if he’s still holding out for you guys to get back together or if he really just enjoys your company as a friend. Perhaps his answers may also reveal some cool things about your time together that you may not have considered. What you two do have is a history and a sense of the familiar with one another. But it doesn’t mean that you have to be BFFs, or even FFs.

The gay man’s perspective: Darren Maddox
Yes, TR, you’re being a bitch. But what straight guy in his right mind would even want to hang out with you after you dumped his ass unless he had no other friends or needed a fag hag at his side because he was secretly gay? I think you need to have a little chat with this dude. Tell him you’ve tried to be his friend. You honestly have, but it just isn’t going to work out as he’d hoped. Tell him you think it’s important for both of you to move on at this point in order to fully open yourselves up to the possibility of meeting others. Besides, the holiday season is upon us and who knows whom you’ll meet at a fabulous party through your gaggle of gal pals? A clean break is much needed. Be sure to tell him you’re not trying to be mean, but you’re clearly not doing either of you any favors by just hanging around for the sake of making only one of you happy. Life is too short for that; move on.

The straight woman’s perspective: Rebecca Brown
Can somebody please tell me why everybody is so damned fired up about being friends with exes? If you’ve dated someone for a long time and they’ve been part of your life, it may make sense to eventually have a relationship as friends, but only after the wounds have healed and no one is feeling sad about not being more than that. But if you’ve dated for only a few months and you’re not all that jazzed about his company, what’s the point? You’re not TR.org, the not-for-profit organization who remains friends with exes just to avoid hurting their feelings. No! You’re TR.com! You’re open for business, baby, and you need to mix and mingle and find someone who will excite you. You’ll increase your chances of doing that by hanging out with real friends, people who make you laugh and bring out the best in you—not by hanging out with people who bore you to tears.

I’m not always against being friends with people you’ve dated. I just hate it when people force it when the makings of a true friendship aren’t there. For god’s sake, just because you’ve seen someone naked does not mean you need to be friends; you should cultivate a friendship if you’re really interested in spending time with someone.

So no, TR, I don’t think you’re a bitch, and if the other 4-Wayers think you are, then we can revel in our bitchdom together. Follow your gut and cut this guy loose. Your time is valuable and so is his. He’s not going to meet the person of his dreams hanging out with someone who thinks he’s a big old yawn.

The straight man’s perspective: Chris Kennedy
I’m glad you brought this up, TR. Trying to remain friends after a breakup is a common trap. On the surface, it seems so evolved and grown up and mature. But more often than not, this type of forced “friendship” proves to be messy, misguided, and missing something.

When you date someone for a substantial amount of time—your investment of five months certainly qualifies—you’ve essentially waived your rights to be a true friend with this person after you break up. Your point about already having friends you’d rather spend time with is exactly why I say this. 

Your romantic partners do something for you (and to you) that your friends don’t, and vice versa. It’s a like a good sports team. In football, you don’t want your quarterback blocking for your right guard and you don’t want your right guard playing quarterback.

So you tell your ex you made a mistake. You thought you could handle being friends with him, but time has proven you cannot. You weren’t so much “nice” as you were “guilty” when you agreed to be friends.

You do him no favors by carrying on a sham friendship while he secretly pines away that he can get you back. Yes, that’s why he asked to still be friends after you ended things. He made a last ditch effort to stay in the game even if it meant he had to ride the bench. To continue the football analogy, he’s hoping that all the other players will get injured and that he’ll get another shot.

You weren’t dating this guy for friendship; you were dating him for romantic potential and you decided it didn’t work. Now you must follow through on your decision. Wish him well and send him packing. He’s a big boy and must handle your decision.

And remember this simple dating truth—the role of failed romantic partner does not automatically default to friend.

 

More You'll Love

Close