Is it possible for exes to stay friends?

Dear Suzie, I finished with my ex a few months ago and haven’t had much contact with him since. I occassionally talk to him on MSN and want to remain friends as I still care about him deeply. Yesterday though he asked me if we could get back together, which I said no to as I don’t think it would work. Our mutual friends say I should cut all contact with him, delete his number and block him on MSN so he can get over me, but I really hope we can stay friends so don’t want to do this. Is it possible for exes to stay friends? Should I just get on with life and pretend he never existed? He was my first love, I can’t let go of him that easily.

You can’t pretend a lover never existed. Whether it ended well or badly, quickly or over some time, with continuing hostility or friendship and kind thoughts, relationships stay with you for life. They are what make you who you are and how you are. Indeed, being unable to end with grace and self esteem can often make a relationship linger on and its effects hamper you from making new ones. And your first love occupies a really important niche. No, you can’t and shouldn’t pretend he never existed.

But you do need to move on –something he seems to be finding harder to do than you. You seem to recognize that there is a difference in being unable to let go, and in staying in contact. Staying friends can be a healthy sign that you have both faced up to your past and present and respect and care for each other. But it can so be a sign that you can’t move on or let go and are clinging to the safety of the relationship you know rather than risk a new one, even if it doesn’t actually do anything for you.

The healthiest option is to make it clear the couple aspect of this friendship is over. To tell him so plainly, and to tell yourself too. Say you’d like to remain friends but that is all it can be.

If he accepts this, you can tell your friends you don’t need to block him to set parameters for your continuing contact. If, that is, that’s true. Check out that he understands what you are saying and wanting and that he’s not seeing this as that fantasy of some men; “She says no when she means yes.”

If you can agree your relationship has moved on to a new basis you may find it remains as that, or you may find being upfront helps both of you gradually pull away from each other. Whatever, there is never any excuse for brutality in break ups, and it leads to unnecessary misunderstandings and more hurt for all of you. Thank your friends for their concern but do it your way.

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