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"Can We Be Friends After A Relationship Ends?"

By Dr. Margaret Paul
March 04, 2013

Discover what you may need to address before deciding whether you can be friends with an ex partner.

Elise writes:

"My partner and I separated a year ago. My partner now wants to finalize the relationship but work on being 'friends'. I am having difficulty connecting as just 'friends', it seems to trigger all my old wounds of rejection and abandonment. Do you have any advice?"

Elise, the fact that your old rejection and abandonment wounds are getting triggered is a great opportunity for you to become aware of how you are rejecting and abandoning yourself. This is the real issue in the present. Old rejection and abandonment wounds get healed when we learn to give ourselves the love, compassion, gentleness, tenderness, caring and understanding that we didn't receive as children.

As children, our parents or other caregivers created these wounds in us with their unloving behavior. Now, these triggered wounds likely indicate that you are treating yourself the way your parents treated you and themselves.

Whether or not you want to continue to be friends with your former partner is a different issue. Is this a person you currently want to be friends with? You might not be able to answer this question until you have done some deep healing work on your abandonment issues. When you are no longer triggered into your woundedness when thinking about your ex, then you will be able to decide whether or not you want to be friends.

There is no hurry to make this decision. Right now, since your wounds are unhealed, you can let your ex know that you are not currently ready to be friends, as you have some healing work to do. Give yourself the time you need to heal your rejection/abandonment issues through your Inner Bonding work and then see how you feel.

Even when you feel more healed regarding these issues, there may be issues between you that need to be resolved. Is there unfinished business with him or her? Would it be helpful for the two of you to have some sessions with a facilitator or therapist to get clear on what happened between you that resulted in the relationship ending? There is always much for each person to learn if both are open to learning about what didn't work well in the relationship. Relationships are systems, with each person contributing equally to the system. Does each of you have a full understanding of the system you both created, and why it didn't work?

I have worked with many couples after they broke up – when both of them wanted to understand what they had done so that they would not create the same problems in their next relationship. It has always been extremely helpful to both people when they were open to learning about themselves and each other. For some, it was actually the very first time they were able to be truly open with each other. Sometimes it's easier to be open when you are no longer invested in the relationship – when you no longer feel you have anything to lose.

How did each of you protect yourselves in your former system? Was one of you pulling and the other resisting? Was one angry and the other compliant? How were each of you trying to control each other? What feelings did you make the other responsible for? How did you each abandon yourselves in the relationship?

These are some of the issues you can explore if you are each open to learning. If you both are interested in learning, then in time it will become apparent whether or not you can remain friends or if it is in your highest good to move on.

I always suggest that you take advantage of an opportunity to learn and heal, and this is a wonderful opportunity!


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