The Great Debate: Can You Ever Be Friends With An Ex?

Two STELLAR writers go head to head.

Pic: Pexels/ Tirachard Kumtanom

Editor-in-chief Megan Roantree says… YES 

Growing up, I had family friends I’d consider my aunt and uncle. They were a couple for as long as I’d known them, until one day, they split up. Aged eight or so, I was horrified that my plans of being their flower girl was scuppered.

But over 20 years later, they’re still really good friends. They both sign their names on my birthday cards, come to dinner at our house with their own partners, and are there for each other like any other good friends. To me, my relationship with both of them didn’t change, they were still my aunt and uncle.

This set me up for a good understanding of exes being able to be friends. Some breakups are awful, and if someone turns out to be a shitty person, it’s not likely that you’ll be friends. But some people are meant to be in your life.

Feelings can be confusing, and affection and care can often be misconstrued for romantic feelings. I think it’s okay to realise that and become friends instead. Once two people are clear about why they broke up, and feel mutual about where they stand, it can work.

I think the key though, is honesty. If one person feels hurt or let down, or worse, still has strong feelings, then a friendship would be tricky even if they were never a couple in the first place.

That’s why I think you really can be friends with an ex. If the foundation of the relationship is friendship, then why cut someone special out of your life because society tells you it’s odd?

It might not happen right away, but in time, after a split, if someone is meant to be in your life you should embrace it, even if it’s not in the way you planned. After all I’ve seen living proof of just how well it can work.

Image via Pexels

Head of Digital Jade Hayden says… NO 

We’ve all been there. The big breakup. The sudden split. The unceremonious dumping you didn’t see coming. The apologies, the tears, the request to “stay friends” regardless. We were so close for so long. Why wouldn’t we? Here’s why.

For many, the key to moving on after heartache is distance. An entirely clean cut – no more meet ups, no more WhatsApping, and definitely no more sleeping together. Imagine how hard it would be to heal a broken limb if every time you left the house it snapped in two again.

And look, I get it. I have been the dumpee and the dumper, and I have suggested staying in each other’s lives for some paltry reason – mainly to make myself feel less guilty.

And isn’t that always the way? The person who dumps another wants to remain pals, to keep in touch, to stay in the loop even though they’ve potentially upended someone’s life.

The ability to remain amicable after a breakup is an admirable one. It takes a lot to see an ex out and about and to be able to have the “how have you been?” conversation… and actually mean it.

But there’s a difference between being amicable and trying to be friends. Friendship means that you make time for each other, care about one another, and see a future together, no matter the weather.

The very core of a breakup points to the opposite. Sure, there are breakups that are mutual. There are relationships that began as friendships and are maybe just better that way. And when kids are involved, you probably aren’t going to be able to avoid seeing an old flame quite as easily.

But if you want to move on and have the opportunity to do so, staying friends with an ex just doesn’t make sense. You broke up for a reason, after all.

This article first appeared in the October 2023 issue of Stellar magazine.