Love & Sex

Should you stay friends with your ex and how do you make it work?

It’s a no-brainer that going through a breakup can be tough and sorting out your emotions can seem like an insurmountable task when you’re in the thick of it.

Relationships are often messy and, between navigating heartbreak and singledom, many people ask themselves: “Should I stay friends with my ex?”

In a new interview, the comedian and actor Lenny Henry discussed falling in love with his former wife Dawn French, speaking of her with such glowing respect that it’s no surprise the pair are still close despite splitting up in 2010.

“Even at the worst of times we used humour as sword and shield,” he writes in his new book, which has been excerpted in The Sunday Times. “My mind was at last tuned in, focused and functioning as an equal in a relationship. In other words, I was in love.”

The pair, who share a daughter together, remain friends, with French saying in 2017 that they’ve “remarkably [seemed] to have shifted with relative ease from a 25-year marriage to a lasting friendship”, adding: “I am amazed by us.”

Of course, not all breakups have to end with both parties going completely separate ways and never speaking to one another again. Many people have successfully navigated their way to friendship after splitting from a former romantic partner.

But how do you make it work? And how do you know when you should or shouldn’t stay friends with your ex?

Bec Jones, a divorce coach from Amicable, an online divorce service, breaks down the pros and cons of staying friends with your ex:

In any relationship, people tend to share a lot more than just a bed or a flat – children, friends, and even pets can become points of contention when a split occurs.

However, staying on good terms with your ex can make it easier to navigate these shared relationships. If you have children, Jones says staying friendly will mean being able to “enter into a healthy, co-parenting relationships with each other”.

“Although you’re no longer in a romantic relationship, your children will see you still have a good relationship together which is likely to reduce stress and worry they may feel as a result of your separation,” she tells The Independent.

“If you don’t have children, you and your ex may have the same friendship group. Remaining friends means both your lives don’t have to completely change now that you’re no longer together,” says Jones.

“This could also make the breakup easier for you both as you’re not saying goodbye forever, just shifting from a relationship to a friendship – you’ll still remain in each other’s lives.”

However, if the breakup was not mutual, things could be a lot more difficult and trying to remain friends might not be the best option, warns Jones.

“If you were the one left heartbroken, then any hope of a friendship could lead to you and your ex re-kindling your romance, which could leave you more hurt down the line,” she says.

On the other hand, if the breakup was initiated by you and you pursue a friendship with your ex, it could prevent them from being able to let go of what you had before and move on.

You should also think about how you would feel if your ex enters a new relationship with someone else, and you have to engage with both of them further down the line.

“For example, if you’re in a co-parenting relationship, seeing your children around a new ‘parent’ figure in their lives could be difficult,” says Jones.

“When this is the case, remaining on amicable terms may be easier than engaging in a full-on friendship with your ex and their new partner.”

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