I’m a relationship expert and here’s 9 ways to stay friends with an ex

Jennifer Aniston and ex-husband Justin Theroux have been spotted out for dinner   in New York City, six years after splitting, and the former couple are far from alone in staying friends. 

Camilla, 75, recently invited her former husband Andrew Parker Bowles to the Coronation on May 6. While Sarah Ferguson, 63, still lives with Prince Andrew, 63, in the Royal Lodge at Windsor, and Gwyneth Paltrow, 50, is also famously friendly with her ex, Chris Martin, 46.

So what is the key to maintaining a platonic friendship after a romance has broken down? 

Relationship expert Kate Mansfield says, ‘Staying friends with an ex can be challenging, and I’m not sure I would recommend it.

‘People might want to stay friends with exes out of habit or familiarity even if we don’t genuinely like them. 

Justin Theroux and Jennifer Aniston pictured in 2016 at the 21st Annual Critics’ Choice Awards in Santa Monica, California. The exes are still friends 

‘And the relationship might have also been unhealthy, or one person might still have not let go emotionally.

‘Having said that, if both genuinely want to remain friends, this is possible with effort and communication.’

Here Femail brings you nine top tips that may help.

1. Give yourself time to heal  

Take some time to process the break-up and heal from any emotional wounds before attempting to establish a friendship. Consider your own emotional state and whether you are ready to maintain a friendship with your ex. If you are still struggling with feelings of hurt, anger, or sadness, it may be best to take some time before attempting to establish a friendship. It can be very damaging if are denying your feelings or if you are pretending you are cool when you’re not. 

2. Be mindful and sensitive to each other’s emotions

It is also important to consider your ex’s emotional state and whether they are ready to be friends. If your ex is still struggling with the break-up, they may not be ready to maintain a friendship and you have to be prepared to accept this. They may need to unfollow you on social media or have some time out so they can move forward in life. 

3. Establish boundaries

If you are planning on staying friends, have an open and honest conversation about what the friendship will look like and establish clear boundaries to avoid any confusion or misunderstandings, especially regarding dating other people. Decide if you want to tell each other if you have started seeing other people – so you both know what to expect and can be prepared.

4. Be respectful

Show your ex respect and treat them as you would any other friend. Avoid bringing up past arguments or issues, and focus on creating a new, healthy friendship with a supportive and positive feel to it. Equally, it can be valuable to think how you want to engage with the other person. Will you be comfortable with hugging each other? How often do you want to see them? Is it okay to go to the cinema together? These all need thinking about. 

5. Communicate openly

Communicate regularly and honestly about your feelings and expectations. It is important to address any issues that may arise as they come up. Be open to both of you needing space and time to process hurt feelings. Misunderstandings may arise – for instance, if one thinks the other person is flirting. So being open and honest is the key to moving forward. It is more likely a couple can remain friends if the break-up has been amicable. 

6. Maintain your individual lives

Continue to pursue your own interests and hobbies, and encourage your ex to do the same. Remember that you are both individuals with separate lives, so don’t use each other to avoid exploring new friendships or romantic connections. Also, if you are having a difficult emotional time, don’t expect to rely on your ex for support in the way you might once have done. Be aware too that any new partner may have reservations about you maintaining close contact with an ex. This is not a reason not to do it – but it may come up. 

7. Accept that things may be different

Accept that your relationship has changed and that your friendship may be different from what it was before. Don’t take it personally if your ex doesn’t want to be with you all of the time, you need to adjust to a totally different type of relationship. It is a noble act to give friendship a go, but know that – like a relationship – it might come to an end. 

8. Trust yourself first and be realistic about the past

If your ex has consistently demonstrated trustworthy behaviour in the past, then it may be reasonable to trust them. However, if there have been instances of dishonesty or betrayal in the past, it may be difficult to fully trust them again. So just take a moment for some honest reflection of what you can really expect from them. 

9. Decide how to deal with joint friends, family and other shared connections

Make clear rules and boundaries around what you feel comfortable sharing with people you jointly know. It’s often a good idea to have rule about not over sharing your personal information with extended circles outside, so that you can redefine your friendship without outside influences getting in the way. Too often, people will have an opinion.