Most people say, “Let’s still be friends” during a breakup because it sounds better than, “I can’t stand smelling your coffee-breath for one more minute and I’d appreciate it if you and your untrimmed nose hairs skedaddled out of my life.”
Maybe you grew apart. Maybe he was tired of hearing your True Detective theories. Maybe he was sick of the way you lectured everyone about the evils of the dairy industry every time someone suggested ordering pizza. Hell, maybe he didn’t want to share his bed with you anymore because your snores sound like a walrus giving birth to a basketball hoop. Whatever the case, you tandem bicycle days are through; it’s unicycle-going for you now, kid. You two are more over than think pieces about twerking.
But if you’re sobbing in your craft beer because you’ve “lost your best friend,” then don’t abandon hope. You can still preserve your friendship with an ex if you follow these nine easy-ish steps:
1. Get a digital divorce. Unfollow all of his accounts. Get him the hell out off of your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Don’t worry about hurting his feelings; once you’re friends again down the line, you can add each other back. But you have to kick into defense mode now that he’s single because he’s going to start interacting with women that you don’t know, which will suck for you. You don’t want to go into a tailspin after you notice him favorite @sexylibrarian84’s tweet about how she “totally <3’ed The Lego Movie.” No need to urgently send the Bat signal to your friends to meet you for happy hour, spend your week’s grocery money on $5 margaritas, get wasted because you’re drinking on an empty stomach, and sniffle-cry on the cab ride home because he’s moved on to other, greener, Lego-movie-loving woman pastures. Listen up, you stalker, @sexylibrarian84 is his office’s new intern, not a steamy love prospect. Chill! And stop checking up on him. Your wallet and your mascara will thank you.
2. Give each other your stuff back. After avoiding each other for a few weeks, you’re going to need to arrange a stuff exchange. Beware: seeing him in person will knock the wind out of you. A flood of emotions will surface when you see him standing with a plastic bag full of:
- St. Ives body scrub
- your toothbrush
- a ratty Old Navy hoodie you forgot you even owned
- a bottle of contact lens solution with one solid squirt left
- a stick of Tom’s aluminum-free deodorant that made your armpits smell like a grizzly bear going through puberty
You’re standing there with a bag too, filled with:
- his Blades of Glory DVD
- a travel mug he left in your car once
- a pair of his running socks that you found under your bed
- some old photographs of him as a first-grader that he gave you when you visited his parents house over the summer
It sucks but the stuff-exchange step is necessary if you guys truly want closure. Keep it short and make plans with your fun friends immediately after the stuff-exchange because you’re going to need a stiff drink and some hilarious stories to distract you from this sad, emotionally draining day.
3. Give it time. Becoming friends with someone who murdered your soul will take crazy amounts of healing time. I’m talking at least a year, depending on why you broke up. When seeing his name in your inbox doesn’t make you want to nervously puke, you’re getting close to resuming best friend status. So if you’re serious about rebuilding a friendship, you’re gonna need to buckle up for the long haul. And during this time, you will be engaging in the next step.
4. Date a ton of other people. Going out with other people is actually the worst part of a breakup. You’re gonna have to kiss a lot of frogs, hogs, and dogs, which is gonna suck, especially if you’re the one who got dumped. Yes, you can look forward to spending time with a veritable Zoobilee Zoo of suitors. Damaged divorcees, part-time deejays who text like 12-year-old girls, and chronic online daters who insist on taking you to loud, expensive, trendy restaurants await you. There will be a lot of false starts and a lot of broken promises with a range of your town’s eligible bachelors, but it’s good to get out there and air yourself out. Eventually you will even date a guy who will piss you off so much that your animosity towards your ex will lessen if not completely evaporate. And you will start to feel ready to resume contact with your old flame.
5. Pinpoint what it is that you actually miss about your ex. Do you miss having legendary g-chat conversations that are so hilarious you wish you could needlepoint them on a pillow for posterity to enjoy? Do you miss debating whether Nirvana’s discography will stand the test of time as well as the Beastie Boys’ discography will? Do you miss the friendship more than the romance? If the things you miss about him aren’t romantic, that’s a very good sign that you’re ready to toss your hat into the friendship rodeo. If you miss the sex, well, that just means you’re horny. You’re gonna need to bang more people before you’re ready to resume a friendship with your ex.
6. After a solid year of no communication, feel free to drop him a line. If you’re ready to test the friendship waters, go ahead and send him an email. Forward him something you think he’ll get a kick out of, like a Buzzfeed quiz about whether you’re smarter than Ken Jennings or not or maybe a cool feature about the“Cosmos” re-boot.
Write a quick note like, “Saw this and thought you’d get a kick out of it. Cheers!”
Hopefully you will be pleasantly surprised when he writes back a quick, upbeat email in return like, “Neil deGrasse Tyson can do no wrong. Sometimes I wish he would adopt me. Is that a weird thing for one adult to think about another adult? Anyways, I hope all is well with you, too.”
Success! Resist the urge to volley back a million emails updating him on the minutiae of your life. Don’t write: “I’m going to be a bridesmaid this summer at my sister’s wedding and I started a food blog even though I’ve only posted on it once and I’m not sure about keeping it up.” And even if you’re in a deep, committed relationship with your Netflix queue, don’t mention your love life ever. Don’t say: “I have a blind date next week but I’m sure he’ll turn out to be a total dud. I went out with a Guy Fieri-enthusiast recently and he kept dipping his pinky into my food to taste it and repeatedly said the phrase, ‘That’s money!’ anytime someone said or did something he liked. Ever since you and I broke up I’ve had the worst luck with meeting men.”
Do not write those things! Just be happy that you had a pleasant, drama-free interaction. Now go buy yourself some Ben & Jerry’s Karamel Sutra ice cream to celebrate how mature you are.
7. Be sure that you’re over him. This is going to take some soul-searching, but you’re going to have to make sure that you are totally over him. Do you look at him with zero-percent attraction? Do you see him as more of a brother from another mother than a hot and heavy past lover? Does the idea of kissing him disgust you? Could you confidently say that you could take a shower with him and feel no urge to touch his naked body? If yes, then that’s awesome. Being over someone is one of the best feelings on the planet. You earned this one, kiddo. Well done. Buy yourself some AmeriCone Dream because you can never have too much ice cream.
8. You’re almost there! You have a green light to commence a friendship. However—and this is important—when you two first start hanging out as newly platonic buddies do the exact opposite of whatever vampires do. Meet up during the daytime. Eat spicy, garlic-y things for lunch. Grab a cup of coffee in the afternoon at the fancy cafe that hand pours their coffee. Avoid meeting up for drinks in the beginning because you don’t want a situation where you get drunk and slip back into old patterns. And avoid places you used to haunt as a couple. While you hang out at 1pm eating garlic knots, talk about all the guys you’re dating. Let him talk about other women he’s seeing too. Keep things platonic, always, until you are certain that hanging out with him at night around alcohol is of no threat to your newly forged friendship.
9. Finally, be nice to his new girlfriend. There will come a point where he gets seriously involved with another woman. It’s on you to make her feel welcome. Never mention how you used to do the horizontal mambo with your ex in front of her. That would be bad. Support him as he moves forward. Congrats! You now have a new best friend: your ex-boyfriend. Now go home and bang your hot new dude who loves hearing your endless theories about cable detective shows and finds your snores adorable.