Writer Muses: After Love Fades, Then What?

Kate Krantz

Twiddling with my thumbs on a calculator and chewing on the tip of a pencil, I can’t help but ponder… can you be just friends with an ex?

In early algebra class, we learn that x represents the unknown variable in the equation a+b = x.

In life, we learn that after a romantic relationship, the two parties involved cannot be friends.

Now, how do these two statements go together? Well, there is in fact, an equation for becoming friends with a former lover.

In this equation of friendship, one has to discover what plus what is equivalent to friendship with an ex. Perhaps, the solution is unattainable. Or is it possible to transform a once fiery love into something that cools down into a friendship?

This is my transitive property of relationships: It is possible to be friends with an ex after a break-up and I’m living proof. However it’s very difficult, especially at first. You might want to brace yourself for miscalculations and eraser marks because if you believe that you’re going to be friends with every single ex then you are a fool. The math doesn’t add up.

According to psychology department chair and marriage and family counselor Dr. Jessica Gillooly, the answer is ambiguous and on a much broader spectrum, unrealistic.

Despite either result, there are always outliers. Yet when all is said and done, you are broken up. So, what’s next?

Time and time again, the person doing the dumping will say the ever popular “We can still be friends” and the other typically disregards it in the heat of the moment, rendering it meaningless.

One might believe that this cliché is a way of letting the dumpee down easily, but you’re wrong. It’s like carrying a huge burden on your shoulders in hopes of easing the sting for the person being dumped.

Nonetheless, it’s better to say it than to not say it at all. Just because there is a lack of romantic interest doesn’t mean that the whole friendship should end. You were friends in the beginning for a reason, were you not?

“A break-up not only causes awkwardness but conflicts,” said student Derreck Murray.
“When both people are over it, they can be on friendly terms, nothing more and nothing less.”

In other words, build a bridge and get over it, but take your time doing so.

As said by Gillooly, once you’re invested in the relationship such as being on your best behavior at all times, putting the first foot forward, confiding to your significant other and especially being sexually active, both lives become intertwined and therefore attempting to be friends directly after a break up is complicated.

“If there was sexual chemistry in the beginning, [it’s hopeless] to be friends,” said student Sarinea Meserkhani. “And if there wasn’t, why be in the relationship in this first place? My answer: We can delude ourselves into thinking that it’s possible, but to remain in contact usually means to have lingering romantic feelings.”

In contrast to Merserkhani, it takes a true optimist to re-establish a friendship and that can take anywhere from a few months to a couple of years.

Usually, an extended period of time with minimal or no contact after the break up is the easiest way to put the puppy-love to rest. Think of it as playing a game of hide and seek except without the seeking. The length of the game depends on the specific case.

This allows for you to cope with the feelings of being freshly broken up on your own, enabling you to avoid any unnecessary drama, fights or those stressful on-again-off-again relationships.

Becoming re-accustomed to the single life is an adjustment all its own. Whether you are the so-called “heart breaker” or have your heart torn into several miniscule pieces, you should dedicate this time to healing the emotional wounds of the break up as well as restoring yourself to a much happier you.

“There’s no such thing as two people being just friends right off the bat,” said student Zac Villagran. “It’s usually best when both find other people and that’s when they can become the closest. Because they have cooled off, each can give one another the best advice, being as they know each other and can share the opinion of their sex.”

After the grace period is over and you’re capable of seeing your ex solely as a friend again, bear in mind that your ex will eventually date someone new.

Considering that this will most likely stimulate a significant amount of emotion within you once more, pull back on the reigns before you do anything vindictive such as slashing the tires of your ex’s car.

Never assume that you are prepared enough to handle the feelings of jealousy or vulnerability that frequently emerges from these incidents.

According to Gillooly, the friendship is not as threatened if both parties have a significant other in the picture.

On the contrary, in cases where each individual has a new main squeeze to make the other jealous, the chances of being friends is highly unlikely.

Both are potential effects.

“I think that there will always be that … awkwardness, said student Kymberh Fransisco. “I mean it’s possible … but deep down inside there’s still that history. It really depends on the mutual understanding.”

I’m not going to lie and tell you I have become friends with every single ex of mine because that would be ludicrous. But for the exes I am still friends with, the hardship is worth it.

I have experienced that successful friendships can form following the end of a relationship. And only hurt feelings like resentment and denial stem from a tango-like dance of negative emotions.

If you want to stay friends with an ex, make sure that you have your best intentions at heart and aspire to make it work. Do not, in spite of this, commit if it’s an effort to keep tabs on your ex. Whether that be in anticipation of winning them back or out of a sense of guilt from hurting the other person when you broke up with them.

Being a friend requires so much more.

“There is a certain amount of trust in being a friend,” said Gillooly.

A genuine friendship is the outcome of common interests and a mutual respect for one another, not a “shoulda, coulda, woulda” sense of guilt and rejection.

Before we break for the day, remember that deleting an ex is not a simple Facebook click away, that forgetting the time you shared is hardly possible and after devoting so much time to one another, being friends is worth your while. So don’t be wasteful.

No more button mashing on your calculator. Spit out your eraser. And realize the solution is right in front of your eyes so reach out and grab it.