Should you stay friends with an ex after a split? A relationship expert weighs in

Is it possible to stay friends with an ex, or is this relationship notion just a myth?

Embrace your heartache, one tune at a time, stay friends with an ex
(Image credit: Halfpoint)

If you're contemplating whether or not to stay friends with an ex, chances are the situation at hand is neither black nor white. (Can matters of the heart ever be simple? Wishful thinking!) Moving into new territory with a former flame isn't straightforward, and unfortunately, there aren't roadmaps to point you in the right direction—you simply have to trust your intuition.

But it's not impossible, even if there are a few bumps along the way. Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes might've called it quits after two years together, but they claimed in a joint statement that their bond is still close, albeit different.

"Hey guys, we've decided to end our romantic relationship but our love for one another as humans is stronger than ever," part of the message read. "We started our relationship as best friends and will continue to be best friends. We so appreciate your support from the beginning and moving forward."

Are they taking on the impossible? Breakup coping mechanisms differ for everyone, but one relationship expert, Jaime Bronstein, provides some sound advice for keeping things cordial when a flame fizzles out. (No need to cue the best breakup songs just yet, unless, of course, you feel like singing along with Adele.)

Can you stay friends with an ex? And, more importantly, should you?

The unthinkable isn't entirely out of the realm of possibilities, but there are a few deal-breakers that are key to making a friendship between former romantic partners work. 

"I think that if both parties are really and truly over the relationship, [being platonic] can work out beautifully," Bronstein says. "I've seen it with clients, friends, people I know."

Being on the same page is important, and this will force you to be honest with yourself. If your ex wants to be pals, but you're still crossing your fingers that a relationship could restart, it's probably best to see yourself out of the situation.

"If one person is still kind of hopeful, I don't think that's necessarily healthy for that person," Bronstein adds. 

Additionally, when one party moves on before the other, it also has the potential to make this new territory uncomfortable, so just be wary before making any rash decisions. 

Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes perform onstage during Global Citizen Live, New York on September 25, 2021 in New York City

(Image credit: Theo Wargo / Getty)

Tips on how to stay friends with an ex:

If you're going to attempt to switch out of relationship mode and into friend mode, you're going to have to adjust. What you do as a couple should not be what you do as friends. 

"If you're going to be friends, really be friends—don't have slip-ups," Bronstein says. "Create clear boundaries for the sake of the friendship."

She also encourages being mindful about how often you both are in communication with one another. Perhaps your S.O.-turned-buddy doesn't require daily conversations the way your relationship once did. Take in the new vibes and adjust accordingly.

When to cut ties with an ex

So, you're trying to make it work? You want to remain on good terms with the guy you still might possibly have feelings for. It sounds noble, but at a certain point, it's necessary to let go. (We know it's easier said than done.)

"If you feel like it's holding you back in any sort of way from finding the person that you're supposed to be with, then it's not healthy," Bronstein says.

Although getting back with an ex is trendy (thanks Bennifer) and it feels like breakups are getting harder to deal with, trust that what's meant for you will find its way. You might have some heartbreaks along the way, but you'll be just fine.

And if you need a moment to let it all out, do just that: crank up that new Adele album and enjoy a glass (or two) of wine!

Danielle Valente
Digital News Writer

Need a TV show recommendation? Maybe a few decor tips? Danielle, a digital news writer at Future, has you covered. Her work appears throughout the company’s lifestyle brands, including My Imperfect Life, Real Homes, and woman&home. Mainly, her time is spent at My Imperfect Life, where she’s attuned to the latest entertainment trends and dating advice for Gen Z.

Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids, where she got to experience the best of the city from the point of view of its littlest residents. Before that, she was a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, and amNewYork, to name a few. 

When Danielle’s not writing, you can find her testing out a new recipe, reading a book (suggestions always welcome), or rearranging the furniture in her apartment…again.