Is it possible or a good idea to be friends after a break up?
So my boyfriend who I’ve only been dating for seven months but has been my best friend for several years just dumped me. He still says stuff like he loves me even after having broken up with me and I still have a lot of feelings for him too. I know he wants to at least be friends but I can’t stop crying every time I see him. How do I stop crying about it? Is it wrong to want him back? Would being friends be the best thing to do?
Thanks for your question. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. Anyone reading this who has ever lost a friend, or been through a break up will feel your pain. Most people will have these feelings of loss at some point in their lives – some things in life are meant to be sad and all we can really do is to feel them.
Some things are meant to be sad, that’s okay.
So when you see him and start crying that is totally okay. If you start to get upset that you are getting upset, or angry at yourself for showing your emotions you’re just adding more difficult feelings on top of everything else. You have enough to deal with, so try to allow it.
Later on I’ll give you some advice about how to get through this, but for now you just need to accept that you’re going to feel sad for a bit and that that is totally okay.
He’s not for you
You didn’t give me any detail of what he said when he broke up with you, but it’s likely that he didn’t *just* decide that this wasn’t working out for him. It might have been quite a tough thing for him to do and not something that he’s gone into lightly – particularly as you were best friends first.
So although it’s painful, maybe it would be better for you in the long run to acccept that he doesn’t want what you want. The sooner you can accept that you’re not for him the sooner you can accept that he’s not for you. When you get to that stage you might start to get over him.
You still have feelings
We can’t turn our feelings on or off like a switch. So of course you’re both still going to have feelings for each other after a break up. It might take a while for these feelings to cool off a little bit, or to change. Some people feel like they can be friends after a break up, other people don’t. My friend believes in having a complete break from seeing someone for three months: which I think is pretty good advice but you might not agree.
Maybe having a break for a bit can help you work out if ‘friends’ is what you want?
He will probably feeling a lot of difficult feelings too (even though he made the decision to end it). Him saying that he loved you was probably not the most helpful thing for you to hear because he’s sending you confusing messages. Love can be a confusing word because it means lots of different things and there are so many different kinds of love. He could be saying that he loves you like a friend, which is nice, but maybe he could be more sensitive about this.
Should you be friends?
Because you were best friends before you went out maybe he thinks you can go back to that. Listen to your feelings – is this something you can do right now? When you’re feeling a little bit less sad and a little bit more like yourself you might want to have a think about the whole of your relationship with him – from early friendship, through romantic relationship, to now. What changed in that time? What’s changed now?
He wants to be friends but what do you want? Just cos someone’s put their hand out, doesn’t mean you have to shake it. If you did want to be friends, what would that look like? How would your friendship look if you both went out with other people too? Would there be other friends? Could you be friends but would it be slightly different? If you could go back to a particular stage of your friendship which would it be?
We all need more than one
If your romantic partner is also your best friend then you become very reliant on one person. This might not be helpful for you to hear now, but who do we talk to about our relationship with our best friend or romantic partner if our romantic partner is our best friend? So perhaps this is a good opportunity to think about the other relationships in your life. Friendships, family, team mates, colleagues but also your relationship with yourself. Think about what you want from a romantic relationship. Which of these can you find from other relationships and which of these can you give to yourself. More about this here.
But firstly, just feel sad
With sadness you just have to feel it and that takes some time. If you’ve seen the film Inside Out, it’s just about letting sadness take over the driving for a bit. Before you do anything else, just try to look after yourself and try to make feeling sad a little bit easier. This is called ‘self care’ and if you google it you will probably find images of baths and candles, that might do it for you but you might prefer other stuff too.
You might have your own list of ‘go tos’ for when you’re feeling sad. If you just try to distract yourself or block out the sadness with alcohol, staying in bed, sugar, Netflix or pictures of cats you might just be avoiding sadness. So give yourself some time, some gentleness and keep telling yourself ‘it’s okay to feel sad for a bit, I just need to make it as easy as possible.’
Also think about who it is you can talk to about stuff. Try to talk to people you trust, who you know will listen, who won’t tell you what to think or do and who might be able to give you a hug if that’s all you want. If your sad feelings last for a few weeks and you find that they are just too much, you could also speak to a counsellor at school/college/uni or via a young people’s advice centre. You can find details about who you can talk to about stuff here (I have some advice about it here too).
Once you’ve done some serious looking after yourself you can start to reflect on what it is that you want and put a plan together for what you want to do next.
© Justin Hancock, 2015