How do I become friends with an ex?

We're going to skip chat today. We'll return next week, but in the meantime, tell me things.

Today's letter reminds me of this classic. Worth mentioning, for the book, I reached out to this "When does it get better?" letter writer, and it was very nice to hear that she's so much better.

Hey Meredith,

First, thank you for creating this column and the subsequent podcast that has been making my heartache less painful. I am newly 39 and my boyfriend of nine months broke up with me on our last day of vacation, which was also the day after my birthday. Nine months sounds like not long enough to feel this sad, but we were building a road to forever. The construction on the road stopped due to the builder being a big quitter. Yes, I'm still only three-plus weeks into the breakup. I'm still balancing the sad/angry stage.

I've tried several times to begin a phase of no contact with him. I'm on my third and hopefully not-as-feeble attempt. He wants to be friends. I know all the classics about taking time before you see if you can be friends, but I don't want to wait. I'm impatient and worried that if I wait, he might take friendship off the table, which truthfully might just be what I need. I keep asking myself if I can ever truly be happy for him without feeling sad for myself. All ranting aside ... when I do finally reconnect with him, how do I navigate sharing news about my life without him thinking that I'm telling him as some devious way of getting him to come back? We share our lives with friends. How do I share the comings and goings of my life with the person I thought I'd have those things with?

– Questions


First, let's start with some deep breaths. I'm talking about the big ones, where you take a lot of air in, and then you exhale until your shoulders drop a little bit and you feel like everything is a little more possible.

Well done.

Now I will tell you that you do not have to worry about him taking friendship off the table. You also don't have to think about how you'll tell him about your life. Your worries are a bit out of order right now. It's way too early to consider any of this. A better question is: "What am I going to do tomorrow?"

I know it's tempting to try to fill out this narrative – to figure out what will happen with this man years into the future. But doing that won't help you heal from the pain of the breakup. It won't serve as foundation for a healthy friendship. It's just a new way of planning a life with him. He stopped building, but by asking these questions about how to keep him around, you're still ... paving roads (sorry, I'm bad at this particular metaphor). You need to stop all construction until you figure out where you want to go next.

Nine months is a long time when you believe you're planning a life with someone. You're only three weeks in to resetting your whole brain. Taking weeks (or months) off from communication with this person won't ruin what you had with him, but it will give you clarity. Some things you can do to process this breakup without calling him:

- call a friend who is funny
- journal (I mean that as a verb. You basically journaled when you wrote this letter. When you have a question about your future with/without this man, put it in the book. Let it sit.)
- make something
- do an exercise that takes all of your concentration
- music, music, music (It's a good time for breakup music right now. I'm looking at you, Miley Cyrus single.)

Start making your plan for tomorrow. Then, tomorrow, you can take those deep breaths and do it all over again.

– Meredith

Readers? Thoughts on friendship with this ex?