Let me get this out there before I continue with this piece:
Breakups are not a bad thing.
If a relationship can deteriorate to the extent that a breakup occurs, it just means it wasn’t meant to be in the first place. And if it wasn’t meant to be, that means it was a bad relationship.
And if it was a bad relationship, then it should be a good thing that it’s over and done with.
Despite this, breakups can be emotionally painful and tough to get over, especially if much time and effort was invested in the now-dead relationship.
Another issue that may complicate matters is your relationship with your ex going forward. How should you behave with him/her? Can you still be platonic friends? Or is it better to completely cut off all contact and pretend he or she never existed?
The answers to the above depend mainly on two factors:
1) The nature of the breakup
2) The number and activity level of mutual friends
If the relationship ended on bad terms, you probably don’t have much of a friendship to salvage and so the point is moot. At the time of breaking up, it is likely neither of you will have any desire to maintain the friendship because of the rawness of the hurt and anger being felt by both sides.
Assuming the breakup wasn’t a total nuclear meltdown, there is some chance to transiting to a platonic friendship. This chance increases the more mutual friends there are. By mutual, I mean friends that know both parties equally well. Friends who know one party much better than the other are more likely to take sides, which will actually lessen the chances of a successful transit.
So as you can see, there are many obstacles to reverting a romantic relationship back to a platonic one. Some of us might be thinking, “What’s the point anyway? What value is there in maintaining the friendship after a breakup?”
For one, there is the opportunity to make amends. I don’t think any of us can say we were perfect saints in our previous relationships, let alone how we behaved during and immediately after the breakup. While the raging emotions will eventually fade, the regret that comes from behaving in such a manner may linger for years. Maintaining a friendship with your ex gives you a way to make peace with that.
Second, it doesn’t split a group of friends up. You may have all gotten to know each other at the same time, and then two of you developed romantic feelings for each other. When the relationship doesn’t work out, it places the rest of the friends in a difficult position because they have to see two of their friends fight, with no clue whose side of the story to believe. And if they’re the sort to take sides, that will effectively cleave the group into two.
I am not saying that maintaining the friendship is mandatory in all circumstances. Some people are real bad eggs and the less one associates with them, the better. But if it is more a case of incompatibility rather than something more severe, it would be a waste not to try and save the friendship.
The other issue is time. Forcing yourself to maintain an air of normalcy just after a breakup is unrealistic. In some cases, a period of time apart will do the broken up couple some good as they have time to cool off and reflect. Therefore, we should not be overly surprised or disappointed if an ex-partner shows no desire to maintain the relationship immediately after the split. Time heals all wounds, even those that seem incurable.
Last point: Where do we go from here? Stay single and mingle, or start looking for Mr./Mrs. Right once more? Technically there is nothing wrong with either approach, but if one wants to delve back into the world of romance, one should be sure of two things:
1. You’re not looking for a rebound or a temporary source of emotional comfort
2. You’ve truly moved on from your previous relationship
I don’t say the above out of adherence to some moral code (Thou shalt not lead a person on) but more along the lines of that it is in your own self-interests to do so. A rebound relationship is very likely to fail as you’re basically dragging all the emotional baggage from your previous relationship and expecting your new partner to carry it.
That’s quite enough Aunt Agony for today. Please leave a comment if you liked reading this article! Or better yet, share it with your friends and family! The Thought Experiment is here to stay, so we might as well get comfortable.