Being friends with an ex is possible if your intentions are pure

Being friends with an ex is possible if your intentions are pure
Source: www.abc.net.au
Date: 16-04-2019 Time: 05:04:05:am
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For most of us, going to an ex for relationship advice might sound a little strange. But for Emmalene Bates, it's her first port of call.

The 27-year-old has remained good friends with her ex-boyfriend Charles, despite a "traumatic" break-up several years ago.

"I find his advice on relationships particularly valuable, as he can call me out on repeating past patterns or behaviours," she says.

"It's a certain kind of insight that even my closest friends don't always have."

Being friends with a former partner is something many of us neither want or feel is possible, but with the right communication it can work, explains counsellor Fiona Bennett.

"If the people involved are clear with each other about what the friendship means, and regularly still discuss that, it's possible," the Relationships Australia WA manager says.

When problems arise it's when one person might be "holding on" because there are still feelings there, she says.

"That gets very emotionally confusing because you have them but not how you want them."


We got thinking about the reality of being mates with an ex after watching Pav and Leonie in ABC's new soap opera The Heights.

So we asked Emmalene and 52-year-old Annelie Heldoorn to explain how they maintain quality friendships with their former partners in real life.

'He's a shoulder to cry on'

When arguing over "dumb shit" had become a regular occurrence for Emmalene and Charles, they split after four years together in their 20s.

But the Adelaide resident and her ex remain friends, despite what she describes as a traumatic breakup.

"We had shared the same friendship circle for years … It felt like breaking up with all of my friends and I literally had to rebuild my whole life," she says.

Charles headed overseas for a few months, which Emmalene says was a crucial step in them coming back together as friends.

"That space and time apart with no contact probably did us the world of good," Emmalene says.

"We discussed if we were going to be able to be friends, we would need to be in a place where we could accept each other being with other people with no hard feelings, and that one took some time, but we got there."

A few years post-breakup, they catch up or speak about once a month.

"He pops into my work every so often, or will drop by with the dog we got as a puppy whilst we were together. Or he'll send me a random picture of her to brighten my day.

"Sometimes we'll share a lunch break together, or a long phone call if one of us needs a friend and some advice."

Having spent most of their "transformative years" together, Emmalene says she is grateful to have Charles in her life as a "really good old friend".

They share in their new relationships and lean on one another for support.

"I had a very close friend pass away not long ago, and Charles was there as a shoulder, like I literally snotted and cried all over his shirt.

"He also uses my Netflix account, if that counts for anything?"

'Maybe I'm one of the lucky ones'

Annelie Heldoorn and her husband separated in 2005 after seven years of marriage, but they are still friends today.

The 52-year-old from West Gippsland Victoria says her ex is a "great father and lovely person", so although the spark was gone, it was an obvious choice to continue the relationship in a platonic way.

"We are both good people. Just at the time, the pressures of life took control of things," she says.

Driven by the fact they share two daughters, aged 22 and 25, they worked to keep communication open.

That's important, according to Ms Bennett, who says even if parents can't remain friends, respect should be maintained.

"Calling it a friendship might be difficult for some people, but being able to talk and be respectful, certainly that is important for the children."

But in Annelie's case, calling it a friendship is easy.

"We still do things for each other and help each other if need be," she says.

"We don't really see each other much, but we chat on the phone and if either need advice, we are happy to help.

"When we have family functions, he is still welcome."

As for navigating future relationships, Annelie says if either were to remarry they would be happy for one another.

"I'm happy that we get along well and that we have remained friends.

"Maybe I'm one of the lucky ones."

Constantly review the friendship

Staying friends with an ex can be complicated, and Ms Bennett urges people to be honest with themselves.

"Constantly review the friendship and the reasons for continuing it."

And be mindful when new partners come on the scene; your friendship might need to be re-evaluated.

"It can be hard for a current partner to understand why you would do this when 'you've got me now'," Ms Bennett says.

"It can spark some insecurity."

For Emmalene, she says forgiveness has been key in moving forward with Charles as friends.

"I think it's a shame when two people that shared so many good times and so much love simply cut ties when it's over.

"In some situations that's definitely necessary, but if two people can forgive and forget and move forwards, it allows for a very unique friendship."

And be mindful when new partners come on the scene; your friendship might need to be re-evaluated.

"It can be hard for a current partner to understand why you would do this when 'you've got me now'," Ms Bennett says.

"It can spark some insecurity."

For Emmalene, she says forgiveness has been key in moving forward with Charles as friends.

"I think it's a shame when two people that shared so many good times and so much love simply cut ties when it's over.

"In some situations that's definitely necessary, but if two people can forgive and forget and move forwards, it allows for a very unique friendship."

 

 


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