On Tuesday we discussed that being friends with an ex requires that you first resolve to be kind. I think this is the hardest step in the whole process, so if you get that one down, steps two and three should be relatively easy.
Step Two: Set boundaries and give yourself time
So, you know you want to preserve the friendship, but it's kind of a unique situation, because you probably shared more with your ex than you did with, you know, the dude you play basketball with on Thursdays and occasionally booze it up with afterwards.
It'll definitely take time to begin to separate the old emotions from the past (which can be anything from love and a sense of commitment, to frustration and sadness) and begin building new ones for the future.
For me, this meant that I had to communicate up front what I needed in order to do that.
My most recent ex wanted to be friends right away. There was nothing inherently wrong with that...we'd always gotten along very, very well (I think in three and a half years we had, like, two fights? Maybe?). But for me, I needed some space to recalibrate, so I had to set boundaries by asking him (nicely, and clearly) for some space.
When he asked what that meant, I knew I needed to give myself a reasonable amount of time to think things over. I think at the time I asked for about two weeks, which seemed to work nicely for the kind of emotional resetting that I needed.
The first week I spent mourning the loss of the relationship.
Of course, I'd already been mourning our break-up for awhile. But in this week, I specifically gave myself time to miss what we had and what we were (this, of course, is not to say I didn't feel sad about it beyond this initial first week, just that I really gave myself time to do so). This also allowed me time to start getting rid of any negative feelings I had from our break-up.
The second week I spent getting back in touch with who I was now, how that was different from our relationship before, and what I wanted from a friendship with him in the future.
It's not like I completely figured it out (I didn't...it's actually really hard to go from being your most comfortable self with someone and sharing intimate secrets and details with someone emotionally, to feeling like you might need to reign that back, but not necessarily having any idea how).
I guess what I mostly figured out in that second week was that I DID want to be friends. I wasn't entirely sure what that looked like...I just knew that in some way, I wanted him in my life.
And this is where things get a little trickier than your average friendship.