Love, Always

How to “just be friends” with someone after a break-up: A 4-part series on one of life’s toughest dilemmas. [2]


Part two: How quickly is too quickly?

“I want to be friends, but I need some space, first.”

There’s a reason that most of us have uttered those words — or something like ‘em.

Having some space after a break-up is essential.

And while there is no set time frame for getting over a break-up — because the healing process is different for every person and every situation — one thing is certain:

Romantic feelings can’t just be turned “on” and “off” like a light switch.

So, if you truly want to form a friendship — one that’s based in preference, not need — don’t force things or rush too fast.

Both of you need time to adjust to the break-up and to being single. (For a while, no phone calls, texts and emails “just to see how you’re doing.”)

Most of all, you both need time to deal with your feelings about the break-up. To honor them + release them.

And since the issues that drove you apart won’t suddenly be resolved now that you’ve chosen to be friends, make sure you learn from this break-up — what went wrong and why. So that you can relate differently — as friends.

(This learning curve is also vital for your next romantic relationship. Otherwise, the issues that caused the current split are likely to loop again + again, in a pattern.)

How to use your “time apart” wisely (+ release your emotions, safely.)

Begin your healing by writing down how you feel about the break-up.

Free-style, no editing.

Try these phrases as starting prompts:

: When I think about the reasons we broke up, I feel …

: The biggest thing I miss about our relationship is …

: I’m feeling so lonely + scared that I’ll never …

Express yourself freely. Use as many sheets of paper as you want. And lots of tissues, as well!

When you’re done, read what you wrote out loud. Then rip it all up — creating more closure.

Now ask:

: How am I feeling right now?

Write more, or speak into a recording app on your smartphone. Don’t censor yourself.

If you have strong, overwhelming feelings — panic, paralysis, grief — these must be released safely, and in private.

Angry? Pound a pillow and verbalize what you’re mad about.

Scared? Release that fear by screaming into a pillow (it muffles sound).

Sad? Let yourself have a good cry.

Break-ups can trigger repressed feelings — ones you may have felt in your early relationships as a child — past hurts and losses.

Which means that right now, in your tender state, you’re feeling the present loss as well as past losses, all rolled into one. That explains why everything feels so excruciating + intense.

But it won’t feel this way forever, as long as you take loving, respectful care of yourself — both body + mind.

Eventually, you may want to dive deeper into the circumstances surrounding your break-up — possibly with an emotional health professional, like me — to uncover the subconscious patterns that led to the split, in the first place. (A topic for a whole ‘nother blog series — or book!)

But for now, just give yourself the gift of reassurance + love.

Pretend you’re calling up your best friend, your mom, or even God or the Universe — someone (or some being) who loves you unconditionally.

What would they say to comfort you, right now?

(Fill in the blank.)


Say those words out loud, to yourself. Give yourself some love. Wrap yourself in a hug. Repeat the words a few times, breathing deeply, until you’re feeling calmer and stronger.

Now that you’ve released some strong feelings (about your present losses and the past) you’re probably a little more ready to be friendly with your ex.

But when the time is right (which means: when both of you feel ready), allow the friendship to evolve naturally.

Don’t try to ”make” it happen.

Friendships can’t be born out of force — only mutual respect.

In the third installment in this 4-part series, we’ll cover a very tricky question:

What if kids are part of the picture?