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Parallax - Advice            July 24, 2000

   Can exes stay friends?

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My ex-boyfriend and I broke up about three months ago and decided we were going to try to be friends. Since then we've seen each other about every week, and we've done some fun things but mostly I feel like he still wants or hopes to get back together and I don't. I wonder if I should just call off the friends thing and would that be better for him as well?

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Her view:

Dear Friend,

I think you should. At least in the near term, while you're both getting over the relationship, it's best to take a full break. How can he move on if you still take up all his time? And not only that - it sounds as though he is hopeful that the two of you might still recover that loving feeling. If you know that will not happen, then you should be fair to him and let him go completely. The only way he'll get going is by developing a life outside of you. He should start dating again, making new friendships, etc.

Why don't you spend six months off and see how you both do? If by then you're both settled in new lives, then great, go back to being friends. In the meantime give it a rest.

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His view:

Dear Friend,

One of the nicest things about being friends with your ex is how eerily it can resemble Chinese water torture. Every time you see them again it's like another gentle turn of the screw - especially if you were on the receiving end of an unexpected breakup.

My experience is that friendships with exes either work or they don't, and this functionality (or lack thereof) becomes rapidly obvious. In your case it seems like the friendship is less that, and more of a terminally ill romance on life-support. In a situation like this, pulling the plug is the humane thing to do.

The question is whether to have a talk with him and end the friendship - which means you'd almost have to break up with him again - or, simply let things wither. Let the calls go unanswered, let the e-mails pile up, let time erase the decision to be friends. I recommend the former approach, even though the latter can be easier.

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