Becoming besties with your ex can be painful and complicated at first but the payoff can be great. Many wonder if gay men can be best friends with their ex when the relationship ends. I’m a testament that it can happen, albeit after some time and work.
For roughly 10 years, I was together with my ex. We met in our early twenties and we came of age together. He took me to my first gay bar after all. Roughly 30 years later, we’re best friends but that didn’t come easy. During the 10 years we were together, there were the standard breakups for a few days and then getting back together, but when the final separation happened, we didn’t talk for about a year. We avoided each other like the plague. There was a lot of emotion on both sides that kept us from connecting in a new way, as friends.
At some point, we began to communicate and slowly developed a new relationship. It was complicated at first. He was dating and seeing other guys and that was hard for me to see. It was challenging not to be jealous of the other guys. But at some point I got over it and I started to be happy, as long as he was happy.
Finding a way to acknowledge the breakup is an essential aspect of becoming friends. If you’re constantly questioning why you broke up or who was to blame, you’ll never be friends. It may also be helpful to mourn the relationship in the privacy of your own feelings so you can move on. Find a way to work through all those feelings first, have those tough conversations early, then work on being friends.
But be prepared to rehash old feelings. Without a doubt there will be times when you and your ex rehash old emotions and feelings. If you’ve discussed the breakup and have both resolved the breakup early on in your new friendship, these rehashes may not even come up. If and when they do, just be prepared to discuss openly and honestly where you’ve been and where you are in your relationship without passing judgement. Try to bury the hatchet and develop the goal of moving forward as friends.
One of the hardest parts of becoming friends instead of boyfriends is that you no longer have the same access to the your ex’s body or their heart, especially if they’re dating. The sexual tension between you will likely still be palpable early on and you’ll have to overcome that to move forward. You will also have to find a way to get past the feelings of jealousy and understand the nature of your new relationship as friends. You can still share stories and experiences, but you have to understand someone else may be taking a priority position in your ex’s life (in and out of the bedroom). This won’t be easy, but it will be necessary if you want to be friends.
Determine early on what the boundaries will be. If you’re planning to make out when you’re drunk, that’s not really being over your relationship and moving towards being friends. You’ll need to set boundaries and stick to them. When it comes to discussing your sexual exploits, determine when it’s appropriate to bring up your hook ups and dates. Do you really need to share every sexual encounter with your new bestie? Probably not.
Think about how you’ll introduce your ex-turned-best-friend to others. It will be awkward and inappropriate at times to refer to him as your “ex”, especially to your own new boyfriend. Come up with a new label that won’t cause added tension.
Friendships work because of mutual support for one another. Be genuinely happy and supportive of your new best friend when he’s happy. Find ways to enjoy his best moments and provide the support he needs to develop as an individual and as a friend. If he’s happy with a new love interest, be happy for him and hope he’ll be happy for you when you have someone by your side.
A friendship with your ex can happen. When you’re developing a new relationship with your ex, be patient with him and yourself and honest with each other when it becomes challenging. If your ex is worth being in your life, he’ll give you all the time and flexibility you need as will you for him.