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Author Topic: Healthy friendship after rocky relationship -- is it possible?

January 04, 2020, 12:02:07 AM
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A little over a year ago, I ended a ~ 6-month relationship that had turned rocky and unhealthy. I suffer from seasonal depression, and a particularly bad year of it & not coping with it well led me to behave hurtfully by projecting negativity onto my then-partner (I've been in therapy since last August for these things). This interacted with my partner's trauma in some bad ways, and I decided it had become unhealthy and ended it.

We backed off for some months, and in March/April, decided to try more casually sleeping together again (this was not a good decision). It caused some new confusion and uncertainty for me, though it forced us to deal with some leftover communication issues.

I know my ex would like to get back together at some point, when they are more healed. I don't share this hope or goal, though we both still find each other attractive -- feelings which are complicated for me, by the fact that my last sexual encounter, back in May 2019, was with them, but they had pushed on my boundaries by not going home when I tried to decline sex, and we wound up sleeping together. We both felt awful after this, and part of me still regrets not dissolving the friendship then.

We have tried for a long time now (10 months) to try and work toward an even, healthy friendship. Our tendencies in response to conflict don't play nice together (mine to retreat / pull back, theirs to pursue and engage), so it feels like we go in circles from one miscommunication or issue to another. We up until recently have been in contact pretty much daily (something I don't really want), and some weeks wind up seeing each other several times. Each time I try to take a step back, or say I only hang out 1-2 times a month, I feel it gets met with resistance and requests to justify it. They will say I don't prioritize them, and that setting goals or limits on how much to hang out is being too strict / prescriptive. What would happen if/when I eventually meet someone new, and I want to lean into that relationship and prioritize it?

It's important to me to leave people better than I found them, and because of my struggles and communication behavior in the last year or so, if I dissolved our friendship now, I couldn't say that were true. I fear maybe I stay, recommit, & try to reinvest in this friendship because I try to keep the peace, don't want to cause further hurt, and want to somehow correct past wrongs, instead of because I truly, 110% want it?

How do I get enough space to emotionally move on and continue with my life, 1 year on, while still being friends and showing respect and compassion, and trying to build my friend up? Is this codependency and I don't see it, because they want more closeness and connection than I think I want / they still have some hope of getting back together? I enjoy being friendly, and we share common interests, but am I stringing this person along in an imbalanced friendship just to (attempt to) absolve my conscience of my past wrongs?

Has anyone gone through similar deescalation from relationship to friends, and found success? How? Is this much effort for this friendship just not worth it? Are we hindering our own healing and progress by trying to remain friends? Should we just give up for now and move on?
« Last Edit: January 04, 2020, 12:05:01 AM by breathturn »

January 05, 2020, 11:29:07 AM
Reply #1


I had a similar situation to you. My ex was going through a lot of problems during our relationship and I didn't know about it. He didn't tell me anything. I wasn't being helpful because I didn't understand why he was being the way he was and it made him resent me. We did give each other space for about a month after the break up. Then we decided to be friends again, but it turned into friends with benefits for a couple of months. It didn't work, because I still had feelings for him and it made me slightly paranoid. Fwb with your ex (especially one you love/loved) rarely works because someone will get hurt. 

The past is in the past, you can't change it, you can only access it and try and do better next time. I do believe exes can be friends, but if you have to put restrictions on your friendship, how much you should meet etc, then imo, you two are not ready to be friends. Have you and him spoken to each other about this, that you don't want to string him along? What does he add to your life? Friends are for company, for people you can rely on and if you feel like you can't fully be comfortable (constantly thinking about having to step back) in his presence, then I suggest you re evaluate your friendship. Make sure both parties understand the situation.


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