How can we go back to being just friends after a breakup?

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How can we go back to being just friends after a breakup?

Dec 08, 2008 |Candice Watters
Question

I am writing in response to one of the inbox questions from The Boundless Show podcast.

I also am in a situation where I am trying to "get over" a guy. We dated for a few months a year ago. He was very intentional — he called my dad, whom he had never met, and asked for permission to court me. However, he abruptly broke up with me, with little explanation, a few months later.

I immediately cut off all communication with him (email, Facebook, phone) because I recognized that this would make things more difficult for both of us. We are in the same circle of friends, however, attend the same church, the same young adults group and it is impossible to completely avoid him.

The challenge is aggravated by the fact that I don't really know why he broke up with me, and I still have feelings for him. I've shared my feelings only with a few close female accountability partners, who have prayed with me through this time. I have not been playing games or putting out feelers in any way.

I feel now like I am ready to start being friends with him again, but I don't know how. It has been almost a year. I have avoided him, to a large extent, so to move back toward platonic friendship feels a little awkward. How do I begin opening up communication again? And how do I put aside all remaining feelings for him so that I can just be friends? Because, honestly, he still isn't seeing anyone else and I can't completely crush the hope in my heart that he is still interested in me, after all this time. I feel like I am trying to balance on a fence, but fall off every time I attempt to take a step forward.

Answer

I'm glad you wrote and know from my own experience how hard it is to backtrack to "just friends" with a former boyfriend. It's made even trickier when the two of you occupy the same social circles and Christian community. Let me start by commending your decision to stop e-mailing, Facebooking and phoning him following the break up. Everything you've done till now to stop acting like his girlfriend is wise.

As hard as it is, it's best that you not relate to him the same way you did when you were dating. If he followed the wisdom Scott Croft and others have given on Boundless about biblical dating (here and here), that change should be minimal and the possibility that you could return to a platonic friendship will be greatly enhanced. If, however, you spent those months of dating acting married, then how you relate now should be dramatically different than it was then. It will also make it harder to return to being just friends.

You've said you still harbor hope that he's still interested in dating you again. That adds to the difficulty of relating platonically. Despite your hope, if he hasn't given you reason to think you'll get back together, the worst thing you could do — both for your own heart as well as any future relationship that might be restored with him or developed with another young man — is to give him access to your affections. Any level of intimacy without stated intentions on his part will certainly give you false hope. So the question remains — how do you go back to being friends? I'm not sure you can. I think a few other questions must be answered first.

So a couple of questions.

How physically and emotionally intimate were you when you were dating? How you answer this question will have a lot to do with whether you're likely to be able to relate to him as just a friend. The more intimate you were, the less likely normal, uncomplicated friendship is. If, however, you avoided the temptation to act married, friendship is possible.

Has he expressed interest in restoring your friendship? This is key to how he will interpret any efforts you make to change the way you've been relating since the breakup. You said you've been avoiding him up till now, so to start befriending him again if he hasn't asked you to may cause him to think you're trying to renew your romantic relationship.

Has he done anything to indicate an ongoing interest? Asking for a renewed friendship might mean nothing more than that he wants a platonic relationship. But it could be a subtle indication that he misses you and wants you back as more than a friend.

I do think the fact that he ended the relationship so abruptly — after starting it off so intentionally with a phone call to your dad — is a bad sign. That and the fact that he has allowed your friendship to lapse to the extent that you've been avoiding him for the past year.

Ideally your dad would have called him a year ago when he exited without much explanation. It would have been appropriate then for him to ask the young man some questions on your behalf. I'm afraid now it's too late for that conversation. But you could still ask your dad (and mom) to hold you accountable when it comes to how you move forward.

If it were me, I'd say a year is plenty of time for this guy to miss you, decide he made a mistake and ask you to give him another chance at dating. Absent such a change of heart, I think it may be best to move on. It may be time to stop hoping for something that's not likely to happen and open your eyes, and your heart, to other eligible Christian men in your life. It may be time to stop allowing yourself to be kept "off the market" by a man who hasn't given you a reason to. What opportunities might you be missing by pining for him?

Finally, a word about how you proceed with him when you are together (at church, small group, etc.): Just be kind. Treat him like you treat all the other men in your life, with respect as a brother in Christ. That's far less awkward and painful than avoidance or ignoring and much more sustainable.

May God heal the places in your heart that are wounded and give you the grace and desire to move into the plans He has for you.

Sincerely,
CANDICE WATTERS

Copyright 2008 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.

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