Relationships with the opposite sex can be extremely complicated, especially after a break-up. Can singles be “just friends” with someone they used to date? Here's why I say the answer to that question is "no."

Q. I just broke up with a guy I had been dating for nine months. We got along well on many levels, but realized that we couldn’t be “life partners.” So much of the relationship was good, but the arguing made it bad. While I’m willing to give up the sex and the hope for a future together, I don’t want to give up our friendship. We enjoy many of the same things and I would miss sharing them with him. Can't we be “just friends” while I search for the guy who will be “Mr. Right?” Allyson

Allyson, Maintaining a platonic relationship with someone you used to date is frequently the source of confusion and frustration. So much of your energy had been invested in this person, which makes severing only some of it very tricky. But if you really want to create a life partner relationship with someone who meets all of your needs, then I suggest it is best NOT to be friends with your “ex.”

Trying to maintain a friendship with someone with whom you had been physically intimate is especially challenging. That’s because sex is like “superglue” – it’s easy to get stuck, but extremely difficult to get unstuck. Couples who had expressed their physical feelings with one another can easily succumb again to the emotional triggers that initially sparked the intimacy.

When a man and a woman, each considering the other as a potential life partner, spend a lot of time together, it’s natural that they would become emotionally attached. After a break-up, a person usually goes through a sort of grieving and mourning process. This is because when you’re dating someone, and doing so with the serious intention of seeing if s/he is going to be your life partner, you have hopes and dreams that it'll all work out. When reality tells you (and you’re actually willing to listen to reality!) that the two of you are not compatible, and should not continue being together, it can feel like a “death.” But it's not the death of the person that you have to adjust to, it’s the death of your hopes and dreams. And just like with the death of a person, the challenge before you is to re-orient yourself in the world without this person in your life, and get back into the game to find someone more suitable.

I suggest that you sever yourself from this failed relationship completely. Doing so will free up all of your energies – emotional, physical and intellectual – and allow you to explore a new relationship’s potential. Avoiding a “friendship” with your ex will prevent him (and your residual feelings for him) from distracting you from attaining your goal of attaining as gratifying relationship with the right person.

© Copyright 2005-2008 Janice D. Bennett, Ph.D.

Author's Bio: 

Practicing as a psychologist for over 22 years, Dr. Janice has treated many singles looking to get married, but who had become depressed and demoralized by the dating process. Living in New York City with her husband and three children, Dr. Janice now uses her skills and experience to help healthy singles overcome the obstacles preventing them from attaining the relationships and lives they really want. Janice has been quoted in Us Weekly and Cosmopolitan Magazines, writes the "Love Coach" advice column on, has a free e-newsletter and gives teleclasses, lectures and workshops. Check out her "Get Your Love Right!" blog, read other dating-related Q's&A's and articles, and sign up for a complimentary 40 minute telephone coaching session by visiting her website at