How to Set Healthy Boundaries When you are friends with an Ex
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Being friends with an ex has more than two camps- two complete extremes, one favours it and the other totally against it. Like me, one more group believes that one can be friends with an ex with healthy boundaries in place and consistent maintenance. It’s a natural and normal response to ending a relationship. You cared about them. They were once an important part of your life. You shared your most intimate moments with them, and you might have started planning a future with them. 

Wanting to be friends with your former partner or ex is a journey. And a pretty roller coaster-ish one. There’s old relationship nostalgia, feelings for them, and a complete confusing mess of scattered emotions. Apart from the do’s and don’ts after a break-up, a more important task needs to be done. That is, setting boundaries. 

Had it been easier, there wouldn’t have been groups divided on it. It’s not easy. Why? Because we are complicated. And without healthy boundaries, we are wandering in a dimly lit hole with no directions or guidance. 

So How To Set Healthy Boundaries When You Are Friends With an Ex? 

From my recent and personal experience, I have learnt a few things. Take a look at the following: 

1.  Give each other closure: 

This means many things. Having a clear and open conversation allows the two of you a safe exit. It enables you to give each other room to be heard. So often, we end things on a bad note; we are angry with them and end everything at once. Of course, ending a relationship is never a sudden decision. It may contain years of suffering, discontent, resentment, and some unresolved issues. It may also include unhealthy patterns, no boundaries, or a lack of mutual respect. Have that conversation. Give each other the chance to gather all the feelings that are still floating around. Allow each other to say one final goodbye. 

2.  Communication: 

I am assuming that both of you are mature adults, wise, and smart people who understand the concept of boundaries or want to understand it. While giving each other the much-needed closure, I am presuming that you shall embark upon many tough topics that will continue to house your mind long after that conversation. So you may want to keep talking about it. This is where the role of boundaries shall begin. Communicate with your former partner-turned-friend only when it’s important. Important doesn’t mean you have to talk about the weather and call each other when a slight issue arises. Both of you had invested yourselves in this relationship. It is going to take time and boundaries to heal from it, to get out of it. For that, you may want to limit your communication with them to important, relevant, and only necessary things. 

3.  Mutual Respect: 

Who did what, how what happened, why what had to happen- you no longer need to find answers to these rhetoric questions. What happened, happened. It is what it is. Respect that. Respect when the other person needs space. Respect yourself when you are doing a certain thing to cope with the hurt or pain. By certain things, I most definitely do not mean doing drugs, consuming alcohol, or ruining your life with unhealthy means. Instead, respect them when they feel that maybe this friendship, too, is becoming too much at some point. And respect yourself enough to walk out of something when you are no longer needed. 

4.  Emotional Boundaries: 

Although I had covered it in the communication part, the emotional involvement with your former partner whom you shall be friends with now, I will explain it more clearly here. It’s normal to be available for them when they seek emotional support. You have a soft corner for them. They have a soft corner for you. But remember that you are no longer romantically involved. You don’t always have to be there. Gone are the days of Bollywood movies where the former partners would stay in touch and rekindle the spark between them. If it’s done, it’s done. If it’s finished, it’s finished. So, stay their friend, but don’t be the infinite reservoir of love and support. And don’t expect them to be the reservoir of love and support for you.

5.  Relationship Analysis: 

This point, too, I had covered in the communication part. But I am more than happy to explain it again. Don’t analyse things. Don’t. Just don’t. It’s not a physics thesis that you have to write (quoting my former partner here). Don’t find hidden meanings that aren’t even there. Don’t analyse the relationship that is no longer there. Trust the present. Seek help if you feel that you need it. Also, if you want to analyse it, do it with your therapist or your journal. 

6.  Two Cents on Changing Boundaries: 

No one is going to arrest you if you have to change your boundaries in the future. However, if you see that the boundaries for yourself and the relationship need to be enforced, changed, moulded, or bent even, do it. For example, you feel that communicating with your former partner is causing you pain, bringing back the feelings, or opening the box you had securely closed. In that case, it’s best to alter your boundaries and completely move from their space. Similarly, suppose your new association is doing you more good than bad. In that case, it’s all right to soften a few boundaries but not the core boundaries that one must continue to maintain to preserve one’s mental peace.

So have you learned how to set healthy boundaries when you are friends with an ex? 

Setting new boundaries with a person you have known for long and embarking on a new association is difficult and sometimes painful. But you know, it is important. Not just for the new association, but mostly for yourself. Learning how to set boundaries when you are friends with an ex is an initiative in the direction of self-love