Can Lovers Become Friends?

June 28, 2010 at 5:00 am


A young friend of mine recently told me that she and her boyfriend of one year had broken up. She said that they were “still friends, though.” I asked her how this was possible – how could a man and woman switch from a relationship that included sex, emotional intimacy and talk of future marriage to one of, I assume, just emotional intimacy?

She gave me a look of “duh!” and explained that, sure, it was possible, that it happened all the time. Most of her friends had friends that were former boyfriends or girlfriends – and this was the way it was, now.

I still have a hard time with this concept. How is it possible to take the steps from, I would assume, acquaintances to friendship to lovers, and then for whatever reason, take a step backward to “just friends?” I would think that the reason for the step backward would preclude being friends, as the backward step would have to be prompted by something negative – such as incompatibility, distrust, betrayal. And once these characteristics had been exhibited, any basis for friendship would disappear, I would think.

From what I have seen in life, the best heterosexual or gay relationships seem to be founded on friendship, trust and compatibility. As the relationship evolves into a stable, long-term union, it either continues to exist or does not, which is what I believe the word divorce describes, when it does not. With the divorce would come a separation between the two individuals.

Callers assure me that they still have friendships with ex-lovers but then will go on to tell me about the lies and deception from these “friends.” I don’t believe that friends exhibit this type of behavior but then, this type of social anomaly could be one that simply did not exist for me when I was in my twenties.

Can there be a positive step occurring when lovers go backward and become just friends? It’s possible, I guess. But, I sometimes think that this could well be a way of just not letting go, of holding on to a relationship one way or another. And that is just not being a friend, I think.

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5 Responses to “Can Lovers Become Friends?”

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  1. John May 13, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    Hi everyone. :)
    I’m John, not exactly my real name, and I have a boyfriend. Yes, a boyfriend. I’m gay I think. Well, this is what happened. We are already 8 months in our relationship, it’s quite passionate, our love, sex, feelings. And then we are off to our next big step in life, college. Yes we’re just a high school graduate. Things and thoughts start bothering my head. What will happen in the future, my course, my religion, what would my parents say, my life and so much more. Then I have come up to break up with him. But I TRULLY and Faithfully inlove with him. I don’t want to lose him in my life. So we went to my room. We talked about it. We cried a lot, then we had sex. After that, I have come up to a plan that we will still be friends, not just friends but best friends, we will still see each other and stay connected, eat and go to wherever place we want to, because we can’t handle to lose each other. At the same time, we promised to study hard, make each other our inspiration to pursue our studies and goals life. Well I forgot to tell that he’s straight. I told him that he would find a lot of girls that would love him more than I can, but of course I’m dying inside with the pain. I told him that I will support him in his life and his love life. We still bond together, just yesterday. But we’re starting to have butterflies, not like before. We always start to cry and open up our plan and still end in the same. He loves me so much, and I also do with all my heart. But we have to change, for life, for GOD. The good thing is we don’t have to break up with a lot of pain and hatred and become strangers to each other, instead, we will become best friends, always be there in good and bad times, promised that we will always be together even if were old. We bought a necklace that has our number of our anniversary and has an infinity sign. So we will never forget each other and we also promised to wear this and never take it off. I am happy of what happened to us, but the pain is always there, thinking that we could never say I love you to each other every morning, sweet goodnights, have sex. We told ourselves that we will not be bitter, we will always love each other and told each other that it will all be better in time. :)
    Thank you for letting me to share my experience. <3


  2. Ash January 8, 2012 at 3:18 am

    This exact issue is a quandary for me right now. I’m in the situation where I need to decide whether or not it will be possible to take that step from lovers to friends. Had a lover 20 odd years ago – it broke up – just went our separate ways and we both married and had children. We met again about seven months ago after talking via email and text for about three years. Just as friends. Of course one thing led to another and what a roller coaster if a year followed.

    Anyway – I left my husband – not for him but because meeting him made me realise what a sham my own marriage was – and I’m now beginning to live my life and find myself again. Life is on the up for me.

    As for him, it might be a cliche, but his marriage was dead in the water years before he met me again. But something keeps him there. I’ve told him he can’t begin to rebuild his relationship with his wife if he keeps coming to me for his emotional needs (I don’t mean sex) but he gets do upset at the thought of never seeing me again.

    We have tried on several occasions to call it off altogether but neither of us can get each other out of our head. In fact – we have both admitted that this has been the case for the last 20 years we have been apart. Being fully separated is like living without a limb.

    We’ve recently discussed friendship. And toyed with the idea of taking a step in that direction. That way we both get to live with each other in our lives. He gets to try to salvage something from his marriage – I get to move forward. He says he doesn’t want to salvage his marriage but understands that he can’t keep me hanging on.

    One thing us certain – he intends to maintain this friendship regardless of the consequences and, if needs be, at the detriment of his marriage. I see him almost every day – even if it’s just for him to pass by or pop in a small token. I just don’t know if being friends will work?

    How do we get past the physical – to just the emotional.


  3. Suzette Benson November 30, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    My boyfriend and I have been together for four years but so many things have happened during our relationship, IE, his divorce, my custody battle, family problems, personal issues etc. that he has asked that we continue to live together so that I can be financially stable, but he wants to just be friends. I am having a hard time with not sleeping together, taking showers, not being able to ask him stuff, or share with him how I am feeling about this. I don’t want him to go, so I am taking it day to day. I just don’t know what just being friends is or means. I can’t help but hope that we can be and it will turn into something even better.

  4. Carmen Hexe
    Carmen Hexe June 29, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    “Amen” sista! :-)

    I have gotten in huge arguments with people over stating exactly what you just said! I used to think it’s a cultural thing. In Germany you usually separate for a reason and unless kids are involved, you tend to usually not remain friends but go your separate ways.

    I absolutely agree with the fact that most relationships end for a reason, namely betrayal or not being compatible In either case the basis for a friendship simply does not exist. If he couldn’t respect me as his girlfriend, how can he now be my friend? If he hated my interests and hobbies when we were together, how can he now be my friend and join me on said activities or hobbies? Also, I expect the same kind of integrity, loyalty and truthfulness from a friend as I do from my partner, so if he was disloyal and dishonest as a boyfriend, he won’t be there for me as a friend either.

    I do find that there are some rare exceptions to the rule though. I was with someone for 3 years. We parted because we were always more like brother and sister and we simply didn’t have the chemistry to make it work as a couple. However, this did not change the fact that we always felt just as close as siblings. Therefore, we kept this friendship to this day. I really do feel about him just as I do about my brother, and I do admit that I have never experienced this kind of bond with another man before.

    I am also distant friends with another ex from 10 years ago. How did that start? By people telling me that I was being unreasonable to cut people out of my life, “just because we didn’t work out as a couple.”

    I had to adjust when I came to this country and the truth is, every time I would bring up how I feel about this scenario, I was labeled jealous, insecure and possessive. I have accepted this as “normal” part of the American culture, but maintain certain rules, i.e. no hanging out with the ex alone, or if they are single.

    Recently an ex tried to befriend me on Facebook. I told him “no thank you” and literally asked him how someone who betrayed me and sold me out, badmouthed me and lied to me is expecting to be any part of my life. I told him I wished him happiness, but that I cannot allow people who do not honor and respect me in my life :-)

  5. Jacqueline
    Jacqueline June 28, 2010 at 10:16 am

    Interesting Tansy,

    I have not found where being able to stay friends after lovers hasn’t really worked out, I have seen to many times, the friendship is just a front for one or the other to continue to hold on wishing that more would develop.

    Just like that saying in Harry met Sally, Men and Woman cannot be friends without the sex thing getting in the way….

    Blessings and Big Hugs!
    Jacqueline x9472

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