‘How Do I Transition My Failed Situationship Into a Friendship?’

Q:

Hi, I was dating this really great person for about 3/4 months. Last week they ended things bc they realised they don’t have the capacity to be in a relationship right now mentally and still need to heal from their last relationship. Although I felt really sad about not being together anymore, we’ve talked about and I can see that it’s probably for the best. I know saying my situationship broke up with me a week ago and we’re trying to be friends already is probably the most lesbian-coded sentence on the planet, but I don’t have a lot of dating experience and I’m hoping for some advice on how to genuinely shift things into a friendship when I was really starting to fall for them before we broke up.

A:

I’m sorry that you’re not dating this person anymore! It sounds like you really liked them, and even though you do agree it’s the right decision for now, I can’t imagine that makes the breakup any easier. That said, good on your ex for recognizing they need to heal and they’re not in the right place to be in a relationship right now. I’m glad they said something, and hopefully you are too! And yeah, you’re right — it is hella lesbian-coded to say you’re trying to be friends with your ex-situationship. But also? It’s kind of great. With time and some work, you might be able to keep this really great person in your life, just in a different capacity.

Before we get into the how of it all, I want to just say some things—

You mentioned you broke up a week ago, and before you broke up, you were starting to fall for this person. Is one (1) week enough time for you to make your peace with the breakup, to mourn what you’ll no longer have, and to start showing up for this person as a good friend? I ask because this person — this very cool person who you happen to like a lot — is trying to intentionally create space for healing, and I’m assuming they’ll want someone in their corner who is ready to support them platonically. If you’re still working through lingering feelings, will you be able to be there for them?

I say this as someone who loves turning relationships into friendships (and vice-versa, but that’s not for now). I see my most recent ex pretty much all the time (I even interviewed them for Autostraddle)! I promise I’m not someone who thinks being friends with your ex is a red flag. Also, in some cases, it’s unavoidable (if you share a friend group or have a smaller queer community)! I just want to make sure you’re ready for what being a good friend to this person will mean.

I see friendships as one of the many types of relationships we form. Sometimes friendships are sexual (see: friends with benefits) or romantic (I love sprinkling a little romance into my friendships), but a lot of the time, they’re mostly platonic. In practice, this means that yeah, you might be able to do a lot of the same things with your ex that y’all were doing before (unless all you did together was marathon makeout sessions, in which case, maybe not that). But I’m assuming dinner and texting to ask about their day and going to the movies are all very much still on the table!

However! Because these are also things you do with a person you are dating, and your ex has explicitly said they want to heal from a previous relationship and aren’t ready to be in a relationship right now, it’s on you to recognize when things veer from platonic territory to romantic, and to either call that out or to bring things solidly back to the platonic realm. We show up differently in our friendships than with people we’re trying to woo. If you find yourself interacting with your new friend differently than you do with other friends, it’s a pretty clear signal that you might want to evaluate just how platonic your feelings for this person really are.

Something you might want to keep in mind as you’re beginning to evolve this relationship into a friendship is the fact that at some point, your ex will heal from their previous relationship and will be in the right place to start a relationship with someone. And it’s entirely possible that this someone might not be you. As a good friend, it’ll be your job to support them through their dating journey, even if it doesn’t lead them to you. If you aren’t ready to do that, I might caution you against becoming close friends, at least from the outset.

The most beautiful part of all of this is that y’all get to define what this friendship looks like together. Will you water each other’s plants? Or will you see each other maybe monthly, in a group setting, for trivia? The latter might be easier as you’re getting your sea legs in the friendship, but if you want to dive in the deep end, go for it! The important thing is that y’all talk about everything you’re bringing into the friendship, whether it’s lingering feelings or concerns about how dating new people will work (when you’re ready for that), or what this friendship might mean for new partners that you’ll someday maybe have. Just make sure you’re on the same page. As long as you have that, I think you’ll be able to build something really, really special together!


You can chime in with your advice in the comments and submit your own questions any time.

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ashni

Ashni is a writer, comedian, and farmer's market enthusiast. When they're not writing, they can be found soaking up the sun, trying to make a container garden happen, or reading queer YA.

ashni has written 51 articles for us.

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