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Auntie SparkNotes: Can You Be Friends With Your Ex?

Auntie SparkNotes: Can You Be Friends With Your Ex?

If you don't have a boyfriend like this right now, you will at some point. Memorize Auntie's advice, y'all! —Sparkitors

Dear Auntie,

I have been dating this guy for a few months now, though recently, things haven't been so well between us. We argue almost every day, and he reacts negatively whenever I tell him I'm busy. He wants to get sexual almost everyday, but I tell him I don't want to, and again he gets angry. A few times I tried saying yes, but he would snap back saying "No, because I had to ask you!".

Things have been especially bad because he once texted me "If I said I wanted to marry you what would you say?", and I didn't give him an answer (because I feel our relationship is too young to even THINK that). I know that not giving an answer was probably a bad idea, but I couldn't say no. And for the next two days, he threw a fit every time we texted (ignoring the phone was almost impossible, as he would get really angry if I did that), and also would say "I hate you!". He even threatened to cut himself, but apologized after I said that I would leave, acting all sweet and loving, and admitting he was in the wrong. I was so ready to leave him without any regrets, but his sweetness made me feel sympathetic.

I told one of my friends about it, and she told me that he was just manipulating me. But when he nearly broke up with me, admitting that things weren't working out, I started getting upset (to my surprise), and begged for him to stay with me, because I was a bit afraid of a life without him. He agreed to "give it one more week".

Now that I've taken the time to think about it, I feel that it would be better if we were just friends, since I honestly don't want him out of my life, but he's too demanding now, as a boyfriend. But one of my friends once told me that you can never really be friends with your ex-boyfriends, and that it just doesn't work out. I also know that he really does love me, and he has always said things like "My love for you is infinite". I really do want to still be his friend and to keep in contact with him, but is telling him that I just want to be friends really an option? Can you be friends with your ex?

Can you? Well, sure, you can!
But, um, you—as in you, personally, rather than the hypothetical you—can't.
Or at least, not with this guy.

Because your (very wise, very mature, very worth-listening-to) friend is right: Your boyfriend's approach to relationships is straight-up Emotional Manipulation, with a little bit of Controlling Jerk thrown in for good measure. Why? Well, allow me to pull out my Handy-Dandy Emotionally Manipulative Controlling Jerk Checklist and see how he measures up:

Pressuring you into sexual activity you're not comfortable with? Check!
Demanding that you be constantly accessible and getting angry when you don't respond to messages? Check!
Coming on strong at the beginning of a relationship, making declarations of love after only a few weeks, and pressuring for a commitment before you're ready? Check!
Threatening to hurt himself if you leave? Check!
Saying cruel and hurtful things, then suddenly doing a complete 180 and being sweet, charming, and apologetic? Check!

And though you haven't said so, I'll bet he also told you early on that you were the first person he'd ever felt a true connection with. (Am I right?)

Basically, you've got yourself a guy who fits all the criteria for being an abusive jerk. And like all emotionally abusive/manipulative people, he's developed a practically foolproof system for keeping you invested in this relationship (which, by the way, is why you panicked at the idea of life without him.) The pressure to talk about marriage, the over-the-top claims of love, the Jekyll-and-Hyde routine that has him telling you he hates you one minute and then begging you to stay the next... these are the hallmarks of a dude with serious problems, not of a dude who really loves you. Even your almost-breakup was probably just another control tactic, since his goal is to keep the upper hand and keep you feeling off-balance and insecure.

Which is to say: Hopefully, at this point, you can see that he isn't just being "demanding."
He's messing with you.

So while being friends with an ex is possible, maintaining a friendship with this particular guy probably isn't—because friendships with exes require the sort of hard work, maturity, and mutual respect that aren't part of his vocabulary. Which doesn't mean that you shouldn't still end the relationship, because oh man, should you ever, and it also doesn't mean you can't try to maintain contact, because of course you're welcome to tell him that you just want to be friends... although really, why you'd want to be friends with someone who treats you like this is a mystery to me.

But if you do, just be prepared for your declaration to be met with an epic temper tantrum, a threat or two, and patented Controlling Jerk phrases like "Nobody will ever love you the way I do!"

(In which case your best response is, "I certainly hope not.")

Can you be friends with an ex? Talk about it in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at or check her out on Facebook.

Topics: Advice
Tags: auntie sparknotes, breakups, boyfriends, exes

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About the Author

Kat Rosenfield is a writer, illustrator, advice columnist, YA author, and enthusiastic licker of that plastic liner that comes inside a box of Cheez-Its. She loves zombies and cats. She hates zombie cats. Follow her on Twitter or Tumblr @katrosenfield.

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