FROM FRIENDS TO LOVERS AND BACK
By Tina B. Tessina, PhD, LMFT
In my counseling office, I’m often asked about friends who once were lovers, and if they can make the change to friends again. Friendships that go from friends to lovers back to friends can be very close, because you know each other so well. The first thing you need to do is talk about it. Make a deal that you won’t do anything that would jeopardize your friendship, and stick to it. (That means, acting as a friend, and not being jealous if he/she has a date.)
The more emotionally mature you are, the easier it is to re-establish the friendship. Openness increases intimacy. So friends who can talk about everything feel closer than friends who can’t.
However, friendships have more limits on sharing than lover relationships do. If you’ve found someone new, you have to consider your sexual partner, too, who might not like his or her privacy invaded; and who might be uncomfortable that you’re close to an ex.
Although it may be surprising, many people do become friends again after they’ve divorced or split up. Here are some guidelines for doing that successfully.
So, your ex has been hanging around, helping you out with things around the house, eating dinner with you and the kids, or just calling you up to talk about good times in the past. Old, friendly feelings seem to be coming back. Can you really revert to being friends? Here’s how to see if you and your ex can make it work.
• Go very slowly. It takes time to get re-organized as friends. Talk about your friendship and tell the truth. If it’s going to work, it will go better if you go more slowly, and you’ll have a chance to build a better foundation than before.
• Treat it like a new friendship. Start from the beginning, and do it differently—you have to figure out the difference between being lovers and being friends.
• Be conscious about being friends—talk about what you miss about your friendship—if you cannot talk honestly about what changed and what to do differently, you won’t succeed
• Make sure your ex wants the friendship as much as you do. If there are unresolved old feelings, you need to talk about them.
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Author Bio: Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. (www.tinatessina.com) is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 40 years’ experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 15 books in 17 languages, including Dr. Romance’s Guide to Finding Love Today; It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; The Ten Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make After Forty; Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences, The Real 13th Step , How to Be Happy Partners: Working it Out Together and How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free. She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog (drromance.typepad.com), and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter. Online, she’s known as “Dr. Romance” and offers courses at GenerousMarriage.com . Dr. Tessina appears frequently on radio, TV, video and podcasts. She tweets @tinatessina