All Woman

He says he wants to be just friends

Let’s talk

With WAYNE A POWELL MA Counselling Psychology Relationship Counsellor

Monday, July 09, 2012    

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Dear Counsellor

I was involved with a man for over three years. We started having conflicts and now it has come to an end. But he says he still likes me and wants us to be friends. Is that healthy?

Let us establish that no relationship is conflict free. What is important is not the elimination of the conflict but the management of it. Both parties must be willing to engage in effective communication and conflict management strategies.

As you reported, after three years of relating on a committed level the relationship was terminated due to conflicts. The following questions come to mind.

1. What was the cause of the conflicts?

2. Who usually initiated these conflicts?

3. When did these conflicts occur?

4. Where did these conflicts usually take place?

5. How were the conflicts managed?

If you both were to analyse the causes and symptoms of the conflicts in the relationship and employ effective conflict management strategies, just maybe you both would still be in a relationship today.

It is important that you learn conflict management techniques so that in your next relationship you will offer solutions to the conflict and not be the source of the conflict.

It is always a judgement call as to whether or not ex-couples should remain friends. It really depends on the individuals involved and whether or not there was closure in the relationship. If one of the parties has not accepted that the relationship is terminated and continues to badger the other, then certainly, if the friendship continues, boundaries would have to be established and strictly maintained.

The truth is, it is much easier to move the relationship from the platonic level to the intimate level than to go in the opposite direction. It is for this reason that some ex-couples prefer to sever all ties as one or both still have physical and emotional attraction for the other. So the friendship becomes "friends with privilege". This can become more complicated and even dangerous if one or both parties have started new relationships.

So to answer your question, it is indeed healthy for ex-couples to remain friends but new parameters must be established and enforced. In other words, it cannot be business as usual. Both parties must agree and respect the boundaries and not put undue pressure on the other.

However, if they cannot be friendly to each other, they must at least be civil. This is most important, especially if they have a child or children together.

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