From Relationship to Friendship

Is it possible to be friends with former lovers and partners?

When I speak about Conscious, or Intentional, Relationships, this is a question that often comes up, and is one I myself wonder about at times of transition.

My short answer is, yes. At least that’s what I’d like to believe is possible and something I strive to cultivate in my personal relationships.

One of the most tragic aspects of modern dating and relationships is how much there seems to be an emphasis on “all or nothing.”

Even the idea of a “break up,” to me, sounds quite traumatic.

I see this as a by-product of the drama that is portrayed and played out in movies, television, and other media.

Rather than showing what is possible between two people who, at some point, cared, or still care, for each other, it’s sadly much more entertaining to watch couples throw stones and fight viciously.

For better or worse, relationships that end gracefully, with love, mutual respect, and care, don’t make for good television.

The challenge is, it really is much easier to throw the baby out with the bathwater. To demonize, blame, and to expel someone from our life that we see being a source of pain.

This is, of course, a reasonable response.

The risk is in doing so is we often cut ourselves off from universal Love in the process, which often leads to a hardened heart, depression, feelings of unworthiness, and even self-destructive tendencies.

I believe Love has the capacity to be everlasting.

What stops its gracious flow are the limitations of our mind, the stories we tell ourselves, and, most applicably, our unwillingness to work through whatever is in the way. To clear the trauma, pain, and emotions from our bodies. To shake, wail, and cry until we find ourselves once again still and in an open field of possibility.

A concept I’ve believe strongly in is the idea of “transitioning” instead of the traditional notion of breaking up.

This doesn’t mean not to honor our boudnaries or to welcome someone back in before we’re ready. Nor does it mean inviting them to family dinners, calling them when we need support, spending time with them one on one, or even necessarily having to say hi in social settings.

But it’s also to say, all those are valid possibilities too.

The reality is, I’m sure if we think about it, we all know people who aren’t together anymore but are friends, or at the least not enemies.

Parents with children who get along and make it work, friends who were lovers who still check in and care for each other, former lovers who hold space for each other in ways that are unique to two souls who have shared so much.

The hardest part of intimate dynamics is how when we are triggered, when things aren’t working, and when trust is broken, more often than not, both parties regress and play out old wounds and patterns.

Whether that’s becoming hyper avoidant (that’s me), overly or passively aggressive, or any number of entirely human ways of dealing with trauma and heartbreak, it seems all too easy to allow the beauty and gift of a connection to be tainted by our childish tendencies.

Instead of remaining open to possibility, we fall back into patterns. Worse, most of the patterns were never of our own choosing. Rather, most often our learned behaviors are imprinted onto either through a media machine that preys upon the insecure aspects of being human or parents who they themselves also lacked models of healthy separation.

Upon inspection, we find that most relationships end because there’s a loss of trust. Trust that seemingly becomes damaged beyond repair and at some point demands change.

Sometimes this loss of trust can be subtle; a steady erosion of safety that leads to our bodies to no longer feel our partner has our back and holds our tender heart.

Equally common, the loss of trust can sometimes be sudden, dramatic, and harsh in its intensity.

In either situation, the grief of losing what was can be extremely shocking to our mental and emotional psyche. I always say proper time and space is required if we are to heal and find ourselves once again on stable and sovereign ground.

What I find most important for our individual evolution though, is to keep ourselves open to Life and Love.

This can be hard, especially when there are hurtful words and actions, the loss of trust can be hard and often touches the deepest parts of our being.

I also acknowledge that the idea of transitioning is perhaps more of an ideal than an absolute.

Not all wounds can be healed, and sometimes the damage really is unrepairable, or perhaps more accurately, the effort and energy required to mend and reconcile is better spent elsewhere.

Nor is this to say we ignore another’s transgression for the sake of everything being happy and wonderful.

That’s not love or peace, that’s denial.

Important as well, is there be a period of distance when we transition.

I find it vital to take some time apart to heal, to reflect, and to nurture our tender parts. To recalibrate and rediscover our balance in the light of new present moments.

To forgive, and with a genuine and grateful heart to wish the other well, and if/when the time is right, with equal measures of curiosity and discernment, to welcome in the possibility of a new way of relating.

I believe we stand at the threshold of new relationship paradigms.

New paradigms that will require much from us if we are to evolve towards an open-hearted collective expression of Love.

It takes faith and effort to put on our big kid pants and align our inner compass again and again towards the values of compassion, forgiveness, and love.

It requires us to know our boundaries, to value our decisions, to honor our past (the good and bad), and to know Life and the gifts it offers are ever-unfolding invitations to grow, learn, and love again and again.

What other choice do we really have?


Can you relate? What’s been your experience? What challenges have you faced when a relationship stops working?


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