There’s a time and a place for everything, but in the dating world, things can get a bit tricky.
But the WORST situation of all, that seems nearly impossible to plan, is when to become friends with your ex.
When I say ex, I don’t mean someone you dated for a few weeks. I mean someone who truly took the time to get to know the ins and outs of your soul, someone you shared a large part of your life with and someone who genuinely made an impact on you as a person.
A great example is Robert Downey Jr. and Sarah Jessica Parker, who spent seven years together but recently reunited in New York to simply catch up. The two were together in the 1980s but split in 1991 for a variety of reasons, including Downey’s drug and alcohol abuse problems.
Now that it’s 2015, Downey Jr. and Parker are a shining benchmark of the ex reunion considering all of the factors that have changed since their breakup.
Here are seven signs you can FINALLY be friends with your ex, too:
1. Enough time has passed.
Contrary to popular belief, time does heal all. Downey and Parker waited essentially 24 years before making it known to the public that they are friendly and cordial with each other. Sure, over the years it’s totally normal to exchange some texts and phone calls here and there, but a genuine friendship can’t bloom until a sufficient amount of time has passed.
2. Both of you have moved on. Completely.
It’s completely natural to avoid letting go of someone who held such a big piece of your heart. The thought of losing someone who became part of your daily routine is scary, but once you both find other people who make you feel just as loved and happy, it is OK to be friends. Downey Jr. and Parker both married and had kids after their split, which was definitely a push in the right direction for their friendship.
3. You’re not a kid anymore.
Being a kid doesn’t always necessarily imply young age. In terms of relationships, being a kid means you are still immature, you have many life changing experiences ahead of you and you don’t fully understand what makes a successful relationship. Downey Jr. told US Weekly, “You know life goes on and so many things happen, particularly when you’re looking at the back nine and you’re not a kid anymore.” He said he wanted to check in with someone he shared a big part of his life with, which is a very mature and adult thing to do.
4. You’ve come to terms with everything that happened.
As the saying goes, the final stage of grievance is acceptance. It might be a bit of an exaggeration to say you are “grieving” after a breakup, but let’s be honest, most of the time it’s pretty depressing. It is only when you have fully accepted everything that happened, and ended for that matter, that you will be emotionally stable enough to handle friendship with your ex.
5. You can both be a positive impact on each others’ lives.
Too often we let our exes drag us down with their negativity, comments, jealousy, etc. But there is always the opportunity to turn things around. Downey Jr. said of Parker, “Seeing her, I was like, ‘She’s so great and so cool and so funny and so in-command,'” so in a huge way he is making an effort to be positive for her and lift her higher, just as you can do with your ex. There has to be a strong level of appreciation in a new kind of way.
6. It restores balance to your life.
Like I said, the ex we’re talking about here is one that made a huge impact in your life. They became part of your routine, they were friends with your friends. The whole situation was comfortable and easy. When things go south, everything can start to feel awkward, and sometimes friend groups do suffer because of it. After a while, if it feels like you have moved on but you are still missing an important part of your life, it is OK to bring them back as a friend. Restoring balance and feeling complete again is so important.
7. You no longer want them, but you respect them.
Downey Jr. said he and Parker are in a good place now, even after everything that happened. He even got to meet her kids and husbandand said, “It’s a little bit stilted, but then there’s this familiarity that overtakes it and you realize you’re just in the presence of this fully mature mother and woman and artist and human being.” The way he respects her and her life at this point is a prime example of how it is when you finally become friends with your ex. He no longer desires her, but he appreciates her.
There will always be something “there” with your ex, but it is very possible to move on and become friends. Once you both are able to venture into a deeper acceptance of the whole situation and make peace with the way your life is in the moment, friendship happens. There’s always a way to flip a bad breakup around.