Ask Freud : Can Lovers Become Friends?

Hey doc!

Hope you treating the day well & have some interesting plans for Christmas & New Year..

Thinking about new year reminded of resolutions, making fresh promises, & relationships.

I was wondering if lovers can become friends… I mean, it’s easier from being friends to being lovers, but what about the other way round ?

And when would be the right time to try at being friends with one’s ex? Say 6 months after the break – up ?

Miss X

Hey Miss X,

Apologies that it has taken me quite some time to reply, you sent this to me just before Christmas but the doctor had some time off during the festive season, and beyond. Christmas season always makes people think about that they want, should and or can achieve in the New Year. These resolutions normally only hold up in January as the willpower has gone by the end of it. January is always such a long month, well, it seems to me anyway. The Christmas build-up has gone and most of us have no money left to spend till payday. In the meantime we keep ourselves busy and focussed on work and think of what we want to achieve in the New Year.

Most people will say that being friends first and becoming lovers works out better than going straight into a relationship. At least you know the person already, understand their strengths and weaknesses which you can tolerate a lot better as they are known.

Going from lovers to friends however is a whole different story. There is no time frame that can be set to this. Some people will say that it is impossible to remain friends as too much has happened and individuals were hurt along the way. It also depends on the maturity of the couple and if they can remain friends after.

If the breakup was a joint decision (which I think it rarely is) then there are possibilities to remain friends. Also there are influences from friends and family who will push you in a certain direction.

People also have, what we call in psychotherapy a ‘life script’, this is a script that is formed in our childhood by the journey of growing up. It forms in the time of the infant and toddler years and it depends on what happened to the child’s life in that period. The child starts making decisions and reactions to what it had been shown or not been shown by the influential people in its life, like parents, grandparents, caretakers etc. For example if the infant had a mother who raised him in such a way that she didn’t pay much attention and let him cry a lot then the child could have formed abandonment and commitment problems. This child will possibly grow up not trusting a lot of people and will find it difficult to get close (emotionally) to somebody. If then the relationship fails they will blame themselves for getting in the relationship in the first place and will not be able to remain friends. This reaction is mostly an unconscious one as the person does not see or know the link between the 2 events.

It all depends on how ‘adult’ you can be in these situations and if you see a real future in staying friends. I think that some time apart is needed for both the individuals to find their own feet again and are able to carry on by themselves, not depended on the other anymore. There is no time frame for this I’m afraid it all depends on the individual, how the breakup happened and what support system both parties have in place to move forward.

Pink Freud.

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Pink Freud is a counselling psychotherapist in training. He currently sees therapy clients part time and manages a large team in a corporate environment when he is not 'in the therapist's chair'. Long term, he wants to specialise in working with LGBT individuals, couples and groups. As a gay man, who came out 10 years ago, he understands the unique struggles of the LGBT community and is here to help. You can e-mail your questions to and he will respond to you via the Gaysi Family website.
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