I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say this.
It’s painful as hell when your ex still wants to be friends after she broke up with you.
In what world can she just rip your heart out and then still want to be friends like nothing happened?
Does she think you can see her, the woman you still love and somehow shut off your feelings for her like you turn off the lights? Does she not know that you are thinking about her practically every free moment you have already?
And to add icing to this big steaming pile of shit, you have no idea what her intentions are. Is she just trying to friend zone you? Or is she only interested in remaining friends to keep you as a backup plan while she starts dating someone else?
We’re going to peel back all the layers on this onion today.
I’m also going to show you why you are making a massive mistake if you agree to be friends with her, especially if she was the one who broke up with you.
Does that sound like a deal?
First things first, what the heck is she thinking when she wants to be friends?
- 1 As A General Rule Certain Types Of Relationships (And Women) Want To Be Friends More Than Others
- 2 The 4 Reasons Why Your Ex Wants To Stay Friends After Breaking Up With You
- 3 Can You Get Her Back If You’re Just Friends?
- 4 So What Should You Do Your Ex-Girlfriend Just Wants To Be Friends?
As A General Rule Certain Types Of Relationships (And Women) Want To Be Friends More Than Others
Staying friends comes naturally to some women more than others.
The more agreeable, and willing to compromise she is, the more likely she will suggest friendship.  Agreeableness (1 of 5 of the Big 5 Personality traits) is commonly associated with warmth and constructive conflict resolution, which makes it easier to stay friends after the breakup. More agreeable people tend to be more social, and more adept at navigating relationship transitions.
The same 2014 study found that extraversion (another Big 5 trait) can predict the likelihood of a friendship offer, however, another 2017 study directly contracted this finding, suggesting that the more introverted she is, the more likely she will want to stay friends. 
Based on my experience, I am inclined to believe the latter – that the more introverted she is, the more likely she will want to be friends – as introverted individuals tend to have more difficulty establishing new friendships and relationships.
Your previous relationship dynamic is also important and can predict whether or not she will want to be friends after the breakup. If you were friends before the breakup, there’s a good chance she will still want to be friends after the breakup. This is also the case if you two have a number of mutual friends and run in the same social circles. 
From her point of view, it may make more sense to offer friendship to try to keep the peace. Plus there are a lot of benefits to maintaining a healthy relationship with you assuming she knows she will see you again.
Another factor that impacts the friendship consideration is your former romantic relationship. If you had a close, reasonably satisfying relationship, your ex-girlfriend is more likely to suggest friendship afterward. If she felt taken advantage of or dissatisfied during the relationship, this is less likely.
So in other words, if your ex is agreeable, introverted, and your relationship ended on good terms / you guys were friends before, there is a good chance her offer of friendship is genuine, without ulterior motives.
Does this mean that you have no chance of being friends with her if she doesn’t fit this profile? Of course not. I’ve been a relationship coach for over half a decade now and I’ve seen many different combinations of people remain friends with an ex.
To be clear, I’m not talking about friends with benefits arrangement. I’m talking about strictly friends, no funny business. In my experience (and in the scientific literature) there are different motivating factors behind a friends with benefits relationship compared to just friends.
Luckily for you, I have a whole article on this topic if you are curious (and you should be).
Alright, so now that I’ve given you background, let’s cover the 4 primary reasons.
The 4 Reasons Why Your Ex Wants To Stay Friends After Breaking Up With You
The best way to understand her motivation for wanting to remain friends is to understand the basics of attachment theory. I cover this topic extensively (and its many applications in breakups/relationships) in my upcoming book Lovestuck, which will be announced soon so I will keep the summary brief here.
The gist of attachment theory is simple: in times of stress or threat, we naturally turn to our attachment figures for comfort and safety. We can have many attachment figures, including our parents, friends, family, and so on. However, most of us seek what is called a primary attachment.
When we are kids, our primary attachment is our primary caregiver – whether it’s our mom, dad, or someone else entirely. Our relationship with our primary attachment shapes how we approach our later relationships. This is called our attachment style and is where we start forming habits that will impact whether or not we are able to have healthy relationships in the future.
If we have a healthy emotional attachment with our primary attachment, who consistently meets our needs, we grow up with a secure attachment style. On the other hand, if our primary attachment is unsupportive and dismissive, we grow up with an avoidant attachment style. If our primary attachment is inconsistent, meeting our needs sometimes, or acting like a helicopter parent we grow up with an anxious attachment style. Somewhere between these is a disorganized attachment style, which is a completely different can of worms that we aren’t going to get into here.
As we age, our primary attachment typically becomes our romantic partner. This makes it possible to look at her request to stay friends through the lens of attachment theory.
Keep that in mind as we continue through the four reasons below.
Reason #1: She Wants Security / Emotional Support
Security is a basic human need, so it’s not surprising that it’s one of the most frequently reported reasons for friendship.
Our primary attachment (often our romantic relationships) is one of the main sources of security for us as adults. It’s hard to let go of that, even if the romantic relationship failed, or one of both of you started dating a new partner.
A friendship can fill many of the same needs as a romantic relationship – including safety. If you were together for a long time, you probably share a lot of great memories and experienced a lot of things together. Maybe she still trusts you, and she still wants your emotional support.
There are a few reasons why your ex-girlfriend may want to stay connected in this way. In my experience, if your ex-girlfriend has trouble trusting others easily, she may turn to you for security until she welcomes someone else into her inner circle.
A 2017 study out of the University of Kansas more or less confirms this, finding that the more extroverted, and anxiously attached she is, the more likely she will want to remain friends for security reasons. The same study found that openness to experience and attachment avoidance are related to not endorsing this reason for friendship.
It’s likely that this friendship will continue to exist until she finds someone else to fill her primary attachment need.
Reason #2: She Has A Practical Reason
If you work together with her, share friends, or run in the same circles staying friends can make her life easier. The same is true if you share custody of a child, live together, or something similar. Being friends is better than being enemies after the relationship ends in this case.
If you understand the Social Exchange Theory, this makes sense. The social exchange theory suggests that your ex-girlfriend was motivated to get together with you based on the perceived benefit she’d receive from your relationship, whether that’s through your connections, your status, your money, shared children, or shared pets.
Just because the relationship is over does not mean your ex wants to give up the benefits of the relationship.
Yeah, not very romantic, I know.
But that’s life!
So which types of women might want such an arrangement? The same 2017 study I mentioned above suggests that women who are conscientious (disciplined and organized) and have an insecure attachment style (anxiously attached or avoidant attachment) are more likely to seek out friendship for this reason.
Meanwhile, women who rate higher on openness (the degree to which someone is willing to explore new situations) are less likely to report being friends for this reason. 
She may also use you as emotional support while she’s looking for a new boyfriend, as I talk about in my article about why you should never agree to be her backup plan.
Generally speaking, these “friendships” are not very deep or satisfying because they are transactional – and eventually, your ex will start moving forward as she starts dating and meeting other men.
Reason #3: Staying Friends Is A Good Way To Keep Things Civil
Keeping things civil is a good way to slowly withdraw from the relationship over time, which can help ease any hurt or guilt associated with the breakup. It’s also an effective strategy for avoiding conflict, which many women fear, particularly with men considering that men are stronger and more aggressive than women.
Our 2017 study out of the University of Kansas finds that attachment anxiety positively predicts civility as a reason for staying friends with an ex. The anxiously attached may hope to return to the relationship if they realize they still have feelings.
Surprisingly, attachment avoidance also predicts civility as a reason for remaining friends. Avoidants like using friendship to slowly disengage over time, instead of directly confronting their partner. On the other hand, the longer it’s been since the breakup, and the older the two people in the relationship, the less likely this is reason. 
If she wants to be friends and you know that she prefers to avoid conflict, now you know what is happening.
Reason 4: She Wants To Remain Friends Because She Still Has Feelings For You
I don’t want to get your hopes up here – but a major reason to stay friends is if she still has romantic feelings for you.
While this is the least common of the other reasons above, it can happen if your ex-girlfriend hasn’t had time to prepare for the breakup – for example, if you broke up with her, or if she broke up with you because of an external factor (moving, work, family issues, depression, religion, etc).
It’s possible she does not want to be alone, to lose access to sex, or to your protection. Before you get excited, remember: she’s still your ex. Just because you stay friends doesn’t mean she will one day want to get back together with you.
Once again, the University of Kansas study I have mentioned offers some explanation of what predicts this reason. The study found that attachment anxiety and extraversion both correlate with unresolved romantic desire. On the other hand, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and more time since the breakup negatively predict unresolved romantic feelings. 
A good way to tell if this is the case is to pay attention to how she acted right after the breakup. If she tried to reconcile things, wanted to sleep with you, or was against the breakup, you can assume this is why she wants to be friends.
So What Does This All Mean?
While I don’t want to get into an ethical debate – on a broad level, everyone acts on what they perceive will benefit their self-interest for the most.
Based on the research above, we can answer the titular question of “Why does my ex want to be friends with me after we broke up?”. She wants to be friends because of:
- Practical reasons;
- Unresolved romantic feelings
The common denominator here is your ex wants to be friends because she believes that it will benefit her in some way. That doesn’t mean she is a bad person, it just means she may think she has something to gain from your relationship.
If you’re wondering what she expects to gain, put yourself in her shoes. What are her primary motivations in life? If you can figure out what drives her, you’ll be able to figure out what’s driving her to want to remain friends.
And when there’s something to be gained, there’s also a fear of loss associated with it, which is the key to getting her back.
Because to get her back, you need to get in the way of her getting what she wants.
Can You Get Her Back If You’re Just Friends?
The short answer is no.
I don’t mean to say that you and your ex-girlfriend can’t become good friends. That’s completely possible, with somewhere between 50-60% of men reporting being friends with an ex-girlfriend.
Personally, one of my closest friends is an ex of mine that I dated for over 2 years. Our relationship is excellent, and she will tell you the same thing.
I also don’t mean to say that you can’t get your ex-girlfriend back either. You can. But if you get friend zoned, that’s going to become a lot harder – because there is a trade-off with being friends.
Friendship kills romantic attraction. If you want her back in your life, you want her to be as attracted to you as possible. To truly be friends you have to admit that the romantic part of your relationship is over for good.
The Friend Zone is Not How You Get Her Back
Staying friends with your ex when you want her back poses a number of problems.
She won’t be much of your friend at all, at least at first. All of the studies I mentioned above rate the quality of friendship with an ex at around neutral satisfaction on average.
Secondly, prolonged contact with your ex-girlfriend is only going to make you feel worse. Look, I know that you are already struggling with obsessive thoughts. I know that you aren’t as happy as you want to be. I also know that you still really want her back.
If you won’t listen to the logical voice telling you not to be friends with her, that’s fine. But motherfucker, you need to listen to me: being friends with her is only going to make you hurt worse.
And this is no surprise considering that many prominent psychologists, such as Dr. Sherrie Campbell recommend you take “six months to a year of no contact to fully get over that person” before re-entering their lives as a friend.
Follow what I teach. You need a clean break with no strings attached if you want to start feeling better.
And do you know how you do that?
You go no-contact until you feel better.
Read More: The Complete Guide To The No Contact Rule
If you are resistant to that, let me ask you this. How do you think you will feel when you realize that she is dating again? What happens when you realize your relationship with her is in the past, and that she does not want to be with you anymore?
I work with men in my email coaching program on a daily basis and I can tell you that you don’t want any of these things to happen to you while your feelings are still engaged. It can leave scars on you for years.
So take my advice: if she dumped you, or you dumped her and now she wants to move on, you need to assume that she does not like you enough to be with you right now.
There are a couple of other problems associated with being friends including:
- It diminishes your self-esteem if you want her back. You’re not going to feel great about yourself when she’s parading her new boyfriend in your face and you just have to watch, because you’re “her friend”.
- It decreases your self-respect. You are settling for less than you want – which has lasting impacts.
- It holds back your healing process. You have to be physically and mentally apart from her to start healing.
- It prevents you from emotionally detaching and finding someone better because you’ll always end up with the “what if?” in the back of your mind.
- If you still want her back, it can take your focus away from your own goals. Worrying about how you’re going to get her back isn’t the best thing if you need to concentrate on something else.
- Oh yeah, and the elephant in the room: being her friend will destroy your chances of getting her back.
So What Should You Do Your Ex-Girlfriend Just Wants To Be Friends?
With that in mind, that leaves one simple question? What should you do?
The good news is if you follow my advice, I promise you that peace of mind will follow. So listen close son. Getting back together with your ex-girlfriend is generally a bad idea, as it robs you of numerous opportunities for growth, as well as the chance to meet other girls.
But, at the end of the day, you have to make the choice that’s right for you. As a coach, it’s my job to help you get the result you want.
Proceed with caution.
If You Want Her Back: Don’t Be Her Friend
I’m sure you knew that was coming.
This is especially true if you still love your ex-girlfriend and she wants to be friends.
If you want her back, you need to force her to make a choice. Relationships aren’t built on apathy.
They’re built on a series of constant choices.
Being her “friend” is essentially allowing her to sit on the fence. She doesn’t have to choose between getting back together or losing you forever.
She gets to have it in between, knowing that you’ll be there as a backup plan.
If you want her back, you have to force her to choose, which is why you have to walk away if you want her back.
Decline her offer of being friends, and tell her that you’re not interested in being friends. You love her, and you want to be with her as her partner, or not at all.
If You Want To Get Over Her: Indefinite No-Contact
The best way to get over your ex-girlfriend is to go no-contact. It’s the most effective way to break your ex-girlfriend addiction. If it was a messy breakup – don’t even think about being friends with your ex. Both the research, and my half a decade of experience say the same thing: both of you need to move on with your lives.
If you care about her as a person,
Using no-contact to create emotional distance between you and your ex-girlfriend will give you the time and space you need to make sense of how you feel.
Being angry, sad, or hurt is completely normal – but trying to work them out with your ex-girlfriend is not.
What you need to learn to do instead is to see the world as a single man.
Whether that means doing your laundry for the first time in 6 months, or just how to seduce a new woman, you need to experience it on your own without her always looking over your shoulder.
If You Really Want To Be Friends: Don’t Be Her Friend Immediately
First things first – do you REALLY want to be friends with her? Or do you really just want her back?
If you’ve somehow convinced yourself that being her friend is the only way to get her back, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.
However – if you genuinely want to be friends with her, you need to wait. How long you need to wait will depend on your situation.
You need to get to a point where you’re completely over your relationship with her. You want to get to a point where no matter what she does, you won’t be knocked off your masculine center.
Plus, if you try to be her friend right away, you won’t be able to establish healthy boundaries. The line between what she once was to you, versus what she now is can be very hard to deal with, even if you genuinely want to be her friend.
My recommendation if you really must be friends with her is to give it 6 months to 1 year at the very least. Then ask yourself if you want to be her friend still.
If you can genuinely make the case that she will add value to your life as a friend, and you’re sure that you’ve gotten over your ex-girlfriend addiction, go for it.
Talk soon my friend,
 – https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2014-57869-002
 – https://www.researchgate.net/publication/318184933_Staying_friends_with_ex-romantic_partners_Predictors_reasons_and_outcomes_Friendship_with_ex-romantic_partners
 – https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01463370209385654