Can you really stay close friends with an ex? Meet the people who have

My ex is one of my closest friends. We split seven years ago after a two-year relationship, but we, and our families, are still close. She even organised my last birthday party. And it seems I’m not alone – everywhere you look, from Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s “conscious uncoupling” to Prince Andrew and Fergie’s rumoured cohabitation and “friends with benefits” situation, to actor Michael Sheen’s ex Kate Beckinsale comforting him through his latest breakup, people who were once romantically involved have renegotiated their relationships and become friends instead.

No one pretends it’s easy. “A breakup can be worse than a bereavement,” says Miles Pulver, a relationship therapist. “When someone has died, they are gone for ever, whereas with an ex they’re still alive and may be with someone else. You have to grieve the loss and watch them move on without you.” Perhaps this is why, he says, so many people are determined to remain friends. “We have an attachment system within us which means we need to stay close to people and resist unbonding.” In my case, that resistance involved a bereavement (of my mother), a conscious unbonding (six months of my ex travelling abroad) and certainly no “benefits” – except the occasional family dinner. It’s a situation that still confounds our mutual friends, with reactions ranging from envy to disbelief, but it works for us.

Read the feature in the Guardian.

[This piece was published on 16/04/19]