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No, We Can't Be Friends: 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Be Friends With An Ex

Let that toxic bullshit go.

Love & Relationships

We've all been there. You meet this amazing person. Establish a solid foundation as friends. Decide to take things to the next level by becoming exclusive. Only to, sadly realize that it is no longer working, causing you to go your separate ways. And while we would all love to hold onto those feelings for a little longer, it's best to just cut the cord and move on. But what do you do with those leftover feelings? How do you move on, knowing that a central piece of your world is now gone? Or what do you do when you crave their presence?

Navigating post-relationship dynamics can be difficult. Especially if you and your person ended things on good terms. In an ideal world, you would love it if you and your now-ex could remain friends, if for nothing more than to ensure that the two of you will continue to be in each other's lives.

But the fact of the matter is that while admirable, attempting to maintain a friendship with an ex isn't always a good idea. It's OK to be friendly, but trying to stay friends with someone you once dated, mated, and/or related with can be a recipe for disaster. Causing you to not only regret staying friends but meeting them all together.

So here are five reasons why you probably shouldn't be friends with your ex.



Boundaries are number one on this list because some exes don't know them, don't respect them, and don't understand them. When ending things with an ex, someone will always have lingering feelings. They will always be waiting for you to let your guard down. They will always look for that window of opportunity to get that old thing back. Which does nothing but blur the lines. Further reminding you of why you ended things in the first place.

And sis, it's not always them who needs those boundaries enforced. Sometimes you are the one who is using "friendship" as a way to rekindle that spark. So check yourself and that person, and let that relationship go once it has run its course.

2.You're in a new relationship.

Ask yourself these questions, and be honest. Would you appreciate it your current lover was still kiki'ing with their ex? Would it be OK if they got off the phone with you to talk to someone from their lover's past? Or if you found out that they met up for coffee, tea, brunch, or an after-work happy hour? Sometimes, while remaining friends with an ex may seem innocent, it can be a sign of disrespect to the new person in your life. And it has nothing to do with jealousy or insecurities.

While cultivating something new with someone else, holding onto those feelings or bonds with your former lover can cause cracks in your foundation, making your new person question themselves and their presence in your life. Eventually, this could lead to distrust and them feeling like they have this impossible standard to reach, which isn't fair to them. So focus on what's in front of you, and leave the past right where it's at.

3.The relationship was toxic.

basketball wives GIF by VH1Giphy

It doesn't matter how many people think it is, but toxicity isn't cute. There is nothing cute, intriguing, or exciting about being in a toxic relationship, let alone maintaining a friendship with the person who may have been the source of said toxicity. And no matter how much either of you has changed, when combined, it can cause your toxic powers to activate, bringing that same toxicity that was once the cause of your breakup right back to your doorstep. Creating more problems than before. And that's not what we want for ourselves. Continue to grow, thrive, and evolve, and let that toxic bullshit go.

4.You're lonely.

While it's never a good idea to entertain anyone out of loneliness, it damn sure isn't best to maintain a friendship with your ex because you're lonely. Yes, you may not have anyone to hang out with or watch those special TV shows with. You may now find yourself going on solo dates. Or searching for someone to share those memes and inside jokes with. But it is much better to do those things alone than to call up your ex out of loneliness, which can only lead to a backpedaling disaster. Resulting in an off-and-on rollercoaster that's hard to get off.

It's OK to be lonely or to crave intimacy from someone you once had romantic dealings with, but pick up a hobby instead of picking up the phone. And if you do happen to pick up the phone, let it be to call one of your real friends, and not someone you used to sleep with.

5.Some things are better left in the past.

Meagan Good Long Time GIF by HarlemGiphy

At the end of the day, it is important to remember that the two of you broke up for a reason. Whether you both realized that you weren't good for one another, grew apart, or came to the conclusion that the relationship was just not what you had in mind, you both agreed to sever ties. But for as long as you continue to pursue a friendship with that person, you're never going to move past them and level up to your next.

At the end of the day, breakups are hard. But what's even harder is trying to hold onto something that you know you need to let go of. So, sis, do yourself and your ex a favor and bypass trying to be friends once the relationship has ended.

Just let go.

Featured image by Getty Images

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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