Hard, not impossible
The first challenge for you - since you were not the one who ended the relationship - is getting to a point of acceptance. Now, I don't mean understanding - which is intellectual. In my experience, until I've gotten to a place of real acceptance, I couldn't be friends. It was too painful. You know you haven't emotionally accepted the break-up if you're still asking "Why or why now?" and thinking about "it would have been great, if only..."
So, assuming you can garner some measure of acceptance, my view on staying friends has been very, very simple. I hold on to the simple idea that - "I loved this person before the breakup and breaking up doesn't change that one bit."
The hard part is allowing that love to transition from romantic to platonic in its expression. Every instance I can think of where I haven't been able to stay friends with a partner it was because one of us refused to let the expression of love to make that important transition.
A current partner of mine says this really well. She told me early on: "I make commitments to people, not relationships." I find that achingly beautiful. What she means by that is that she is committed to making those transitions you have to make when the relationship with someone else changes form (whether she desires the change or not).
I find that I have to heavily monitor my behavior in the early stages of a transition to make sure I'm not giving the impression that I'm trying to drag the relationship back to the way it was. You also have to find ways to not burden them with the guilt of your pain. Your pain is inevitable; it is real. But, if you want to remain close with them, then you have to find someone else to comfort you.
Lastly, don't be afraid to give it some time. You have to give each other enough space so that you can make a break, start a transition, and rebond... It helps when you have mutual interests that you can stay connected around. Much harder to rebond/re-connect without that base to go back to.
That's what I've distilled from my experience. Still friends with - most notably - my high school sweetheart, my college sweetheart (former fiance), and my "ex-wife" (still married but permanently separated).
Male, Straight, Poly
“Instead of getting better and better at avoiding, learn to accept the present moment as if you had invited it. And work with it instead of against it. And making it your ally rather than your enemy.”
Last edited by MindfulAgony; 03-06-2011 at 07:19 PM.
Reason: grammar + bolding "L's" words