How To Stay Friends With An Ex Who Still Wants To Have Sex

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
My ex and I stayed friends after we broke up.  I love hanging out with him and didn't want to lose one of my closest pals, so I'm trying to make it work. It hasn't been easy, though: I'm not attracted to him and am not interested in having sex with him. Unfortunately, he feels differently. Every now and then, he'll make a move. It pisses me off, because I've been clear about my boundaries. He claims I'm sending mixed signals. I'm torn between wanting to try to make a platonic friendship work and cutting off contact completely. How can I get him to respect our new relationship and stop trying to have sex with me?

Annie Benn, Licensed Clinical Social Worker

First things first: He doesn't consider your friendship entirely platonic, as evidenced by repeatedly trying to rekindle your more-intimate past. As much as I understand the desire to keep him in your life, it seems it's too soon to try to forge this new path with him. There are too many complicated emotions running amok. And, judging from his continued desire, he's clearly not ready to be "just friends" — even if you believe you are. 
Now, this doesn’t mean that you'll never be friends, but it means you need more time. Let things settle, put some water under the bridge, and allow yourself to heal completely. You've heard it a million times, so let me make it a million and one: Your ex is your ex for a reason. You haven't explained anything about the breakup, so I'll leave that alone, but obviously there were issues that you couldn't work through. Even though you may enjoy his company and genuinely care about him as a person, you have to try to remember why you broke up. Don't let a fear of loneliness cloud your judgment.  If he still has strong feelings for you, it's unrealistic to ask him to set those aside and simply carry on a platonic friendship. The right thing to do is cut off one-on-one contact with him for now. You may not realize it, especially since you say you don't care for him in that way, but you may unknowingly be trying to keep him on the back burner as a fall-back option. Don't be that person.  I totally understand wanting him in your life: You’re close, you have history, and he gets you. Sustaining that bond is easy and feels natural, but it doesn't make it okay. Take my advice and act like the exes you are. Cutting off these one-on-one hangouts won't be easy, but it's the only way.

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