By Chris Seiter

Updated on February 1st, 2021

“Let’s just be friends” is one of the most dreaded text messages someone can receive from their ex after a breakup, and if you’re reading this, you probably know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of these words.

Today I’m going to dispel some myths about this post-breakup “friend zone” and make sure that you know what your ex means when he says this, and how you can use it to your advantage.

And probably the best place to start our quest for the truth is by looking at the two possible mindsets your ex may have when they drop the friend zone line on you.

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Two Things Your Ex Might Be Thinking

In my experience there are two things your ex might be thinking when they say “let’s just be friends.”

  1. They actually mean it (but only in the moment)
  2. They want to keep their romantic options open with you

Let’s take a moment and explore.

Thing # 1. They Actually Mean It But Only In The Moment

So essentially, they just really want to be friends.

They know you’ve built something together, and they want to keep in touch with you because it’s hard just to let go.

More often than not, when an ex tells you that they want to be friends with you, they really just want to remain cordial after the breakup so they can retain some semblance of a relationship with you.

Does this mean there’s no chance you’ll ever get your ex back?
Not at all.

In fact, a lot of our success stories have been in this friendzone, and they’ve managed to make the most of it and make their exes regret breaking up with them in the first place!

But I’ll dive a lot deeper into that later.

Thing # 2. They Want To Keep Their Romantic Options Open With You

This is when your ex might want a “friends with benefits” situation with you at some point down the road so they want to keep their options up.

They say they want to be friends, but they’re still doing everything as if you were still dating.

In an odd way, they’re priming and testing you to see when you’ll break that coveted line and sleep with them.

Once you sleep with them, you’ve cemented yourself in a “friends with benefits” situation, and they think you’ll do it all the time.

Simply understanding your ex’s reason for wanting to be friends doesn’t really answer the core question in your head though:

When your ex says let’s be friends, should you actually be friends with them or decline right off the bat?

Early on in my career, I made it clear that I was not a fan of becoming friends with your ex, but after seeing a few people navigate these friendships, I’ve realized that, just as with everything in life, when it comes to befriending your ex – your mileage may vary.

So, being friends with an ex can be good or bad, but as a general rule of thumb:

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Being friends with your ex is actually a good idea ONLY after you’ve done a no contact rule.

Now, if you don’t know what a no contact rule is, I have several articles, videos, and podcasts going in-depth about it, so I recommend scrolling through to read all about it.

But here’s a super-condensed version:

The no contact rule is a period (usually 21 to 45 days) when you cut off all communication with your ex.

So, it is absolutely essential to take this time of no contact to clear your head (and let your ex clear his) before you consider any kind of friendship. Now let’s suppose you’re done with the no contact rule…

Is It Possible To Get Your Ex To See You As More Of A Friend If You Purposely Friend Zone Yourself?

Whether you realize it or not, when you go through a breakup, and your ex says “let’s be friends”, they’re negotiating your status with you.

Most people see this as a negative, thinking, “Oh God, my ex looks at me as just a friend after everything we’ve been through.”

They see it as a sort of rejection, and if you’re one of those people, I’m here to tell you that you’re looking at it the wrong way.

More often than not, when you’re constantly trying to get your ex back by pushing them into a relationship, it makes them more defensive and less likely to indulge that possibility.

Taking it slow is almost always the best option for getting your ex back.

In fact, this is why I came up with the “value chain” and “value ladder” in my program.

The “let’s be friends” trick is a classic negotiation tactic where your ex lets you know that they want to stay in touch as friends.

They’re communicating that your relationship meant something to them… but not enough to be romantic anymore.

Now you might take this as a setback because you ideally want them to say, “let’s get back together,” so hearing a “let’s be friends” can be hard.

But what if you saw it as a stepping stone?

Them giving you a “no” with this gesture can open up a great conversation that allows you to work your way back to their lives in a romantic way.

Think of it like when you go to buy a new car at the dealership.

The car salesman is going to slide you an outrageous offer that’s WAY higher than what you had in mind.

What do you do next?

Say no and walk out?

Probably not…

You counter with a lower offer which they’ll counter, and then after a few times of haggling, you’ll eventually settle somewhere in the middle.

Being friends with your ex is a little like that. If you want to get out of the friend zone and be back in a relationship with your ex, you need to embrace the “No’s” your ex gives you and start seeing them what they are … opportunities.

A no is not a failure; a no can mean many things like:

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  • Wait
  • I’m not comfortable with that

So instead of taking a no at face value, you need to recognize a no for what it is… a signal to put the brakes on, a yield sign that lets you pass after slowing down as opposed to a stop sign.

Their “no” is a chance for you to start negotiating, but the first part of being a good negotiator is having leverage.

How Can You Get Leverage In Negotiating Your Friendship With Your Ex?

It often boggles my mind how little attention people pay to themselves during a breakup.

Breakups tend to bring out the worst in people as they cycle through the stages of grief and find it impossible to focus on anything else.

But consider this: what if you could use the time after a breakup to become a better version of yourself?

There’s nothing better than using that time to focus on yourself.

You can even evolve in ways that intrigue your ex and make them realize what they’re missing out on.

A helpful trick I tell my clients is that if they’re getting more attention from men or women other than their ex, it means they’re doing something right!

You’d think that the concept of working on yourself would be instinctive, but most of the time people who are going through breakups (especially if their ex broke up with them), waste hours obsessing over what their ex might be doing or thinking.

The key to winning a breakup and getting your ex back is to move past these trivial thoughts and actually evolve, so everyone (including your ex) gets drawn to you.

This just creates a circle of positivity around you that can help give you the ego boost you need after the breakup (and being friendzoned).

The biggest problem people face in this process is that they try to get their ex back before they’ve either evolved/changed in a meaningful way or before they’ve had the chance to show their ex those changes.

In purposefully being friends with your ex, you can ensure that your ex watches your evolution through their very eyes, and you can friendzone them in return to make them want you more… therefore giving you leverage.

This is your way of turning their no into a yes, turning their “I’m not comfortable being in a relationship” to “don’t you remember how good it was when we were together.”

Now, this definitely isn’t an overnight process, and you’ll probably fail more often than not. That’s because it’s designed not to be easy. If everyone could get their ex back, everyone would be doing it.

People mostly fail at this because they fail to see their value and to see the process for what it really is – an opportunity to improve your life—a chance to use this breakup to better yourself by learning from your mistakes.

Also, let’s not put men on pedestals so much because they don’t deserve to be there. You should spend the time after your breakup, making yourself your number one priority, so a man never has the power to hurt you so deeply again.

Why Being In The Friend Zone Can Work

Being in the friendzone makes your ex feel safe like they’re in control and have all the power.

By doing what they want and agreeing to be friends, you let your ex maintain this façade of power.

They slowly let their guard down, and that’s when you can do everything our program teaches you!

After all, the first step of getting your ex back is disarming their negative beliefs about you, and what better position to be in for that than being friends?


Whether your ex wants actually to be friends or they want to keep their options open to be “friends with benefits,” don’t worry about it. Being in the friendzone gets a bad rep for no reason. Its really what you make of it and if your friendzone journey can go through these steps, you’re golden:

  1. Purposefully be friendzoned
  2. Work on yourself and evolve to the point that others want you
  3. Friendzone your ex back
  4. Take him off the pedestal

This is how your ex will go from thinking he’s in control to realizing what a mistake he made.

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The friendzone gives you the perfect opportunity to gain leverage over your ex, so don’t see it as a defeat and don’t freak out if your ex wants to be friends with you.

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27 thoughts on “What Does My Ex Mean When They Say They Just Want To Be Friends”

  1. Nellie

    September 9, 2023 at 6:14 pm

    My ex husband and I had a terrible falling out. It’s been 3 months. My anxiety gets in the way and he pulls away. We have a daughter together. He meets up with me once a week and calls me almost daily to see how I’m doing and how our daughter is doing. Is it my anxiety that is the problem? Or should i engage in no contact?

    1. Coach Shaunna

      October 1, 2023 at 6:41 pm

      Hi Nellie, yes your anxiety is going to be part of the issue as you are possibly finding things that are upsetting you to cause the arguments. This does not meant that there are in no issues in your marriage. I would suggest that you get some help with your anxiety and also a couples counsellor so that you guys can work through your issues in a controlled environment with a moderator to help you communicate better without emotions taking over the situation.

  2. Ruben Castro

    February 6, 2023 at 6:34 pm

    Thank you for the valuable information!!!
    My recent wife just told me that we can be Cordial & that’s all!!!
    I’m not the victim because she asked us to work on the relationship several times & I flat out told her No!
    Since then I stopped drinking & now have some control over my insecurities.
    We still live together & share a child.
    I am hurt!!! What do I do???

    1. Coach Shaunna Nicol

      February 10, 2023 at 7:14 pm

      Hey Ruben, good for you working on yourself keep going with that self work. You are having to follow the limited no contact where you would only speak in regards to your house shared bills and your child. I would say that you need to continue to show your wife progress in yourself that you are serious about making positive changes to win her back. Do not TELL. You SHOW

  3. Marc

    January 8, 2023 at 4:35 pm

    I loved this so thank you, I’m make by the way, but found this advise to be very helpful in hope of winning my ex girlfriend back. I emotionally hurt her over a period of 18 months, even after she broke up with me, but we rained close friends, she is still hurting over the way I was with her, even after our breakup a year last September, she told me it’s friends and that’s all, but as she said she can’t tell the future with us, and that she wants action not words and to see I have finally changed for the better.

  4. Laura

    October 21, 2021 at 8:21 pm

    Ok so my ex backed off said he moved on – not a nasty split at all just the timing and I wanted too much from him – and there’s a bit If distance in our homes – I soon did a no contact – after 3 weeks I got a text – a work thing – I took as an excuse – I was friendly but cool – we since have done face time – we laugh a lot and I just know he still has feelings and regrets what he said though he hasn’t owned up to this – so I’m the one who’s stating the friends only even though he flirts outrageously and I know he would like friends with benefits – he would have to say how he feels and we agree on a relationship otherwise I keep it as is—- and keep the door open for other options for which I Told initially So in brief if an ex wants friendship only that’s fine – play along and no sex ! And make it clear they don’t have you ! Build up a trust and fun loving relationship till they step up and want a serious relationship !

  5. Lola

    June 12, 2021 at 6:07 pm

    My Ex and I dated for 7 years. Following the break-up, I begged him for another opportunity, (which was wrong). After he regretted me, I began a NC phase for 30 days. After the NC, he suggested for us to just be friends because he doesn’t want to pursue a relationship with me, due to relationship burnout. I agree, and we’ve been in contact for sometime now, which includes text messages and video calls; however, he just sees me as a friend “for now”. Last night, I texted him and told him I missed our relationship but I just got a simple, “Me too”. I’ve told him before that I don’t want to be his friend because he is sure that we might not get back together anytime soon. Should I restart another NC and hope he can see that I’m not willing to settle for anything but a relationship, or am I wrong here?

  6. Rochelle

    May 5, 2021 at 7:42 am

    So it’s been a couple months already since my breakup. My ex has decided to just be friends. I told him I wasn’t ready and maybe we can be friends in the future, but he didn’t seem all too happy with that answer. It’s been about 5 days since we’ve spoken. What should I do?

    1. EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      May 13, 2021 at 8:09 pm

      Hi Rochelle, who cares if he didnt like that answer he doesnt want a relationship with you anymore. You are allowed time to grieve that relationship and get over the break up. I would suggest that you keep to a No Contact of at least 45 days before reaching out to him.

  7. Eve

    May 1, 2021 at 6:33 pm


    Your content is so helpful but I can’t work out if I should do a NC or not – please help / advise if you can (though I know you get thousands of these comments!)

    I dated this guy for 4/5 months – but we were never in a relationship as he eventually decided he “couldn’t see a future” – he told me he still wanted to be “good friends”. I was overly emotional, foolish enough to not have boundaries, agreed, even continued sleeping with him (now stopped), and am well and truly ‘friend-zoned’ (another 4 months later.) We don’t see each other often but are in regular contact, and despite working on myself and trying to move on, I’m still in love with him.

    I can’t work out if the NC rule would apply here or not – given that so much time has passed, it would be like blanking a friend, and might seem weird or dramatic? I’m trying to be light and friendly now and give him space (definitely seems like an avoidant) – and as I say, work on myself, but I accidentally ‘skipped’ the NC which lots of your content says is a terrible idea! (SO wish I’d found you sooner.) And I’m afraid if I try to now it will backfire.

    (I don’t have much hope that I’ll ‘get him back’ – as we were never truly together – but I’m not sure I’ll forgive myself if I don’t fight a little.) X

    1. EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      May 6, 2021 at 6:34 pm

      Hi Eve, yes the NC applies here as you need to get out of that friendzone! He needs to realise that if he is not with you in a relationship then you cannot be in his life.

  8. Sarah

    September 9, 2020 at 2:00 am

    I was with my ex for only a few months. Then we started arguing and he ended the relationship saying that although we liked each other, we had different values that would prevent us from having a good relationship, but he wanted to stay friends and decided he wanted a break. During which time, his mom got sick so the timing wasn’t right and he said he can’t be in a relationship and doesn’t even know if he still felt the same way. I tried no contact for a little and he reached out and after I kept checking in because his family was going thru a hard time. Fast forward a few months and his mom passed away. What do I do now?

    1. EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      September 11, 2020 at 8:38 pm

      Hey Sarah, so you didnt follow a No Contact if you kept checking in. While his Mam has passed away. You need to send your condolences and go into another No Contact, this time not speaking with him for a solid 30 days. No checking in etc.

  9. rebecca

    August 31, 2020 at 5:44 am

    My ex and I slowly started our relationship with him friendzoning me, telling me that he didn’t want to hurt me because he knew he was a “bad boyfriend” and I was “too good” for him, but after becoming friends with benefits he finally decided to go all in and we started dating a couple months later. After 7 months of dating and saying “I’m in love with you,” he broke up with me because he was leaving town and didn’t think long distance was best for us, which I somewhat agreed with. He said he still wanted to be “best friends” with me and continues to text me like we’re friends, even though I know he’s been with other girls literally days after our breakup. I’ve been somewhat engaging in conversation because I genuinely do want to be friends and maybe get him back, even though he hurt me. If he was scared to date me in the first place because he didn’t want to lose me as a friend, wouldn’t it make him not want to get back together even more if I did the NC rule and he did “lose me as a friend” for a while? I think it would make him miss me, but be even more scared of going beyond friendship again, since he is a really logical person.

    1. EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      September 7, 2020 at 9:19 pm

      Hi Rebecca, you may find that his reaction to NC is confused / angry but it is only short term and when you start reaching out to him again he will be relieved to hear from you if he did get annoyed by your absence. Either way NC is needed if you want him back as a boyfriend

  10. Sarah

    August 18, 2020 at 10:29 pm

    I was with my ex for just a few months. Then I brought up issues. We argued for a few weeks and just when I thought we were back to normal, he ended the relationship, saying we had different perspectives and it would continue to cause problems that we weren’t good at resolving and liking each other/chemistry wasn’t enough to keep the relationship afloat. He wasn’t sure of his decision after I opened up, so he decided we should take a break for a few weeks. After which he never came to a conclusion. Just when we were about to speak about it, a family issue came up and he said that there’s potential but he can’t be in a relationship right now and he wasn’t even sure if he felt the same way anymore. But he said we should keep in touch and stay friends for now. I kept in touch for a few weeks to check in since he was going through a hard time. Then tried no contact for 21 days as recommended. After which, he reached out and we texted for a week or two. Everything seemed good. We even flirted a little. Then he stopped answering. What’s the next move? Do I move on or try no contact again? I feel like I’m on a roller coaster and waiting around for someone who isn’t even sure he wants me.

    1. EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      September 5, 2020 at 8:41 pm

      Hey Sarah, it sounds as if he got bored of conversations so yes do a short no contact and reach out again make sure you are keeping your conversations interesting and ending them at the peak.

  11. Sofia

    August 11, 2020 at 10:42 pm

    I started NC 2 weeks ago and my ex started messaging me random stuff, nothing too important but I just ignored it. So now I think he’s starting to get agitated that I’m not replying to him.
    He offered to be friend during the break up and I haven’t given my answer to that offer yet as I’ve been in NC. I’m hoping that he would start considering reconciliation during the NC but I’m afraid that if I keep ignoring his random messages, he would not reach out. Should I keep doing NC or reply to him back?

    1. EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      August 15, 2020 at 3:25 pm

      Hi Sofia, you need to do a full 30 days NC and then start reaching out with the style of texts that Chris suggests in his articles. Even if he is reaching out if it is meaningless reach outs keep ignoring him but it is a good sign that he is looking to talk to you

  12. Joanna

    August 10, 2020 at 12:16 pm

    Thanks Shauna. If he reaches out to chat or meet up should i respond or have a good solid period of NC again?
    I’ve not spoken to him since he’s said it, and I won’t reach out now but he was saying he wanted to hang out again, but just cut back on the texting everyday.

    1. EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      August 10, 2020 at 9:00 pm

      Hey Joanna, yes you go into a full NC again

  13. Joanna

    August 9, 2020 at 8:37 am

    So my ex is now saying we need to not be as close anymore Cos it’s hard for him to move on – he’s going on dates so said it referring to that.
    Should I do another no contact? It’s been like 11 months since we broke up and I followed the rules and built rapport until we got close again and met up all gradually slow over 3 months but he’s implying he needs to be less in contact again! He has no social media so I can’t use those tools.

    1. EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      August 9, 2020 at 10:24 am

      Hi Joanna, even though you did things right you do need to pull back it is not uncommon that when you get close to an ex they pull back again. Its just things began to remind him of how things used to be and he does not want that (at the moment) take some time in NC and start dating yourself. Then start reaching out again

  14. Katy

    August 7, 2020 at 1:16 pm

    When friend zoned, while following the programme and meeting up – how do you change from them seeing you as just a friend? Should i reduce my availability to him? I feel like he’s just continuing to friend zone me even though I’ve followed the programme all the way even to the meet up phase, now I’m thinking i need to readdress and make myself less available again to make him realise he misses me more intimately or should i continue to meet up with him and see if it progresses? we’ve only met up once but he was very emphatic on us just being friends

    1. EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      August 7, 2020 at 9:52 pm

      Hi Katy, when friendzoned you need to meet him in what could be romantic settings. Not immediately, just slow increase the “date” vibe. I would suggest that you show you are being approached by guys too, not so much telling him directly, more along the lines of using social media where guys would comment on your photos about how great you look and you can like their comment or acknowledge them. Also flirt a little more with your ex and then pull back (Push pull theory, there are videos and articles about this)

  15. nikki

    August 6, 2020 at 3:15 pm

    Hi I left a comment the other day, but maybe it didn’t go through because I cannot find it. I would like some insight if you might. I had been with my ex for 2 years and we just had a beautiful baby boy who will soon be 6 months old. Unfortunately, my ex walked out on us, we were arguing a lot as I was pulling him and he was pushing. He started staying out late , drinking with friends and some awkward behavior. One of his friends commented to me that he seemed interested in one of the girls who was working at the bar (to make matters worse) I was heartbroken, I later found out he was texting her. I would love for us to get our family back together, and am willing to make necessary changes for a healthy relationship. He wants to be in our sons life, but not mine. He messages me everyday asking if he slept well, how he is doing, etc etc. We have been arranging pick ups and drop off since my ex mother in law is taking care of baby while I work . Sometimes he reaches out and speaks about more than the baby, how my day is, how my dentist appointment went, if I need anything from the store. I dont want to read too much into these, but they do give me hope. Everyone is putting pressure on him to get back with me (his family and his friends) and I just dont see it happening it seems to make things worse. Will he realize this on his own? How should I go about the situation!? Thanks a lot, I am so lost with what I should do. PS. I have stopped talking about our relationship, but in the beginning when he left I would ask if he wanted to try to reconcile and he would just answer “I dont know”…. which is also confusing, told my brother maybe in the future we could get back together, also has not picked up any of his clothes from my house where he was living with me…

    1. EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      August 25, 2020 at 2:37 pm

      Hey Nikki, I’m sure I have answered your post so it should be on the website somewhere. But my advice for you would be to follow the limited no contact where you only reply about your child and if there is an emergency you need to let him know about that. Otherwise you agree dates and times that he sees the child and reply to baby is doing fine when he asks but otherwise ignore him. I would also suggest that you do not speak to his family about you and him getting back together as this is not going to help its just going to make him more set to stick to his decision to leave