6 Keys for Transitioning from Intimate Relationship to Genuine Friendship

You love each other, but it’s clear you need to break up. Something’s taking you in different directions…Should the love end just because you’re no longer ‘together’?Can you genuinely transition a long-term relationship into deep friendship? Find out the keys for keeping the love as FRIENDS.

Isik Tlabar

Can you genuinely transition a long-term relationship into deep friendship? 

It’s not usual, but I did it with my (ex) partner. We were together for just one year, though it felt like many lifetimes together. Funny how time expands and contracts like that. 

It’s a love story, though not one that you’d see in the movies. One that taught me these keys for uncoupling — through trial and error!

Our love story began in 2017. I met Aaron at a community gathering. There were no sparks, like in movies. Instead, there was a calm, loving presence. It felt nice to be around him. We saw each other again at a friend's birthday party and ended up talking together the whole evening for four hours. It was like being in a magical bubble.

From there, our relationship bloomed really quickly — our first date ended up being three days long. When we finally said goodbye, we told each other “I love you”.  

Falling (or rising!) in love was beautiful. What a lesson for us both! We were devoted to one another. 

And then, fast forward one year to where every moment we triggered each other! Like CRAZY. We held space for each other to heal it each time. This was very intense and to be honest not sustainable in the long run. Our dynamic was becoming incompatible. I was too fast for him, he was too slow for me. It seemed we’d lived the lessons we needed to as a couple. It was complete.

In the spring of 2018, we decided to consciously uncouple. This ended up being 10 months long. We wanted to be friends forever, for real. 

We made a commitment to hold each other through this separation. This would be a break up where we OPEN our hearts even more rather than closing them.

And it wasn’t a walk in the park. 

I can honestly say this uncoupling was the hardest thing I’ve gone through as it brought up so many wounds to the surface. My dad passed away the same year too. During this time, old parts of me died, especially the parts that were seeking protection and approval. In this time, I learnt to really sit with grief, sadness and loss. My emotion spectrum widened. A lot. And when I was able to feel my grief fully, I could also feel my joy fully even deeper. A sweet light at the end of the tunnel.

Through this process, I learned how to connect with my heart and my body. 

I learned how to let go of the idea of what something should look like and be open to what it might become. 

I learned, over hours spent together, the beauty of quality time as a love language.

I learned how love can be supporting your ex-partner to attract a new partner.

Want to find out the keys I discovered?

6 Keys for conscious uncoupling & transitioning to genuine friends

 These are the exact things that helped us to transition into the friendship we have today!

1. Be vulnerable and open with each other

It’s about intimacy — into-me-you-see. Be totally transparent. Hiding stuff just means it comes out later in unhelpful ways or creates barriers. If there’s something that feels off or triggering, share it. You can choose the right moment that suits you both, but don’t let it linger too long — when it feels alive, let your partner know, “Hey, I’m feeling something. When would be a good time to talk?”

2. Tell each other what you need 

Do you need a hug? Reassurance? To be told you’re loved? You can ask for that!

At some point during our breakup, we asked each other exactly what we needed to hear looking into each other’s eyes. It went something like this: 

 “Us breaking up doesn’t mean neither of us is not good enough or worthy of love, it means we’re not right for each other.”

3. Have time apart with periods of no communication

Having time apart helps in letting go of the relationship and remembering who you are without the relationship. This is an important recalibration. For us, we had a few weeks where we didn’t speak, but always reconnected and checked in how we were both doing. You can even give yourself 3-6 months of celibacy to really come back to yourself and sovereignty by resetting your emotional and energetic body.

4. We’re not right for each other — trust it and don’t look back 

This can be a hard one to accept because you still love each other. You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole. Remember that you’re breaking up for a reason and don’t keep questioning the decision or turning back. Trust that something more aligned is on its way.  Connect with your future partners’ energy and describe it for each other — this can help with letting each other go. If you’re not focusing on your vision, you can’t let the past go.

5. Don’t avoid things — resolve them

It can seem easier to sweep things under the rug or not say what is really burning inside of you. This doesn’t work if you want to have a sustainable relationship because it festers and becomes toxic. Talk about what’s coming up for you! You can take time to process things for yourself and come into emotional balance, but it’s best to talk about things when they come up.

 You can ask them, “is now a good time to chat? I have something bubbling and need to share it.”

For Aaron and I, we’d argue, talk, and eventually be vulnerable and open until we come to a resolution. At times, this happened to be inconvenient places like 2am at night or tube stations!

Maybe you want to have boundaries over when and for how long you’re sharing, but so long as you find resolution, great.

6. Create some symbol of your friendship together

 Perhaps you want to make an artwork together. Or buy matching cups that remind you of each other. Or something else that symbolises your friendship… This is a kind of line in the sand and gift to the new ‘us’ as friends.

For us, we got matching triangle tattoos on our ankles that express our friendship. We promised to treat each other how friends would treat each other during this separation, with respect, love and decency.

This is what worked for us. People — and relationships — are unique, so it’s not for everyone. Some relationships are those where you just need to leave and not look back. Some have the potential to turn into beautiful friendships. If this is something you want to create and both sides want it, it is possible with honesty, vulnerability and direct communication.

I believe true love between two people never goes away. 

It doesn’t have to, just because there was a breakup. 

It can transform into a form of love that is even deeper. He’s like a brother and a super close friend to me now. I feel deep love, appreciation and gratitude for him. 

There is no set in stone way of going about in relationships. You decide how you want to start, create and end a relationship. 

Be honest with yourself. What is your truth? Have an open, honest conversation about it and follow that.

Isik Tlabar

Isik is an Empowerment Coach & Breathwork Facilitator. Find out more about her at www.isiktlabar.com and on IG @isiktlabar.

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