Ask Anna Anything: An Advice Column for College Students

As a soon-to-be graduated student of Seattle University, I have spent the last few years of college relying on the good––and the bad––advice I have received from peers, family and friends. Each week I will answer two questions submitted by readers to the best of my ability. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own.

Can I stay friends with my ex?

This is a tough question because it really depends on the before and during period of the relationship. In my own experience, it was not possible to go back to the original friendship that existed before dating. That’s for a variety of reasons—every relationship is different. You can most certainly stay friendly with an ex, and if you can end on good terms then that’s great, but that’s not the case for everyone. 

There have only been a few times where being friendly with an ex has worked out for me. For one, it was easier being friendly with each other when the relationship wasn’t too serious and/or it was a mutual decision to not stay romantically involved. It was also easier to remain on good terms when we shared all of the same friends. That way there was an incentive to be cordial and casual with each other in the company of friends. 

However, I’m not going to lie, I have had relationships that ended extremely poorly where we both continued to be in the same mutual group of friends, and it became really hard to come to terms with needing space from the person and friend group. I believe that some people are meant to cross paths and keep the course, while others veer away from one another, and that’s perfectly fine. You most certainly do not have to keep someone in your life that does not treat you the way you deserve to be treated. 

It’s also possible to have a relationship with someone that ends on not-so-great terms and reconnect later to get some closure. Now, this is a bit of fine line, as we all know what can happen when reconciling with an ex. However, I have gotten coffee with exes in the past and received the closure I needed, and it can be really helpful. 

I recommend taking time after a break-up to reflect on the relationship, and oftentimes I find the most clarity in retrospect. Sometimes those coffee dates happen months or a full year after a relationship ends. If you know you want to attempt a friendship with someone, then I do believe that could be possible. However, I would adjust your expectations because you can’t undo the past. You can’t unfeel feelings, you can’t erase memories and most importantly; you must do what is best for you in the long run. This next piece of advice isn’t easy to do, and it is most certainly cheesy, but if you follow your intuition and heart, I am confident you will find the balance of friendship or friendliness that works best for you and your past relationships.

Help! I have developed feelings for my best friend’s girlfriend, what do I do?

There is nothing more complicated than a love triangle. This situation has the potential to get really messy, but before I divulge some advice, I want to acknowledge how normal it is to develop feelings for someone you spend a lot of time with. I don’t know the specifications of this situation, but I do know how easy it is to get control of emotions. 

With that being said, I do not recommend acting upon your feelings. Take the girlfriend out of the situation—this is your best friend we’re talking about. How important is this friendship to you? If the answer is anywhere near “important,” then I would seriously consider the consequences of saying or doing something. 

If you absolutely cannot do anything to stop the emotions, then please go directly to your best friend and be honest with them. Do not go to the girlfriend and profess your feelings—that will certainly be worse. Before considering laying all of the cards on the table, I would take some space or time away from your best friend and his girlfriend. Reflect on what you’re feeling and see if space can be helpful.

Also, I know this seems obvious, but I don’t recommend making a move on the girlfriend—do not do this. Don’t find reasons to justify cheating. “Their relationship isn’t happy” or, “she was flirting back” excuses are not valid reasons to make a move. Their relationship is between them and them only. 

I know this is a difficult situation and I wish I had the right answer to make it easier. Feelings can often be impossible to simply get rid of, but I really do believe that time and space can help navigate tough feelings. 

Looking for some advice and wanting to remain anonymous? Submit a question to this form here or email [email protected] for any questions.