Can ex's just be friends ?
I don't think it's as simple as yes or no. It's more complex than that. It's a matter of personal choice and self control. And even then, sometimes that's not enough to keep it "just friends." I guess for me, it's best if I don't bother. Someone always gets angry, things get heated and we end up never talking again. Super.
The thing that's hardest, for anyone, is going back to the way things were before one fell in love with the other. What makes matters worse, is when one is still in love while the other is not. It's not as straight forward as pretending nothing ever happened. Or is it ? I think there is a way, if you're willing to try your hardest.
If the conditions on being "just friends" are based on going back to the way things were before, then something drastic must happen. For things to truly go back to the way they were before, you have to start over again. From scratch. Forget you were ever together in the first place, forget the memories of being together, forget that you know them anymore than a stranger. Introduce yourself and build a new friendship. You can't go forward holding onto the past.
How else are you meant to be friends with someone after a relationship ? Pretending it's all okay when it's not ? Real life situations do not go away by ignoring them. You can't ignore jealousy, grudges or lies. It's impossible for a couple to revert back to being friends without severing all relationship ties. You must realise that you cannot say, act or feel the same way as you did before. If you do, then you're just as you were in your relationship. That's not friendship.
If you bring up an old memory, where something happened to both of you, a peculiar thing happens. Those emotions attached to those memories make themselves noted. You feel what you felt back then. That's why memories are the way they are. And then what do you do ? You feel worthless and numb. Because you don't have that anymore. Because it's over. Because now you're just friends. A vicious cycle begins of self loathing and lack of confidence. You start distancing yourself and soon enough realise that you "can't do this because it's too hard." Then any hope of friendship is lost, you don't talk or see each other, and you secretly begin to hate them.
Make it easy on yourself. If you know you can't let go of the past, then don't bother having a future involving them. Don't do the, "I can't live without you, I need you in my life somehow," bullshit. It's pointless. It's not going to make someone fall in love with you again. It's not going to make things okay between the two of you. If anything, it'll make things worse. The moment they let you down and things get tough, you're going to blame them and wish you never tried being friends. And what are you going to do if they start seeing someone new ? Swallow your pride and suck it up ? Bullshit. You feel like crap and that you never meant anything to them. You feel like you weren't good enough for them.
Jealousy sets in. Now you're doomed. An ex does not get jealous the same way a friend does. A friend does not think the other person is any more or less attractive than themselves. A friend does not think the other person is a whore, tramp, or slut compared to themselves. A friend does not instantly dislike the other person just because they're now involved with your new "friend" and you're not. A friend understands the situation and deals with it. If it pisses them off, a friend will talk about it, not assume everything. An ex does all of the above. Why ? Emotional attachments.
You can't expect to keep all the benefits of a relationship without the relationship itself. Set yourself against all the other failures. Start over fresh. Get to know each other again. Create new memories, as friends. Enjoy the simplicity of friendship. Accept that you're no longer the most important person in their world. Accept that you're now on the same level as everyone else.
"There is an important difference between love and friendship. While the former delights in extremes and opposites, the latter demands equality."