I've had this conversation with dozens of people over the last couple of years. The answers vary from hell no to hell yes, with a lot of gray area in between. However, people tend to have strongly held opinions on the topic, regardless of their ultimate position.
I'll provide this disclaimer: I'm in the absolutely yes camp. One of my very best friends is someone that I dated for a loooong time. The first time, we were together for a year. The second time, a very intense six months. He and I still consider each other to be one of the very few people the other truly trusts. Hell, we went into business together after the demise of the relationship the second time. I also remain close friends with several other men I have dated.
There is a time and place where it is totally appropriate and healthy and clearly, a time when it is not. Here's where it is NOT appropriate:
- There is any kind of a history of violence. That is just too complicated and in my opinion, that person needs to be as far the fuck away from you as they can be.
- One or the other (or both) of you are in a relationship and there is a major temptation to cross the boundaries of the existing relationships. That's poor form. (I don't mean slight temptation, because, well, that just happens. I'm talking major, nearly uncontrollable impulse. Don't act like you don't know what I mean.)
- One of the parties has significant, remaining not-just-friends feelings for the other. If it is you, you are signing yourself up to get your heart smashed on the sole of his shoe. If it is him and you have no intention of exploring that possibility or going back down that road, you're just being mean. Give the dude a break and keep your distance.
So how can you effectively pull off this type of relationship? It seems the bottom line is honesty... First and foremost with yourself. You need to sit yourself down and have a big old chat. Do you have an ulterior motive? Do you secretly hope that maybe, just maybe, his feelings will change? Are you going to feel like dog shit when he brings some new girl around? Do you have any kind of a sick pleasure in parading some new guy in front of him? If the answer to any of the above is yes, or a strong "I might," then knock it the fuck off. You aren't ready. Not yet, anyway. (That's the good thing about chats with yourself, they are open to revisiting.)
You should probably have at least a casual chat with him about it too. Depending on the circumstances of the break-down of the relationship, you should probably just say, "Hey is it going to be a problem if we continue to hang out?" I'm not saying that the answer you hear will necessarily be the truth, but you can pick things up from his body language, his word choice, etc. Listen to your gut on this.
You also need to set up some boundaries. I'm not saying these boundaries necessarily have to be discussed, but lay down some ground rules at least for yourself. For example, in the situation I described above regarding the guy I dated for 18 months, we do not drink together just the two of us. Ever. This is by mutual, but unspoken, agreement because it just degrades into being complicated at that point. You also need to be clear in your mind what your physical boundaries are. (I, of all people, don't care what you decide they are, but don't have one too many glasses of wine and compromise your own decisions.)
The bottom line is that we date people, hell even marry people, because we care about them, we share similar interests, and we have fun together. I am a firm believer that just because a certain type of relationship doesn't work out, doesn't mean you can't have a different kind of relationship with that person. It takes some maturity on both sides, sure, but it can certainly be done.
YES, YES, and YES!
Your rules here are dead on. I am friends with almost ALL of my exes (there are one or two notable exceptions which clearly fall in to your "don't do it" categories and I'm just fine letting those go).
Here's my thought on this: You began dating (or in my case sleeping with) someone because there was some quality or series of qualities that you liked about this person... he/she made you smile or laugh, or you were impressed with his/her work ethic or sense of adventure, or maybe the person was just crazy hot and you had absurd chemistry. Whatever. You tried it. You played. Maybe you even cried a little at the end. BUT... just because you two don't work as a couple, doesn't mean that characteristic has gone away... it just means that thing isn't enough to keep you together through the hard relationship stuff. You don't work as a couple, and that's OK. It doesn't mean you have to write the person off completely.
In theory, you only actually WORK as couple once in a lifetime... so statistically, everything else is bound to fail... but that DOES NOT mean that you fail as friends.
Generally speaking, as far as friends go, I like men better than I like women. Probably 80% of my friends are men. I've slept with a solid portion of those guys (not married etc). Sometimes the friendship came first... sometimes a friendship developed out of a one night stand or a short fling. IT doesn't matter, I still like hanging out with them. Bottom line, I LIKE having that person/those people in my life, even though that magic isn't there for us in the big picture. Honestly, I am usually REALLY happy for that ex when they find someone that they DO jive with in that way, because I know how great he is and how much he deserves someone who feels the same way about him.
Caveat though: this friends thing doesn't always come easy, and it rarely comes quickly.
How timely is this? So yesterday I had lunch with a friend and he says, "So I saw you walking with Dude in Question yesterday... Are you sure that's a good idea?" I just answered, "Sure. Why not?" His response? "He looked like he was about to rip your clothes off or at the very least, pull your hair and lick your neck." Okay, so yes, there is still chemistry. And sometimes there is chemistry that is visible to everyone, regardless of what your intentions are.