Remaining friends with your ex might seem like a harmless idea. But according to experts, your best bet for a good future involves leaving them out of it.
Ending a relationship can prove to be extremely difficult, and if that includes staying friends with your ex, is it healthy?
Here’s what the experts say:
New York City-based psychotherapist and author of The Breakup Bible, Rachel Sussman, advises being careful when it comes to staying friends with an ex, but there are couples who can make it work. Ultimately, she notes, “it’s an individual determination.”
There are, however, some guidelines exes should follow after separating, Sussman says.
If your relationship ended due to lost passion, or you felt like you’re becoming non-romantic roommates, you’ve got a good shot a healthy friendship, says Sussman. But if you broke up because of constant arguing, or one of you felt the other was too immature or too much of a flirt, or betrayal played a role in your split, Sussman adds that “the same problem that broke you up is going to leak into the friendship.” In that case, you may have to turn around and walk away.
But even if your relationship was generally in good condition and simply didn’t work out, you might want to think twice before becoming buddies. A 2000 study, for example, concluded that friendships between exes are more likely to have negative than positive qualities than cross-sex platonic friendships.
According to relationship expert Lindsay Kriger, the transition from relationship to friendship can carry all kinds of unwanted dangers that can lead to more pain. “Let’s be friends” might sound like a good idea, but it can be much harder to pull off in reality.
Kriger says “What it doesn’t mean is ‘Let’s have a completely platonic relationship in which we ignore the feelings we had for one another, even the ones we still have.’”
Well, staying friends in real life might not be a great idea, but there’s probably nothing wrong with staying friends on social media. Right?
Kriger believes the best thing to do after ending a relationship is to cut all connections in order to give yourself the full chance to find happiness elsewhere. That could mean deleting their number, and even blocking them on Facebook.
The most common reason why exes want to stay friends (here’s where things can get messy)
In a recent study by The Oakland University and The University of South Carolina, psychologists asked more than 860 people about their reasons for staying friends with their ex-partners.
While most people wanted to stay in a friendly relationship with their exes for sentimental reasons or trust, those who scored high for the psychological “dark triad” of personal traits – were driven by practicality and access to sex in the future.
For men, practicality and sexual access were rated as slightly more important than for women, on average. This was expected based on classical drivers for opposite-sex friendships.
In the journal for Personality and Individual Differences, Justin K Mogilski (University of South Carolina) and Lisa L M Welling (Oakland University) explain: “Men rated sexual access higher on importance than women did, which is consistent with other research showing that men are more likely than women to form [cross sex friendships] due to sexual attraction.”
In an interview for Broadly, narcissism expert Dr. Tony Ferretti said he agreed with the conclusions of the study, and added that narcissists and other dark personalities often valued relationships in terms of self-interest.
Such individuals, he explained, “may stay connected to [to exes in order to] have access to valuable resources. They also have inside information about their exes vulnerabilities and weaknesses that they can exploit and manipulate which gives them a sense of power and control.”
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