Remaining friends with an ex is an idealistic pursuit, sure, but it’s completely devoid of logic. Take it from me, I was supposed to get married in October. Now, any and all contact between my ex and I is done through a lawyer, per my request. Actually, come to think of it, I’ve never remained friends with any ex ever. Though that might be more of a me-thing, I remain firm that in most circumstances, no, you absolutely, positively should not pursue any type of friendship with an ex.
Shit, friends with benefits (a topic I’ve written about extensively) is complicated enough, and that’s when neither person has promised any commitment to the other. Remember, your ex is your ex for a reason, so to think a friendship can work when a relationship cannot is misguided to say the least.
But don’t take my word for it, research has determined that on average exes tend to have lower-quality friendships than opposite-sex friends who were never romantically linked. Overall, they were less emotionally supportive, helpful, trusting and less concerned about the other’s happiness. This was especially true when the breakup wasn’t mutual. Meaning, even if you were able to maintain a friendship with an ex, it wouldn’t be a friendship worth keeping anyway, so… what’s the point?
Not to mention, research published in Personality and Individual Differences found that people who choose to remain friends with exes display “dark personality traits” including narcissism and psychopathy. Researchers found these amiable exes tend to maintain a friendship so they can prolong a sexual relationship until they’ve found something better. The study also concludes that trying to maintain a friendship with a former flame can be quite contentious, especially when each partner moves on to someone new.
According to the New York Post, similar studies have found those who score highly for these traits are also more likely to pick friends for strategic reasons and prefer short-term relationships to long-lasting bonds.
Why do people wish to remain friends with their exes in the first place? Thankfully, researchers have explored this conundrum as well. They’ve narrowed the list to six main reasons, which are: sentimentality, pragmatism, continued romantic attraction, shared resources (a pet, apartment, etc.), diminished romantic feelings and social relationship maintenance (keeping a friend group intact). Though researchers deduce remaining friends with exes is more common than most would think, they admit these relationships are more tumultuous than other friendships, with people ascribing more negative qualities to their ex than they would to the rest of their friends.
“Trying to be friends with an ex and looking for love don’t mix,” Deanna Cobden, dating and relationship coach, tells Playboy. “Spending time with someone who provides a comfort and familiarity will usually wind up keeping one of you somewhat hopeful that there’s a chance of reigniting the connection and prevent you from getting out there and taking the risks you need to find a new, more fulfilling relationship.”
Cobden asserts this strained friendship can keep you emotionally trapped and influence one to relapse into old patterns and familiar drama. She also says the connection will inevitably cause jealousy and has potential to interfere with current or future relationships.
But if you’re foolishly steadfast in maintaining a friendship, Cobden advises you first assess why you wish to remain friends. What would the benefit be? And to whom? Do one or both of you have unresolved feelings? “Usually, there’s some type of positive or negative charge between you that can interfere with efforts to happily move on,“ she offers. "If all feelings are resolved, you should still take an extended break. You need distance and space to help reset the relationship so that you can connect again on more neutral ground.” One study found that a common predictor of a post-breakup friendship was being friends beforehand as the exes were already comfortable with strictly platonic terrain.
Now, if you have absolutely no intention of maintaining a friendship, Cobden rules you cut them out of your life, whether it’s temporary or long-term. “No calling, texting, late-night booty calls or trolling their social media,” she says. “Do a full purge. Delete their number and messages from your phone and all social media. Take down photos and untag yourself in theirs.” So get to it. Snip, snip.