An expert explains why you really want to stay friends with your ex

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An expert explains why you really want to stay friends with your ex

We asked some girls if they agree

It’s 2am, you’re lying in your bed holding a half-eaten carton of Half Baked ice cream and watching Bridget Jones’ Diary for what feels like the 8,000th time. Your eyes are swollen from crying and while you’re reminiscing as to why you and what’s his face broke up in the first place you have an epiphany: He’s not gone forever. There’s still a chance. You can still be friends.

Regardless of how the relationship began or how it ended, quite often we all have this senseless motivation to remain friends with our exes.

Last week it was reported that “Narcissists and Psychopaths Love to Stay Friends with Their Exes”. The story was based on an academic study, which explored why people with “dark personality traits” (such as narcissism, duplicity, even psychopathy) maintain relationships after their expiration. I called up the researchers behind the study to ask for more detail.

Lisa Welling and Justin Mogilski conducted two studies that coincided with one another. In the first, they asked 348 people the question: “Why would you stay friends with your ex?” With hundreds of responses, Welling and Mogilski then took the answers and grouped them into the seven parent categories listed below.

  • Reliability/Sentimentality: Your ex is dependable and you had a strong relationship.
  • Pragmatism: Remaining friends with your ex because it’s practical, i.e. they have a lot of money or they were helpful in helping you reach your goals.
  • Romantic Attraction: There are still remaining romantic feelings towards your ex.
  • Children and Shared Resources: You and your ex have mutual resources.
  • Diminished Romantic Attraction: You have no problem with your previous partner but you are no longer sexually attracted to them.
  • Social Relationship Maintenance: You and your ex have mutual friends and in order to keep the dynamic of the group working you maintain a friendship.
  • Sexual Access: “Friends with Benefits,” you simply want to continue sleeping with them.
  • Welling and Mogilski then surveyed 513 people and assessed their personality traits. Following these surveys they asked the participants to rate the relevance of the parent categories. Only a very small percentage of people ranked remaining friends with their exes for narcissistic reasons.

    Welling said the reasons varied according to sex and personality, and claims that close to half of students that are college age actually engage in sex related behavior among cross-sex  friends. In their report Welling and Mogilski also explain that in many cases, ex-partners are much more likely to remain friends post break up because they had been friends before they dated.

    I decided to survey a few college-age gals and ask their opinion on why they would consider staying friends with an ex.

    Katy Bellote

    I feel like the reason people want to remain friends with their ex is that it’s so hard to go from speaking and interacting with someone every single day, to not speaking or interacting at all. It can soften the blow to still remain as (somewhat) friends.

    Sierra Knoch

    I am friends with my ex still because regardless of what happened or how we ended we were friends first and just because you end something romantically doesn’t mean you don’t still like them as people. Sometimes you just can’t be more than friends.

    Shelby Wyatt

    I’m still friends with my ex because he was one of my best friends before we dated and he still knows me better than anyone else.

    Savannah Bell

    Being friends with my exs never works out. I used to try because I was constantly in social settings with them and I don’t want to create tension. Also, I hate the idea of someone not liking me… Especially someone I used to like a lot. However, being friends with them never works. They always either constantly try to get back together, continue to play with my emotions and lead me on towards a relationship that will never happen, pretend we never even happened or just flat out hate me. We ended the relationship for a reason. If we end up being friends eventually whatever but for now I’m going to begin living my life without you.

    Montana Marilyn

    I’ve still remained friends with my ex because he’s been my support for a long time now. Coming from the same hometown and moving so far away there was no need for us to hate each other and he’s always been special to me and I think that having him in my life has been more positive and allowed us to become better friends. He knows me better than most people and I trust him for that.

    Jana Gawitt

    I think part of the reason you’d want to stay friends with your ex is to keep any mutual friendships you had so that people don’t feel like they have to take sides.