October 2022

Is it OK to be Friends with Your Ex?

Proceed with caution...

Maybe you've dated someone for a good chunk of time... months, years, decades. Maybe you have children with said-ex, maybe you invested in things together, like a house or a joined bank account. Or perhaps you just had a short-lived, fun, and meaningful relationship that wasn't full of commitment.

Each relationship is unique however, and there is no one-size-fits-all. There's things to look at such as the reason for the breakup, the opportunity of getting back together, and more.

Either way, there's often that lingering question in the back of people's minds after a break up "is it OK to be friends with my ex?". And then, when you add a new partner into the mix, it can become even more confusing. People are prone to being jealous, cautious, or suspicious when a partner stays (good) friends with their ex.

Is being friends with your ex OK? Or is it a recipe for disaster? Experts weigh in...

friends with an ex

To start answering this questions, we're going to refer to a piece called "Staying Friends with an Ex" written by Justin K. Mogilski and Lisa L.M. Welling. In this investigation, the researchers looked at how dark personality traits predicated the desire for post-relationship friendship.

A study: dark personality traits and remaining friends with an ex

Dark personality traits refer to a set of socially aversive traits such as spitefulness, greed, sadism, narcissism, psychopathy, and cunningness.

In this study, seven reasons were found as to why ex-partners decided to remain friends. The most highly rated things included believing that their ex was reliable, trustworthy, and of sentimental value. The lowest rating was due to the fact that an ex found it practical to remain friends after a breakup.

But this wasn't all that these two researchers found. They also reported that men ranked reasons related to sexual access and pragmatism as more important than did women. This, in past studies, was mostly because there may be an exchange of desirable resources such as information, money, or status. These are, of course, not very wholesome reasons to remain friends with an ex, are they?

Dark personality traits aside, it was found that those who were friends first before dating were more likely to remain friends post breakup. Whatever the reason exes remained friends though, the research shows that ex-romantic partners who scored low on friendship quality had high levels of romantic desirability.

friends with my ex

Moving swiftly along, let's look at the question more objectionably. That is, without the prerequisites of having dark personality traits and/or being friends first. Let's look at the advise from Isadora Alman, a board-certified sex, marriage, and family therapist.

Is it ok to be friends with your ex?

The answer will probably be unsatisfactory, and it is: it depends.

Because no two couples are the same, there isn't a clear cut answer to this question. If you experienced a toxic relationship, one where you felt angry, used, betrayed, or jilted, then it's probably not the best idea to stay friends with your ex. Maybe over time, this could change, but it's more so advised to not be friends after your relationship.

The same goes with someone who might be feeling guilty for being the one to end the relationship. They may feel bad about it and try to remain friends in attempt to remove the guilt. But none of these are good ingredients for a friendship.

On the other hand, there are other reasons for people to break up. Maybe it was a mutual break up. Or perhaps you two had invested a lot of time, emotions, and love into each other, meeting each other's families, sharing friends, or even owning a pet together.

In this case, it's hard to simply let someone go. And for many people, it's almost impossible to say goodbye and not look back. In this case, the reasons above warrant some form of friendship or communication. Even a simple email or text once in a while to to say hi, or an "I'm thinking of you," could be great, as it shows that you two really did mean something to each other.

But then of course there's the topic of finding a new partner. When you're in a relationship, do you remain friends with your ex? Well, this one is debatable too.

friends with ex boyfriend

Should you be friends with an ex when you're in a new relationship?

If one or both ex partners have moved on, have found someone new in their life, is their room for an ex? Well, it also depends on the dynamic of your relationship. If a new partner feels anger or jealousy, or feels as though being friends with an ex is causing tension within a relationship, decisions have to be made.

Do you stop being friends with your ex (for a period of time, or forever), do you break up with your partner because they do not want you to be friends with your ex? Or can you carefully nurture both your relationship and your friendship in such a way that everyone can be sociable.

Basically, anything is possible in human relationships, depending on the wants and abilities for everyone involved. If you have the ability to remain friends with an ex in a healthy way that doesn't hurt anyone, then this is the best outcome. But, it is entirely dependent on the situation you find yourself in. It's impossible to give one piece of advise on this questions, because of the diversity of people and their emotions.

friends with ex girlfriend

Let's look at it from a different perspective, shall we? Some professionals say that being friends with an ex is possible, but there's a catch...

What's the catch when it comes to being friends with your ex?

The catch is that both individuals are willing to admit that they don't work together as a couple.

To maintain a healthy friendship with an ex after a relationship, you'll have "to recognise what worked about the relationship and what did not," says Dr Christine Selby, psychology professor. And just as Alman stated, Selby says that if you can see that "what brought you together was a strong friendship, then it may be possible to reestablish the relationship as a friendship provided there is a clear understanding that neither of you wants to pursue dating each other again".

This in itself is a hard thing to do. Many experience feelings of prolonged heartbreak, and some even plot or look for ways to reconcile with an ex. They may attempt reconnecting as "friends" with ulterior motives , hoping that there's a chance they can get back together. In this scenario, being friends simply wouldn't be healthy. In fact, it would exacerbate the healing process.

If you feel as though you're the type of person who takes a while to get over an ex, Dr Sherrie Campbell suggests taking "six months to a year of no contact to fully get over that person" before reevaluating the possibility of a friendship. "This way, you're through the heartbreak feelings and will be able to handle seeing your ex with another person," she continued. In this way, feelings such as jealousy could be avoided.

On the other hand, if you're not OK with seeing your ex with someone new after a year, you should probably wait until you are. This may, unfortunately, be never.

can exes be friends

If you believe that remaining friends with an ex may bring you two back together

For those who feel that being friends with an ex is a good idea as it means that there may still be a chance for you to rekindle the flame, consider the following...

You broke up with your ex for a reason

There was one or more reasons why you broke up with your ex. Whatever the reason, it must have been big enough for the relationship to end. Having said that, if you are trying to rekindle the relationship, it could emotionally dangerous. This is especially true if the break up had something to do with trust issues. Whatever the issue, do you have any solid belief or proof that these issues won't make themselves known again?

Remaining friends could put you on the back burner

To put someone on the back burner means to make them a second option. By opting to remain friends with an ex, there is a chance that one of you may simply be placed on the back burner. And this is a place that can be very damaging to your self-esteem. Today, having second, or even third or forth options, is even more prevalent with modern technology, dating apps etc. You deserve to be number one.

Boundaries are important

Maybe you're inching your way to a friendship with your ex without consciously knowing that you're trying to see if you can patch things up. But remember, clinging to the past is probably not the wisest move. Your heart is fragile, so always remember to proceed with caution. Having said that, if you do want to pursue a friendship, and only a friendship, with your ex, boundaries are especially important. For example, you could agree only to talk to each other via social media, or to hang out once a month. Whatever is the healthiest and most positive outcome for both you.

We hope you have a bit of clarity when it comes to remaining friends with an ex. It's fair to say however that there is no right or wrong answer, and with clarity and honesty, you'll know what is best for you.

Aphrodite Agency