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F ew relationship questions are as polarizing as whether or not you should stay friends with an ex. Anecdotal evidence feeds arguments on both sides — but what do the experts say? Under no circumstances should a relationship that was abusive, manipulative or toxic transition into a friendship, Sussman says.
One studyfor example, found that friendships between exes were more likely to have negative qualities, and less likely to have positive ones, than cross-sex platonic friendships. That may be especially true if you were never friends before you dated, Sussman says. Sussman also says there are potential downsides to staying friendly with an ex.
Are you giving the new relationship a [fair] chance to really flourish or blossom? Ashley Brett, a psychology researcher in her late 20s who asked to use a pseudonym to protect her identityknows that struggle well.
What to do if you're in a relationship & still thinking about your ex
After breaking up with her boyfriend of about a year and a half, Brett stayed friends with him — and fell into an on-again, off-again relationship that lasted for more than five years. Brett adds that repeatedly falling back on friendship allowed her to numb some of the pain of each breakup — which may seem like a good strategy, but can actually prevent future growth.
The lines are murkier for couples without children, but Sussman says those who dated when they were young, were friends first, dated casually or were together only for a short time are good candidates for friendship. Robin Zabiegalski, a year-old writer who lives in Vermont, is a notable counterexample.
The research supports that notion. Studies suggest that couples who remain in contact for the same reasons — whether those are pragmatic or sentimental — are more likely to have successful friendships, while staying in touch because of unresolved romantic desires is a predictor of negative outcomes.
If you decide to try a friendship with an ex, Sussman suggests taking a break first.
A lot of insight can come with time and space apart. That goes for social media as well as in-person interactions. Above all, regularly reassess how the friendship makes you feel, and be honest with yourself.
Hilarious ex quotes about ex-boyfriends and ex-best friends
Write to Jamie Ducharme at jamie. Here's What Experts Say. By Jamie Ducharme. Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team.
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