It’s often a natural byproduct of a romantic relationship coming apart to ask if you and your ex can still be friends.
In situations where the relationship ended amicably, or where the passion simply faded, it can provide a sense of comfort to know that the person you have dedicated so much of your time to will remain a part of your life.
But is it healthy to be friends with your ex? And is it even possible?
According to American psychotherapist and author of “The Breakup Bible” Rachel Sussman, a friendship with a former romantic partner is entirely possible – eventually.
“I’m quite suspect of those couples that break up and then tell me right away that they’re best friends,” she told Time magazine in 2018,
“Time heals. A lot of insight can come with time and space apart.”
Research suggests that former couples who form the strongest platonic relationships, are those who were, for various reasons, including sharing the same friend group and having children together, compelled to remain on good terms.
In an article published by the journal of “Personality and Individual Differences” in 2017, Justin Mogilski and Lisa Welling found both men and women rated an “equal concern” for “shared resources”, including children, to be an important factor in maintaining a positive relationship with an ex.
Another such study, lead by Rebecca Griffith and published in the “Personal Developments Journal” in 2017, backed up Mogilski and Welling’s point, finding that relationships based on “practical” reasons had a more positive outcome.
Griffiths research also found that members of the LGBTQ community were more likely to form positive friendships with ex partners than their heterosexual counterparts.
If you’re considering reaching out to an ex to build bridges, really think about why you’re doing it. If lingering feelings or attraction are a primary motivator, take a step back and reconsider- sometimes a closed door doesn’t need re-opening.
While Griffiths study found that men are more likely to develop friendships with an ex, especially those in heterosexual relationships, Mogilski and Welling found that men rated access to sex as a primary factor in continuing a friendship with an ex much higher than women.
In other words, you might be might be playing with fire trying to stay close with an ex who only wants to fuel their own desires.
Of course, not every relationship can or should become a friendship – people who left relationships because of abuse or mistreatment should never feel obliged to maintain contact with, let alone a good relationship with former partners.
In fact, researchers for Columbia University wrote in 2000, that friendships between exes were “not of a high quality” compared to platonic only friendships, and that there was a significant “cost” to those who maintained friendships with former partners.
At the end of the day, whether or not you decide to stay friends with your ex is an entirely personal decision based purely on the subjective nature of your former relationship. You are the expert on your own love life, but a bit of alone time before rushing to build friendships could mean the world of the difference, for you and your ex.