Being friends with an ex isn’t easy, but scientists say there are seven key reasons why we are drawn to do so.
A study – conducted by Justin Mogilski and Lisa Welling at Oakland University – recently published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences asked 348 volunteers to list as many reasons as possible for why two former partners might want to remain friends. This resulted in 153 reasons.
A second group was then enlisted to rate each reason on a scale of one to five and also completed personality questionnaires. From this researchers, were left with seven key reasons.
1. Sentimentality, eg ‘They made me a better person” or because you went through a lot together, good or bad
2. Pragmatism eg “They have a lot of money or offer transportation to certain places”
3. Continued romantic attracttion, eg still having feelings for one another
4. Children or shared resources such as a pet, property or a car
5. Diminished sexual attraction which makes it easier to have a platonic relationship
6. Social relationship maintenance, eg having friends in common and minimising drama
7. Sexual access, to keep having sex with them
The study also found that those with certain personality traits were more likely to be linked to certain categories. People who experience higher negative emotions tend to be stay friends with exes for reliability/sentimentality reasons, and continued romantic attraction. This could be because they suffer more distress during a break-up, so keeping in touch with their former partner might make them feel better. Extravert men and women were more likely to maintain a post-relationship friendship because of sex. Men are more likely than women to stay maintain a platonic relationship with an ex for this reason, too.
Unsurprisingly, in most cases, a friendship with an ex was described as more tense and fraught than those with other friends. each person ascribed more negative qualities to their ex than they did other friends. Essentially, you can stay friends with an ex, but it often comes at a price.