The 10 Worst Reasons to Stay Friends With Your Ex and How It Can Get You In Trouble

friend with your ex

Letting go of a relationship is always a heartbreaking and tough thing to do, and moving on from that can be a painful journey. After the relationship is over, you might want to stay friends with your ex for obvious reasons, but that is not always the best idea. It can lead to a lot of complications, and also a lot more pain for you if you are still in love with them.

The 10 Worst Reasons To Stay Friends With Your Ex

Your ex is your ex for a reason. But he or she was also an important part of your life for a significant amount of time, and it’s understandable to want to hold onto that relationship in some capacity. Many former couples, whether dating partners or spouses, try to remain friends after a break-up, and some are able to manage this transition successfully.

“Why are old lovers able to become friends? Two reasons. They never truly loved each other, or they love each other still.” ― Whitney Otto

Research suggests, however, that on average exes tend to have lower-quality friendships than opposite-sex friends who were never romantically involved. They are less emotionally supportive, less helpful, less trusting, and less concerned about the other person’s happiness. This is especially true, not surprisingly, for former partners who were dissatisfied with the romantic relationship, and in cases when the break-up was not mutual.

The probability that a friendship with an ex will be a positive rather than painful experience depends in part on your motives, including those you’d rather not openly acknowledge.

Related: Why Having Sex With Your Ex Is A Really Bad Idea

Here Are 10 Reasons That Can Get You Into Trouble:

10. You have the same friends.

Research suggests that if your friends and family want you to stay friends with an ex, you are more likely to do so. But that doesn’t mean you have to. Staying friends with your ex for the sake of social harmony is a noble goal, but if it’s your only reason for maintaining the friendship, it can be problematic. You have a right to spend time with your friends without your ex present, and you also have a right to decline invitations to events that your ex is also attending.

Even if you are okay running into the ex from time to time, this doesn’t mean you need to be friends. It may be hard to see your ex as just another acquaintance when you have so much history together, but over time that history won’t be in the foreground anymore.

9. You feel bad for them.

If you initiated the break-up and your ex is not taking it well, the last thing you probably want to do is hurt them even more by rejecting their friendship. But it’s not your responsibility to nurse them through their heartache, and your support may actually make them feel worse. Research suggests that people like to know that support is available if they need it, but they do not like to feel needy.

At the moment, your ex may crave your comfort, but at the end of the day, your support is unlikely to help them move on if they continue to feel dependent on you. Instead of shouldering the burden yourself, make sure they are getting support from other people in their life. And if you owe them an apology, give them a genuine one, but don’t drag it out.

8. You want to keep tabs on them.

Even if you know that a relationship wasn’t meant to be, it can still be painful to think of your ex finding happiness with someone else. Staying friends may allow you to stay in the loop about their dating life and even give you some influence over it—a tempting prospect. But becoming your ex’s confidant may not benefit either of you in the long run, especially if you have mixed feelings about their efforts to move on.

Even just remaining Facebook friends can give you a window into your ex’s life, for better or worse: in a Men’s Health survey of 3,000 people, 85% admitted to checking an ex’s Facebook page, and 17% said they did it once a week. But Facebook “stalking” tends to increase anxiety and jealousy. If you have trouble resisting it, you may be better off de-friending your ex, both on and offline.

Related: What The Desire To Go Back To Your Ex Says About You

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Juliana Breines Ph.D.

Juliana Breines, Ph.D., is a social and health psychologist whose research examines how self-compassion relates to stress reactivity, behavior change, and body image. She received her Ph.D. in social-personality psychology from the University of California Berkeley in 2012, completed an NIH-funded postdoctoral fellowship in health psychology at Brandeis University, and worked for three years as an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Rhode Island. Her research has been published in a range of academic journals and featured in popular media outlets such as the New York Times, The Atlantic, and Harvard Business Review.View Author posts