Should you be friends with an ex? The question is as controversial as politics. The second it comes out of someone’s mouth there are wide eyes, dramatic inhales, eye rolls, and even gasps of horror? Excitement? One thing is for sure, even though it’s a personal decision, it seems to be easier to deal with someone that’s dead dead than with the living dead.
Let’s begin with the mature adult outlook in a painful situation. We’ve all been there and as complex as our journey through grief can be there are two possibilities for the relationship to go. Neither decision in themselves are good or bad. What we should take a good hard look at are our own honest feelings, intentions, and repercussions that come with a decision in order to set on a healthy path of healing.
By healthy path, I mean what decision makes you genuinely happy, lighter, and freer? An unhealthy decision can make you feel like an addict, experience guilt after being with the person, and cause a lot of suffering. If you do decide to befriend an ex, Dr. Oscar Flores, a psychotherapist from the Mexican Institution of Psychoanalysis, recommends you go through the stages of grieving first. There will definitely be some growing pains before you are healed enough to make a healthy decision. The seven stages of grief don’t necessarily come in a specific order as every person has their own way of processing feelings: despairing for answers, denial, bargaining, relapse, depression, anger, and acceptance. Without both parties going through the entire process, the possibility of someone still having an open emotional wound is likely and probably a bad decision for them to be friends.
If you’re contemplating the possibility of being close with your ex, you have to take into consideration if it’s a desperate attempt not to close a chapter or because you truly appreciate this person as a friend and nothing more. If your answer is the latter, you should be able to easily see them involved with someone else romantically and genuinely feel happy for them. On the other hand, if you feel intense jealousy and the need to compare yourself to their new partner it’s probably because you’re not ready or are using the “friendship” card to hide behind romantic intentions.
On that note, things can take a turn for the darker side. If your ex keeps reaching out for late-night hookups and charming their way into getting favors, they probably fall somewhere on the psychopath spectrum and are staying in contact for their own dark benefit. Researchers from Oakland University came to the conclusion that people with psychopathic tendencies stay friends with their past romantic partners after they analyzed the personality traits of 861 subjects, as well as their relationship histories. Furthermore, Psychology Today advocates not befriending past lovers because, “They are less emotionally supportive, less helpful, less trusting, and less concerned about the other person’s happiness.”
Every breakup is unique and so are the people involved. The truth is human relationships are usually complicated enough as it is, and romantic ones definitely take the cake. Be your own priority and look deep within in full honesty when you ask yourself whether to be or not to be friends with an ex.