When it comes to staying friends with an ex, there has always been a generational split between my mother and I. "Why carry that dead weight around with you?" she'd ask, as I'd torturously cultivate relationships with an ex's new girlfriend or help another one through a painful breakup over Gchat. "What's in all of this for you?" she'd say, as I'd stubbornly refuse to view losing touch as anything but a failure. After all, friendship was the consolation prize for suffering through a breakup. It might not have worked out, but I still win! I'm not bitter, I'm chill! Well, about that...
To hell with being chill if it comes at the price of putting yourself last. Yes, there are some exes who grow into BFFs and make beautiful music together. But then, there's the rest of 'em. After befriending enough exes, I came to the bittersweet conclusion that letting people go can feel freeing as f*ck. For the toxic couplings that leave you emotionally and physically desiccated, often the only true respite is cutting ties and not looking back. Defriend, delete, disappear.
Here are five reasons not to stay friends with an ex. But first, check out the latest episode of Bustle's Sex and Relationships podcast, I Want It That Way:
1. It Can Be Difficult To Build A Platonic Friendship
In an ideal world, you'd break up, cry, hug it out, meet up for drinks the next week, and then have each other's backs for eternity. That's not usually the case, found one study, which suggested that on the average, friends who had once been romantically involved tended to have lower quality friendships than friends with a platonic history. But hey, nobody's here to stop you from trying to beat those odds!
2. It Can Cause Conflict With Your Next Relationship
Non-monogamous folks are usually more equipped to deal with their partner(s) maintaining a variety of emotional attachments, but for the more traditional types, having an ex as a friend can be a dealbreaker, or at least might cause some unnecessary friction between you and your new boo.
3. It Can Be Really Triggering
I know from experience that staying friends with an ex who really hurt you can feel safe in a weird way. Holding onto that thread means you didn't let them have the last laugh, and that you can still process the trauma through your new friendship, somehow. On the other hand, the absolute last thing someone who experienced manipulation, gaslighting, and all the attendant horrors of an abusive relationship needs is their ex hanging around to trigger those experiences for a second, third or twentieth time. And that's a great reason to cut that person out of your life altogether. Your metal health will thank you.
4. It Can Be Unnecessarily Tempting
Think of an ex from a particularly bad relationship like a food you discover you're newly allergic to. Would you really want to keep said food in plain sight, just out of arms reach? Wouldn't that make you want to have another taste — just a quick one — even if you know you'll end up suffering the painful consequences all over again? Just some food for thought...
5. It Can Be A Huge Waste Of Time
Given all the processing and healing and talking and growing and hanging and abstaining that comes with befriending an ex — and especially a toxic AF one — how much time will you have to actually move on with your life if they're still in it? A recent study found that those with the "dark triad" (aka highly devious and manipulative) personality traits might be more likely to try to keep a relationship going, so, remember that fact the next time your not-so-savory ex tries to stoke the fires of friendship.
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