Some prefer keeping their exes in their lives long after the breakup to saying goodbye for good, while others see friendship as a meager consolation prize that will only serve to remind them of what they've lost. Which approach leads to less heartache? Like most matters of the heart, it depends on the relationship: According to a recent study, whether or not a couple can stay friends after breaking up might be predictable based on their interactions during and after the relationship. The study, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, surveyed people about their relationships and how they felt about their exes post-breakup.
Earlier this year, a Google Consumer Survey by Mic found that 56.5 percent of people say they stay friends with their exes, though this is counting the 14.5 percent who said they stay friends "only on social media," which... come on guys, you can be "friends" with someone you've never even met on social media. If we factor out that group, the majority of us can't or don't try to make being friends work, a decision that can result from lingering feelings, hostile breakups, or just nothing left to talk about after the relationship has ended.
So, what factors predict when friendships between exes can stand the test of time? A few auspicious signs, according to the study, are investment, satisfaction, and lack of available alternatives. However, commitment was the number-one factor predicting whether couples could transition into friends. In fact, the other factors were important largely because they correlated with commitment.
This makes intuitive sense: The more committed you are as a couple, the more committed you'll be to a friendship. Kenneth Tan, an author of the study, told Mic:
When the romance ends, feelings of commitment do not magically disappear. Relationship partners who have grown to depend on each other to fulfill their needs may be reluctant to lose both tangible (e.g., shared friends) and intangible (e.g., emotional ties) connections that were developed over the course of the relationship.
Tan added that being friends with an ex before the relationship also predicts whether the friendship will last afterward. That way, the romantic relationship is just one chapter in a longer story, so its culmination doesn't compel the couple to close the book.
A friendship can serve as a memento of an earlier time that two people treasure, and for a lucky few, it can create new, equally valuable memories. But for others, trying to dust off an old relationship only leaves it susceptible to reopened wounds, jealousy of new partners, and difficulty moving on. Perhaps that's why, at least for 14.5 percent of us, those good old times are best left memorialized on our Facebook walls.
Images: Caroline Wurtzel/Bustle; Giphy (2)