Is It OK To Stay Friends With Exes On Facebook?

by Natalia Lusinski

It starts with a few Facebook likes (the new way to flirt these days). Then, it escalates to comments. Then, private messages. Then, an invitation to “hang out” sometime. Soon, we are dating someone — and all via Facebook. But, what happens when we break up? Is simply deleting someone the best, most effective way to move on and remove them from our lives? Or do we stay Facebook friends with an ex?

With exes, I usually warn them before pressing “delete.” Yes, he broke my heart. Yes, we had a history together. But, now, I need to move on. Plus, I don’t want to be tempted to Facebook-stalk him. (You know what I’m talking about!) Sometimes, a year or two later, I’ll run into said ex, we’ll be cordial, we’ll both have new boyfriends and girlfriends, and I’ll re-friend him—time has passed and the timing’s better to be friends, with no emotional strings attached on either end. (I think it takes about a year of no communication before you can return to any communication.)

“Facebook is linked to a 20 percent divorce rate in the U.S. alone and 70 percent of people stalk their exes on social media,” said Dr. Suzana E. Flores, clinical psychologist and author of the best-selling Facehooked: How Facebook Affects Our Emotions, Relationships, and Our Lives .

I only keep Facebook friends whom I can genuinely call on as a friend—to meet up, call to help ease my pain (or theirs) after a breakup, have fun with. Otherwise, what’s the point of remaining Facebook friends with an ex? To get back together? I mean, were you ever truly friends with them? (I doubt it, not in the true sense of friends.) All in all, I think it depends on your definition of “friend” and that remaining friends with exes on Facebook is a case-by-case basis.

Some easy ways to decide whether to delete an ex:

  • If I think the person still has feelings for me, DELETE.
  • If I still have feelings for them, DELETE.
  • If the breakup was recent (hence, recently physically and/or emotionally intimate), DELETE.
  • If they Facebook stalk me (lots of comments and likes and/or not-nice comments), DELETE.
  • If they are not respectful of my new relationship (bitter and/or defensive comments or messages), DELETE.
  • If we are not truly friends (do we ever hang out offline, on the phone, or in person?), DELETE.
  • If I want space, DELETE.
  • If I want to move on, DELETE.
  • If I want to heal, DELETE.
  • If I don’t want them to know my every move, DELETE.
  • If I don’t want to know theirs, either, DELETE.

Hence, in all of the above, I think it’s time to electronically say goodbye (since we’d already said goodbye in person).

Do exes have a place among our Facebook friends? And, if so, what does that mean? What is appropriate (no engagement or commenting—or some)? Recently, we asked Bustle readers to chime in on this controversial paradox and here’s what they had to say when asked: “Do you stay Facebook friends with exes? Why or why not?”

1. Jenna, 29

“I consider myself a trusting person, but with forums like Facebook, it’s too easy to stay in touch with the wrong people. I say, when in doubt, defriend. It’s the age-old thing: Can men and women be ‘just friends,’ and I say no way! Just think—there was once romantic tension there, and that doesn’t just shut off (though I sometimes wish it did!). It’s best for everyone’s sake—yours, theirs, and the people you’re both now dating—to appreciate what you had, but move on, in person and online.”

2. AlliCat, 31

“Yes. Some of my exes are actually mature and we are still cordial enough to be happy for each other's successes in life, so we stay in touch via Facebook. We aren't close enough to chat, and we don't want to offend current partners, of course. So Facebook is transparent enough to where you can maintain control and keep down the chaos. Also, some of my exes have children that I had become acquainted with. It’s no fault of theirs that we broke up, so no need to punish or wipe the person out of their lives completely. Social media is a good platform for that, too. I'm an occasional ‘liker,’ I guess. I leave comments—again, when appropriate. [I see one ex in person and] we are actually good friends now. My fiancé doesn't fancy my exes being flirtatious on FB. If they can keep it cool, we're good. But once the comments get a little hotter than ‘friend zone’ chatter, they're gone!”

3. Dan, 27

“I think people who keep too many exes as friends usually have problems letting go. Unless you and your new girlfriend can hang out with your ex without any weirdness, then there’s your answer. Delete.”

4. Lyza, 24

“I am the owner and founder of Fabulously Single, where we turn your heartbreak over him into a FABULOUS YOU with tips and advice. I think, depending on the seriousness of the relationship, keeping an ex on social media is pointless. If it was a serious relationship—whether it ended badly or not—I think it's best to delete him or her off of all sites. Maybe even block them. FB just loves to tell you what’s going on—all you need is a couple of mutual friends. Trying to get over an ex is hard enough without ‘casually’ checking their page to see what they're doing and whom they're doing it with and vice- versa!”

5. Dr. Suzana E. Flores, clinical psychologist and author of the best-selling Facehooked

“Some people delete or block exes to avoid misunderstandings. The best way to do it is through direct and honest communication with the ex. Notify them and say something like: ‘I need you to untag and delete photos so people understand it is over between us.’ This will remove any element of drama and acknowledge that the person is no longer a part of your life—you’re just stating the facts. If it was a toxic relationship, it’s better to delete all photos and interactions. That said, others choose to keep exes as friends, as well as keep up photos of them—they’re in the past and now they’re moving forward. But, in general, other people can misinterpret them and the ex can misinterpret them, too, and think you still care about them (they could read into it). Our Facebook walls are a reflection of ourselves and our relationships as we think about what to post.”

6. Hope, 50

I was friends with my ex-husband and kept him on my Facebook for almost a year after we separated. We liked and commented on each other's posts and occasionally saw each other in person. Then he and the girl he left me for started having financial and personal issues, and the girl blamed our connection through Facebook (i.e., things she posted and tagged him in came back to bite them) and she made him block me. Subsequent to their marriage, she showed up under ‘people you may know’ and comments she made on our son's posts started showing up. So I blocked her—he never did unblock me.”

7. Elle, 33

“I'm friends with a few ex-boyfriends on Facebook. As long as there's no bad blood, I don't see why we can't remain friends. Then there's the ones that can't let go. Now that's a different story!”

8. Megan, 26

“Post-breakup, you should remove anyone you had a long-term relationship with from your Facebook friends. On one hand, if you were broken up with, it can be painful to see what they're doing without you. If you broke up with them, it can cause unnecessary drama if they can see what you're doing without them. Just save yourself the headache and unfriend. It's healthier to just cut ties with someone who is no longer a major part of your life.”

9. Courtney, 38

“I'm Facebook (and actual) friends with my last four ex-boyfriends. If I loved them at one point, I still love them on some level now and it's nice knowing what they are up to and keeping a loving space for them.”

10. Prisqua, 42

My ex-boyfriend is on my Facebook, though I am pretty sure his new wife does not know who I am. We do tag and message each other, though I am respectful and never imply we dated. But I did not delete our pictures, either, so it would be easy to put two and two together. I never added my ex-husband, but only because he can be a pain in the ass. I never deleted the picture of a guy I was dating. At some point, you were together and it is part of your life, so no reason to delete. I also have guys I went on a date with through online dating sites. I’ve never been asked to remove them or been deleted.”

11. Gina, 56

“My ex-husband and I were together for 24 years. After our divorce, I moved back to my home state. Since we had a friendly divorce, we would call each other every once in a while to see how the other was doing. I started a Facebook page, but didn't really do anything with it until he found me and friend requested me—and now we are both on it. He moved to another state and has a girlfriend and I have a boyfriend. My ex and I still message each other once in a while and even text message. I keep in touch with him and his family because we were together for so long. Neither of our significant others have a problem with it and I think he and I will always stay friends because of our long-term relationship.”

12. Christine, 32

“I'm friends with most of my exes on Facebook because I like to make sure I know what's going on in their lives—even if it kills me. I deleted one of them and I regret it. Of course, it doesn't stop me from going on his page from time to time.”

13. Maile, Early 30s

I am not a psychologist, but I do have a BA in psychology. I absolutely do not stay ‘friends’ with exes on Facebook—especially if you are moving on from a toxic or unhealthy relationship, I recommend other people do NOT, as well. Part of moving on from any relationship, especially a bad one, is not communicating anymore. Throughout my life, I've had to let go of several toxic people and relationships—they cause anxiety in one or both people. The anxiety can grow into fear, anger, humiliation, and a bunch of other unhealthy and stressful emotions. If this anxiety is only experienced by one person in the relationship, it creates a power imbalance that is very unhealthy. In my experience recently, the person used social media to ‘stalk’ me on a consistent basis, always liking and commenting inappropriately to my Facebook page. I finally realized how unhealthy this was and cut off the friendship and relationship—and this included deleting and blocking him from all social media accounts, including Facebook. Walking away and ending the friendship was painful and a difficult thing to do, but so well worth it. I am finally free from the unhealthy anxiety I was experiencing because of this person.”

Images: Pexels; Giphy

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