Man and woman

Staying friends with your ex doesn’t make you a psycho

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The Internet is, as usual, aflutter after some new bit of research is being touted about, claiming (apparently) that staying friends with your ex partner after a breakup is a sign of having “dark personality traits”. Obviously, reading this I immediately imagined some jilted science nerd locked away in the psychology lab bemoaning his (or her) ex partner who stayed behind for a bit of “sex with the ex” and then left again. “I’ll show you! I’ll show all of you!” imaginary science nerd shouts while waving an imaginary fist in between bouts of frantic typing. I mean, the sheer numbers of normal, well-adjusted people who stay friends with their exes would imply that psychosis is not involved.

But when I went to look at the actual website with the actual research abstract, rather than the hundreds of rehashed click and share bait articles, it turns out that you have to really bend over backwards quite a bit to get this headline out of the results.

Turns out most people stay friends with their exes because…well, they like them or they find them reliable and trustworthy. Trustworthy and reliable? Why hey, that’s kinda the way most normal people see their friends. So basically, people who stay in touch with their exes, do it because….well, they see them as friends.

In fact, the scary psycho reasons touted in the clickbait articles (i.e. staying friends because of what you can get out of it) came last in people’s stated reasons for staying friends. The only people who stayed friends with their exes so they could get laid or get some other pragmatic benefits out of it were indeed the people with dark personality traits. But aren’t those the sort of people who’d look at any friendship in such a cynical, pragmatic way?

To  put it in simple terms, all this bit of research has shown is that assholes will be assholes, while the majority of people who stay friends with their exes do it because they like them as people and trust them as friends. But that sounds somewhat less sexy than calling perfectly normal people psychos, eh?

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