Break-ups aren’t easy but is it a good idea to transition into friendship with an ex? A new study suggests that there is a laundry list of reasons why your ex wants to keep in touch – probably for selfish reasons.
Scientists out of Oakland University in Michigan say that while some exes keep in touch because of genuine care, others carry on as friends for “strategy” and “desirable resources” – namely money, sex and intel.
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“What this research highlights for people is that different people have different motivations for wanting to stay friends with an ex,” Justin Mogilski, study lead author and PhD candidate, told Global News.
“It’s possible that your partner could be much more manipulative than you and that’s something to look out for. You may want to stay friends to one day get back together and they might want to stay friends with you just because you’re useful to them,” he explained.
Mogilski studies psychology in romantic relationships, specifically how we mate and pick out our romantic partners. He decided to study the reasons why exes forge friendships because he noticed in his romantic life, he maintained friendships with his exes, but often for different reasons.
The study is based on the responses of 860 people who were polled about the status of their relationship with an ex. In a second survey, the study participants also had to complete questions about their own personality – this way, the researchers could categorize them as manipulative or deceptive, for example.
There are plenty of reasons why we choose to keep our exes in our lives – the poll’s responses ranged from the mushy and sentimental to the strategic and calculated, though.
The seven most common reasons identified in the study were:
Reliability was the most important reason why exes stayed friends, while pragmatism was the least popular reason. This stood out to Mogilski and his team – they’re such disparate categories.
“One was wanting to stay friends because you trust them and they were always there for you, while the other wanted to stay friends because they had a lot of money or they could fix your car. It went from how warm that first category feels to how cold the second one feels,” he said.
All of the other groups tended to be clustered in the middle when ranking importance.
There were differences in sex, too – men hung onto exes for pragmatic reasons and for access to sex more than women.
When it came to personality, Mogilski came up with some troubling findings: if your ex identified themselves as being dishonest or manipulative, they were more likely to want to stay in touch as friends for the practical reasons, such as sex, money or to get information.
His next steps are to consider how staying friends with an ex affects current relationships with a new partner. His guess is that personality plays a role in how this situation plays out, too.
© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.