The Science of Staying Friends with an Ex
Is it really possible to stay friends with an ex? Research suggests about 60 percent of couples attempt to stay friends after breaking up, with mixed results. According to a study presented at the American Psychological Association's annual meeting, whether you’re able to stay friends or not depends on why you want to continue having a relationship.
For the study, researchers at the University of Kansas developed several questionnaires to examine reasons people might want to stay friends after ending a romantic relationship. Then they conducted experiments — one involving more than 170 women and 110 men and another involving nearly 300 women and 250 men — to determine if the technique worked.
The researchers discovered four main reasons people stay friends after breaking up: security (to retain the ex’s emotional support); practicality (financial reasons or when children are involved); civility (to avoid hurt feelings); and remaining romantic feelings. According to the researchers, reasons people choose to remain friends play an important role in determining how long the friendship will last and whether it will be positive or negative. Couples who stayed friends for “non-emotional” reasons — practicality or civility, for example — fared the best.