The Scientific Reason You and Your Ex Shouldn't 'Still Be Friends'

May 10th 2016

Staying friends with your ex may seem kinder than cutting them off entirely, but a new study just revealed that palling around with former partners isn't always in your best interest.

The study, published on April 8 in the journal Personality and Individual Differences found that subjects with "dark personality traits" and manipulative tendencies opted to stay friends with exes, but not necessarily because they valued the friendships or felt sentimentally attached to previous partners.

The reason exes wanted to stay friends.

The Oakland University psychologists who conducted the study asked 861 people to list five reasons to remain friends with an ex after a break-up, the Daily Mail reported.

While most people wanted to stay friends with exes because of sentimental attachment or trust, those who scored high for psychology's "dark triad" of personality traits — narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism were primarily driven by practicality and potential access to sex in the future.

Women were slightly less likely to stay friends with exes because it was more practical or could potentially lead to sex, the study reported. However, men were slightly more likely to value practicality and sex more than women.

"Men rated sexual access higher on importance than women did, which is consistent with other research showing that men are more likely than women to form [cross sex friendships] due to sexual attraction," study authors Justin Mogilski and Dr. Lisa Welling wrote.

Honing in on one of the "triad": Why narcissists keep in touch with their exes.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) afflicts as many as 6.2 percent of adults, according to the National Institute of Health. While "narcissism" has ostensibly become a slang term for vanity or self-obsession, narcissists are also defined by the ways they navigate relationships with other people.

In an interview with Broadly, narcissism expert Dr. Tony Ferretti said he agreed with the study's conclusions, and believed that narcissists and other dark personalities often valued relationships in terms of self-interest.

These individuals, he explained, "may stay connected to [to exes in order to] have access to valuable resources. They also have inside information about their exes vulnerabilities and weaknesses that they can exploit and manipulate which gives them a sense of power and control."

Dr. Ferretti also said that narcissistic personalities often choose not to cut ties because they hold onto feelings of rejection and struggle to accept perceived failures.

"Narcissists hate to fail or lose, so will do what they can to maintain some connection if they didn't make the choice to end it," Dr. Ferretti explained to Broadly. "They can experience narcissistic injury when rejected by a partner and have difficulties letting it go or healing from it."

But what if you don't want to stay friends with your ex?

While the study points out that "dark" personality traits may contribute to a former partner's desire to maintain a friendship, it's important to point out that you don't owe anyone an explanation in order to be granted space or privacy. In short: There's nothing wrong with a clean break.

[h/t Broadly]

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