Ultimately, whether or not you want to pursue a friendship with an ex is a very personal choice—and it really can be overrated.
In a recent paper, researchers from the University of Kansas used two studies to determine why people stay friends after breaking up—and got some insight into whether or not those friendships can last.
The first study surveyed 115 men and 173 women about whether they were still friends with former romantic partners, and why. The survey provided 29 potential reasons for remaining friends, including “not wanting to lose the friendship,” “having shared memories and history,” and “wanting to be polite.” A full 59 percent of respondents said they remain friends with an ex-partner.
The researchers found there were four main reasons: security, practical reasons, civility, and unresolved romantic desires. When couples remain friends for security reasons, that typically means they don't want to lose the emotional support or advice the other offers. Practical reasons include co-parenting, relying on each other financially, or sorting out shared assets. Staying civil after a relationship ends can help people avoid unwanted confrontation or drama. And the unresolved romantic feelings...well, those speak for themselves.
For the second study, researchers polled 241 men and 293 women to see if they could predict whether a post-relationship friendship could last based on the couple's reasons for breaking up and reasons for remaining friends.
Overall, the paper says, "the friendships that transpired were neither satisfying nor altogether unsatisfying, but rather neutral." The paper concluded that staying friends due to unresolved romantic desires resulted in negative outcomes (shocker), whereas security and practical reasons had more positive outcomes. And if exes stayed chummy for practical or civility reasons, the friendship was less likely to last long term.
Ultimately, whether or not you want to pursue a friendship with an ex is a very personal choice—and it really can be overrated. But if you're tempted to stay civil or even friendly with an ex, know that research shows it's totally possible.