Should you stay friends with your ex? Here's what the British public think

·Lifestyle Writer, Yahoo Life UK
·5-min read
Two exes having coffee. (Getty Images)
It's easier to stay friends with an ex if you were the one who instigated the split (Getty Images)

Should you stay friends with your ex? A new study reveals how Britons navigate the often-confusing dos and don'ts of breakups, with just 8% of those who have an ex partner remaining friends with ALL of their ex flames.

Meanwhile, half (51%) aren't friends with any of their previous partners and around a third (37%) say they are friends with one or some, but not others.

Interestingly, men are more likely than women to say they are friends with at least one of their ex-partners (51% of men versus just 40% of women). It seems women are keener to move on when a relationship ends, as more than half of women (56%) say they aren't friends with any of their exes, compared to 45% of men.

Cheerful male and female friends enjoying champagne while talking at home during Christmas celebration
Exes are more likely to stay friends if the relationship ended amicably. (Getty Images)

Deciding whether or not to stay friends with an ex appears to depend on a few key things. When relationships end with no significant wrongdoing by either party, Britons with an ex do prefer to remain friends – IF they were the ones to end the relationship.

Just under half of respondents (44%) with an ex would opt to remain friends if they were the dumper, while three in 10 (31%) say they would prefer not to be and 24% are unsure.

In contrast, understandably, if a partner ended a relationship with them, Britons are more divided – a third (36%) of those with an ex would prefer to remain friends with someone as the dumpee, while 40% would prefer not to be friends and 23% don't know.

Another big debate – and a common source of arguments – is whether you'd be comfortable if your own partner was still friends with their ex. Or is this asking for trouble?

Research shows attitudes on this depend on just how 'friendly' they were. The majority of the British public would, in fact, be comfortable with a partner of theirs being on 'good terms' (62%) or 'speaking terms' (66%) with an ex.

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However, the waters get a little more murky if this closeness is stronger, with Brits being divided on whether they would be happy with a partner being properly 'friends' with an ex (40% were comfortable, 44% uncomfortable). Being 'best friends' with an ex is a more obvious no-no (only 21% would tolerate this and 61% would be uncomfortable).

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Close up of a female couple dealing with relationship problems
Had a bad breakup? You might want to return their belongings, but chances are you'll still hold on to any gifts bought. (Getty Images)

So in the immediate aftermath of a relationship ending, what's the normal etiquette for us Brits? The most common priority after a split is to return any of your ex's possessions (40%), although only 6% would throw away any presents their ex bought them during the relationship.

One in five (20%) would unfollow their partner on social media if the relationship ended, while 16% would delete the ex's contact details from their phone, 15% would update their relationship status and 14% would delete all photos of them and their ex-partner. Just one in nine (11%) of Brits with an ex would go on the rebound, having a brief fling with someone else to help heal the hurt.

With men and women dealing with break-ups differently, men are more likely to say they would have a rebound fling than women, by 14% to 8%, while women are more likely than men to unfollow their ex on social media (24% to 16%) and return their ex's possessions (44% to 35%).

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Shot of a young woman looking upset after a fight with her husband in the background
How would you react if you found out your partner was still friends with their ex? (Getty Images)

When a relationship ends of course the other issue is what happens to your joint social circle and shared family connections... Most (55%) say they wouldn't have any expectations for how their friends and family should act when they go through a break-up, and just one in 10 would expect their pals or loved ones to unfollow the ex on social media.

But of the third (35%) who say they would expect their friends and family to change their behaviour after their breakup, the most common choice was a quarter saying they would expect friends and family not to spend time with their ex. Plus, 15% would expect their loved ones not to speak to their ex any more.

It seems there's hope for some who want to remain friends with their ex partner – but is it really wise? (Getty Images)
It seems there's hope for some who want to remain friends with their ex partner – but is it really wise? (Getty Images)

In terms of how to act if you see an ex of a friend or family member, British politeness appears to be the stronger driving force, with two thirds of the British public (64%) saying they'd be civil – although not necessarily friendly – if the break-up between those involved was hostile. Only 10% would be actively friendly and just 7% would be actively unfriendly.

This is in line with what Brits would expect of their friends and family if the break-up was difficult, with 61% expecting them to be civil to their previous significant other, but not friendly, 11% saying they would want them to be friendly, and 7% saying they'd prefer unfriendliness.

So where do you stand on this? Are you and your partner OK with each other being friends with exes – or do you think the past is best left alone?

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