The end of a relationship can be an emotional rollercoaster, whether you've been together for six months or 20 years. Even if you instigated the breakup, navigating the aftermath isn't easy – do you want to stay friends with your ex? Or go cold turkey?
A new survey has found that the majority of respondents (69%) have stayed friends with their ex after a breakup.
Those aged between 45 and 54 were the most likely age group to keep their ex close, with three-quarters (74%) admitting that they had at least attempted to stay friends with an ex following a breakup.
The younger cohort of the 2,000 adults surveyed by sexual wellness brand Lovehoney were the least likely to stay friends with an ex, with 42% of 18 to 24-year-olds saying relations between them and an ex remain “hostile”.
Half of respondents (52%) said they wanted to stay friends with an ex because they had a friendship before becoming romantically involved.
However, three in 10 men (29%) said they wanted to stay friends with an ex because they were “sexually compatible” and wanted to try a friends-with-benefits situation.
Of the respondents who have stayed friends with an ex, 84% said they had a successful friendship – but is staying friends with an ex ever a good idea or can it hold you back in the healing process?
“There are lots of benefits to being friends with an ex-partner. In fact, it's called de-escalating the relationship,” psychotherapist Rachel Wright says.
“We tend to start any relationship as friends, even if we're dating with an intent to be in a romantic relationship: the foundation is the same – a friendship/relationship.”
Wright adds that de-escalating the relationship from a romantic or sexual relationship into a friendship can work well.
“In non-monogamy, and even more specifically polyamory, it's super-common for relationships to escalate and de-escalate – but in monogamous relationships, often, when the romantic and/or sexual piece 'ends', so does the entire relationship. It does not have to be this way,” she continues.
“However, some people find hardship in continuing to have or grow a relationship with someone they've been romantically involved with because of grief, hurt, resentment or other uncomfortable feelings.”
Wright recommends taking two months, or 60 days, after your breakup to process your feelings and to avoid speaking to each other during this time. Then, after the period of grief is over, it’s easier to have a clear head and decide what it is that you want.
For those who continue to feel hurt, pain or grief about having their ex in their life, Wright says you may want to steer clear of a further relationship with them.
“Try to think about all relationships as relationships – friendships are relationships, partners are relationships, our family members we have relationships with – a relationship isn't synonymous with romance and sex. So, you get to decide what type of relationship you have with this person and if you want them in your life, to begin with,” she explains.
“If you've tried and aren't sure, take the 60 days I recommend post-breakup again and re-assess.”
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