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If Your Ex Wants To Stay Friends With You, They’re Probably a Psychopath, Science Says

People are always going to have strong opinions about life, especially the portion of it that determines whether you can or cannot stay friends with one of your exes (or not!). Maybe you lean towards the optimistic side of the spectrum and are eager to be friends soon after your vicious breakup, or maybe you think that the breakup was the ceremony before a lifelong goodbye. While either decision in no way reveals inarguable secrets about your mental state, new research has suggested that wanting to remain friends with an ex could possibly correlate with psychopathy (1, 2).

Are You Still Friends With Your Ex?

Generally speaking, a psychopath is someone sinister with many dark personality traits, including narcissism, sadism, and Machiavellianism (2). These kinds of people only want to remain friends with you in order to gain access to things in life that they want, such as money, sex, attention, or certain information (1). While many of us fall somewhere along this spectrum of selfishness, the thing that sets a psychopath apart from the rest of us is an enate lack of empathy for other human beings (2).

What Is A Psychopath?

A psychopath has no sympathy for other people and everything they do is out of an effort to gain more for themselves (2). This study that suggests people who wish to remain friends with their exes, performed by researchers at Oakland University, examined 861 subjects and their relationship history in order to gain their possible conclusions (2). According to research, “Individuals who score higher on measures of dark personality tend to choose friends for strategic purposes. Thus, it is likely that these traits will be associated with valuing friendships for utilitarian or instrumental reasons, such as to maintain sexual access” (3).

Those who had the darkest personality traits were far more likely to report that they remained in contact with their list of former lovers, and while this information isn’t overly alarming on its own, the reasons they have for keeping up the contact was somewhat concerning (2). Having their exes in their lives still allowed them to still have access to certain pleasures in life such as information, money, and even sex (2)! Since psychopaths are able to be extraordinarily charming people who tend to be interesting and attractive to people – especially their “victims” – it can be difficult for a person, or ex, to completely let them go (2). This situation becomes increasingly harder when the psychopath doesn’t want to be let go and instead encourages constant communication after a break up (2).


Now, this information in no way means that every single person who breaks up with their partner and suggests that they could still remain, friends, is a narcissistic psychopath simply out for their own gains and pleasures. It’s certainly not a bad idea to proceed with caution when it comes to an ex and maintaining a friendship with them, but just because a continued friendship has been suggested does not mean a psychopath is present (4). That being said, it’s important to be on the watch for any sort of psychopathic behavior in an ex – or in any friend, for that matter. These types of friends are true friends at all and are only out for themselves when it comes to maintaining relationships (2). Just be willing to re-examine someone’s motivations when they encourage a friendship with you after a breakup and don’t be afraid to distance yourself from them if anything about it makes you uneasy (2).


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