So you know how you’re SUCH good buddies with your ex? It may be harmless, just two friendly people remaining friends, or, as a new study suggests, it may be that one of you is continuing the relationship for not so friendly reasons.
Psychologists at the University of Oakland studied more than 850 participants, questioning them on their relationships with their ex after a breakup, and why they remained friends, if they did. They also had subjects fill out questionnaires that gave insight into their personalities, including whether they displayed narcissistic or psychopathic traits.
Participants were asked to list reasons they kept their ex in the social circle, and then these answers were compared to the results of the personality traits. Most people listed “trust” and “sentimental attachment” as the main reasons for staying buddy buddy, but those who tested high for the “dark triad” of psychological traits—psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and narcissism—were more often motivated by practicality and sex.
Um. Wait, we’re friends with all our exes. What does that say about us!?
The study, “Staying friends with an ex: Sex and dark personality traits predict motivations for post-relationship friendship,” which was published in the journal for Personality and Individual Differences by Justin K. Mogilski and Lisa L.M. Welling, delved into the other reasons for staying friends with your partner after a breakup.
“This research builds upon literature examining CSFs and suggests that [post-relationship friendships] are functionally similar insofar as they permit continued exchange of desirable resources,” the pair wrote. Basically, we’re using each other to fill a void—for sex, conversation, or companionship—or are worried about a potentially lonely period, or dry spell that may happen in the future.
This speaks to the traits of a true psychopath, in that they are narcissistic, always putting their feelings first. If I’m lonely, I’ll need you back, but only when it works for me.
Don’t worry, being a psychopath doesn’t mean you’re a killer or anything horrible like that. Based on the current definition as outlined on Psychology Today by Dr. William Hirstein, the spectrum is broad. Psychopaths lack emotion, are irresponsible, and selfish, and the degree of each trait varies from person to person. Note it doesn’t say “Patrick Bateman” anywhere in that description.
So before you go grab lunch with your former lover, ask yourself what’s in it for both of you. It could be that one of you is a psychopath…or maybe you’re just hungry.