If you’ve told people that you’re friends with your ex-partner, chances are you’ve gotten reactions ranging from, “That’s mature,” to, “Are you sure that’s a good idea?” While many exes toe the line between rekindling an old flame and just “catching up,” these relationships are rarely healthy, and occasionally even toxic for your wellbeing.
There are plenty of reasons to cut an ex out of your life once and for all, but one sign in particular should serve as a red flag that this relationship, whatever stage it’s in, has run its course.
First of all, exes are actually toxic for your health
“If your ex is creating stress in your current relationship, because he or she is frequently calling, stopping by and inviting you to dinner ‘as friends’ because they want to stay in touch and be civilized, you’d be better off without any contact,” relationship expert April Masini said.
Keeping in touch with your ex may feel harmless, but it actually can lead to physical implications for your health. Toxic and disruptive contact with an ex-partner can make you lose sleep, cause distractions, and leave you highly anxious. High-stress situations like these can also lead you to develop cold-like symptoms.
They affect your mental state, too
Social media has created an even rockier terrain for the tough ground that is a breakup. Now that modern-day technology has afforded us the ability to follow the movements and social (media) lives of our exes 24/7, it’s harder than ever to quit an ex cold-turkey.
A study published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking found that staying Facebook friends with an ex and checking their profile can cause upsetting feelings and distress along with feelings of sexual longing and regret. “The more you can minimize exposure, the more space you have to move on,” Tara Marshall, the lead researcher of the study, told Mic.
You may be staying in contact because you have mutual friends
According to Psychology Today, research suggests that you’re more likely to stay friends with an ex if you have mutual friends or family members that are friends with them. “Staying friends with your ex for the sake of social harmony is a noble goal, but if it’s your only reason for maintaining the friendship, it can be problematic.”
There are ways to remain civil with your ex (while keeping them at bay) without compromising your mutual friendships. eHarmony offers tips on how to navigate a breakup when you and your former partner share friends. The article recommends opting out of intimate gatherings and leaving your friends out of any old relationship drama in order to cope.
Or because you hope someday, somehow they’ll change
Whether you broke up due to infidelity, differing values, or bad timing, it’s common to hold onto hope that somewhere down the line your partner or the situation will change. Staying in contact with the intention of pursuing the relationship in the future does little more than affect your present.
“…Often what keeps you coming back is the belief that you can change him … your heart is not logical, it just feels what it feels,” Christine Hassler, life coach and author of Expectation Hangover wrote for the HuffPost. “I see this pattern in my clients, my girlfriends, and have even been there myself … The only person you can change is the one reading these words right now.”
The most disturbing sign you should cut any ties? They’re holding you back in life
Lindsey Rodriguez, Ph.D., and her colleagues surveyed young adults in romantic relationships to determine how often they communicate with exes, why they maintain contact, and what that says about their current relationship. In general, those who stayed in touch with an ex tended to be less committed to their current partner than those who did not.
The study also found that the more frequent the contact with an ex, the less satisfied the participants were with their current relationship. Psychology Today found that the “grass is greener” syndrome has a similar effect. You may find yourself comparing a new relationship to an old one and romanticizing the former. This way of thinking is a trap; if the grass always seems greener on the other side, you’ll constantly project that into a new relationship.
It doesn’t have to be painful
Realizing it’s time to cut off an ex can be a long, complicated process. However, most people have significant trouble actually breaking off the ties. While a clean break is arguably the most productive way to go, it’s rarely easy. It’s important to find a way to break off contact that is good for your emotional and mental state.
Try to make a clean break from your ex so that you both have a chance to heal and avoid any drama associated with the breakup. Most relationship experts agree that implementing a no-contact rule in the wake of a painful breakup aids the recovery process for both parties involved.
Ultimately, you need to achieve closure
Closure is a tricky thing. It has no distinct lines or rules. All you can do post-breakup is attempt to create a life that doesn’t include your former partner.
There are both healthy and unhealthy ways to achieve closure. Journalist Wendy Paris, author of Splitopia: Dispatches From Today’s Good Divorce and How to Part Well, found closure has two parts; “First, accepting that your story has changed and what you had hoped for is no longer your reality, and second, creating a new vision for where you want your life to go.”
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