People Who Stay Friends with Their Exes Might Be Psychopaths

People Who Stay Friends with Their Exes Might Be Psychopaths

Staying friends with ex-partners is one of those things people can never seem to agree on. Even the top-level relationship experts all have different opinions, and people have just learned to do whatever suits their mental states at the time of the breakup. 

Let’s be honest. Post-romance friendships are tough to maintain and often feel too superficial. Even when it ended on a friendly note, you’d normally just want to put some distance between you and this person, otherwise, you’d have a hard time moving on. 

However, some people keep their exes as close as their new relationships, and a new study has made some shocking findings on this tendency. 

Somewhere on the psychopathy spectrum

If you are still occasionally calling up that ex, chatting with them on messenger apps, and meeting up for lunch, researchers at Oakland University believe you might be a psychopath. Sounds extreme, right? Well, as published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, they have a validated opinion about it anyway.

Despite what most people choose to believe, psychopathy is not a “yes” or “no” disorder. It occurs on a neurodevelopmental spectrum and everyone falls somewhere between the extremities. [1] According to the textbook definition, “Psychopathy, sometimes considered synonymous with sociopathy, is traditionally a personality disorder characterized by persistent antisocial behavior, impaired empathy and remorse, and bold, disinhibited, and egotistical traits.”

The major difference between established psychopaths and “other people” is the lack of empathy. Psychopaths and sociopaths are unable to feel any positive emotions and can never really love or sympathize with anyone. 

Friendly exes and psychopathy

The experts from Oakland studied 861 participants and examined their personalities with questionnaires. They retrieved detailed information about the subjects’ past and current relationships, including casual friendships. 

The researchers discovered that people who were higher up on the psychopathy and narcissism spectra were more likely to keep in touch with their exes. While this doesn’t sound too shocking, the reason behind their behavior is a whole other matter.

Psychopaths are master charmers. They make up for their lack of empathy with grandiose superficiality. People tend to get easily sucked in by this display of unnatural interest, and psychopaths always ensure to go for people who are empathetic and emotionally dependent. This is a subconscious act since most people won’t premeditate these actions. They are just doing what they believe is best for them.

 The result of these subconscious “bond collection” is that at the end of a relationship, it would be nearly impossible to let the psychopath go. They’ll stick around and continue enjoying things such as money, connections, or sex. They’ll also move on to other relationships and enjoy the same benefits from multiple people all at once.

“The thing about a [psychopaths] is they treat you or anybody as meat,” said psychologist Perpetua Neo, to Business Insider. [2]

It’s like how crocodiles store meat under a rock. Whenever they feel like it, they just take bites of this meat. Psychopaths and narcissists use people just like that, so if you’re going to keep getting connected with them, that’s when it exacerbates this trauma bond, and you find it very difficult to break away.

The Oakland study also discovered that psychopaths select their friends with the same agendas in mind. According to Dr. Neo, they’ll immediately try to normalize lying through situations to get a person used to their character.

It doesn’t apply to every ex who wants to stay friends

Studies are not all-encompassing. Not every ex who wants to stay in touch has psychopathic tendencies. While it’s heavily dependent on the circumstances surrounding your break up, some people just want to keep you in their lives. Romance may not have worked out, but there’s no harm in trying out friendship. You may just be so awesome that people do not want to lose you in their lives.

However, you need to keep your eyes and mind open.

According to Dr. Paulette Sherman, a psychologist and author of ‘Dating from the Inside Out’: “Dating is hard enough without everyone thinking that every time your ex wants to stay friends that they have psychopathic tendencies or motivations in mind. Having said this, it is an interesting finding in that it points to the intentions of some people for continuing that relationship. They may be interested in doing so for selfish motives like continuing access to sex, information, or other practical gains. They may not be thinking of the emotional impact on their ex.”

She goes on to reassure people that some exes truly have good intentions. Life is hard enough without having to constantly worry that someone is out to hurt or use you.

Dr. Sherman added: “I have seen some clients choose to stay friendly or friends with their ex for normal and even altruistic reasons. These clients want the best for their ex, they enjoy their company and know how to have clear healthy boundaries regarding being friends and not having sex or making unreasonable demands. Many times they are no longer attracted to one another, are both in other relationships, and respect those respective partners. 

“This is not always an easy thing to do but it can happen and it’s important not to think that all exes who want to stay friends have psychopathic tendencies or motivations.”


  1. Staying friends with an ex: Sex and dark personality traits predict motivations for post-relationship friendship.Science Direct. Mogilski and Welling. Retrieved August 31, 2020.
  2. If someone is friends with their exes, it could be a warning sign they’re a psychopath — here’s why.” Business Insider. Retrieved August 31, 2020.
  3. The psychopath in you.” The Guardian. Lucy Foulkes. Retrieved August 31, 2020.