Ending relationships is tough. If the relationship was even remotely serious, you’ve likely spent a ton of time forging a deep connection with someone, and losing that connection can be a jarring experience.
When relationships end (unless they’re particularly acrimonious or abusive), we have a natural impulse to want to keep our exes in our lives. It’s why one of the most common refrains in breakup conversations is “I hope we can still be friends”: the relationship falling apart is tough enough, and nobody wants to consider the possibility of cutting someone out of their life entirely on top of that.
But barring a very specific set of circumstances (for example, you have kids together), there’s no good reason to maintain a relationship with your exes; in fact, not cutting ties will almost always result in a whole boatload of problems down the road. Here’s why you need to cut ties with your exes.
It’s Not Emotionally Healthy
Relationships are, at their core, a deeper, more involved friendship (but that also includes sex). In a healthy relationship, you share more with your partner than you do your closest friends and your family. They’re your emotional support structure, and you’re theirs.
The reason you’re able to do that is because you’ve both entered into an agreement that that’s what you’ll do for each other – as long as the relationship lasts. Once it’s over, though, neither of you is really obligated to play that role anymore. But in a lot of cases, one person invariably tries to keep forcing the other into that emotional support role.
Eventually, the whole thing turns toxic: either you’ll wind up resenting the other person for expecting you to drop everything whenever they have a tough day, or vice versa. There’s no sense clinging onto a failed relationship just because you enjoy the support structure; if it were that strong, you’d probably still be together.
It Makes Moving On Harder
In a weird way, ending a relationship should be exciting. You slogged through an unhappy partnership for however long and gave it your best shot, but now it’s over. You should feel invigorated by it, in a sense; sure, things didn’t work out with that particular person, but you learned a lot about yourself and what you want from a relationship. So why squander that newfound knowledge on the same old person?
On top of that, moving on becomes a lot more difficult. There’s going to be a small part of you that thinks “Well, if everything goes just right, maybe we’ll give it another try soon!” Which means that you’re shooting yourself in the foot when it comes to potentially starting something new: how can a new relationship thrive when, on some level, you’re still pining for the last one? And speaking of new relationships:
It’s Not A Good Look
Aside from maybe “Yeah, I done a little time in the past,” nothing causes potential partners to back away more quickly than talking about your ex. It’s bad enough if you’re talking about them and you’re not friends – pro tip: if you find yourself still talking about your ex a lot, maybe wait a little while before rejoining the dating pool.
Talking about an ex with whom you don’t have any contact is a red flag to someone new; after all, nobody wants to start a relationship as a consolation prize. It’s a bad idea, but it’s not necessarily a dealbreaker, since almost all of us have dealt with bad breakups before and we can empathize.
But talking about an ex you still hang out with? That’s going to derail anything new from developing. Who would want to try and compete with someone with whom you share a deep connection? Nobody, that’s who. (Or, at least, nobody stable. But some folks love a challenge.)
Second-Chance Relationships Never End Well
Let’s say the stars align and you actually do get back together with your ex. I’ve got some news for you: in all likelihood, it’s going to end up the same way the first one did, only this time with a lot more bitterness. A 2012 study on “cyclical relationships” found that couples who break up and get back together are almost never happier than they would have been if they’d just moved on.
When we have second thoughts about exes, we like to pretend that it’s because we just didn’t realize how great we had it when we were with them. But the possibility of losing your soul mate isn’t really what scares us; it’s the uncertainty of what happens next. We’re wired to prefer comfortable surroundings and familiar situations over the unknown, even if those familiar situations didn’t make us very happy to begin with.
Good relationships don’t end out of nowhere, so to put it bluntly: either the reason was significant enough, or the relationship wasn’t. Maybe they were an annoying eater; maybe they forced you to watch trashy reality TV even though you hated it; maybe they didn’t share your life goals.
Once we’re removed from the relationship, we have a habit of tricking ourselves into thinking that we were just overreacting or that whatever obstacle existed can be overcome through sheer force of will. But even if the reason for the breakup seems minor in retrospect, it was still significant enough to cause a relationship-ending rift between you and your now-ex.
So the next time you find yourself tempted to maintain or reestablish contact with your ex, remember: it ended for a reason. Don’t spend time looking backwards; instead, embrace the unknown.