Being a narcissist is exhausting. Not only is the classic narcissist generally tasked with a never-ending marathon of confidence-boosting commitments—from publicly declared delusions of grandeur to somehow making everything about them—they're also apparently quite proficient at maintaining post-relationship contact with their exes.
Oakland University researchers Lisa Welling and Justin Mogilski wanted to get a better understanding of this phenomenon of friendship, so they gathered 861 people and polled them about their reasons for staying friends with an ex. Participants were then asked to fill out questionnaires that "gave away" so-called "dark personality traits" such as narcissism and psychopathy, the Daily Mail reports.
"Across two studies, we identified reasons for remaining friends after a break-up and outlined how the importance of these reasons varies with sex and personality," the researchers wrote. "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."
"Narcissists hate to fail or lose, so will do what they can to maintain some connection if they didn't make the choice to end it," narcissism expert Dr. Tony Ferretti told Broadly of narcissism's complicated relationship with love. "They can experience narcissistic injury when rejected by a partner and have difficulties letting it go or healing from it." Just so we're all clear here, dude is totally calling narcissists a bunch of sore losers. Ouch.
Others, like Prescriptions Without Pills author Dr. Susan Heitler, argue that post-love relationships aren't just for those with dark personalities. "While dark personalities may be some of those who stay connected with their ex, many healthier folks stay connected and actually become friendlier than pre-divorce," Dr. Heitler told Complex. Dr. Heitler also offered some examples of her own, showing that staying friends with an ex isn't necessarily an indicator of narcissism:
- Clara (names changed for confidentiality reasons), stayed connected with her ex because, now that she no longer needed to share a home where she would be at the mercy of his unpredictable anger outbursts, she could enjoy his public social personality.
- Julia stayed connected for altruistic reasons. She genuinely still cared for her ex, knew he was painfully shy, and wanted to be able to continue to be a positive person in his world even though as marriage partners their levels of social confidence had been too asymmetrical to sustain a viable marriage.
- Ed sustained a friendly relationship with his ex because, now that her spending sprees would not jeopardize his financial situation, he could enjoy loving her without financial fears.
But don't sweat all of this too hard. Narcissism levels usually start to drop off dramatically by the time age 30 starts knocking at your door, which is really just a nice way of saying your ego will live to be approximately 30 years old.