Science Explains Why Narcissists Stay Friends With Their Exes

Narcissism is dope, but is it preventing closure with your ex?

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Image via Complex Original
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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 Mailreports.

The research team's inspiration for searching out a connection with self-absorption and BFF exes stemmed from the findings of previous studies, which have repeatedly shown that those with such traits often make friends for purely "strategic" reasons. The Oakland study found a similar correlation.  People who landed high scores for narcissism, for example, were found to be more likely to choose "practicality and the chance of hooking up" as reasons for prolonging a seemingly dead romantic union.

"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."

So if you're not collecting friends and exes like you're building some kind of army whose sole purpose is to make you feel awesome all the time, are you even really a narcissist? By Psychology Today's best estimations, narcissists are generally seen as "physically attractive and charming at first glance," which gives them a social advantage at first. However, as the realities of the narcissist's personality starts to become clear, potential partners and friends often find it difficult to maintain these relationships without extreme efforts.

"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 toldBroadly 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:


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.

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