YouGov reveals how Britons navigate the dangerous waters of break-ups
The ending of relationships can be an emotional minefield for all parties involved. Should you stay friends with your ex? Do you have to give back any presents they gave you? Can your family and friends stay friends with your ex, even if you’re broken up? A new YouGov poll shows how Britons feel about ‘ex etiquette’.
Just 8% of Britons with ex-partners are friends with all their exes
Among all Britons with an ex-partner, just 8% are friends with all of their exes, and half (51%) are not friends with any of their previous partners. Around a third (37%) say they are friends with one or some, but not others.
Men are more likely than women to say they are friends with at least one of their ex partners, by 51% to 40%. More than half of women (56%) say they are not friends with any of their exes, compared to 45% of men.
Britons are split on whether they would prefer to remain friends with an ex-partner
When relationships end with no significant wrongdoing by either party, Britons with an ex tend to prefer to remain friends – as long as they were the ones to end the relationship.
A little less than half (44%) of Britons with an ex would prefer to remain friends if they themselves had ended the relationship, with three in 10 (31%) saying they would prefer not to be and 24% unsure.
However, if a partner ended a relationship with them, Britons are split – a third (36%) of those with an ex-partner would prefer to remain friends with someone who split up with them, while four in 10 (40%) would prefer not to be friends and 23% who don’t know.
Would you be comfortable with a partner of yours being friends with an ex?
If someone remains friends with their ex, is there a possibility that the sparks will be rekindled? If you’re in a relationship, should you be worried if your partner is close with an ex?
The majority of the British public would be comfortable with a partner of theirs being on good terms (62%) or speaking terms (66%) with an ex. However, they are split on whether they would be happy with a partner being friends with an ex (40% comfortable, 44% uncomfortable) and would not be happy with a partner of theirs being best friends with their ex (21% comfortable, 61% uncomfortable).
In general, men are more likely to say they would be comfortable than women with a partner of theirs being best friends with an ex (26% vs 17%), although this difference is not seen in friends, good terms or speaking terms. Seven in 10 (69%) women would be uncomfortable with their partner being best friends with an ex, compared to half (52%) of men.
When relationships end, what do Britons normally do – and what do they expect their friends and family to do?
The ending of a relationship, particularly a long-term one, is not just the breaking up of two people, it represents the unwinding of two lives. Do you unfollow your ex on social media, return their possessions or otherwise purge their existence from your home, wardrobe and online presence?
More than half (57%) of Britons with an ex-partner do have some things that they would normally do following the end of a relationship. By far the most common choice after splitting up with a partner is returning any possessions of theirs (40%) – but just 6% would throw away any presents their ex bought them over the course of a relationship.
One in five (20%) Britons with an ex would unfollow their partner on social media if the relationship ended, while 16% would delete their ex’s contact details in their phone, 15% would update their relationship status and 14% would delete all photos of them and their ex-partner. One in nine (11%) Britons with an ex would go on the rebound – having a brief, normally sexual, fling with someone else to get over their broken heart.
Men and women deal with relationships ending differently. Men are more likely than women to say they would have a rebound after a relationship, by 14% to 8%, while women are more likely than men to unfollow their ex on social media (24% to 16%) and return their ex’s possessions (44% to 35%).
A third of Britons with an ex-partner (34%) say they wouldn’t do anything in particular after a relationship ends, and most (55%) say they wouldn’t have any expectations for how their friends and family should act when they go through a break-up.
Of the third (35%) who say they would expect their friends and family to change their behaviour after they go through a breakup, by far the most common choice was a quarter (25%) of those with an ex-partner saying they would expect their friends and family not to spend time with their ex. In addition, 15% would expect their loved ones not to speak to their ex-partner any more and 13% say their family and friends should return any of their ex’s possessions.
A digital age requires a digital breakup, and if your friends and family follow your ex on social media, it’s possible that you might be subject to unwelcome updates from their life without you. However, just one in 10 (10%) of Britons with an ex-partner would expect their nearest and dearest to unfollow their ex on social media.
Hostile break-ups: how should you act around the ex-partner of a close friend or family member, if the breakup was unfriendly?
How would you act if you saw the former partner of a close friend, or family member, and you knew they’d had an acrimonious break-up? Does loyalty compel you to be unfriendly to that person?
British politeness wins out in this case, it appears. Two-thirds of the British public (64%) would be civil, but not friendly, to the former partner of someone close to them if the break-up between those two people was a hostile one. One in 10 (10%) would be friendly, and just 7% would be openly unfriendly.
The numbers are almost identical for how Britons would expect their friends and family to act if they ran into someone with whom they’d had a hostile break-up, with 61% expecting civility, but not friendliness, 11% saying they would want their loved ones to be friendly to their ex and 7% unfriendly.
See full results here