The Real Reasons Your Toxic Ex Keeps Crawling Back — According To Research

Thought Catalog
7 min readOct 29, 2019

Ever wonder why the person who mistreated you seemed to pursue you relentlessly after the relationship was over? Why your emotionally unavailable ex-partners seemed to be the most “available” after you left them?

Although people stay friends with their exes for a variety of reasons, when a toxic ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend reaches out, there’s usually something deeper going on than just “missing” their former partners. One of the biggest misconceptions people have is that if their ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend reached out, it must bebecause they truly love and miss them. They desperately want to believe in the illusion that a friendship with their ex-partner or some other dubious arrangement will fulfill their needs long-term. They may hope that this second chance provides a pathway for their ex to finally morph into the ideal partner.

While there are people who can be friends with their ex-partners (usually after they’ve taken the time to heal), when it comes to a toxic relationship where a person has continually demeaned you, the fantasy of establishing an idyllic friendship after a break-up is far from the harsh reality. After all, when someone has been a toxic relationship partner, it’s doubtful that he or she will be that great of a friend.

Reality check: Toxic ex-partners may not miss you, but they sure do miss what you provided for them.

Researchers Mogilski and Welling (2017) discovered that those who had darker personality traits (such as narcissism, duplicity and psychopathy) tended to stay friends with their exes out of convenience, sex and access to resources.

If you’re dealing with a toxic narcissistic ex, the decision to reach out is usually one driven for the need to regain control over their former partners. According to a narcissism expert:

“Narcissists hate to fail or lose, so they will do what they can to maintain some connection if they didn’t make the choice to end it…They can experience narcissistic injury when rejected by a partner and have difficulties letting it go or healing from it… they may stay connected [to exes in order to] have access to valuable resources. They also have inside information about their exes’ vulnerabilities and weaknesses



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