The million-dollar question.
Science may now have the answer to this million-dollar question: can two people stay friends after a breakup?
Researchers studied a group of 18- to 30-year-old heterosexual couples for a year. They were interviewed every 4 months and assessed satisfaction, investment, commitment, and available alternatives in their relationships.
Couples that broke up after the first interview were then monitored to see how often they had contact with their ex, and how positive or negative their attitude was towards them.
According to the study, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, couples who had high levels of commitment, high satisfaction, and fewer available alternatives were most likely to remain friends with their ex.
In an interview with Mic, Kenneth Tan of Purdue University and co-author of the study, says that commitment plays a role in couples maintaining a friendship after a breakup, because commitment requires intimacy and attachment.
"However, when the romance ends, feelings of commitment do not magically disappear. Relationship partners who have grown to depend on each other to fulfill their needs may be reluctant to lose both tangible (e.g., shared friends) and intangible (e.g., emotional ties) connections that were developed over the course of the relationship," Tan says.
He also says that the existence of a friendship prior to a romantic relationship helps couples keep their friendship after a breakup.
"Previous research has found that post-breakup friendship is more likely to occur when couple members are friends before they were romantically involved," he said.
So, there's the answer: yes, people can stay friends after a breakup if there's a basis of friendship and a deep level of commitment.
If you and your partner continue your friendship and commitment to each other — before, during, and after a relationship — you're more likely to stay in each other's lives, long after you find someone else.