Befriending your ex’s new partner, while long taboo, is slowly becoming mainstream, writes Rita de Brún
Friendships are sweet. We can’t have too many of them. But while it’s common to not befriend a former love’s new partner, celebrities are making new norms.
Take Gwyneth Paltrow. The actress and founder of Goop, a lifestyle brand, is close buds with actress Dakota Johnson, who until recently was dating Paltrow’s ex-husband, Chris Martin. The trio were said to be ‘consciously throupling.’
This is a play on Gwyneth’s infamous ‘conscious uncoupling’ reference to her break-up with Martin five years ago.
But the throuple is no more: the Coldplay frontman and the star of the Fifty Shades trilogy have split up. He has been photographed around London with a mystery woman.
Model and actress Miranda Kerr also holds onto past ties.
Recent video footage shows her handing birthday gifts and flowers to Katie Perry, who’s dating her ex, Orlando Bloom.
A recent chat between broadcaster Piers Morgan and Kerry Katona revealed the former Atomic Kitten singer gets on ‘really well’ with Danielle Parkinson, the girlfriend of her ex-husband, Brian McFadden. She has that in common with Marc Anthony, who regularly hangs out with his ex-wife, Jennifer Lopez, and her partner, Alex Rodriquez.
Asked whether Irish celebrities partake in this trend, Marguerite Delaney, director of One 2 One Counselling Ireland, says they do. “I’ve counselled many of them in my 21 years of practice,” she says.
“It’s common, for practical reasons. They often socialise in the same circles and attend the same events. It makes sense for them to maintain a show of friendship and to be friendly, if they can.
“They don’t want to be seen by the press to have fallen out. Nobody wants that sort of publicity.”
She’s not talking about Khloe Kardashian, but she could be. In a blog post on her website, the Keeping Up With The Kardashians star wrote: ‘I want to feel like I can text a guy I’ve dated in the past, to see how he’s doing, without it being weird.’
She then cautioned fans to respect themselves and their emotions. ‘If it’s toxic to remain friends, you shouldn’t, and if you haven’t had closure, you can’t be friends yet,’ she wrote.
Khloe’s a wise lady, who practices what she preaches. While cautious around her cheating ex, Tristan Thompson, she’s friends with her former husband, Lamar Odom, and with her ex, hip hop artist, French Montana.
She’s even friends with her sister Kourtney’s ex, Scott Disick.
Kourtney also maintains close ties. She recently went on holiday with Disick and his new partner, Sofia Richie. Celebs aside, is it common to stay friends with an ex and their new partner, when there are no children involved?
“It’s not,” says Delaney. “Staying friends with the ex is something few people do. Even fewer befriend their new partner.”
When it happens, is it a sign of one former partner’s hankering after the other? “Not necessarily. Some say: ‘I’m friends with all my exes.’ They’re proud of that. But, sometimes, it’s not the healthiest approach to take. Yet, if you feel secure and trust your partner, you won’t mind who their friends are.” In an ideal world, friendship with an ex would always be better than animosity or a severing of ties. But, sometimes, the reason an ex continues to stay in touch is sinister.
Oakland University research, published in the academic journal ‘Personality and Individual Differences’, cites psychopathy and narcissism.
It wasn’t the staying-in-touch that revealed dark personality traits. It was the reason for doing so. Some stated bluntly that access to information, sex, and money drove their desire to stay in touch.
Essentially, they viewed former partners as potentially useful resources, worth securing for selfish reasons.
The fact that individuals who score high on psychopathy tend to have low levels of empathy, and a capacity for presenting as superficially charming, makes the finding chilling. Discussing the research, Ann Fielding, a Cork City-based clinical psychologist, agrees the chances are low that an innocent request by the partner you’re breaking up with that you ‘not be strangers’ is indicative of psychopathy.
Even so, when asked if alarm bells should ring if an ex is pushing to stay friends, she replies: “You should question why they want that.” Asked why it’s rare to stay close to former partners, she replies: “It’s because of the hurt that can linger after a break-up. Letting go can be a good way to heal old wounds.”
In 30 years of practice, psychologist Dr Gillian Moore-Groarke has encountered ‘only a few’ clients who maintained a ‘level of friendliness’ with an ex after a relationship breakdown, when there were no children involved.
“It can happen when the former couple genuinely like one another, connect on some level, and continue to get on well,” she says.
“As for befriending the ex’s new love, usually it’s not a premeditated decision.
“Sometimes, it just happens when former partners remain friends.”
While it’s not a common phenomenon in her Cork City-based practice, Dr Moore-Groarke has two personal friends who befriended the new partners of their exes. “They’re very comfortable with that,” she says. “They all get on really well. There are no trust issues. For them, it’s natural.”