Should you let your partner stay friends with an ex?
- It’s normal to feel a bit uneasy if your partner is still friends with their ex
- But in most circumstances, it’s nothing to worry about
- Here’s what to do if your significant other (SO) is still pally with an old flame
Exes can be touchy subjects with new partners. Even though you might not have even known your SO back when they were dating their ex, it’s sometimes hard not to feel irrationally jealous or paranoid about them.
It can be hard not to feel uneasy about your partner’s ex if they’re still firmly part of each other’s lives. But if your other half is still in regular contact with their ex, it isn’t necessarily a huge red flag. Arguably, it can be the exact opposite: “There’s nothing wrong with remaining friends with an ex under certain circumstances,” relationship expert Jonathan Bennett tells Bustle. “In fact, considering that many breakups are filled with drama and discord, remaining on friendly terms can be a sign of maturity in your partner.”
However, Bennett also raises the point that “many people remain friends with exes because they hope there will be another chance to date that person.” So, how do you determine whether your partner is secretly hoping to get back with their ex, or if they’re actually just super mature?
How long has it been since they broke up?
Time heals all wounds. If they broke up years ago, chances are the dust has settled and they’ve both moved on. As psychologist Dr. Joshua Klapow puts it, if they’ve totally redefined their relationship, you’re likely in the clear: “If they can find that new friendship, it is perfectly OK for them to be friends.”
It might be a bigger cause for concern if they’ve only recently broken up, or if their new relationship has few boundaries and the lines between friend/partner seem blurred.
Of course, there’s no hard and fast rule for how long it takes to get over someone, but if the relationship only ended a couple of weeks ago, it’s possible that either your partner or their ex – or both of them – aren’t over it. Especially if their relationship was a years-long partnership.
Were they friends before?
It’s also important to consider whether your partner and their ex were friends before they entered into a relationship. If they weren’t, it’s worth bearing in mind that your partner and their ex have only ever seen each other in a romantic light. While it’s perfectly possible to adjust to seeing someone in a platonic way, this can take a long time, and it’s likely your partner’s ex will always be at least slightly associated with romantic feelings in their mind.
However, if they did start off as friends, the fact that they’ve returned to being amicable likely signals that both of them are truly over it, given that their relationship has now returned to its ‘original state.’ Perhaps they have mutual friends, too, and have had to remain on good terms for the sake of their social circle.
“Some couples have the wisdom and common sense to realise that they are better off as friends and break up so they can remain friends,” counselor Davida Rappaport tells Bustle. “If your partner and their ex parted amicably, you have nothing to worry about and you can be reassured that you probably have an amazing partner who knows the importance of maintaining healthy relationships.”
What was their relationship like?
It’s vital to apply context to the situation. If your partner and their ex had a steady, uneventful relationship with no big bust-ups, it makes sense that they’re still in touch. “If [your partner is] still friends with an ex or has invested a lot of time in that relationship in the past, it doesn’t necessarily relate to how they feel about you,” Dr. Gwendolyn Seidman explains to Psychology Today.
However, if they had an unhealthy, intense, and volatile relationship and are still blowing up each other’s phones, that’s not a good sign.
Remaining friends with a toxic ex will only mess with your partner’s head, therapist Kimberley Hershenson tells Bustle. “This will lead to your partner not to being able to move past their baggage,” she explains.
As co-dependency is so common in toxic relationships, it may be especially hard for your partner to totally leave their ex behind. You can support them through this and encourage them to sever ties with their former partner, but ultimately, accept that you can’t ‘fix’ your partner. If it becomes apparent that your partner really isn’t over their ex, you might have to let them go, as it’s possible they’re not ready for a new relationship.
Do they have a good reason to be friends?
Maybe your partner and their ex are friends for a reason. Perhaps they’re family friends; work together; run in similar social circles; or have children together. Speaking to Bustle, Bennett says that where children are involved, your partner remaining friendly with their co-parent “can be a very positive sign that your partner puts the best interests of the child first.”
Of course, your partner might just value their ex and want to remain friends purely because they like them, and that’s fine too. But it is worth considering if your partner is really going out of their way to stay in contact with their ex, when really, there’s no real reason for them to be in touch.
Look at the friendship in context
Basically – look at the friendship in context. If your partner has always been loyal, trustworthy, and honest, there’s no reason to assume they’re hiding feelings for their ex from you.
If you’ve been betrayed in the past, it’s expected that you’ll feel apprehensive about your partner staying in contact with an ex. But don’t project your feelings onto your partner and get mad at them for something they haven’t done. Remember that your partner is their own person, and you can’t judge them based on the actions of your own previous partners.
Don’t be afraid to believe your partner if they say they’re really just friends with an ex. If you’re truly feeling uneasy about the situation, communicate that to them – but don’t force them to cut ties with their ex. Trust is one of the most fundamental parts of a relationship – without it, there’s little hope for your future as a couple.