Why It's Better If Your Partner Is Friends With Their Ex
Before my current man, I had two long-term relationships that both ended in a similar fashion: we promised we’d stay friends, and we did, but as soon as the new woman came into the picture I was cut, just like that.
Phrases like ‘it’s inappropriate’ were thrown around, suddenly I felt I was ‘the bad guy’ and was shown the door.
It hurt like hell -- in both instances -- the first because it was my first love and it was an especially harsh lesson to learn, and the second because we have a child together and it puts a huge strain on co-parenting. Many people told me it was understandable because you can’t be friends with your ex.
I thought I must be some weird version of female because even to this day I cannot understand how it is someone can go from being the most important person in your life to being nothing. It makes no sense to me at all.
So when I sought out my next man, one of my tick boxes included if he was still friends with his ex. I rationalised it by saying that if I was going to invest in someone new, I wanted to know that the connection would -- at the very least -- result in a friendship, especially since he would be bonding with my daughter. I wanted to know he was capable of still respecting me and caring about me even if it didn’t work out.
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But I was taken aback when the new man I was especially excited about after seven years of being single explained that not only was he friends with his ex, but after two years of being broken up, she had just moved into his share-house because she needed a place to stay. Suddenly I was second-guessing my theories.
Psychologist and Couple and Family Therapist Sian Khuman says in some circumstances people are able to uphold their friendship while other times it can be best to cut ties.
“Once people enter a relationship they build emotional bonds. When the relationship ends it is important that each individual has time to let go of these bonds to be able to move into a new space without the other person,” she said.
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People around me were telling me it was a red flag. I resisted the urge to view it as such and to be just another insecure women. If I didn’t like how I was cut out in my past relationships -- it was inexcusable if I acted out in the same way, especially when life can deliver a plethora of things one could be insecure and jealous about. Unless I was going to lock him in a box, what was the point?
Sian believes you shouldn’t necessarily be worried if your partner is friends with their ex.
“It is important that you gain an understanding of the type of friendship your partner and ex have. If the friendship is not a positive relationship or they still emotionally depend on each other, then you both need to look compassionately and authentically at what the friendship is, and if it will compromise the intimate relationship both of you want.
"Jealousy can be a big factor in asking to cut ties. But to do this without properly talking together about it can lead to disagreements, distancing and upsets rather than discussions and problem solving.”
While it was difficult to navigate (I’m not going to lie!), the truth was it also gave me comfort that he still cared for his ex. I was more willing to open up. It helped us build trust and understanding. And two years on, he is still friends with his ex and I am more comfortable with it.
Sian agrees that trust and communication is essential in a relationship and there will always be hurdles in trying to build this.
“Discuss together in a neutral and compassionate way what the friendship is and how each person feels about it. Discuss how to manage if there are concerns about the friendship. It may not be a problem as the relationship is now a friendship.
"It may be uncomfortable for the person and hard not to react first up. It is best to assess and see how the relationship is, how they are with each other and how inclusive they are of you and ensure the primary relationship comes first.”
Koraly Dimitriadis is a freelance writer and the author of Love and F—k Poems and Just Give Me The Pills.