I try not to get jealous in relationships. It's something that I'm actively working on. Having being cheated on in the past, I know that it's a piece of baggage I bring to new relationships that is important for me to leave behind. However, when my significant other is friends with their ex, it makes me nervous. If your girlfriend or boyfriend is friends with an ex when you're in a new relationship with them, is that a bad thing? For many, it is not. But it's important to have boundaries in place so that your past doesn't interfere with your present and make your new partner uncomfortable.
I've had two experiences with partners who were friends with their exes — one that was purely platonic and another that ended up in disaster. My boyfriend John (fake name alert) was really close with his ex, whom he had broken up with seven years prior. Their relationship ended because they realized they were more roommates than romantic partners, and they lacked sexual chemistry. In fact, she and I actually became good friends, and still are to this day. In that case, I was completely unintimidated by their relationship, mostly because they involved me in it.
I then had another boyfriend, we'll call him Jerry, who had an ex-girlfriend who was constantly calling his house at all hours of the day and night. They still shared a dog, too, which was a hellish nightmare in and of itself. It turns out she and my boyfriend (the man I thought was my boyfriend) were actually married yet going through a separation, and he hadn't decided to tell me that. I should have put the signs together, but love can be blind, right? I just assumed things get complicated when exes share a dog!
Sometimes, it's OK to be friends with an ex, even if you're in a new relationship, but sometimes, it can veer on the side of inappropriate. It all comes down to boundaries. So I asked New York-based relationship and etiquette expert and author April Masini about when your partner's friendship with their ex could jeopardize your relationship. And I could have used her advice a few years ago.
1. They Still Talk On The Phone
Is your significant other still gabbing on the phone with their ex all the time? Yeah, I wouldn't like that either. If your partner is keeping up emotional and regular communication with their ex, then that relationship might not be totally over.
"If your partner tends to make late-night calls to his or her ex, after you're asleep, it's because they have an intimate relationship that doesn't include you," says Masini. "This is a bad sign for your romantic relationship because the seeds for romance are being sown in these late-night calls with someone your ex has been in love with before. It sets the stage for romance — without you."
You should be the one your partner goes to for support, not their ex. And if they are waiting to talk to them when you're not around or they're shrouding their relationship in some sort of secrecy, then that shows even they know they're guilty of bad behavior.
2. They Share Passions Together
To put it simply, your partner's ex should not be their workout partner, movie buddy, or the person they go to sporting events with.
"If your partner loves doing something that you hate and refuse to participate in it, and he or she gets the ex to join them, you've jeopardized the relationship. For instance, if your partner loves travel, and you don't and won't, and you see him or her enjoying this passion with an ex, you've basically given that ex a tacit invitation to interfere in your relationship," Masini explains. "If your partner has a passion, get involved. If you don't, and you see his or her ex enjoying it with him or her, beware."
Don't give your significant other an opportunity to keep suspicious strings attached to his past. If you are their present and their future, then develop common interests with your partner in order to sustain the relationship.
3. They Still Have Date Nights
If your partner is still "dating" their ex, then yeahhhh, that's a no-no.
"If your partner has regular dates with an ex, and they don't start [out] seeming like dates, but eventually they do, your relationship could be coming into jeopardy," says Masini. "It's big of you to stand by when your partner has dinner with an ex 'to catch up.' Or so you tell yourself."
Of course, it's good not to act jealous, and it's important to be confident in your relationship. However, you should still be aware of when things start seeming suspicious. "When these catch up dinners and drinks become regular, and your magnanimous attitude turns green with jealousy, your ego is telling you that something is wrong," Masini continues. "And your ego would be correct. If your partner is seeing an ex regularly, it's opportunity for more, and jeopardy for your relationship."
When it comes down to being friends with your exes, it's all about boundaries. Does your partner have them? If not, it might be time to have a discussion — especially if they are sharing a dog.
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