Should You Be Friends With An Ex While In A Relationship? Experts Weigh In
I don't know how to be friends with anyone I've so much as kissed. OK fine, that's an exaggeration, but I wish were mature a la Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield circa awards season 2017, and I'm not. I always try to maintain a friendship, and then either A: get super sad when I realize we're not going home together (and unfollow them for self-preservation). Or B: get too friendly with said ex and slip into flirtatious territory. Even if said ex has a new boo. (Oops.) Is it right to stay friends with an ex while in a relationship?
I recently spoke to my own therapist about this, after a few flirty text interchanges with someone I used to date who is not single. She reminded me that neither of us had crossed any line, and that I didn't know what this old flame's new relationship was like. Is a vaguely flirty text an indiscretion? Eh. Is a thread of texts with someone you used to be with all that out of line? Not necessarily, especially if things ended on good terms with that person.
OK, now that I've said all of that from an adult perspective, let me be real: I'd "unfollow" the sh*t out of my boyfriend if he was texting his ex with any flirtatious regularity. I'm jealous, and it sucks, but it would make me feel incredibly insecure. As with any topic I have an emotional opinion on, I decided it would be best to speak to multiple experts to ask the question: Is it OK to be friends with an ex when you are in a new relationship? Here's what they had to say:
Probably Not, Because Three's Company
"Being friends with an ex when you are in a new relationship is not a good idea because you are trifling with three peoples' emotions, and possibly four," says Brooke Wise, dating expert and founder of Wise Matchmaking. "Some people are better left in your past, and ex-relationships tend to confuse the potential strength of a current relationship and hinder you from moving on and fully exploring the the future of this new relationship.
This makes perfect sense to me... but what if I miss the friendship my ex and I had?
Maybe, If You Are Definitely Over Your Ex
"Being platonic friends with an ex (after a bit of cooling off time) is completely fine, as long as you respect boundaries, don’t force your partner to hang out with your ex and let everyone know there’s no chance of reconciliation," says online dating expert Julie Spira. "It shows that you're the type of person who doesn’t burn bridges. "
Yup, it is pretty much never a good look to be resentful about your ex in front of a new partner. That said, I do think it's tricky to completely rule out reconciliation if you still care enough about your ex to be friends with them... or maybe I just take a really long time to get over people.
Yes, If You Can Be Honest About It
"If you and your ex can see one another without any risk of catching feelings again, I think it’s OK to be friends regardless of whether you are in a relationship or not," says certified dating coach Damona Hoffman. "Just be upfront with your new love about it."
This is a great litmus test for whether or not it is appropriate to be friends with your ex in a new relationship: Are you comfortable telling your new partner about it? Yes? OK, you're probably truly only desiring friendship with your ex. No? Yeah, you probably have some residual feelings there.
Maybe, But Don't Try To Be Friends Too Soon
"Being friends with your ex has the potential to move you away from your relationship goals," says relationship expert Dr. Susan Edelman. "Especially right after the breakup, staying away from your ex is very important to establishing new emotional boundaries. What if your new partner feels threatened by your friendship? Take an honest look at why you want to stay friends and whether it can sabotage your new relationship."
If your new partner is your priority, keep it that way. Focus on that relationship and that relationship only. Don't invite in the possibility of drama in by keeping in touch with your ex; it's not worth it. Friendship can happen later (or never).
No, It Will Get In The Way Of Your New Relationship
"Being friends with an ex during the honeymoon phase of a new relationship is very tricky," says relationship coach Fran Greene, LCSW. "If you insist on being friends with your ex, you must have a 90-day no contact rule. After that, you can resume your friendship with one other caveat: your breakup must have been mutual. If not, no renewed friendship. Remember, this is good for you and important for your new relationship!"
A second vote for waiting it out — you need not be best friends with your ex right away in order to be a confirmed adult. Yes, you had a real connection but maybe it simply wasn't meant to be forever. Taking some time away from an ex is vital to starting a new relationship.
So, in summation: Is it OK to be friends with an ex when you are in a new relationship? Yes, but only if: you've been in your new relationship for a long time, you have no feelings for your ex (NOT EVEN BABY LITTLE ONES), and you're honest with your new partner about your communication.
My own personal thoughts? Remaining friends with an ex is always going to cause some unnecessary drama in your new relaysh. I mean, your ex's body parts have been inside yours. You're not just friends. But also, you do you — only you know if you are truly ready to be friends with an ex.
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