Can My Ex and I Still Be (Only) Friends?

Dr. Deb would love to answer your burning relationship questions.

Today’s Advice Highlights:

  • Dr. Deb’s take on one of the most hotly contested issues in relationships.
  • The devil is in the details: being honest about reasons for maintaining friendship with an ex.
  • How asking the right questions is as important as the answer.
Dear Dr. Deb,

What’s your take on staying friends with exes?

My first love and I dated all through high school and college until we finally made it official and got married. We had been inseparable, and there was no doubt that we were best friends. Eventually, time led us to change in different ways, and by year ten, we finally made the decision to go our separate ways. And although the divorce was an unavoidably painful process, we managed to remain amicable with each other.

We’re each in our own new partners these days, but to me, she will always be one of my best friends and confidants. So much so that we still get together for coffee every few months.

Lately, my current partner is feeling uncomfortable and threatened by my regular coffee date with my ex. In my view, my ex and I are just being friendly, but she thinks there is more to it than that. I can’t seem to reassure her otherwise.

Dr. Deb, is my partner being too demanding or is she right that I should stop meeting up with my ex? Why does it seem that staying friends with exes always makes the current partner feel insecure? I’d like to think that if the situations were reversed, I wouldn’t want my partner to cut off such an important relationship.

I hope you can give me advice on how to finally resolve this situation and stop the exhausting back and forth with my partner.

Ex Aficionado

From The Desk of Dr.Deb

Dear Ex Aficionado,

As with many relationship dilemmas, my take on the situation is: it depends. There’s no definite standard you can use to justify whether you should continue seeing your ex or end it to make your current partner feel reassured.

It’s definitely possible for ex-spouses to stay friends (especially if they are co-parents), but what’s a good arrangement for other exes may not be the right you and your ex.

Breaking up is hard to do. So hard, in fact, that we might have a difficult time completely ending the relationship.

Ultimately, the full answer to your question may depend on your answer to this one: why do you want to remain close with your ex?

You mentioned in your letter that you don’t understand why this arrangement bothers your new partner. As far as you’re concerned, you and your ex have moved on from the relationship and you both accept and support each other dating others.

But there are other important details to consider. You didn’t mention how much time, if any, had passed before you and your ex decided to remain in contact after the divorce. Have you considered if the friendship affected your post-divorce healing process? It’s worth asking if  you’re maintaining the connection to “soften the blow” or avoid making a clean break. If that’s the case, friendship and healing are not always compatible.

What do you and your ex talk about over coffee? Does your closeness with your ex hinder your emotional bonding with your new partner?

Your partner’s insecurity or jealousy are reactions to be expected when faced with such closeness between exes. The resolution to this depends on what you and your partner decide together – especially when it comes to establishing boundaries that’s fair to you both. The relationship you have with your partner now is what’s most important, after all.

Dr. Deb

< It’s a Relationship, Not a DIY Project

The Look of Love: Staying in Love Through the Physical Changes >

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