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BellaOnline's Marriage Editor

Being Friends with the Ex

We live in a contemporary, evolved society where men and women can maintain platonic friendships without raising any eyebrows and rumors; and the new rage is to have opposite sex friendships “with benefits” which means sexual perks with no committed relationship strings attached. So why is it difficult to accept when a divorced couple wants to maintain close friendships with each other after marrying new mates?

There are benefits of a good ex relationship. The obvious reason to stay on good terms with your ex is to share parenting duties and provide a sense of stability for your children. The dissolution of a family is hard on kids whether or not the parents get along. But they suffer more when their parents dislike each other. Getting along with the ex softens the blow for the kids as they navigate new living arrangements.

Has he truly moved on?
But if your husband still keeps in close touch with his ex, it makes you wonder if he’s moved on or if he still has feelings for her. Is there a risk of him hooking up with her again? After all, he’s seen her naked, maybe even given her children. They shared intimacies that are reserved for married couples. To me, it’s a matter of territory. Insecurity. Maybe even a bit of the green-eyed monster.

He’s with you now
What helps is to remind yourself that they divorced. If they wanted to be together, they would be. He’s with you now by choice. Make his time with you satisfying so he’ll never look back. Unfortunately, the occasional slip-up and sleeping with the ex does occur. So here are some red flags to look for:

1. Private conversations. If they have nothing to hide, they should not need to hold private, hushed discussions.
2. Constant text messaging and emailing. Communication should have a purpose that involves children or tying up joint business, not personal matters. That includes complaining about the new spouses, work stress or family troubles. Once there is a remarriage, an ex is no longer considered an acceptable sounding board or shoulder to cry on.
3. Running to her aid. She needs to find another white horse. This one is taken. It’s good to help others and be of service, but your husband should help little old ladies, not former lovers.
4. Time alone. Having an occasional lunch with the ex is fine as long as they no longer share any feelings of attraction for each other but there is no reason to spend time alone together. Regrets, guilt, longing, intimacy, ties…all emotions that can tip the scale of prudence in a fleeting moment of weakness and nostalgia. And somehow it just doesn’t seem like infidelity when you’re sleeping with someone to whom you were married.

Men often like to be the hero, and they can’t turn down a damsel in distress—even if she dumped him years ago. If your husband insists on maintaining a close friendship with his ex, have a frank discussion with him about his feelings for her. Are there residual or unresolved feelings? Does he need to be reminded about why they broke up? Is he running to her side out of unnecessary guilt? Together, come up with acceptable boundaries for her. And shore up your own marriage. It’s the best insurance against outside threats of any kind.

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