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Should You Be Friends With Your Ex When You Have a Partner

Abbie Chatfield Answers the Age-Old Question: Should You Be Friends With an Ex?

Reader question: I'm in a quite new relationship, and my boyfriend has made it clear that he doesn't want my ex in my life anymore — even if we're just talking occasionally. We were together for such a long time, and, even though our relationship was toxic, we grew up together and he still feels like my best friend. What should I do?

This is SUCH a tough one, and really depends on your relationship with your ex and also with your current partner. Despite the assumption that a partner having an ex in their life is a red flag, I am a firm believer in a friendship with an ex being a positive thing that shows emotional maturity. Nobody is worse than the person who says, "ALL of my exes are crazy!" (Hellooooo? Who is the common denominator here?)

However, I don't think your boyfriend having issues with you talking to you ex automatically makes him controlling or the bad guy here. I think there are some valid reasons for your current partner to not want you to be close with your ex.

I will say though — I don't think there is any circumstance in which you should cut anyone out of your life based purely on the opinion of your partner. Take their concerns on board and ask yourself these questions.

Was my ex a positive person in my life?

Clearly the relationship ended for a reason, and rarely are our relationships purely rainbows and sunshine. But overall, was this person good for you? Were they someone who supported you, and treated you as a friend would? If they didn't during the relationship, have they taken appropriate, measurable steps to better themselves and would they be a supportive friend now? If yes, then great! You can move onto the next question — your current beau doesn't need to be concerned about that.

HOWEVER! If your ex was bad for your mental health, made you question your worth, or was, in extreme cases, controlling or abusive, analyse your desire to have this person in your life. You have said you ex was "toxic" and you don't mention of them making changes to their behaviour, just that you value your relationship with him. I have kept exes in my life for much longer than I should have because I continue to crave their approval and attention as a result of the unfulfilling relationship.

Your current partner may be concerned about your ex continuing the toxic cycle and affecting your mental health. As someone who cares for you, it is only natural that your partner would not want you to stay in any kind of relationship or friendship that doesn't serve you. If you're thinking this may be the case, take the time to really analyse your feelings and what you actually gain from this continued friendship with your ex.

Do I still have feelings for my ex?

This is the most common assumption when someone is close with their ex — "You can't let go because you're still in love with them!" It's totally possible that you still have unresolved feelings, and it's also possible that your current boyfriend is feeling jealous and threatened but has nothing to worry about. Neither of these emotions are necessarily wrong to have, we are human after all, but jealousy can also cloud your current partner's judgement. Be honest with yourself — do you still have feelings for your ex? Do you still want them to want to be with you? Do you get excited when you see them and call them? If the answer's no, go to the next question, but make sure you have a chat with your current partner to makes them feel secure and loved, and tell them you have analysed the situation and come to your own conclusion that you do not have feelings for your ex. Whatever you do, don't just ignore the issue altogether.

If you do still think you have feelings for your ex, it may be something you need to speak to your current partner about. It's essential to be honest about your feelings with your current partner, as denying your true feelings is effectively gaslighting! It won't be an easy conversation to have, but it is necessary. During the conversation, remember any sign of jealousy from your new partner comes from a place of fear and vulnerability — your partner doesn't want to lose you. Let them air their concerns, then try to figure out what to do next together. Something to note though — if your partner shows jealousy through anger, that is a red flag and a whole issue in itself. Fine lines!

What do I want from the relationship with my ex?

This may be a complex question to answer, but what do you actually want? If your ex turned around tomorrow, without their toxic traits, and begged for you back, would you go? Are you kidding yourself saying you want a friendship and nothing more, just to have them on the backburner in case your current relationship doesn't work out? If yes then, hate to break it to ya, but there are unresolved feelings there.

If all you genuinely want is a friendship that is mutually beneficial and doesn't threaten your current relationship — fabulous! This is very possible and you have a green light from moi to go ahead with the friendship with the ex.

The main thing I want you to take away from this, dear reader, is that you must analyse your own feelings, regardless of the opinion of your current partner. We enter into dangerous territory when we cut off relationships at the behest of a romantic partner, but it's also important for us to analyse why our partner is concerned and act accordingly. Be honest with yourself, be honest with your partner, and be honest with your ex. You've got this.

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