Two Sense: Handling the Ex Factor


My ex-girlfriend (from about three years ago) recently got married. I'm happy she found someone and was proud to attend their wedding. All through their dating and engagement, she and I saw each other socially—we haven't slept together since our breakup—about once a week and we intend to continue seeing each other. Unfortunately, her husband has an issue with this. Although I’ve tried to meet him for lunch and drinks a few times, he’s always found an excuse to be somewhere else. I've never been a threat to him; how do we deal with his problem?

He Said: You deal with his problem by respecting their marriage and honoring his concerns even if you don’t feel they’re valid. You may not be a sexual threat to this guy, but you continue to be intimate with his wife and that may need to change drastically. How much it needs to change depends on your relationship with your friend. Imagine she has a problem with her husband; if she would seriously consider coming to you to discuss it, then you have an outdated and inappropriate relationship with her.

This isn't just convention or morality, it's common sense. When they have a problem in the marriage, if you meet with your friend privately, even if her marital problems don’t come up, and her husband finds out, you go on his permanent shit list. Think long term; if you want to continue to be a part of your friend's life, give the newlyweds time, respect, and a wide berth. Avoid seeing her alone and don’t offer to meet him mano-a-mano; if anything, get yourself a date and start to enjoy life as a foursome.

She Said: I'm a big fan of remaining friends with exes. In fact, most of the typical pathologizing-in-hindsight that many people do after breaking up comes across as false to me. And avoiding an ex doesn't necessarily mean the relationship is over. It often means just the opposite: that one or both partners remain so emotionally or even romantically charged that they can't be in proximity.

But seeing your ex-girlfriend once a week for three years seems excessive. I don't see my best friend once a week. And the fact that you both continue to see each other socially even though her current partners has an issue with it ... no, that doesn't bode well at all for either your friendship or her marriage. I suspect there are a few deeper issues at play, especially if neither of you have gone very long post-breakup without seeing each other. Are you honestly, totally over her, and likewise she over you? To find out, I would certainly cut your visits back to once every month or two, and also limit them to lunch. Stay in each other's lives, but at a distance. Ex-lovers need a lot of elasticity to remain lifetime friends, so practicing this kind of adjustment now is good for you both regardless of her husband's feelings. As for the husband, I agree with the above: the best way to reassure him about your very close friendship with his wife is to find yourself a girlfriend and bring her along to your social engagements with them, whether or not the husband is present.

These adjustments may seem relatively minor, but they're liable to release a different and new energy into your friendship and into her bond with her husband as well. Our hearts stay imprinted with the outlines of those we've loved long after the official breakup. Back off and give a little more of her heart space to her husband. If he feels that happening, it's likely he will be less threatened by you in the future.

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