My boyfriend and I both had painful, messy divorces from our previous partners. About a year ago, my ex-husband contacted me out of the blue. He was passing through town and wanted to get together for dinner. When I mentioned this to my boyfriend, he reminded me of how awful my marriage had been and strongly advised me against it. I told my ex I was unavailable. Recently he contacted me again, will be in SF and wanted to have dinner. I’ve forgiven him for being a jerk, realized my part in our failures and would like to see him, but I don’t know how to broach the subject again with my boyfriend. Any suggestions?
He Said: It sounds like you yourself are conflicted about a meeting. Do you still have a thing for your ex-husband? Sometimes we unconsciously long for an ex only so we might have an opportunity to right the wrongs of the past. Look deep into your heart and make sure your interest is platonic—apologizing and trying to create some kind of friendship rather than something more. After all, he was part of you then and will always remain part of you. Creating an enduring, but distant, friendship is the healthy thing to do.
More importantly, to make sure you do not wrong your current boyfriend as well, work on opening a transparent line of communication with him. It is not right of him to lobby against meeting someone you want/need to see. It indicates a fundamental lack of trust that will not serve you down the line, and is controlling behavior. Even so, you need to be very honest about your motivations for this "dinner." I'd start with a friendly morning coffee—no booze to complicate this mess.
If you do indeed still carry a flame for your ex, which wouldn’t be a surprise, you should explain that to him. (“We are not right for each other, but I still find him attractive.”) This is an entirely normal emotion, even in the midst of a new, solid relationship, and he will certainly still be attracted to people in his past, present and future. Eros surely does not begin and end within relationships.
She Said: I think coffee is a wonderful idea. So is lunch. This might sound overly basic, but keep it in daylight and without alcohol. Not only will this make your own feelings about and communication to your ex clearer, it should also help assuage your boyfriend’s concerns. Your boyfriend couched his “advice” to you as solely for your benefit, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was also threatened by the possibility of you seeing a man who had such a huge emotional impact on you. “He Said” is right that, committed relationship or not, we all walk around with varying levels of attraction to not only our exes but friends, acquaintances, co-workers, Fed Ex men—you get the picture. But a committed relationship does require us making some boundaries around these feelings. Daylight and no alcohol are two good solid boundaries to start with. Tell your boyfriend that keeping a distant friendship with your ex is important to you. (Of course, you must also allow him the same leeway in the future.) Tell him that your ex wasn’t the only one at fault for your painful marriage or messy divorce, and that you are not a victim but willing to take your share of responsibility for what went wrong. Then meet your ex for an hour or so, see how it goes, and next time he passes through town, cross that bridge when you come to it.
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