August 25, 2018

Keeping In Touch With Ex While In a Relationship – 8 Must-Know Tips To Overcome Misunderstanding + Strengthen Your Relationship

Keeping In Touch With Ex While In a Relationship
# 1. Embrace a happy-go-lucky attitude with clear boundaries

Why would anyone allow their partner to maintain a friendship with his or her ex? Wouldn’t that be relationship suicide? You’re just asking for trouble if you tolerate that sort of nonsense, right?

These are questions I encounter regularly when working with my clients. You, too, are familiar with them from your own experiences and those of your family, friends, and acquaintances. But perhaps these are the wrong questions to be asking.

Here is a different question: In what way is a romantic relationship similar to boarding a plane and taking a trip to a another country?

If you are planning a trip overseas, certain things have to be in place, such as ticket and passport. You will likely be dragging along some baggage, whether it is just carry-on or mountains of luggage. You will probably have a general or specific destination in mind and at least a few expectations. See any similarities yet?

Some people travel lightly and spontaneously, open to any adventure and misadventure that presents itself along the way.

Others plan each day in 15-minute increments—weeks in advance! By doing this, they are exercising as much control over the trip as they can. Each adventure is orchestrated as carefully as they can manage it, leaving very little room for spontaneity or misfortune.

Can you see how people take these approaches to their romantic relationships, too?

Regardless of whether yours is a happy-go-lucky style or a tightly controlled style, however, travel and romance are fraught with peril. Risk. Discomfort and inconvenience.

If you hold too tightly to your schedule when traveling, for instance, you risk missing out on some phenomenal experiences you did not even know existed. When you hold too tightly to your partner, you risk driving him or her away and missing out on what might have been.

Is there a chance your partner could return to his or her ex?

Certainly, no matter how much you try to control the situation. But for now, your partner is with you, so find a way to make sure he or she has the trip of a lifetime while in this romance with you. Be unforgettable, fun, adventurous.

Take that risk and be that risk! (Besides, whose story is more interesting in the long run?)

Dr. Loral Lee Portenier –

# 2. An ex-partner who is unwilling or unable to form a relationship with the new one and still wants to maintain a relationship with the person who left may have very legitimate reasons for competition or resentment
Dr. Randi Gunther

People search for intimate relationships, attain them, and often leave them behind and replace them with new partners.

In these revolving-door sequential connections, there are those who move on, and those who are left behind.

Rarely do two people want to leave relationships at the same time and for the same reasons.

As a result, there is, more often than not, residual feelings and aborted attachments. The person who leaves does so because the relationship costs more than it offers, a new relationship interferes, or outside stressors wear it down. The one left behind often feels abandoned, rejected, burdened with unfinished business, and unfairly blamed.

Time passes, and, although it heals many wounds, it doesn’t always.

The person who leaves a relationship may have second thoughts after experiencing other relationships and wonder if a reunion would be positive. The one left behind can appear to move on, but always hold a special place inside, hoping someday he or she will have another chance.

There are, of course, ex-partners who really stay in touch, care for each other deeply, and actually like their extended friendship better than they liked their intimate relationship.

That is a wonderful outcome if children are part of the package. Some couples actually re-couple and spend holidays as an extended family. Those are the ideal losses and recommitments, but they are not typical.

New partners run the gamut from people who have the capacity to be deeply accepting and confident and those who cannot tolerate any connections from the past.

Sometimes they are that way in every relationship and demand that all old connections are gone or severely limited, even when there are children involved. Sometimes they begin as fully comfortable with an old relationship but, over time, begin to perceive that there are good reasons to be concerned and withdraw their acceptance.

If the new couple is open and authentic with each other about their past relationships early on in the relationship, there will not be negative surprises down the line, but any relationship can be upended by a new one, whether from the past or lurking in the future.

It is more important to pay attention to keeping a relationship alive and fulfilling than it is to worry about what might possibly happen in some scenario not presently threatening.

Here is the generic solution:

Triangles are basically unstable and easily susceptible to self-destruction. The partner who has ties from the past is the apex of a triangle between a current partner and the one still around.

The base of the triangle is not connected, and therefore in potential trouble.

It is only when it is, that everything falls into place. The partner in the present and the partner of the past must become closely connected independent of the person they both care about. Then the triangle is stable. If there is resistance to that new friendship, whichever person is causing it, there is potential trouble. 

An ex-partner who is unwilling or unable to form a relationship with the new one and still wants to maintain a relationship with the person who left may have very legitimate reasons for competition or resentment.

What if the old partner left her or him for the person he’s currently with? Or what if the new partner feels possessive and won’t allow even a flourishing, innocent friendship to continue?

If there is strife and the new partner is reasonable in his or her distress, the old relationship must go.

If there are children involved, they live in each household independent of the other, hopefully without either parent “poisoning) them towards the new participant.

If the new partner cannot stretch to accommodate someone from the past who is still close and in good stead with many people that were common to the prior couple’s past, he or she may end up being too much trouble to hold the relationship in in place.

Obviously, there are many possible scenarios, some more easily resolved than others.

But possessiveness without reason is as destructive to a new relationship as a laissez-faire attitude of not paying attention to an underlying threat. It is very possible to love two people, but trying to hold on to a love unresolved while creating a new possibility is normally a formula for disaster.

Dr. Randi Gunther –

# 3. Boundaries, intentions and self care are key
Amanda Patterson

Communication with an ex can be a sticky situation without boundaries being set, intentions being know and self care being done.

There are many factors that contribute to the implementation of those things. How long have you been broken up? Are you still harboring feelings? Were you friends before the relationship? Will you see them on a regular basis? Will the communication be “forced” due to circumstances? It is important to get clarity out of asking these questions so you can develop the best course of action.

Here are three steps to guide communication with an ex.

1. Set boundaries

Setting boundaries is a must do in any type of relationship but will be even more important in a new type of one with an ex. Develop, for yourself, what you are willing and not willing to talk about.

Identify what you are willing to do and not do. You may be willing to talk about work but not about your new relationship. You may be willing to meet for coffee but not make plans to go to a bar together. Let the other person know what your boundaries are and stick with them.

2. Know your intentions

Be very clear about what your intentions are and it can save you potential heartache. Your intentions can be clarified with the questions above. If you want to get back together, then be clear with that during your discussions.

If you want to be casual friends, then determine how that will look for you. If you are unclear about your intentions, it can lead to poor boundaries and leave room for ambivalence about where the two of you stand.

3. Take care of yourself

When you are in a relationship, it’s important to balance your needs with your significant others. In this scenario, where you are single again, it’s important to take care of your needs. Ask yourself what you need to feel the best through your communication with your ex. Check in with yourself to see how you are feeling.

If you start to feel anxious, then employ stress relieving techniques, such as yoga, journaling and hanging out with a good friend. If you feel sad, then process out your feelings and discover what you are really sad about. The bottom line is that you have to take care of yourself.

The decision on whether or not to speak with an ex should always make you feel comfortable.

It should feel right in your gut. It should leave you walking away feeling like it was the right decision. If it doesn’t, then reevaluating if you want this person in your life is something that will need to be done.

Amanda Patterson, LMHC –

# 4. Best practice would be to avoid any contact with the ex and focus your time and energy on the new relationship
Amy Sherman

Why would you want to? This is a person with whom you probably had an intimate, sexual relationship and with whom you told your deep, dark secrets, dreams and passions.

This is also the person you fought with and who you decided was not good enough for you. If you need to stay in contact with him/her, why aren’t you still together? What is the strong desire to even be friends?

The answer to these questions depends on whether or not you are in a new, intimate relationship.

Should your new partner tolerate and be understanding enough to accept your contacting an old flame from your past? Can you explain your motive with enough sincerity and integrity to justify even meeting on a platonic basis?

I believe this arrangement would not be healthy or even ethical, especially when you are trying to establish a new, solid relationship with someone else. It’s hard enough building trust in relationships. How much more difficult do you want to make it by speaking to an old beau?

Granted, you and your ex may be better friends than lovers, but is it worth making your new partner insecure, untrusting, confused and even jealous of your “innocent” relationship?

Your past history with this person is really the problem and while your intent may be purely just to keep in touch, you don’t really know the motive of the other person. Why hasn’t he/she moved on? What compels her to want to remain friends? What’s really going on that he enjoys communicating with an old lover?

These questions have no good answer and you alone should decide how to resolve this issue.

If your relationship is secure and honest, then an occasional email or phone call may do no harm. But if there is any doubt or lack of confidence in the status of your present relationship, stick with the no-contact policy and stand by it.

You could lose a great catch if your ego gets too much satisfaction with all the attention it is getting. Only you can make this decision.

Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC –

# 5. Be honest and communicate directly with your partner

Picture this: You and your new love are gazing into each other’s eyes over a candle-lit dinner, and a delicious glass of wine.

Finally, you are feeling ready to truly open up, and trust this man, as he feeds you a delicious bite of chocolate cake. All is well in the world, when, suddenly, the table vibrates with a loud buzz, and what’s this? 

Oh a text message from his ex-girlfriend comes in. Not too many women in the world would feel great about this intrusion into their budding romance. Yet, this scenario seems to happen all too often these days on some level. On one hand, most of us know that just about everyone we date has a past. While we can’t fault our partners for having lived a life before us, at what point does that past affect our present?

For many women, finding out that their partner keeps in close contact with their ex can feel extremely uncomfortable.

Before trust has really been established over time, this can seem like a red flag in a new relationship. Many women wonder, why does he need to keep in touch with his ex, now that I am in his life? Can’t he tell her he is in love with someone else now, and to leave him alone? 

If you are one of those women, I highly suggest that you communicate directly with your partner about your feelings, his history, and reasons for wanting to keep in touch.

Before jumping to conclusions, it’s always best to hear his side of the story and his reasons for maintaining contact. In cases where there are children, shared property, or even a shared pet, communication may be unavoidable. 

If he insists on maintaining his connection with his ex, perhaps you can discuss boundaries around this that feel acceptable for you

Maybe he will talk to her once a month, or keep in touch only through social media such as Facebook or Instagram. Most importantly, there needs to be a dialogue and a decision that feels comfortable and respectful to both of you. If you find him unable to fulfill his end of the bargain, or maintaining emotional intimacy that pushes you away, take that very seriously.

There is a big difference between someone who wants to remain casual friends with their Ex, vs. someone who is not really over their Ex, or keeping them on the back burner, so to speak. Make sure you are honest with yourself about what is going on. In some situations, your partner might not be ready or 100% available for a new relationship.

On the other hand, what if you are the one who wants to maintain a relationship with your Ex. Always remember the golden rule. Be honest with your new love about your communication and show them the respect that you would want in return.

Listen to their feelings.

Most secure people will not mind if you stay on positive terms with an Ex. But, when you turn to your Ex for emotional support, to discuss problems in your current relationship, or find yourself reminiscing about the past too much, it crosses the line. 

Bottom line is that you are dating your current partner, not your Ex. You both need to respect each other by listening to what makes you both comfortable

If you find yourself more committed to maintaining a relationship with your Ex, then to focusing on your current partner, you may need to reevaluate if you are really ready to be in a relationship with someone new.

Alisa Ruby Bash, LMFT –

# 6. The answer to this question can be summed up by one word, RESPECT

The past can be very dangerous.

Stirring the pot and dredging up old memories can often lead to someone getting hurt all over again. When you have decided to move on and begin anew, you are choosing to leave behind your past and look towards your future. 

Entering into a new relationship means that you are choosing to look forward and not back.

So when one person in this “new” relationship chooses to hold onto a piece of their past by staying in contact with their EX; the other partner in this “new” relationship is left with unsettling feelings and find themselves questioning their “new” mate regarding their loyalty and commitment. 

The person choosing to hold onto their past by remaining in contact with their EX often feel that one has nothing to do with the other.

They often feel that their loyalty and commitment to the “new” relationship should not be questioned and that just being there with them (the new mate) is enough.

So the question is, how do you tackle the issue of the EX?

How do you stay confident and trust that your mate is committed, will remain loyal and that infidelity will not wreak havoc on your life? How do you trust? Do you trust that your mate has intact boundaries with their EX? Do you engage in a relationship yourself with their EX? Or do you simply trust, whole heartedly, 100%?

The answer to this question can be summed up by one word, RESPECT.

Does your mate respect your feelings? Does your mate allow you to voice your concerns and not dismiss them as insecurities that you must overcome? And does your mate allow you to “get comfortable” with the idea of them maintaining a relationship with their EX without shoving it down your throat?

Respect, love, trust, honesty, loyalty and commitment are the things that all relationships and friendships must be built on.

Tackling the issue of the EX is one that must be handled with care and when you choose to begin anew, you are choosing to put your loved ones feelings, concerns, and emotional stability first. There is no simple solution, no simple answer, no quick fix; the only thing that can help ease the battle of tackling the issue of the EX, is time.

Wendy Whitmore, MS, LMFT –

# 7. Ask yourself the 5 questions below

Even though it’s uncommon for most people to remain friends after a romantic relationships ends, it is not impossible.

Relationships are a complex equation of experiences and emotion which only the two parties involved are privy too. Therefore, there is a potential for difficulty for a new partner to discern if she should feel threatened by the ongoing union.

I believe the motive behind the continued friendship is what needs to be investigated in order to determine if you will be comfortable moving forward.

Most often an ex is an ex for a reason.

However, sometimes when “couple” status ends, the pressure comes off and what may fill the space is two people who have forgiven and moved beyond their differences and still appreciate the other’s essence enough to stay connected in some form. Another good reason would be because the two have a commonality such as: children or business.

For example, in my personal experience, my ex-husband and I were able to successfully shift from marriage to friendship due to a common interest in our children’s well-being.

For us, to treat one another with respect and kindness meant comfort and peace to our children during and post-divorce. 

We had a reason to work beyond our differences and form a mutually respectful, co-parenting relationship. I refer to this shift as: From Lover to Brother. The way we chose to handle our divorce and future has been a source of inspiration to many and I know for me personally, if a potential new partner had a problem with it, it was indeed a deal breaker.

Because post-relationship friendships are quite uncommon, they may indeed feel threatening to incoming partners.

If you feel your new partner’s relationship with his ex might be suspect, I invite you to conduct a little self-investigation with the following questions:

1. How much time is spent with the ex and what is the reason? (phone calls, texts, outings, interactions)

2. Are you still being respected and treated as his priority?

3. Have you been introduced to her and are you included in the interactions? Is your partner hiding his interactions from you? Have you given him reason to?

4. Is your partner open and honest about her role in his life?

5. What is the energy you feel around it?

Remember to allow for radical self-honesty when answering these questions and to trust your gut (intuition) and not your fear (ego).

Kristen Brown, Certified Empowerment Coach/Mentor –

# 8. Finding a good middle ground with the ex situation is really important

You know the expression, “All my ex’s live in Tex’s?”

Although Well, for most of us, that is not the case. In fact, for many of us, all my ex’s live down the street, are best friends with my best friends, work in the cubicle next to me, go to my gym and are in my yoga class and even accompany me on business trips. 

Further, rather than wanting to avoid our ex’s many of us are actually really enriched by their involvement in our lives. Nevertheless, having feelings of jealousy when your partner spends time with an ex is natural.

Even if there is nothing physical going on between them, there is always the threat of emotional infidelity, which can often hurt just as badly as physical indiscretions.

I think asking your partner to have no contact with his ex is unrealistic.

Particularly if he is really good friends with her, to say that he can’t have these relationships may be a demonstration of control, lack of trust, and selfishness on your part. If he or she wants to continue the type of relationship that he had before you and him started hanging out, that should be acceptable within certain parameters. 

However, if she or he wants to start all of a sudden spending all kinds of close time with an ex they haven’t seen in years, that would be a cause for alarm. Is it possible to spend most of their time together in groups? Can you be invited? Could they restrict their meetings to public places?

Finding a good middle ground with the ex situation is really important.

You deserve to have your feelings and preferences respected and your partner should make accommodations to your needs, just as you do for your partner. 

After all, embarking on a new relationship means your life will be different than before you were committed.

If your partner is going to cheat, they are going to cheat, and no amount of rules and regs is going to control that. Are your rules an attempt to compensate for an underlying lack of trust in your partner? if so, try spending less energy on making rules and more energy on making trust.

Brett McDonald, M.S., LMHC –

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