In a circle of girlfriends I mentioned that my ex husband is doing well. He’s remarried and has a beautiful daughter about the same age as my own. “How does your significant other feel about you communicating with your exes?” asked one friend. I explained that he’s fine with it. I mean, we’re adults with pasts and I believe it healthy when romance ends and the two involved can maintain some semblance of friendship. Our romantic relationships can become as important to our growth and life climb as our familial ones, so completely disowning someone who has meant a great deal to you may not always be the best option.
My very first boyfriend and I are Facebook friends. I come from a family where ex-wives show up to family functions, with no drama and all love. I admit that these examples of inclusion color the way I view “the ex-factor”. My current partner still speaks with his exes, and I’m truly not bothered– as long as respect is shown and maintained. Jealousy is a response to an inability to be in control of others’ behaviors. When you realize that either your relationship is strong enough to sustain the challenges that come (including interest being shown by the opposite sex), or it’s not, you breathe easier. As the magnificent Somali poet Warsan Shire writes, “you can’t make homes out of human beings” and if a person wants to cheat or leave, you should be willing to release them. We deserve to be desired, honored and treated with care and we should only call that kind of treatment into our lives.
But there should be boundaries.
Of course, every couple should have boundaries and those boundaries should be discussed, agreed upon and adhered to. Greetings every now again with exes didn’t pose a problem with me or my SO; but what about deeper inquiries and business transactions? What if there is closure that is needed? What about asking an ex for help with something when you’re in a relationship with someone else? Initially I didn’t see any issue with reaching out to an ex for advice, I actually did so regarding a business matter that an ex had a bit of expertise in. What I realized after, is that no one wants to feel that he or she can’t satisfy all of his or her partner’s needs—even though we should get in our heads that no one person can be everything to someone else. If one intends to interact in a capacity beyond a general “hello” and “how goes it”, then one’s partner should be informed of the nature of the communication, I believe. In my mind, a quick mention of my having reached out was enough, but I was wrong.
Here’s what I understand now:
Being on the inside, I am more than familiar with all of the details of my past with my ex, including why he’s an ex to begin with. Because I’m in it, I understand that my communications are innocent. But does he? One who stands on the outside of a relationship between exes will most likely believe that something is still “going on”, and it makes sense. Many are not able to detach romantically from past lovers, and many hang on because they simply don’t want to let go of the past. In the end, we can only be compassionate towards our partners, treat them as we’d like to be treated, and try to communicate with them gently and respectfully. It is also paramount that we remind our lovers that they are the ones we have chosen, and that we are happy with our choices. On the other end, it is our partner’s responsibility to trust us and believe our intentions at face value—especially if we have proven to be trustworthy.
Good communication, respect, reciprocity and empathy are all aspects of our relationships that, if adhered to properly, can move us cohesively through any moments of misunderstanding or uneasiness—including issues with exes. What comes is harmony and balance, and knowing that each person in the relationship is getting and giving what’s needed to maintain health and love.
How do you feel about “the ex-factor”? Do you feel that relationships with exes are acceptable?