Ask Stef: My Partner Is Friends with Their Ex + I Struggle with It



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By Stefanie Marshall



Dear Stef,

I am in a committed and solid partnership of over 2 years. My partner still keeps in touch with their ex and maintains a close friendship with them. Throughout the first year of our relationship, my partner wasn’t always honest and forthcoming about time they would spend together, which led to issues within our relationship.

They have gotten better about letting me know when they spend time with their ex, but I still struggle with it. I want to be okay with their connection and support them, but I can't seem to let go of the fear and resentment I feel about my partner’s past dishonesty. Plus, I continuously question to myself whether my partner still carries feelings for their ex. They, of course, deny any feelings other than friendship.

How is one able to completely accept and support their partner's continued connection with an ex?

Searching For Acceptance

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Dear Searching For Acceptance,

I don’t have a history of staying friends with exes as I’m usually too emotional about the breakup to be ready for something that even resembles a friendship, no matter how amicable or who did the breaking. I usually need too much space and time to salvage a friendship. To put myself on the other end of this - where you are - you should know that I am not a person who is typically “okay” with my significant other being close with their exes. Which leads me to my answer.

I think there are two kinds of people: people who don’t even think twice about their S.O. being friends with their exes and people who are uncomfortable with it. Obviously there are factors that contribute to both. For the sake of time and in a sincere attempt not to overanalyze, I’m going to break down your situation only.

First, let’s talk about the past and the issue of trust. Your partner wasn’t always honest during the first part of your relationship. They were probably worried that the friendship with their ex was going to make you uncomfortable, so maybe they hid things that didn’t need to be hidden. We are all guilty of lies of omission sometimes. And since you are still with this person more than a year later, I have to assume you believe that nothing is going on outside of your relationship with your partner. Do you trust them? All relationships require that monumental token, however intangible it may be. Hanging on to that past betrayal will only hold your relationship back. So if you love and trust this person enough to stay with them, you must let go.

Next, you have to ask yourself: are you okay with your partner being close with their ex going forward? If you aren’t and the ex isn’t going anywhere, then maybe it is time to re-evaluate this relationship. If you want to work towards being someone who is comfortable with the ex, then be as open and honest with your partner as possible. Maybe together you can come up with ways to make this easier for you. Perhaps that means meeting or spending time with the ex yourself. Maybe it means putting a limit on how much time they spend together. There are ways to build this into your lives that can hopefully make you more comfortable. It can take time, so be patient.

On the other hand, if none of this works or sounds remotely appealing to you, then maybe the conversation with your partner needs to be more serious. An ultimatum is never the answer. You don’t want a “them or me” mentality going into this. But you do want to make sure your partner is well aware of how hard this is for you. After all, they are YOUR partner now. This is YOUR relationship.

I hope that you and your partner can come to an agreement that leaves you both happy and safe and comfortable. 

Stef

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Stefanie Marshall

Stefanie is a writer and a hopeless romantic. Probably both because of the other. She likes her whiskey neat and her men bearded. Mostly, she's told she's the good kind of terrifying.

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