For some people, dealing with an ex is never easy. Certain people seem to have amazing, fulfilling, life-long friendships with their exes, which is genuinely a lovely thing. But for many of us, the situation is much more complicated— or downright toxic. And dealing with your partner's ex can be even tougher. Even if you totally trust your partner, it's completely normal to feel a knot in your stomach if you find out that their ex has reached out to them. "When your current partner says they are going to talk with their ex," sex and relationship expert Megan Stubbs tells Bustle. "This can bring up a whole host of emotions with the current partner and it can be difficult to navigate those feelings." Amen. I've had it happen— and it doesn't feel great.
So what can you do? If your partner is already friends with their ex and has been for a long time, that's one thing. But when they reach out of the blue? That always feels more suspicious. So take a deep breath, remember that you love and you trust your partner, and don't panic. Then, you have to decide how you really feel about the situation and talk to your partner. Here's what to keep in mind.
What's The Motivation?
Firstly, talk to your partner about why the ex is reaching out, what their motivation might be— and if your partner does want to follow through on it, why they think it's a good idea. "Find out the motivation behind the need to talk and see if the answers they provide you give you more clarity and make you feel comfortable with this happening," Stubbs says. "Explain to your partner your concerns about this meeting and go from there. Hopefully you can reach a space where both of you feel that you have been heard and seen by the other. Communication, even when messy and uncomfortable, is so important in relationships."
Try To See The Positive Side
If it seems like they're going to be back in touch, try to focus on the positive. There are a of benefits that can come from meeting and even being friend's with your partner's ex— if only to demystify them in your head. "If it's available to you, I would definitely encourage anyone who's willing to have a relationship with their partner's ex," NYC-based relationship coach, Effy Blue tells Bustle. "I think if you can have a relationship with that person, it's beneficial because then it will humanize that person. It's not some scary person that you know nothing about, if you actually get to know them." So if you had any lingering doubts about the ex, meeting them can actually help.
The other thing to remember is that, within reason, this is mostly about your partner. If it really hurts you, then that may be a different story. But if you just feel a little uncomfortable, it's not fair to stop them from living their lives. It's their choice if they want to talk to their ex. "They are likely going to be a part of your partner's life, [and] you may not like the choice your partner makes if given an ultimatum," Blue says. "Also, it is more peaceful for all three of you if you make an effort to keep the peace and try to forge a relationship." So you can voice your concerns to your partner, but also remember that it's ultimately their choice.
Don't See It Is A Snooping Opportunity
OK, some of us— myself included— like to pick at scabs. And for us, meeting a partner's ex can be a way to torture yourself. Life coach Kali Rogers tells Bustle there are three things that need to happen for to get along with your partner's ex. "Your partner is completely OK with it," she says, firstly. "There is no competitive nature or jealousy in the friendship."
All fair so far, but this last one is trickier: "your intentions are pure, [and] the friendship doesn't exist solely for snooping or gathering extra info about your partner." Right. So if you're just going to torture yourself, compare, or snoop, then make sure that you stay far clear of that ex.
And Don't Put Up With Anything Inappropriate
You should keep an open mind— but you also should never put up with being pushed around. “This is a somewhat tricky question, but probably not as tricky as you might think,” dating expert Noah Van Hochman tells Bustle. “It depends on the overall relationship your partner has with this person, past, present and even future.”
The reason? Well, it makes a lot of sense. “You need to determine if those romantic feelings have disappeared but the feelings of friendship have remained," Van Hockman says. "If your partner’s ex has not yet gotten over their relationship or breakup, all bets are off..." Exactly. And the same is true if your partner and their ex act in a way shady or disrespectful toward you. You don't have to deal with that.
If an ex reaches out to your partner then, unless there's something suspicious in their history, you kind of have to roll with it. Just try to keep the relationship between the three of you as healthy as possible. And if they can't do that, then you don't have to put up with it.