Should I Let My Boyfriend Be Friends With His Ex?


I want to know where you stand on the whole “staying friends with your ex” thing. Recently I moved to the country/ town where my boyfriend lives, after a few months of long-distance relationship with visits intermittent. Things had been great between us. Of course it’s early days. We’ve both been loving, attentive, kind and considerate. Two things happened when I got here, however, which have me thinking. I don’t know if they’re related.

First, when I arrived I was very ill with a horrible cold. My boyfriend was also sick (with food poisoning) but he avoided me physically. No hugging, kissing… He explained it was because he didn’t want to get sick again in the last few days before his work ended before vacation. I was hurt but understood. I had thought he’d lost interest but took what he said and accepted it. Second, a few days ago while he was on skype with his dad, a text-message came to him on the phone. Yes, I made the mistake of looking at it! We hadn’t been private about these things in the past at all. The text was from his ex-girlfriend arranging to meet him for lunch on Friday. I made the additional mistake of scrolling back and then realised they’d been talking while I was making him dinner. He had gone outside to speak privately, and I had a hunch it was something untoward.

Well, I wrote a note saying “I’m sorry I invaded your privacy. When the text came I thought it might have been important. Your ex-girlfriend wasn’t to meet you for lunch on Friday.” I was very tired and just went up to bed. He came up soon after and we talked. He defended being friends with her (they dated for about two years) saying she helped him during a very difficult time in his life and so on. I told him I didn’t think it was appropriate. Also, I pointed out his tendency to keep his relations with her private. Once in the past, he had received a text from her and he turned over the phone so I wouldn’t notice. I made no comment at that time…

I think it is unacceptable for him to be meeting her, texting and talking with her when he is four months into a new relationship. What do you think? He said he’s not attracted to her and so on, but I just don’t like the idea of him hanging out with her, what if he invites her over for dinner, etc? By the way, I do trust my boyfriend, but I find it almost an insult to me, or to our relationship, that he would still be in touch with her. Please answer my question, I’d love to know what you think. Thanks, Emily

Dear Emily,

Yeah, you probably asked the wrong guy.

I think you are particularly sensitive to your own needs and feelings and somewhat clueless about the needs and feelings of your boyfriend. So let’s get this straight:

Your boyfriend has only lost interest if he shows no affection when you’re both healthy, not when you’re both sick.

While it may not feel good to have your boyfriend keep his distance when you had a horrible cold, you have to admit, it’s pretty practical, isn’t it? My wife travels for a living and I can recall at least two times when she wouldn’t kiss her sick husband because it might jeopardize her health before a trip. How selfish would it be for my need for affection to outweigh my wife’s need to stay healthy? How insecure would I have to be to think that my wife’s act of self-preservation was somehow an insult to me?

This is paranoid thinking and it serves you no practical purpose. Your boyfriend has only lost interest in you if he shows no affection when you’re both healthy, not when you’re both sick. Cut him some slack, will ya?

Next, you “made the mistake of looking at his text message,” and then “you made the mistake of scrolling back and reading the conversation” and then you made the mistake of bringing this whole thing up with him and then you made the mistake of thinking that it’s inappropriate for ex’s to be friends… I could go on, but this is enough of a run-on sentence already.

Jealousy is a useless emotion, Emily. The only thing that jealousy indicates is how insecure you are. It says nothing about your boyfriend.

If you have a man that’s untrustworthy, then he shouldn’t be your boyfriend. If he’s your boyfriend, then you have no choice but to trust him completely.

If you don’t trust him because you’re insecure about his friendship with his ex, you’re only going to accomplish the following:

1) You’ll make him feel like crap because his own girlfriend doesn’t trust him.
2) You’ll make him feel trapped because he’s dating someone who reads his text messages.
3) You’ll make him feel that he can’t be honest with you about his friendship with his ex — because he CAN’T.
4) You’ll make him feel that he can find a woman who DOES trust him.
5) You’ll make him feel that he can’t be himself around you, which is the highest compliment a man can give to a woman.

Trust is the foundation of any relationship, Emily, and if you don’t have it, you don’t really have anything.

Good men and women stay in touch with their exes because their exes are kind people with whom they share a lot of history. What you forget when you’re jealous of the ex is that there’s a REASON they broke up. And if he’s with you now, trust that there’s a reason he’s with you, too.

You’ll be surprised at how well men respond to being trusted.

There’s no reason for a man to destroy all evidence of his past just because he’s dating you. I have photos, love letters, and emails from women in my past. I even wrote to my ex on Facebook today. She’s had us over for dinner multiple times. Not to mention that my wife has her first wedding album in a drawer in our home. What? I should make her burn it because I’M insecure that she left him 6 years ago?

If you’re insulted that your boyfriend is in touch with his ex, that’s your prerogative, but you’re pretty much ensuring the destruction of your own relationship.

Because any man who cuts off his friendships because of an insecure ex will get what he deserves — an irrationally jealous girlfriend who will never trust him no matter what.

Be a class act and invite her over for dinner.

You’ll be surprised at how well men respond to being trusted.

P.S. A woman’s fear of being hurt is one of the main reasons why men disappear. Click here to learn more:

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  1. 301

    Uhm hell no if she’s an ex what’s the need to keep in contact if he has a gf? Hell to the no.

  2. 302

    Sorry but I disagree with everyone

    1) I would NEVER date a man who was friends with his exes. The only exception is if there’s a child involved.. the mother of a child is the only time I’m ok with a guy being friends with an ex.

    2) if you are serious about somebody, or if you are single and serious about finding the right person, then you cultivate an environment where the right person can be comfortable and not give them any reason to mistrust.

    3) Friendships with exes is not ok to me at all.. if you went on a couple of dates and nothing happened then that’s one thing.. but if you’ve been sexually involved or were in love then this is an absolute deal breaker

    4) what’s most disgusting is if the ex is their best friend.. sorry but your spouse should be your best friend, and if that role is taken up with an ex that is a no go for sure


    break up and move on girl

    you moved cities states etc for him, and hes not emotionally available bad bad bad

    and my experience is long distance you get to know eachother better because you have to talk a lot.. he didn’t even tell you about this in the months of long distance? this guy is bad news

  3. 303

    I am going through something similar. Perhaps I’m just overthinking, but it makes me very uncomfortable. This memorial weekend we went to Florida to relax and make our relationship even stronger. Anyways, he went to the store and left his phone in the car. I wanted to share something that was playing on his phone, so I took it to share through text and I saw his ex’s name on the list of messages. I tried so hard not to go through it, but couldn’t resist. He’s told me before that they share music a lot, and that’s about it. I checked their message, and indeed he was telling the truth. Anyways, I saw he sent some emoji with a wink and a kiss. Perhaps I am overreacting, but I got very jealous and was very hurt. I have asked for advice from my gfs, but I got the same response over and over– “he shouldn’t talk to his ex, that’s past. He shouldn’t send any kind of heart of kisses emoji..that means he still likes her etc”. He’s told me before that he always ends in good terms with his ex, but this one is different.   I’ve met two of his ex and they were so nice to me, but this one, I never trusted her. One time he also told me she’s the one that messed his life and at times hate or is disappointed by her (crying when I brought her up). She was crappy to him.  I don’t know what to think, because how can he talk about her like that, and still have communication? I know there is forgiveness, but to me, it seems that it still bothers him and has a grudge towards her.

    I wanted to hear from someone else’s opinion, and I think I can get it here from what I have been reading on the comments. I appreciate it so much!

  4. 304
    hurt and confused

    I’m currently having this same issue with my boyfriend. The day we met I explained that I am friends with my ex boyfriend, and spend time with him and his kids. And he was perfectly fine with it. Encouraged it, actually. The current bf has complete access to my phone to read whatever he wants, and I have phone conversations with the ex in front of the bf. I have absolutely nothing to hide. The ex bf has two boys under 5, one is deaf and the other is partially deaf. I love those kids, and they love me. But lately he brings up the ex, and that he doesn’t like me being friends with him – but he would never ask me to stop being friends with him. That he doesn’t trust the ex. I was friends with the ex for months while I was single. Never a kiss, inappropriate touch, or sexual physical contact. Just a hug hello and goodbye, like I do with all my friends. He’s happy that I’m happy. And after finding out that he has the same things in common with the bf, he wants to meet him. He wants to be friends with the bf.

    I’m at a loss. The bf is a truly amazing guy that I can see being married to. But I won’t live a life where I will be made to feel bad for having an ex as a friend. This is the first time in my life I have been friends with an ex (I’m 44). For the ex and I. Which I see as maturing in how I handle relationships. We are practically best friends, and this is causing me so much pain. Pray that we come to a good resolution.

  5. 305
    Josephine Mills

    I agree with Toms along with many others. I have a friendship with an ex of 15 years, he lives in another country and I haven’t seen him for 7 years, we developed a friendship following our break up and there has been past mutual support. However, when in relationships since (current one and a ten year marriage) it has been my decision to either make sure they meet or if not possible avoid exclusivity that would make my partner feel uncomfortable. I am happy to leave that friendship to cool off and importantly, so is my ex happy to do this as he would feel my happiness and success of my current relationship is more important. I would expect to do the same if he was in a relationship.

    Conversely I have a 2.5 year relationship that has been incredibly pained by his relationship with his ex.

    On meeting they were living together, I was told he has his own room and was like a lodger, I was a bit nervous but chose to trust him.

    Then I gradually noticed his was very cagey about his phone and all of his texts and calls were deleted or in private. He moved in and continued to call in to visit her and occasionally stayed overnight. After 1.5 years in I told him this worried me and asked for his relationship not to be hidden or exclusive.

    This then went dramatically very sour; he has not wanted me to meet her ( I wanted to and asked if she could come over, I even phoned her myself to try to stop the secrecy). This phone call seemed positive and amicable.

    He got generally upset about the whole thing and said a lot of nasty things about her and also said he was trying to move on and end their friendship. He gave me many reasons why he didn’t want her in our lives. So I respected that and didn’t meet her, I did continue to express my feelings about him not having a hidden relationship and said it wasn’t ok for me.

    He continued to be in touch with her and call in without me having met her.

    After much agonising over this, I became quite unwell with anxiety as it felt like he was not being open, he then decided to end his friendship with her in person. I explicitly asked him not to blame me as the cause and he came back saying she was fine about it.

    I asked him for honesty, we spent hours talking about why he ‘hates’ her and how I have nothing to worry about.

    Since then she has, as I expected, been in touch however he chose to hide this from me. I even asked him and he lied to me. His explanation is it was financial, so I gave him another chance to be honest. She rang him and hung up on me on this occasion, (which is how I found out) and was rude in a text to me saying that this had nothing to do with me. I found that very difficult and confusing. I paid his debt to her and asked them both not to hide things.

    I have found it hard to trust and found out that various other things had been hidden, like the house they shared had 1 bedroom and a two seater sofa. That he’d gone out with her and hidden it and confided in her about his relationship with me (more in the early days I think). She’s clearly been an important friend so it didn’t really make sense that he didn’t want us to meet originally.

    Apart from this we have been very close, him moving in, I supported him financially for a while, I even bought a house-boat so he’d have somewhere to stay if not at my place in the early days and as a family place for him his son and my two children (from my marriage). He works hard and has got himself financially stable, we are building a step-family set up.

    Last week, after 2.5 years together, despite explicitly asking him to be open about any contact in the name of honesty,   I find he has sent a payment to her (with false account name so I wouldn’t see it) and other emails.

    He has become angry on many occasions when I express my fears or mistrust. This has happened this time also.

    I understand it is horrible not to be trusted; he is very jealous and often imagines I might be unfaithful even though I’m not even associated with any male friends or even go out without him. I’m a single mum of 44 years, although he is heavily involved with my kids, like a step dad. Anyway I don’t socialise much. I haven’t wanted him to feel entrusted, however it’s become a main feature of our relationship.

    We certainly have trust issues and I have arranged therapy to deal with these together.

    I found out tonight, as I contacted his ex, that she is of the belief that I made him end the friendship. Which my guess is what he told her.

    It is a web of deception, mistrust and a complete mess that could have easily been avoided with some honesty and integrity.

    I don’t necessarily think it’s about being physically unfaithful, but his feelings of needing to hide things has become a toxic mistrust between us.

    In my view it takes emotional self awareness and maturity to correctly manage these types of friendship.

    I appreciate Evan’s points on insecurity however you never know the integrity of the person until you know them. Some people seem unable to integrate these complex relationships in a healthy way.

    Certainly his hidden and complex relationship with his ex has triggered me into feeling very insecure, despite what I think was a reasonable request that the relationship wasn’t exclusive. In my view he could have said no to that and I could have made a choice of my own at the time.

    Sadly it’s caused so much stress we are struggling to recover. Unfortunately he felt he was doing the right thing keeping things separate.

  6. 306

    Emily, you’re lucky to have found this out sooner rather than later. Red flags indeed. Get out now, you deserve waaaaaay better, and just know that not all guys are like this.
    I allowed my BF to keep following his ex (his so-called “very close friend” – red flag!!) on social media, meeting up for the supposedly occasional drink etc with her, while I got on with going through a very painful divorce for him, leaving my young adult kids on the other side of the world because he refused to live in my country, relocated to the UK for him to go to school there, paid for his postgraduate studies and supported him financially when we finally got to live together for the year in London (the rest of the time, we had a long distance relationship but met up for months at a time and I paid the flights and accommodation – while he didn’t even work….)
    However, once I had got legally separated, when he dropped out casually one day that he’d be having an “early dinner” with her that week (he’d done this before), I merely asked him from then on to limit contact with his ex to more reasonable contact, eg a coffee every now and again and posting birthday wishes on her timeline. As I had invested heavily emotionally, workwise and financially to the relationship by then, I felt it was only fair that he should display the same degree of commitment to and investment in building a life together, as I had – and he agreed.
    Then, after my divorce came through (I didn’t even receive a card or flowers for that, as unbeknown to me, he was off doing things with his ex), he refused to get engaged so he could stay in the UK (where I come from), still wouldn’t come to my new country where my kids were (Australia) and didn’t move me in with him into his place (in Canada), either. All the while, he kept expressing undying love, saying I was the love of his life, how sexy I was etc, filling my entire computer screen with kisses etc. At the time he’d come to England, three years into our relationship, I had absolutely no idea that this was all still going on with the ex; that he’d met up with her at least three times in the week and a half before coming to England to start living with me in the apartment I’d found and paid for for us; and that he was attempting to cold turkey himself off her on arrival, and was in no fit state to embark successfully on any graduate program.
    Imagine how it felt, after he’d spectacularly failed to complete the program and left me six figure sums worse off for it all, when nearly 5 years into our relationship, I happened to stumble upon text messages revealing that his ex and he had been getting together the very minute my plane had taken off from Canada each time and that he had also been calling her and meeting up with her the minute his plane landed from England – including when he’d lived in London for months on holidays and wined and dined and been accommodated all at my expense and had even, on one particularly painful occasion, sat with me watching my dying mum eat her last Christmas dinner. Within hours of that, unbeknown to me, he had texted his ex to apologise for not having been able to reply to her emails and told her that he’d be back in town on Thursday and would call her as soon as he got in that evening from the airport (with “xxxx”, of course.)
    Not only had he been going out to dinner with the ex, but they had been messaging non-stop and exchanging fond memories about the holidays they’d been on (best he could manage for me was three days locally in Canada – hardly the same as the South of France, New York, San Francisco, Paris etc – is it?), she had sent him photos of her bedroom in her new flat, selfies she’d taken in her hotel room, photographs of her new double bed and re-sent to him (under pretext of clearing out her computer) photos of the pair of them on holiday years ago; and he had done professional work for her, had been to numerous brunches alone with her, been out on one on one hikes, bike rides, walks, taken pictures of himself with her and her son on the beach, been at social events with her among friends of theirs he’d never introduced me to, had numerous dinners at both her place and as a family at the house of her ex-husband and her son, gone to concerts with her, paid for meals and tickets when he’d always expected me to pay for him (and this woman is far wealthier than I am, as an unemployed mum in her fifties) and had even bought her wine and gifts with money I’d given him when I felt sorry for him that he’d lost his job!
    I also discovered on his computer that he’d been in similar kiss/hug, inappropriate conversations with a second ex, late at night – discussing his relationship with me with both exes, in fact, although this one wasn’t actively trying to break us up, like the main one was) – and he’d also kept extremely explicit photographs of another ex, then in her twenties (whom he’d dated when he was forty), all packaged carefully in a deceptively titled porn file which he claimed to have no interest in but which he had looked at (along with pictures of very young women) the same week that I and my children were in his home on Christmas holidays and I had been too sick, with the bug that he had given my entire family, to be able to give him sex. I found that his ex had insisted he kept no contact with any single women and he had stuck to this (cutting off the other ex abruptly), but that the minute the relationship with his ex had ended, he had immediately resumed contact with the previous ex. And, each time a relationship ended, he’d automatically tried every girl and ex in his contact directly, sending off the same letter to each.
    NB Lest you should think I’m a paranoid, insecure bitch… well no, I’m not. Throughout the relationship, I never once had asked him not to see anyone. Never once checked his texts and emails. Completely trusted him. Until I stumbled upon those texts from his ex by chance when cleaning up that day. Come to think of it, he’d never left his phone lying around in all those years – and had always aken his laptop into the bathroom with him, making his chronic tummy issues the excuse, and stayed in there for hours. Given the time he and I had had to spend apart while I concluded a divorce and stayed in Australia for my daughter’s final year of school, I now realise that it had been ME all along that he’d been fitting around his life with the ex, not the other way round. He had remained, the whole time, emotionally invested in her, and used me for money and sex. (Yes, I’m not an oil painting, but I am far prettier and sexier than his ex is.)
    Even his best mate – another unmarried male in his fifties who is a serial womaniser – had not been told that my BF was seeing his ex all this time. Nobody, not even his family, knew. And certainly not me. How suspicious is that, eh?
    He tried to say that it was because he had been psychologically ill, having avoidance behaviour issues etc and because he had “needed” to see his ex (like, for several YEARS into our relationship?????) to prove that he was a “worthwhile human being” because she’d criticised him in what was supposed to have been a not very passionate relationship which had ended by mutual consent. Only problem was, all the FB conversations I then demanded to see were anything but un-loving; I had had to nag him for well over a year to take her pictures off FB at all and for even longer to finally acknowledge that he was in a relationship with me; and it turned out, when I demanded to see his emails, that SHE had actually let HIM go. His texts and messages to her, far from painting the picture of an abuser and a reluctant abusee, between their secret meetings, said things like “That was great – can’t wait to do it again xxxx” and “I want to fit in as many visits as possible with you while you are in town xoxo” – and “Love” and “Night night” etc…
    Since then I’ve had from him, variously, “I didn’t want to displease her”; “I didn’t want to hurt you”;”It wouldn’t have happened if you’d been there”; “You were always my number one priority – when you were in town’; “It’s because as a child my mom and grandma forced me to lie so I learned to tell women what they wanted to hear”; “You’re just being paranoid”; “We didn’t have sex so I wasn’t unfaithful”……. oh, PLEEZ!!! Don’t place blame for your BS behaviour on me, mate!
    I have NEVER had such shitty, deceitful behaviour from any boyfriend, so when I’ve pursued legally the money he owes me, I am kicking his sorry ass to the curb. Until I had to give up work because my mom was terminally ill, I was a highly successful, Oxford educated academic and businesswoman, and I will be again. Have already won my next scholarship and soon will sign my next professional deal. And return to my children. Never again will I waste my life prioritising a man for whom I’m only an option. At least I learned what it feel likes to love someone deeply, to forgive, to have compassion, gain wisdom and move on as a better person. He will never learn; at nearly 58, it is unlikely that he will ever change. He’ll end his days alone. And I will have been the better person, whether in another relationship or single for the rest of my days.

  7. 307

    I am totally the jealous GF right now in my relationship and it is destroying us! This is my first boyfriend so I’m not sure about what is normal behavior with exes and how I should feel.  I always thought he must still have feelings for her if he is talking to her. This article is helpful!!!

  8. 308
    No Name To Give

    I don’t know why ladies put themselves through this. There probably is unfinished business. Take yourself out of the equation and move on with life, sans the drama. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and has webbed feet like a duck, it’s probably a duck.

  9. 309

    I am in the same predicament. My partner was with his ex for 8 years and engaged. They split up when he caught her having an affair. They also had a bitter property settlement at that time. She had a daughter who was 18 at the time with a child. I met him five years later. I knew he communicated with the daughter and I let it go because I believed she was young. I now know she is not. He calls her his daughter, however his own children from a previous marriage don’t consider her family. I don’t have any issues with his communication with his ex wife. I get along well with his children. But I took him in at a bad stage in his life, Then during this stage I found out about his communication with his ex fiance’. He picked her up from the airport and drove her to her sisters. The messages I read were between him and the ex’s daughter. I was unaware of this meeting and that hurt more than anything. He forgot my birthday but his (step) daughter commented on how mum loved her gifts. He commented that it was a shame he couldnt spend more time with her, and he commented on how if she had indicated that if she had wanted more and made a commitment to him that he would have taken her up on it. Then he got angry with me for reading the text messages. Unfortunately at the time I had him at my home on home detention, he was wearing a bracelet and I legally was unable to kick him out. We are still together eight months later, and I am aware he is still chatting with his ex girlfriend. I still look in his phone. He doesn’t know this, and when I ask about his ex, he denies having communicated with her, even though I know he is lying. I shouldn’t look in his phone. But he also shouldn’t lie to me about his feelings for her. He is talking marriage, and I am talking going single. There is no winner in this. I do love him, but I will now never trust him. I also deserve better than a man who thinks that lusting after his ex but staying with me because he cant leave the state to join her. She is also now supposedly in another relationship. And she has rang my house via one of his friends saying she was looking for her son and wanted to know if he had spoken to him. That she wouldn’t ring herself because she didn’t want to cause trouble. And for the record, he will never get half of my house.

  10. 310

    I agree with the majority of the comments here. The question to ask your boyfriend is Why the need to continue the friendship? What are the takeaways that he gets from this continued interaction with the ex? And if it is on the up and up, as the new girlfriend you should be a part of any lunch, dinner or meet up. Just as you might be invited to any get together with your boyfriend’s buddy’s. Those who have nothing to hide, hide nothing. And I find some men are naive about the exes intentions and may want to be seen as the “good guy.” Proceed with caution. 🙂

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