Should I Let My Boyfriend Be Friends With His Ex?

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. 61
    The Seductress

    The only thing that bothers me a tiny-littl-bit is I think within the 4 months of dating he should have mentioned by that point of his different friends and people in his life that he sees and spends time with.
    It should come up in natural conversation.

    Perhaps there are NO feelings left and it’s platonic but he didn’t mention it for fear of her being jealous or concerned. MAYBE, but that he never did  mention it and she found out on her own (all be it her fault) it’s not a shining moment of open-book honesty on his part.

    Perhaps he didn’t mention it because there are unresolved feelings, rekindled feelings, whatever and he’s figuring it out. Four months isn’t that long with the new girl; there is no deep commitment yet. We don’t know what he and the ex are talking about…

    Just thoughts. Emily does show some insecurity regarding her blanket belief that it’s never appropriate to be friends with an ex and that business with being offended that her boyfriend didn’t want her germs and she does need to look at that or she will always see problems where there may not be any.
    Is it appropriate to be friends with an ex. Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. It really depends on a lot of things, but the new girl/boyfriend should not dictate that based on their insecurity.

  2. 62

    Emily, it’s ok to read your boyfriend’s text messages only if both of you had an agreement on this. It’s an evasion of privacy and disrespectful to do that. So the next time you do it and you guys didn’t agree on it, be sure that no other soul would know about it … shhhhhhh :))
    I too Emily would be concerned if my boyfriend still go on dates with his ex. Wouldn’t my boyfriend feel the same if it were the other way around ? It’s like we are putting our relationship at “risk” if we allow this. Is that what you are feeling Emily ? TALK to him about this. Let him know what you are feeling. It doesn’t matter if he will think that you are insecure because if he loves you, he will understand, accept you for that and help you feel secure with him.

  3. 63

    EMK has an extraordinary wife.   Her kind is very, very, hard to find.(they exist in a very small pool)

       As for the rest of us, ex gf/bf’s cannot stay around.    It just creates chaos/problems. 

  4. 64

    I don’t see this as black or white issue where Emily should just “trust.”  What if his ex dumped him and there’s evidence that he wishes the dumping had never happened?  What if, from a distance, the ex and the bf have everything in common? 

    Emily’s emotional reaction might seem irrational, but those emotions are real and she can’t easily help them.  This should be a two-way street where he introduces Emily to the ex.  It could be an awkward meeting, but I think it would put her mind at ease. 

    Also, I can understand concealing individual texts and phone calls, but you have to disclose that an ex is part of your life early in the relationship.  If someone can’t accept that fact then maybe the teller should consider leaving. 

  5. 65

    I totally agree with Christie‘s #18.  I have no problem with people still being friends with an ex.  But they shouldn’t hide it either.  Even when I’m meeting up with male friends who were never an ex, I’ve always let my fiance know.  Even though jealousy is not an attractive quality, most people feel it to some degree or another.  Even if my fiance would never make a comment or forbid me to do something, I don’t even want him to think that something might be going on.  So I do what’s in my power to make him comfortable (by my being open) while still enjoying my freedom to see the people I’d like to see.
    I think that both the OP and her boyfriend are in the wrong.  The OP shouldn’t be snooping or fobidding, but the boyfriend is also wrong for making an effort to hide his actions.  And when a couple is living together, they probably talk about their days in pretty decent detail.  I’m betting that if he’d been having lunch with his boss, he would have told the girlfriend.  So he also should have told her if he was having lunch with his ex.  The crystal ball says, “Future doesn’t look good.”

  6. 66

    Sounds to me like Emily jumped the gun with the whole moving to another country for a man thing. After all, how well can she know him if she doesn’t even know his friends?
    Although, considering the levels of insecurity and immaturity she is exhibiting, I’d say she is jumping the gun with trying to be in a relationship, period.

  7. 67

    To Evan #63, you can be the most understanding woman in the world, but that’s no guarantee you’ll end up with the guy. I know this from painful experience. It works as well as it does between you and your wife because of what you both give to the relationship. I’m so happy for you and your lovely wife. 🙂

  8. 68

    I do not think Emily is being “irrational”. I also don’t think you can’t not be friends with an ex. It really depends on the situation. Some men and women can be friends with their exes and it can truly be a platonic relationship. Some can’t. Heck, some men even say themselves that men and women can’t be friends ever!
    It’s normal to question this kind of senario. Infact, who of us hasn’t at some point questioned this exact condumdrum? Whether we came to the conclusion that it was okay or that it wasn’t okay “for us”. Berating Emily and telling her that her reaction is “irrational” isn’t really even true. She is responding to what she logically concludes is a natural and biological threat! I do think that Emily and her man need to have deeper discusssions about their expectations and feelings on this situation and after a good talk, trust that what the other is saying is true for them. I also do wonder why we keep doing things we know trouble our partners. And while the understanding woman might get the man, so will the understanding man get the girl.

  9. 69
    Christie Hartman

    I ran this scenario by a couple of level-headed friends of mine, one of whom is a guy. Both felt not being up front about a friendship with an ex was a dumb idea, and that Emily’s boyfriend is in Red Flag City. Does a red flag mean he’s a bad guy? No. It only raises a question that, at some point, needs answering. As many here have said, complete trust is NOT automatic. It is earned through dealing with situations like this couple is dealing with. Chances are, Evan, your wife trusts you now because you earned it earlier on, not because she felt you were automatically entitled to it. You said you wouldn’t cheat on her because she trusts you; not everyone shares that philosophy.
    It’s easy to get into this “I hide things because you don’t trust me” versus “I don’t trust you because you hide things” debate. Each person has to take responsibility for their own actions.

  10. 70

    Evan, I’ve been reading your responses, and you never actually answered the question so many here posed. I have to agree with the others – unless you are editing stuff out, we do not have enough info to conclude that the bf had a reason to assume that Emily would react jealously before the conversation ever happened.
    Also, we all know how incredibly cool your wife is, but I am curious, would you be as cool with her sharing her sexual fantasies about other men with you? Or flirting with random men wherever she goes?
    P.S.: ever watch the cartoon Dr. Katz? They often had these stills of cats hanging off trees and stuff – “Dr. Cats”, get it? At least be grateful people aren’t spelling your name *that* way. 😛
    Diane, #41: my, oh, my, are you ever lucky to be rid of that guy! I mean, WTF? The ex is *married*, yet she calls him every three months to play fox in a manger? And he actually takes those calls and heeds her requests? I mean, really? Seriously, this isn’t the kind of person you want as your partner. I am just sorry you got so emotionally invested in the relationship by the time you found out.
    Honey, #67: I still think it should have mattered more whether *you* wanted to go. 😐

  11. 71

    Hey, well said Christie. It’s not like we go into a relationship saying this person automaticaly deserves our love. We start relationships because we like people and then they “earn” our love or don’t by their actions and by your own actions and opinions. I think trust is the same way. I do not like the mentality of “well I didn’t say anything because I knew it would hurt you”. They didn’t say anything because they didn’t want to deal with someone else’s emotions. It’s easy to deal with lovey dovey emotions but much harder to deal with more negatie emotions. They were protecting themselves and the rough waters they might have to tread. They aren’t protecting the other person by lying to them or sugar coating things.

  12. 72
    Katarina Phang

    Plus, there’s a reason this guy broke up with his ex – as such, she’s far LESS of a threat than a woman he hasn’t dated before.

    Ummm…I beg to disagree there, Evan.  A lot of people break up while still having very strong feelings for each other (been there, done that).  A new person won’t easily evoke the kind of intense emotions an ex one isn’t over with does.
    A lot of people are not over their exes when venturing into a new relationship.  When I was dating my husband, he wasn’t over his ex and they had split for over a year.  He had to see/date her again (while dating me) one last time for a few months just to see once and for all he was really over her before deciding to marry me.
    I think it’s best when he includes her in the friendship.  I would expect the same from any guy I date, if not immediately, at least later on.
    But I agree though one should refrain oneself from acting overly jealous without all the facts.  A better way will be to ask him nicely the nature of their relationship and whether you can get to know her.

  13. 73
    Karl R

    Christine Hartman said: (#76)
    “It’s easy to get into this ‘I hide things because you don’t trust me’ versus ‘I don’t trust you because you hide things’ debate. Each person has to take responsibility for their own actions.”

    And in this case, the advice is geared towards Emily’s actions, since she’s the one who contacted Evan.

    Emily feels that keeping contact with an ex is not “appropriate,” “unacceptable” and “insulting.” That belief is going to get her into trouble in a lot of relationships … including ones where the man is up front about the situation.

    Emily’s behavior gives people the impression that she’s insecure, jealous, bossy and nosy. I suspect her boyfriend has gotten the same impression. Even if she wants to repair the relationship (which I’m not certain is the case), she may not be able to. Therefore, at this point Emily may be better served by determining which behaviors could sink her next relationship, rather than analyzing what’s gone wrong in this one.

  14. 74
    Christie Hartman

    Karl (80), I would agree that Emily’s view about exes is going to get her into trouble in some relationships, although you will find that many people do share her views that regular contact with an ex is inappropriate (I’m not one of them). You say that the advice is geared toward Emily’s actions; it ought to be. But for some, including yourself, the advice also chastises her and does not consider that, beyond her jealousy, she may have some right to be angry. As I have said previously, Emily’s boyfriend should be allowed to be friends with his ex, but he should not hide it.

  15. 75

    Hi there, well I don’t think it’s a good idea, to hang out with your ex while in a relationship. You don’t want to hear all the things they did or did’nt do.

  16. 76

    There is no relationship worth all this angst and emotional upheaval.  While I agree that the BF’s behavior doesn’t earn him an award for being open and honest, Emily’s energy would be better served letting this relationship go and getting at the root of her insecurities so she can overcome them.

  17. 77
    Karl R

    Christie Hartman said: (#81)
    “the advice also chastises her and does not consider that, beyond her jealousy, she may have some right to be angry.”

    Emily isn’t justified in being angry if she’s only angry for the wrong reason (which appears to be the case).

    For example:
    If I say something insensitive to my girlfriend, she has a right to be upset with me for that comment. However, she doesn’t have the right to be angry for my not knowing why she’s upset (I’m not a mind reader; she should simply tell me why she’s upset). And if she gets upset with me for the wrong reason, it will get in the way of resolving the issue of my insensitive comment.

    Emily isn’t upset about her boyfriend being secretive (which would be a justifiable reason to be upset). She’s upset because it’s an ex. Therefore, Emily’s anger isn’t justified.

  18. 78

    Hi, I’m Emily, I wrote this letter. Thanks for posting it Evan, and for writing a reply. I appreciate having a guy’s perspective (also the other guys that wrote back). It’s been several months since this happened. We did dicuss things for a few days after all of this happened. I totally admitted that I was in the wrong checking his messagaes. In the end, I caused myself the pain. So yes, I fully own that.
    As many of you will be aware, moving across the Atlantic, moving at all, is one of the most stressful things a person can do. Now I’m not making excuses for my behaviour (that was wrong) but rather I’m trying to explain why I got so over-emotional over it all – he was the thing which was secure, known, valued – and I thought that was changing.
    My boyfriend has gone ahead and stayed in touch with his ex. We talked about this and I said, “Okay, but you need to be above-board and not engage in behaviour which provokes suspicision” which he agreed. He told me something too which I hadn’t considered. His father cheated on his mother several times, and his mother was very jealous. He said he didn’t want me to know about the ex, because he assumed I would be jealous (so he’s projecting old fears onto the relatinship, just as I am – of course this needs to stop). I told him I was, but only because of the sneaking around. (Again, my bad cause I looked at the phone!).
    On another note, he is friends with other exs and I don’t mind (they are married with kids and in my mind that MEANS something). Another thing to add, it turned out (after boyfriend and I talked) that his ex was sneaking around on her current boyfriend, not telling him she was meeting mine for lunch.
    Anyway, Evan you are right, Trust is essential. I’m going to talk with my boyfriend tonight (again, after reading all of this) and let him know that it’s trust I want and see where we can go from there. I love him and I know he loves me, so I know we’ll both put in the effort.
    Thanks Evan and keep up the good work!

    1. 78.1

      Thanks for the update, Emily! Sounds like you are doing great and not repeating past mistakes. Good for you!

  19. 79

    Not telling someone something you are doing isn’t sneaking around. Doing it but telling them you’re doing something else is sneaking around.

  20. 80


    So Joe, if your girlfriend was in contact with an ex and meeting up with him here and there without ever mentioning it to you, you wouldn’t mind?  After all, she’s not lying to you – just not telling you what she’s doing.  You wouldn’t wonder why she never mentioned seeing her ex to you?

  21. 81

    If they’re doing one thing, but telling you something else, it’s called lying. And I think a person’s conscious tells them when they’re sneaking around.

  22. 82

    #87-88, I really do not know where to draw the line on this one. Who wants to be overwhelmed with every little detail of their SO’s every day, just so they can be sure he’s not sneaking around? If it’s relevant, tell. If it’s irrelevant, do not tell. If you stay in touch with your twenty exes, I don’t want to hear about every text message you send to every one of them. If it is the one ex that still wants you back that’s texting you, I should probably know. etc etc.

  23. 83

    @ Selena (#88):

    If my GF was meeting up with an ex without my being aware of it, how exactly would I mind?

  24. 84

    Does anybody know if you buy Evan’s ebook if you can read it on your computer or do you need an ebook reader?

    1. 84.1

      I just downloaded it to my computer. You don’t need any special reader. You do need to write down whatever password it gives you after you pay for it. If you have any problems, let him know!

  25. 85


    You find out by chance.

  26. 86

    I agree with the majority of what Evan advises in his blog. I love how he makes the point that he tries not to make moral judgments but OBSERVATIONS. What works and what doesn’t. But i wholeheartedly disagree with his advice in this instance. From the majority of my own observations staying friends with ex’s is a bad idea. I think there are plenty of things and obstacles that get in the way of relationships succeeding as it is. Why add a ex in to the mix. So you dated and were in love with him or her once? but its over now… its the past. And if its the past and you love who you are currently with, and  they have a small hang up or insecurity about ex’s and being friends. It seems like a small thing to give up, of course if he or she is trying to hand pick all your friends thats a different story. But if its a ex, some one they used to be in love with, and had sex with, or strong history with, and its now over… than i think its good to just move on. And end the friendship with the ex. And i think the majority of people even if its not the politicaly correct thing or the new modern relationship thing, feels really relieved when who ever he or she is dating says they do not have any contact with their ex’s. And maybe some think its feeding into a persons insecurity or maybe its just one less small hurdle to cross that doesn’t need to be a hurdle. 
            I mean cheers for the couples that still involve their ex’s in their lives. And it works for them, and they never get jealous or if they do they control it or just realize they are being insecure or foolisth. But i think the majority of people and the relationships they are in would be served better if they were not friends with their ex’s. I’m not giving people less credit and saying people aren’t mature enough to handle being in relationships where their lover is friends with there ex’s, i’m just saying its not really that productive. Now i’m sure you could make a argument against that, but odds are if you took a poll they say it would cause more problems than actual benefits.
          And you make the case that the girl who gets the guy is the girl who doesn’t make a fuss about her boyfriend being friends with her ex. But i think i could make a case that the guy who gets the girl is the guy who has no problem not being friends with an ex, because its the past. it over. Why let the past even have a chance of rearing its head even if its not brought on by the person your with, but by the ex they are still friends with.
          Maybe i sound old fashioned or not up to the times in modern relationships. But i think something that looks good on paper and makes you look like your more mature and above giving into insecuritys, does not apply in real life. And the majority of relationships would be better served if people were not friends with their ex’s. Thats just my observation.
          Anyway… Evan i love the blog. Keep it up, i’ve learned tons and tons from what you’ve written and listened to from you. I’m definitely a fan and think your helping love lives with both men and women.

  27. 87

    @James #95

    How does your theory apply to people who have children? When you have a child with someone it’s usually not possible, or desireable, to have absolutely no contact with the other parent. In fact it’s better for the child if his/her parents are on “friendly” terms.  The same can be said of ex’s who are linked in business in some way.

  28. 88
    Karl R

    james said: (#95)
    “But if its a ex, some one they used to be in love with, and had sex with, or strong history with, and its now over… than i think its good to just move on. And end the friendship with the ex.”

    Sometimes you can walk away from an ex and never see them again. Other times, you’d have to rearrange entire portions of your life. The former may be reasonable. The latter (especially if you date around a bit) is not.

    One of my girlfriend’s exes is her birds’ veterinarian. He may be a HJNTIY boyfriend, but he’s a really good vet. One of my ex-girlfriends is an active member of my church. I sit next to her current boyfriend in choir. I’ve dated extensively in the dance community. My girlfriend and I run across my exes almost every time we go out dancing.

    If you’re constantly running into your exes, it’s necessary to be civil to them, it’s preferable to be friendly with them, and it’s possible to remain friends.

    It’s not complication-free. The veterinarian ex just invited my girlfriend to attend a wedding with him. Her comment to me: “I guess it didn’t register when I told him I was in a committed relationship.”

    Goldie said: (#90)
    “If you stay in touch with your twenty exes, I don’t want to hear about every text message you send to every one of them.”

    I agree. I don’t need to hear about every email my girlfriend gets from her exes. She doesn’t care how many exes I dance with when I’m out. Keep your partner informed about the significant things (and “significant” does vary from relationship to relationship).

  29. 89
    Ronnie Ann Ryan - The Dating Coach

    Wow – what a stir you created Evan! Quite a remarkable bunch o fcomments. usually I agree with you, but this time, I’m not sure. Should she have read his texts? Of course not. Should he be lunching with his ex and hiding it from her? Of course not. I do think you are right about jealously, but I also think sometimes, where there’s smoke, there might be fire.

    Next week, I’ll be celebrating National Singles Week with the, a free week-long teleconference on dating for women. It starts Monday 9/20 so register now.

  30. 90

    hmmm okay.. I do feel that the writer was wrong for snooping into her boyfriends stuff. First and foremost I have made the mistake of moving across state lines with a man I didn’t know well enough if we shared dating values i.e. how we interact with exes. I know myself and don’t mind if a guy I am dating has female friends…but I do feel uncomfortable with lingering exes and unfinished business…my solution…I date men who are mature and have moved on past their former beaus. However, on the other hand I feel that if your gut prompted you to check his cellphone that’s a signal to you that you don’t feel that he is a safe person to be with. It doesn’t matter if you found something or not….If the guy your with is evoking feelings of insecurity in you then your “styles” of being together may not be matched. I do feel that Evan’s response was harsh and critical. Most people I know don’t have these elaborate friendships with exes to the degree that they are coming over cooking with the new spouse lol! Not being that way doesn’t make anyone less confident I think its really fake to paste on a smile and endure something you don’t agree with in your gut to prove that you are as liberal as others on this blog. I’m just saying. 

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