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. 151

    A cold is not the point…. It is him keeping in contact with his ex.  He may not be sleeping with her but he sure can’t cut loose and it is very scary, insulting and hurtful.  I too have experienced this, I was devastated.  If you can’t trust him now, you can’t trust him later, get out!!!

  2. 152

    I totally agree with your point #6 that trust has to be assumed within a relationship and if you cannot trust the person that you are with, then you really should not be in that relationship, as your paranoia will eventually break the relationship down anyway.

  3. 153

    First off we dont know who broke up with who. He should not keep secrets, he should have been up front from the beginning. If HE is happy with EMILY then why not take her to the outings with him. Does she even know about EMILY? For all we know he is keeping her a secret.  We really dont know the whole story.
      If this man was secure in his relationship and with himself then he should have no problems being open. Lets not turn this around and make it solely Emily’s problem because there are two people in this relationship. I think this guy like most of us wants his cake and eat it.  I agree with Mr Honest. Emily you have every right to feel this way, but dont let it eat you up. If you feel you cant trust him then you have to CHOOSE YOU FIRST AND LEAVE! He’s going to try and make this all your fault. I know i too have done this. 
     Face it guys, if we can get away with it we will continue. Its the thrill of the game.The guys who say I’m wrong are the guys that have been completely honest in their relationships from the begining.    

  4. 154

    I’m a little torn on this one.  I’ve been dating someone for 6 months.  He broke up with his ex who he was with for 8 years about a year ago.  They met playing tennis and he told me about her about a month after we first met saying he hadn’t completely broke ties with her and he still played tennis with her.  He also was involved in her kids formative years.  He has told me nothing else about her.  I did understand that he ran into her when he played tennis which I can get is unavoidable.  I asked him a month later if it was just the two of us and he said no. (there are language barriers as english isn’t his first language.)  Since then our relationship has grown and he is with me almost every night unless I’m working late or have something going on.  He has met my family, come to Thanksgiving with me at my family’s house, and has been helpful when my parents were sick.  Recently I discovered that he and his ex are still playing tennis together and are mixed doubles partners.  Although I knew they ran into each other and accepted that the fact that they were playing as a team together really bothered me.  I told him how I felt and that the thing that bothered me the most was that he wasn’t up front about it.  He offered to quit seeing her completely or quit playing tennis completely.  I told him that both were unnecessary but I wanted him to be up front with me when he saw her.  I really didn’t want to hear this from a 3rd party as I had in the past.  (I live in a small community.)  Today I discovered he played with her the day after we had that open discussion about her.  He didn’t tell me about it.  I understand what you say about trust but I know I’m not going to be happy with him playing doubles with his ex.  I can’t change that.  I feel like it’s a red flag that he’s not telling me about it.

  5. 155

    Men don’t always respond well at being trusted. Sometimes you give them your trust from the very beginning, but they prove themselves untrustworthy anyway. And I think it’s not good that the guy she’s talking about it’s not honest about having contact with his ex. At least that should be clear from the beginning so she has the option to accept it or get out. Even if it’s not shady, if he’s really in love with the woman he is with now, he shouldn’t care that much about his ex… and if he does she better either get to know her, or get the hell out because she may suffer.
    I agree with Mr. Honest; though it doesn’t mean that everyone’s going to follow through and have sex with their ex’s when the opportunity is given, staying friends DOES lead to temptation and sometimes it’s not easy to handle and may end up on those “didn’t mean that to happen” situations. It really is something that it’s up to the person, but you really get to learn that, when those ties are cut, you have much less problems with the person that you’re with and that can end up being the right one.

    1. 155.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      @Giovanna – Thanks for the moronic statement of the year: “Men don’t always respond well at being trusted.”

      Really? How do YOU respond to not being trusted? Do you like when a guy acts jealous? Gives you the third degree? Constantly checks up to see where you are? Freaks out that you’re friends with your ex? Breaks into your cellphone? Obsesses about your facebook page? Thinks you should never talk to another guy ever again?

      Nobody responds to not being trusted. Not women. Not men.

      If you can’t trust a guy, don’t date him. If you’re dating him, you have to trust him.

  6. 156

    i am one of the women that the guy went back to his ex.  he was sneaky, and i just found out that the past 8 years with him was all lying, cheating and betraying on his part.  the day my dad died, i found out all this because he was afraid i would find out the truth on my own.  i have heard psychiatrists say that you should be wary of anyone who has a relationship with his/her ex.  i’m not talking about being nasty or rude, or even avoiding the ex at all costs, but if your partner won’t allow you to be around the ex with him, or he has all these reasons for trying to protect you from the ex, and you aren’t allowed to be at family gatherings because of the ex, etc., look out!  it was all about my ex and his selfishness and insecurities.  he wanted 2 women after him and his ego just ate that up.  he had promised that we would do everything together, including being around the ex, but that was all lies.  i’m not saying there aren’t people you can trust with their exes, but why should you have to and it’s kind of hard to figure out who you can trust and who you can’t.  Evan, i like most of your advice and understand the workings of it, but on this one, i have actual experience that says it wasn’t true in this case and i would never care to be put in this spot again.  no, i will do my best not to judge the next guy according to my ex, but i will be aware.  i guess my question is, if your relationship is not completed with someone, should you be in a relationship with someone else?  my opinion is no, but that is my opinion.  your partner deserves your 100% commitment in that relationship and if you’re still involved with your ex, i find that hard to believe that you are 100% committed.  the ex needs to be able to move on too.  everything my ex did to me, he did to his ex, and now they are together.  her biggest issue is she would do anything to keep him from being with me, and either she doesn’t realize he treated her as badly, or she has an agenda in progress.  as for me, i’m totally out of the picture and will never have another thing to do with him.  i won’t ever allow that behavior in my life again.  i will also be very wary of anyone who has an ongoing relationship with his ex and that relationship does not appear to be completed.

  7. 157

    After all these posts a thumbs up to Debra’s.
    No way in hell should a “new” boyfriend be texting/calling an ex in the company of his “new” girlfriend unless Ex’s house is on fire and she misplaced the 911 number, or thier mutual offspring is in a serious crisis.  Put me in the ‘been there/done that’ category way too long….I sat like a mute fool during lunches and dinners in restaurants while he said, ‘So, how was YOUR DAY on the phone and I resisted the urge to get up and walk.’  When he spoke of me moving in there someday, he said, “Do you think I’ll be calling her or doing things w her when we are togetherf?” I said, YES.  When does THIS stop>It will be “oh, honey I can’t change a light bulb” and he would be scurrying over there.  Ex means EX and leave it at that.  Ex Lady, go hire someone to solve your needs or get a therapist to talk to. Give the gift of freedom to your old boyfriend!
    That TRUST you mention is just that. If a man is going on the deck to talk to “her” or ditching plans with you to go to a concert or lecture or a family wedding…WAVE THE BIG RED FLAGS….Either they include you, the new GF or wife, or you are outta there.  Don’t waste your time if he doesn’t get it.

  8. 158

    i’m right there with you.  what a nightmare i lived for 8 years.  everything you say is right on!

  9. 159

    This post and one more by women on psychology forums helped save my relationship today. I cannot thank you enough!

  10. 160

    i’m glad it helped you.  best wishes for you.

  11. 161

    I don’t talk to my exes. They are just my facebook friends. I’m sick of people saying it’s okay to be friends with an ex. It’s not and not everyone agrees with it. You can make new friends so this whole thing is just an excuse to keep them around as a friend. I do not want a man that has his ex in his life and is close to her. I am not close to mine and that does not mean I am a bad person, which seems to be suggested in this post. If some people don’t want their boyfriend/girlfriend to be close to their ex, that is their business. Some people have no problem, others do and there is no right or wrong, it’s what we are comfortable with as individuals. I as an individual have never been comfortable with these arrangements and definitely will think twice about getting involved with a man who still keeps in contact with his ex. An arm’s length is one thing, regular calls, no way!

  12. 162

    well said.  hanging onto the past can cause serious problems and i have seen it firsthand.  i won’t be put in that position again.

  13. 163

    I can’t say that I am friends with any of my exes… we are not on bad terms, but we don’t hang out.  However, that has been my choice, based on the fact that I just felt weird or awkward.  I wouldn’t want someone else to make that choice for me, even a boyfriend, and likewise I can imagine him not wanting me to make that choice for him. I am trustworthy, and forbidding me to be friends with an ex is not going to make that more true. In pretty much every case I have no regrets about moving on from said ex.
    I would imagine that might be true for the guy I am with, quite apart from the fact that I can’t stand the idea of forbidding anyone to do anything. If something makes me really uncomfortable I’ll express my feelings.  But I would also want them to exercise their own choices about their behaviour. Basically, I prefer to trust rather than be suspicious. If I can’t trust someone, *that* would be the reason I would leave them, not the ex.

  14. 164

    I just want to say a bit.  I have a boyfriend who is “friends” with his ex-wife.  They came apart because she is a drug addict and tried to commit suicide several times. Over the course of our relationship he has lied about various things where she is concerned and I caught him in the lies.   I trusted him until he lied to me.  However, he states that he loves me (although we have been together for 4 years we have only slept together 5 times at the most) and that he loves me “more than anyone else on the planet”.    So, I am in a relationship with a man who says he is madly in love with me, does not really like to have sex with me at all, still has  close friendship with his ex-wife (they only talk on the phone and text as she live several states away) AND clearly states he wants to be with me for the rest of his life. So, maybe they can be friends only as he has not actually “seen” her in three years.  I don’t know but I do know I am not pleased he lied to me repeatedly about talking with her.  I told him I am only upset he lied about it, not that he actually talked to her.  I guess I can see both sides.  

  15. 165

    Maybe he thought you’d be upset, so he lied to try to avoid the grief that comes with your being upset.

  16. 166

    Coming back to this thread with a new, expanded set of exes 🙂 Okay so as of right now, I have three. My ex-husband, we met when we were 20 and 19, spent over 20 years together, at this point he is like a kid brother to me. We barely talk or see each other, but yes I care about how he’s doing and would be upset if I heard he was in trouble. When I heard that he had a new gf, I felt genuinely happy for him. Ex number 2, who was the first serious relationship I had after my divorce (and he after his). When we split up, we decided that we’d still stay friends and talk, that lasted all of two weeks. He said things on a IM chat that I was not happy to hear, and I didn’t have any contact with him for almost a year afterwards. Now it’s close to three years since we broke up, and we’re back at the point where we chat and message each other all day and it feels like chatting with an old friend. (Full disclosure, we were friends for ten years before we got into a relationship together.) At this point, both of us have had other relationships since our breakup, both of us have long moved on, and none of us wants to get back together. Even so, we’re still leery about meeting face-to-face – we got together for dinner once and it still felt awkward. Maybe in another year or two. My newest ex, I am not at the point where I want to do things or have friendly chats with him anytime soon. It would upset me. I’m not one hundred percent over him, and am still bitter about the way he handled the breakup, so not interested in being friends just yet. But I don’t rule out the possibility of it happening in the future.
    Interestingly, when I first met this guy, he was fresh out of a divorce and said he was staying friends with his ex, so I can say I’ve been on both sides of this issue. He was clearly not over his ex, she lived in the same (very small) town as he, and I have to say it felt very weird and awkward for me to be with him, with her ghost still hovering around. First night I stayed at his place, she texted him at two in the morning: “I miss you”. How do I know? – he told me the next morning. How do you think this made me feel? We got together in the fall, and I honestly thought that we would not last past Christmas, that his ex would somehow come between us. But she met another guy, built herself a new life, and suddenly lost all interest in being friends with her ex – goes to show you what kind of friendship it probably was.
    My learnings from all this so far are that, yes it is possible to be friends with an ex, but you have to both have moved on and have zero sexual interest in each other. And that takes time.
    Want to add, I’m casual friends with quite a few guys that I had 2-3-4 dates with in the past. That one is easy. We both had our reasons why we never wanted to move past the second, third, or fourth date, so again, zero interest in each other. But we did have those dates in the first place, because we had some common interests and clicked on a personal level, so it is easy for us to be friends.
    Lastly, I don’t believe in the “you can go out and make new friends” philosophy. A friend is not a purse or a pair of shoes, that I can go and buy a new one if I get tired of the one I have. It is a person, who has earned my confidence and trust, and I his or hers, and we managed not to lose each other’s trust over the years. Good friends are hard to find, and I lost quite a few in the divorce too, so I tend to hold on to the ones that I have.
    @Mechelle #175, your bf sounds like a royal mess. Further, you guys managed to have less sex in four years than my recent bf and I used to have on any given weekend. Why is this man still your boyfriend? That he is friends, or “friends”, with his, equally messed-up, ex, appears to be the least of his problems. You deserve better!

  17. 167

    it is never good to assume he has interest in her but i do believe he should honor you by not going out for lunch with her. i think it is very important to draw clear boundaries if you are in an exclusive relationship. if you do not..then one or both parties end up feeling disrespected and that can eventually lead to cheating. i question the appropriateness of even talking to and texting others of the opposite sex while in a serious relationship. if marriage is even a foreseeablr option…then one way to communicate to your partner that he or she is the only one is to demonstrate it by guarding your heart in that way. if you feel you have to hide something from your partner then you probably shouldnt be doing it at all and if you are having difficulty cutting off communications with a member of the opposite sex when it causes your partner to feel threatened…there is an issue.

  18. 168

    Red Flag is the man who researches what names people are using to locate him on the internet and then posts them all in a rant just because people are disagreeing with, what is, just his point of view.  Oh dear! 

  19. 169

    Hi Evan 166 – I try to make it my motto “I’ll trust you”.  It takes some doing, I have to admit.
    On a new date, I have to really work hard and think “New beginning.  New guy”.
    Trust is a HUGE issue.
    Seriously.  Looking in someone’s portable telephone, their mail, or anything else.  It’s off limits.  And it’s disrespectful too.
    My own ex-husband and I HAVE to HAVE some kind of relationship because of our child.  The new wife hates it, and I do try not to stir things up.  But is she jealous? Yep.  Can I help it? No.  Do I care? No.  She’s a grown woman, not a little child.

  20. 170

    Steve 4 – I agree with you.  If a new relationship starts like that, imagine the nightmare it would become.

  21. 171

    Ruby makes a very good point.  He is being secretive.  He is having lunch with an ex and just moved a current relationship hundreds of miles with no introduction or inviting for her to go.  Emily is very entitled to feel  the way she does.  Taking phone calls out side.. insulting and very disrespectful.  And your right, if his behavior continues Emily … you will never trust him and so you shouldn’t… There is no respect there.  Would you do that to him? 
    If he values his relationship with the ex so much, his behavior speaks volumes when he is all ready hiding it?    Where is her boyfriend.. and how does he feel about it?     Emily you have every right to feel like you do.  And he is unwilling to change.  Make the decision to what makes you feel comfortable.  Do you want to feel the way he is making you feel over the current situation.  ????

  22. 172

    I am in a new relationship and my current boyfriend left his ex for me. I dont think its healthy for an ex boyfriend or girlfriend to be a part of your life, especially if the relationship is new. If Emily’s boyfriend had nothing to hide, why keep the fact that he is contact with his ex a secret…, honesty and respect is key to any relationship. If he still wants contact with his ex then he should have stayed with her, because there are very few women who will allow it. She had her time with Emily’s guy….I think Emily deserves the space to allow her relationship to grow without interference.

  23. 173

    @Tracy…your current BF left his ex for you and you think him  being FRIENDS with her is the biggest problem?  
    That seems pretty hypocritical.  B/c she certainly didn’t lose her BF b/c of an ex-girlfriend.  
    I think it is unhealhty if your relationships end so badly that you cannot maintain platonic relationships with a tleast some of them. Some people realize they are better as friends than as romantic partners. 
    Being jealous and untrusting isn’t going to make your relationship stronger or better.

  24. 174

    Jealousy and insecurity lie within us all.  These feelings, based on fear, are provoked.  It is that some handle it “better” than others.  
    Two people who love each other respect each other.  And they do not do things to make the other feel anxiety or suspicion.  It is not always the “irrationality” of the hurt party that is to blame.
    What it grotesque about the man’s actions, among other things, is that he was “talking” to the ex while the new friend was making him dinner.  An act of “love” that is taken for granted by his lack of attentiveness.  That is just rude.
    It is tiresome to read this constant “Get over it!” attitude about today’s lax manners.  
    Personally, I do not use text messaging nor will I accept it.  I am old school, you call if you have something to say.  Ladies, you will not believe how much this has improved how men act around me. 

  25. 175

    So the boyfriend is being deceptive and duplicitous and Emily is wrong for feeling insulted and lied to? Emily your boyfriend is the one with trust issues otherwise he would have been up front and honest with you about talking to his ex. Why is he hiding the fact that he is communicating with her? You know she exists and she knows you are the new woman in his life so why are they being so secretive? Red Flag Alert!

  26. 176

    Txting outside for privacy is never a good sign!

  27. 177

    Calling BS on most of these comments and Evan.

    I think it’s incredibly selfish and immature to keep seeing an ex while in a committed relationship with another person. Obviously sex and strong emotions were involved at some point. Am I supposed to believe that this is all dead with no possibility of coming back? Please.

    Have some respect for your current partner and drop the ex.

  28. 178

    The point about all this is – it’s totally up to the people involved in the relationship to discuss what is ok for THEM. Not everyone is ok with exes as friends – some people are – and both are fine as long as you can agree what works for your individual relationship. I don’t think this is about right and wrong – only what’s right and wrong for the individuals concerned. They need to discuss this openly and work it out between them. If it doesn’t work for Emily and she can’t trust her boyfriend then it’s time to leave. If he isn’t able to be upfront about his ex- that’s a question for him to deal with – not for Emily to try and ‘work out’ or ‘put up with’. She shouldn’t have checked out his phone – but – this is a sign that something’s not right about their communication anyway. I would assume that having had a LONG DISTANCE relationship – they hadn’t even got the practical part of the relationship functioning and probably were still in an ILLUSION zone about what was going on for them. A bit of a wake-up call to suddenly living together and having to deal with each other in a REAL sense.

  29. 179

    Evan – I think you have an enormously tolerant wife – is she real??

    1. 179.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Essie, she is indeed real. Feel free to look at the About tab at the top to see a photo. We just celebrated five years and the reason that we’re so happy is that we both tolerate each other and accept each other in full. What’s the alternative? Being with someone you don’t trust, complain about, micromanage and criticize. So you may think my wife is unusual for putting up with me, but I’m telling you, the more women who figure out what she figured out – that the ONLY thing men care about is whether you accept them in full – the more happy relationships there will be. If YOU wouldn’t accept a guy like me, that’s your business. We both feel pretty damn lucky.

  30. 180

    Evan, with the greatest respect, you have only been married 5 years so I don’t think that makes you a relationship/marriage expert. A ‘one size fits all’ philosophy is just that: it won’t fit everybody because we are all different. My advice to Emily would be to devise a new life plan (excluding wotisface and including a lot more vitamin C in her diet) and wave a cheery bye bye to this very confused, devious man who clearly needs to learn some manners. (We can probably take a lesson from the French. If one MUST indulge in extra marital relationships then discretion and good manners are the key). From experience though, political correctness is all very well, but most of us mere mortals do not want to be faced with our loved ones’ exes. Well done, though Evan, because you and you wife have achieved something unique.

    1. 180.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      If doing this professionally for ten years and writing three books doesn’t make me an expert, what does? Five more years without my wife divorcing me? Please. Your advice is to be ruled by insecurity. My advice is to trust and be secure. I have never seen a relationship succeed because one or more parties was led by insecurity.

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