It’s okay to admit it. It doesn’t make you a bad person if you don’t like how close your partner is to their ex.
It makes you normal. Very normal.
Of course you’re uncomfortable about how close they are. Of course you feel insecure. They used to be what you and your partner are now. A couple in love with each other, and intimate on all levels.
Before I go any further, it’s important to state that some people do get on far better as platonic friends than romantic partners and would never ever want to rekindle their past relationship. And if there are children involved, friendship is always a good thing. After all, the children have suffered enough pain due to the separation; if their parents are on good terms and behaving in a mature way it makes life easier for them.
What I’m talking about is the sort of closeness between ex-partners that threatens their current relationships. Closeness that takes focus and energy away from the current relationship, so it’s a major distraction. Closeness that erodes the trust, respect and security in the current relationship.
Your partner may insist they’re just friends with their ex, but a part of you can’t help wondering: Do they still have those feelings for each other? Do they have secrets between them? Do they meet up more often than you know about? Does your partner compare you with their ex? These thoughts can drive you crazy if you let them. And then there’s the most nagging thought of all:
Does your partner, deep down, want their ex back?
These feelings of insecurity and jealousy are perfectly normal because when your partner’s ex is still a big part of their life, it means a living, breathing reminder of your partner’s past exists in your present relationship. They’re on your partner’s social media accounts. They’re on their phone list. They’re there when you both go out with a group of friends. They seem to be everywhere…and you wish they weren’t.
The closeness between your partner and their ex can negatively affect not only your relationship but also your self-esteem. If you’re in this same situation, here’s what you can do if your partner’s ex is too close for comfort, without appearing crazy or jealous:
Talk to your partner calmly and without accusations
Pick a moment when you are both relaxed and broach the subject.
Explain calmly how you feel it affects your relationship. Explain how it makes you feel but make sure you put all the focus on your perception of the situation rather than throwing lots of accusatory sentences beginning with “you” at your partner.
And don’t say anything derogatory about their ex. It will just make you seem what you don’t want to appear: crazy and jealous.
Your partner might not have realized the extent of your feelings. That’s why it’s important to tell them; otherwise they’ll carry on thinking you’re OK with the situation. Don’t assume they know exactly how you feel.
Ask for transparency – no secrets
Make it clear you love and respect your partner and want your relationship to work, which is why you don’t want any secrets between you.
Request that you both promise to always be upfront with each other about what you are doing, who you are seeing socially or in contact with. These measures strengthen the trust in your relationship. After all, we are sharing our life with our partner, and that means sharing information with each other too.
It does not mean, however, interrogating your partner every time they go out or hacking into their computer or mobile phone to check messages. You’re their partner, not a private detective. If your relationship lacks that much trust, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth staying together, ex or no ex.
A strong, healthy relationship cannot exist without trust and mutual respect.
Set stronger boundaries
Does the ex ring or text your partner a lot? Ask your partner to keep communication to a minimum, out of respect for you.
If your partner and their ex grab a quick coffee together once in a while, that’s fine, but not dinner and a movie. A text message or email now and again is fine, but not an hour-long conversation. If your partner still has photos of the ex in the house, ask that they box them up and put them in the attic or basement. Promise you will do the same for photos of your exes.
Request that your partner doesn’t talk to you about their past relationship. Energy needs to be placed on your here-and-now relationship, not one from the past.
When they meet up, invite yourself along. Your presence might possibly annoy the ex, but it will send a clear message: you are with your partner, not them, and you have every right to be there.
If it is obvious that the ex has plans to get your partner back, there’s only one option: demand all ties with them are cut. If your partner values your relationship, they’ll agree to this without complaint.
Consider befriending the ex
This may be something you would never ever want to do, but before you rule it out completely, consider this:
Getting to know your partner’s ex can be a good tactic in weakening their position in your partner’s life. Not only does it take away a lot of the mystery surrounding them that had previously tortured your imagination (no, they aren’t perfect, they are just like everyone else) but you also show you aren’t threatened by them (even if you are, a little bit). And it also communicates the strength of your relationship with your partner.
Befriending the ex is a form of killing with kindness, especially if you suspect the ex enjoys your discomfit about the situation. If you are nice and friendly to them it could unnerve them so much that they back off. Plus, if they see you aren’t jealous or intimidated by them, staying in contact with your partner might not seem so appealing to them anymore.
If your efforts at friendship or even civility are met with hostility, you need to tell your partner. It’s a strong indication that the ex does have ulterior, suspicious motives for staying close to your partner. In this situation you have every right to insist your partner cuts the ties with their ex or, at the very least, sets much stricter boundaries.
The best (and admittedly, the most unlikely) outcome is if a genuine friendship can blossom between you and the ex. Your partner once dated this person, so maybe there are some redeeming features to their character that you might like too if you get to know them? However, if you can’t work out what on earth your partner ever saw in them, then it’s obvious friendship isn’t going to happen. Just accept it and remain civil, and keep those boundaries tightened.
Work on the intimacy in your relationship
Attention placed on a past relationship takes attention and energy away from your current relationship. You need to take your focus off the ex and place it on your partner and improving your connection with them.
Have date nights, book trips and holidays. Spending quality time with your partner will remind you both why you choose to be together.
And don’t forget: your partner is with you now, not their ex. Exes are exes for a reason.
Strengthen your self-esteem
Insecurity and jealousy in a relationship can really affect your sense of self-esteem, which in turn affects your relationship further. It can become a vicious cycle.
The way in which you love and relate to other people is a strong reflection of the love you have for yourself. Start working on the most important relationship in your life – the one you have with yourself. @kjhutchings (Click to Tweet!)
Read self-help books, take courses, or see a therapist. Do whatever you need to do to realize what a wonderful person you are, how strong, creative, loveable, valuable, and deserving of respect you are. Stop comparing yourself to other people. We are all unique, so comparing ourselves either favorably or unfavorably to others is a waste of time.
Strengthening your self-esteem is something you do separate from your partner. This is your time to be selfish and focus entirely on yourself. Your relationships with other people are just a part of your life, not the whole. You are not just one half of a couple; you’re a person in your own right, so give yourself attention too.
Live your own life
Partners shouldn’t live in each other’s pockets. That’s not healthy for anyone. Don’t focus all your attention on your relationship and neglect other aspects of your life. We value our romantic relationships but the truth is, many don’t last forever (just ask your partner’s ex) and if you made your partner the center of your world and then they leave you, you’re left in a very cold, lonely place.
Meet your family and friends, enjoy your hobbies, and pursue your career. Find new friends and interests. This will breathe new life into your relationship and very likely increase the closeness between you and your partner.
If there’s little or no improvement consider an ultimatum
If, despite all your efforts to do the above, you are still unhappy and have seen little improvement in the situation, you could give your partner an ultimatum to choose between you or their ex.
Now, if they have any sense, they’ll choose you, of course. However. Be prepared to walk away from the relationship if your partner refuses to cut ties with their ex or even distance themselves from them. Yes, it will be painful but it will also release you. You’ll be free to find a relationship that is good for you, not one overshadowed by the past. You’ll be free to find a partner who respects you.
You have to ask yourself why anyone would still insist on keeping a close relationship with their ex even though they know it negatively affects their current partner and relationship.
Some people use their exes as a means to deliberately induce insecurity, fear, a lack of self-worth and jealousy in their current partners. It’s a warped way to make them feel better about themselves by belittling someone else. It’s a form of control and power and it’s undoubtedly emotional and psychological abuse. And it’s a sign these people have serious issues of their own to deal with.
You definitely don’t want to be with someone who is intent on disrespecting you and trying to take away your confidence. They don’t deserve you. You are too good for them. Walk away. Don’t waste another day – walk away. It is only through walking away that you’ll find the happiness you deserve.
You deserve a good relationship
You deserve a good relationship. You deserve to feel secure and respected. You deserve to be with someone who prioritizes the relationship they have with you over all others and wouldn’t allow someone else to threaten your bond.
Please don’t put up with people or situations that are bad for your wellbeing. Please don’t settle for second best and allow the past to overshadow the present. You are worth so much more than that.
KJ Hutchings is a fiction and self-help writer and artist. Much of her work focuses on self-empowerment, self-esteem and creativity, as well as relationship issues. Visit her site kjhutchings.com to get 25% off any artwork in her online shop, free e-books and chances to win original paintings. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.
Image courtesy of Krists Luhaers.