Explaining That Your Ex Is in Your Life (Without It Being a Fight)
Sometimes in a relationship, you’re not sure how to phrase a delicate subject or tricky topic. Sure, saying nothing at all is easy, but avoiding the subject doesn’t do anyone any good. Awkward Conversations provides you with a template for what to say — and what not to say — and why, so you can have those difficult discussions without them turning into full-blown fights.
It’s not exactly common to stay close friends with an ex after you split, but it does happen — and it’s the kind of thing that can intimidate your future partners. They may question the time you spend together, slowly becoming suspicious that you’re not actually over them even if that’s not actually the case.
So how can you explain your friendship with a former flame without alienating your current significant other? Luckily, we’ve put together a helpful guide for how to discuss it without ruffling any feathers.
1. Be Honest From the Start
“Listen, I want you to know that I have a history with my friend Robin — we’ve dated in the past. I didn’t want to act shady and hide that information from you.”
If you’re still close to an ex of any kind, your current partner is going to find out about it eventually. That means it’s best that you just tell them from the beginning. Being evasive and concealing things from them is only going to put your partner on the defensive when they figure it out. Why were you hiding something? Keeping secrets will only put you in the doghouse once they come to light.
2. Explain What the Friendship With Your Ex Means to You
“We weren’t right for each other on a sexual level, but we really respect each other on an intellectual one. We decided to stay in each other’s lives, and it’s been an easygoing, fulfilling friendship — we’re there for each other as friends in ways we couldn’t be as partners.”
This is not the time to skimp on details. People are always most worried by the things they don’t understand — if you explain why you made this decision to stay friends, your partner will be much more likely to be supportive of it. Also, tell them that you’re happy to answer any questions or clear any concerns that they might have about this dynamic.
3. Don’t Be Defensive
“I understand that it’s a weird situation for you to be in. That’s why I want to make sure you feel secure enough so that you can trust me. I’ll do whatever it takes to make you feel comfortable, you’re my first priority.”
Be sure not to shut your partner down entirely. If you’re casually dismissive, they’re only going to feel like they can’t talk about their issues with you.
Put yourself in your their shoes. How would you feel if they had an ex you had little knowledge of who they hung out with every weekend? With that in mind, you can approach the conversation from a place of empathy. Validate your partner’s feelings. Tell them that you’re going to be there for them and to allay their fears. This will go a long way toward putting their mind at ease.
4. Offer to Introduce Them
“Would you like to meet Meredith? I think it might be nice for us all to hang out — if you’re OK with that, of course.”
As your partner probably envisions your ex to be this mysterious, shadowy figure, it’s probably best to dispel that mystique as soon as possible.
Bring your partner along next time you meet your ex for a casual catch-up over coffee. It’ll be good for your partner to get to know your ex as a real, fallible human being (and not a threat to the relationship). Your partner can also observe how you two interact as friends, hopefully taking away some of the jealousy.
If this is going to work, your partner needs to see that you’re not still in love with your ex, and this is just one way that can be accomplished.
5. Give Them Time to Get Used to the Situation
Don’t rush your partner into something they’re uncomfortable with. It might take them some time to be able to be cool with you seeing your ex on a casual basis. so be patient and do the work necessary to make sure tension isn’t building between the two of you. Time is the only thing that’ll help eliminate that feeling of paranoia that may come from interactions with you and your ex.
6. Make It Clear That Your Partner Is the Main Priority
“I want you to know that my friendship with my ex is just that — a friendship. You’re the one I love, and you will always come first, OK? This doesn’t change anything.”
Finally, don’t leave your partner feeling like they have to compete for your affection. If they feel uneasy or insecure, they’re that much more likely to give you an ultimatum of them or your ex. You can avoid this situation by being thoughtful and demonstrative of your commitment instead.
As your partner, they are the person whose feelings come first — make it clear your ex will not be jeopardizing that. Give them the care, consideration and attention that will leave them feeling secure and content in your relationship.
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