SHESAID resident psychologist Kim Chartres answers your most awkward and confronting questions.
Ladies, it’s time to open the X-files. Shudder!
Passionate feelings such as love and hate are inextricably linked; for this reason, I do not believe men and women can truly be friends post-breakup. At least, not until many, many years have passed.
In addition, if you’ve loved someone with all your heart, and they’ve exited from your life – note the emphasis on ex – why would you invite them back in? Especially if you’re trying to move on and date someone new?!
And sure, there are exceptions to the rule: if you’ve got children together, then that’s clearly a major game changer and, whether you like it or not, you’re bound to each other for life and must stay civil for the sake of your children.
Case in point: actor Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin who stunned the world when they “consciously uncoupled” in March 2014. The pair, who has two kids together, split after an 11-year marriage. And, in an emotional and somewhat bizarre statement, they asked for privacy at the time to “consciously uncouple and co-parent”, while Gwynnie’s Goop website talked of holistic “wholeness in separation”.
While the tabloids labelled the couple’s statement as “new-age tosh”, it’s surely an admirable sentiment to be as loving as you can towards the mother or father of your children. But, outside of celebrity La La land, with all its privileges, this can be significantly tougher in real life.
And if you’ve ever had the misfortune of dating someone who’s not over their ex – I don’t envy Jennifer Lawrence one bit, as she’s allegedly dating Martin – it can feel like there’s three of you in a relationship and things can get way too crowded.
We all have baggage, but is it ever OK to be friends with an ex? And how does this affect your current relationship?
SHESAID went in search of answers, consulting a top clinical psychologist who specialises in relationships for insight into this complex issue.
Q: Is it ever OK to be friends with an ex?
A: Whether or not you are friends with an ex will depend very much on the circumstances that lead to your break-up. If it was a mutual decision to part and the separation was amicable, then you might choose to remain on good terms and take an interest in the well-being of each other as time goes by. However, if the relationship was toxic and the separation hostile, being friends with your ex is the last thing you’ll want.
Q: How do you cope when your partner is still close to their ex?
A: It can be very difficult for a partner whose loved one remains on good terms with an ex. We all suffer, to varying degrees, from insecurity, and the more insecure you feel, the more difficult it will be to accept that your partner wants to keep in touch with and even spend time with an ex. It begs the question – why? Of course, if there are children involved there is a reason to stay in contact with an ex – for the well-being of the children. In this situation, a certain amount of contact is inevitable and the best approach is to accept the situation gracefully and make interactions with your partner’s ex as stress-free as possible. But if there is no good reason for your partner to stay in touch with his/her ex, and if it really bothers you, your partner should respect your feelings and cut contact.
Q: What if your partner lies about catching up with an ex?
A: If your partner lies about catching up with an ex you’ve got a problem. You’ll be asking yourself why he/she felt the need to lie. Approach the situation in as mature, calm and non-confrontational manner as you can; after all, shouting and abusing him/her won’t help. But if your partner is being dishonest about catching up with an ex, and doesn’t have a very good reason for the deceit, it’s probably time to make some hard decisions about ending the relationship.
Q: Does having an ex always threaten a current relationship?
A: Not necessarily, it’s more about how the other partner feels and whether the person having contact with the ex is prepared to take their partner’s feelings into consideration. If he/she ignores your wishes and feelings and maintains the contact when it makes you feel very uncomfortable or miserable, then the problem is more about the lack of consideration being shown for your feelings and wishes. That might be enough to threaten the relationship.
Q: Should a man or woman urge their current partner to also be friends with an ex to lessen the threat?
A: They could try if staying in contact with the ex means so much to them. This would be helpful it there are visits from children involved. Trying to be friends with your partner’s ex would probably work better if the ex has a partner – that would help to alleviate feelings of jealousy and insecurity and fears that your partner is still attracted to his/her ex. Bring these feelings into the open and discuss them with your loved one – again, if your relationship is good, he/she should be considerate of your feelings and cut or reduce contact with their ex.
What do you think? Can you be friends with your ex?
Main image via www.tmz.com; secondary image via perezhilton.com; third image via www.quora.com and final image via eclectikramblings.wordpress.com.