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What does it mean to be "friends" with an ex?

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ea_confusion posted 7/31/2013 09:53 AM

Iím sure there have been threads about this before, but Iím looking for peopleís thoughts on this:

Can you be ďfriendsĒ with your ex? If so, how does that work?

Does it bother you if your WS still maintains friendships with exs?

Why Iím askingÖ

I just got through my SO having an EA this past spring and I still think Iím sensitive. Although weíve been doing great a couple things annoyed me recently. For one, this woman he dated in high school (and lived with) contacted him to ask if he would hang out with her brother and mom while they visited Chicago. They are from a small town and wanted help navigating. I found it weird because he gets upset about what she did to him in the past, claims he has no feelings for her and that they are too different now, yet is still her friend? It makes no sense to me. I recently read a FB chat between them and they were having a conversation that seemed innocent. He was talking about me which was good. But the weird part was that she called him by a nickname Iíve never heard before and then he said he was going to bring her back a gift from his trip to Egypt.

This weekend he wants us to hang out with another ex (relationship wasnít as serious) and her boyfriend this weekend. I rarely hear him talk about her and then all of a sudden we are going to a museum and dinner with her and her boyfriend. Obviously Iím going to tell him it makes me uncomfortable, but Iím looking for your thoughts.

Why does he find it necessary to stay in touch with his exs like this? I donít.

Is it attention he needs like he did with the EA?

He is very strong about not having an EA happen again but I feel sensitive to these ex-girlĒfriendsĒ.

[This message edited by ea_confusion at 9:55 AM, July 31st (Wednesday)]

KeepCalm_CarryOn posted 7/31/2013 10:13 AM

So, I'll explain my friendships with my ex and then maybe you'll see how his are a bit different?

I dated a guy in high school, we'll call him T, like freshman year? Broke up, didn't work, but we've stayed friends ever since (15ish years now?). Never gone more than a few months without talking. In college we would visit each other, make plans on breaks if we were around. He comes to events in my life, I go to events in his life. He supports my relationship, I've supported his relationships. He's become like a brother. When his mom died and he was alone, I was there. When I got married, he was there. My FWH and him are now friends(ish), they golf together, we all go out to dinner together, occasionally they'll text to chat.

Here are what I see as the differences between my friendship and your SO's- if I talk to T, my FWH knows, every time. If I have plans with T, FWH is invited, automatically- he may not always go, but there is no secrecy. I have maintained a friendship with T for 15 years, not randomly, occasionally or what have you but a constant friendship.

ea_confusion posted 7/31/2013 10:31 AM

Thanks! Yeah, it is different.

When he mentioned his plans he said that a friend of his from high school was coming to visit and he was going to show him and his mom around the city. He was awkward when asking me as if it would bother me and I said that it wasn't a problem, like it didn't conflict with my plans, because I was going out of town.

I had no idea these were family members of this significant ex until a couple days ago. Last week when he was forming the plans, he got a call late at night about it and I could tell a woman was talking to him. I just knew in my gut it was an ex and had a strange feeling about the whole thing and I was right...again.

I don't think anything is going on but it bothers me that he holds onto these exs.

The ex for this weekend is friends with the other one I think, like they are from the same group he hung out with in high school. And I may have heard this woman's name like twice? Funny how we are going out with them after he had a weekend with that other woman's family.

confused615 posted 7/31/2013 10:34 AM

It took him a loooooong time and continued contact with the last OW before he would admit it was an EA..even after you explained WHY it was an EA..even after he knew it bothered took a very long time. He did admit it was an EA eventually,right?

What has he done since then? What work has he done on himself? How has he educated himself on affairs?

The last OW was "just a friend." It sounds like he is grooming these old friends to be his next AP.

[This message edited by confused615 at 10:36 AM, July 31st (Wednesday)]

ea_confusion posted 7/31/2013 10:41 AM

confused615, thats what I was thinking but was wondering if I was being paranoid or not.

He admitted to being wrong about his actions but never admitted that it was an EA.

When he was in Egypt he observed a friend of his in an EA and texted me about how awful it was to watch and how he lost respect for his friend because of it, and he agreed it was worse than a PA. But I feel like he hasn't really learned because he hangs onto exs in this way.

GabyBaby posted 7/31/2013 11:32 AM

What does it mean to be "friends" with an ex?
For me, for a good long while, it meant resisting the urge to bludgeon him to within an inch of death every time I saw him.

His idea of being friends means I get to listen to him bitch and whine about his continued bad choices. I cut him off every single time (to his surprise, each and every time). I have no interest in his drama.

Currently, while I no longer wish pain and agony on him (well...most of the time), I have no desire to be his friend at all either. I am polite when I see him, slightly cordial when we have to interact with the kids on hand (moving DD to/from college, school functions, etc).
Otherwise, he is just someone that I used to know.

I am friend with a few ex BFs.
What this means is that we email/text on occassion and NEVER use flirty or sexually toned wording. If we hang out, its with our respective SOs or with a group, not alone. My husband is well aware of contact.
I've had a couple of exes cross my boundaries (ie sexting). They were quickly told off then cut off. We do not speak any more.

[This message edited by GabyBaby at 11:35 AM, July 31st (Wednesday)]

callmecrazy posted 7/31/2013 11:42 AM

For me, if I am included in plans. They chat with me like I am their friend too...I can tolerate it and feel secure. dont include hide you are talking with them...the girl does not like me...She would not be my friend and converse with me too, it is 100% a NO GO

Personally, I do NOT keep friend contact with my ex BF's. I do not text the H of my friends, nor do I have their phone numbers (aside from any who have it on facebook and my phone synced it automatically but I wouldnt know bc I text the wife. I have seen what happens even if its innocent but my H is bff's with our friends W. Its awful and eventually I feel shut out and the other H can get upset and people notice.

KeepCalm_CarryOn posted 7/31/2013 13:19 PM

I think CallMe hit it on the head- the secrecy/lying/hiding would be a HUGE red flag to me!

ea_confusion posted 7/31/2013 13:29 PM

Totally agree. And I just wouldn't send any of my exs a gift, especially one that pissed me off in the way that he describes when he talks about her and their past.

After dealing with his EA it is hard to acknowledge that any others exist.

What's interesting is that he always says that blondes are not his type but each one of these women (even the OW from his EA) are all super blonde and look similar. ha! I look nothing like them, nor do I act like them.

wanttogoforward posted 7/31/2013 13:39 PM

I personally just don't think a person can be friends with an ex... now, that is not to say that they cannot be polite, cordial, and get along for the sake of children, if they have any together- in fact I would think their getting along together would improve the lives of the children....
A lot of us on here have evidence of our spouses having affairs with ex's of some type.... I know I would never be friends with anyone I'd dated before M... there are good reasons we are not together... and the fact that my H had his first "A" with a crush he had... and could easily walk away for the life we had built for a chance with her tells me that unless there are children then there should never be any contact as contact = trouble.... and if there are kids then contact about the children and business only...

And his bringing anyone other than his wife a gift??? Oh, hell no! That is waaaayyyy tooooo personal and it's a major red flag.

ea_confusion posted 7/31/2013 15:07 PM

Since he didn't tell me that this family he was going to hang with was his ex's until much later and after the fact, I feel it is a red flag as well as the gift.

Also, he was trying to get back together with her until he met me and we started dating. I only heard stories about her but didn't know they were still talking until recently. He tells me that she hates her life and I have a feeling that he is giving her false hope by staying in contact with her. I have no idea what he is getting out of the friendship except nostalgia and an ego boost.

This was an interesting article on the topic - more concerning recent break-ups but still asks good questions and makes good points.

I think you can be friends with an ex if the relationship was more platonic but not if there was passion and you still get bothered when re-telling past stories. ugh.

ea_confusion posted 7/31/2013 19:41 PM

Just confronted him and he was defensive saying that I was cutting people out of his life. You have got to be kidding me. He made the choice to block them both from FB just now. I never said he had to do anything. All I did was call him out on his recent actions and by asking why he felt the need to be friends with both these ex-girlfriends.

X#1 he claims is someone he grew up with and still cares about. He put her on the same level as one of his best friends from high school. This is total news to me. NEVER before did he say that. Then he said that he sent her a gift from Egypt because that was a dream of theirs to travel there together. Omg. I said to him ďyouíve got to be kidding me.Ē Then he got angry and said that at least it isnít a ďdick in a tw#tĒ situation. Yes, vulgar. He still doesnít get the EA slippery slope and inappropriate behavior he continues to show me. And he thinks I donít understand because Iíve only had bad relationships. That isnít true and I told him that. I just am not friends with people I used to sleep with especially those I was in love with because it is inappropriate and that is in the past. High school is over! Ugh.

Then he canceled plans that we were going to have with X#2 and her boyfriend. I have only heard her name twice, no stories or anything!, and then all of a sudden we were going to hang out with her.

I think him springing this up on me, his secrecy and not being clear has made me really upset and instead of being sensitive to the fact that we JUST went through an EA issue he is using this as a way to make me look crazy and wrong.

I wonít let him do that. He didnít learn from his actions and this is the result. I am neither crazy nor wrong.

I needed to vent this. Thank you. Thank you everyone on SI. I donít know what Iíd do without you all.

ea_confusion posted 8/1/2013 11:40 AM

My SO says that I have trust issues and I say he has commitment/boundary issues. He still hasnít learned from the EA because he is showing that same behavior. I would trust him if he didnít keep pulling this crap on me! And keeping secrets from me about his exes and his relations with them!

I feel like there is nothing else I can do to help him see what he is doing. Is this something Iím going to always come up against if I stay with him? I'm feeling hopeless right now. He doesn't want help, just thinks he's right and rugsweeps.

Iíd be interested in reading more about this study especially if it talks about exes that are kept around when they arenít obviously plutonic.

ďĎExí starts the rot in new relationships, study findsĒ

confused615 posted 8/1/2013 11:42 AM

You have trust cheated on you.

Honestly? I don't think he is naive. I think he knows he is crossing boundaries..he is just hoping you will look the other way..and when you don't he gets angry and defensive..but nothing changes.

He's a cake eater. Close the bakery.

hurtinky posted 8/1/2013 11:46 AM

I'd kick him to the curb. Swiftly.

wincing_at_light posted 8/1/2013 12:02 PM

I don't believe in friendship with exes. I think can be "on friendly terms" with an ex (i.e., you ask how their spouse/kids are when you run into them at the grocery store), but I don't think it's a good idea to invite them into your day-to-day life.

My wife is on friendly terms with most of the guys she dated in high school to this day (not surprising: we live in a small town). Guess what? Every time we see one of those guys -- and we do; sometimes they were even coaches for football or whatever -- my first thought is always "That guy used to fuck my wife."

Which might sound odd, but if you live in a small town most of your life (and you're a dude, likely), you understand this. There's no animosity there, just awareness. And if you're the dude who used to fuck the wife in question, you're careful to be respectful to the dude who's fucking her now, especially if that dude is her husband and the father of her children. You don't talk about the "old days", and if you do, you explicitly avoid the old days when we were dating.

In other words, dude code means that you acknowledge what you represent to the husband (i.e., a sexual rival, even if that was way in the past), and you make it clear that you have no intention of presenting as a current rival.

The problem with exes is that the primary barrier to sexual activity in most cases is proposing it (i.e., getting over the wall of potential rejection). If you've had a sexual relationship with someone, then the big obstacle has already been scaled. Everybody involved knows that under the right circumstances, we'd fuck each other. I don't think you forget that. You can't go back to a place where that wall wasn't scaled.

Choosing to stay friends with an ex and invite them into a more intimate relationship puts the spouse in the position of having to stay aware of rivalry. It's demanding a level of trust that is overbearing, honestly.

(And I'm a firm believer that in every situation where one spouse wants to be friends with an ex that it should be a rule that the other spouse has to be friends with one of their exes, too. If *you* can be friends with an ex, but the idea of your spouse doing it with any one of their exes makes you squiggly, then you're exploiting trust for some sort of selfish payoff that you haven't acknowledged to yourself. You're probably saying something like "well, my exes aren't sluts" or "my exes and I have grown past that". I don't buy it, and likely can't be talked into it. If you're the exception to that rule, object all you want with the understanding that I find the point inarguable and have already concluded you're full of shit on this topic. It's not personal and I still like you.)

BeyondBreaking posted 8/1/2013 12:04 PM

I have a few ex's (non-serious boyfriends from high school, and one from college) who up until I got into my relationship with stbh, I was friends with.

We would hang out sometimes- usually grabbing coffee or a drink. With or without boyfriends/girlfriends or friends. It has never been a "needs to be private" meeting, but very casual.

We didn't talk everyday- we kind of caught up every few months. We rarely even addressed the fact that we used to date. We certainly still had inside jokes from when we did used to date- but we didn't sit there and reminice in the past or anything.

When I started dating stbh, he didn't like the idea of me being friends with ex's, and he isn't friends with any of his ex's. He felt frustrated with the fact that my DD's dad HAD to be part of our lives and really didn't want more visits from the past. I fazed out my ex friends, and there are no hard feelings- if stbh was comfortable in the future with me speaking to them or hanging out with them, I would be able to shoot an e-mail or text and pick right back up without a problem. In the past, one of my ex's had a girlfriend who felt the same way stbh felt about me- didn't want ex's to be around. I wasn't offended at all, and obviously a relationship with SO comes before a casual friendship with an ex.

After cheating, especially, I can understand your feelings and wouldn't be cool with my stbh being so friendly either. I would say something and set some boundaries.

Markone posted 8/1/2013 12:19 PM

Yeah, agree...I personally can't see the point of it. May be different in small town settings, but in my case there's a reason why an ex is an ex.

Slight T/J:
I know I'm likely to be in the minority - and perhaps sensitive given WW's opposing views on this - but I'm not comfortable with my spouse being freinds with anyone of the opposite sex. Friends, to me, are people I can share and do things with that are special and not something you'd share with a colleague or acqaintance.

And,so, if my S had a need to have that kind of friendship with someone of the opposite sex, I would not like it. IMO, it verges on the boundaries an EA. (no offence to people like Keep On who has figured out a healthy approach it seems)

ea_confusion posted 8/1/2013 13:27 PM

Thanks, everyone!

wincing_at_light, I like how you put it. Totally agree.

This all makes me wonder if he ever got out of high school emotionally. And it makes me question who I'm with - that he cannot see his hurtful actions. I also think he's being a cake-eater and acting dumb to see what he can get away with. When I asked him how he'd feel if we hung out with someone I slept with and he agreed that he'd be uncomfortable. Thats when he deleted X#2 from FB and cancelled plans. And his "caring feelings" towards X#1 are also a nostalgia fantasy and I just cannot get over that he sent her a gift without me knowing AND that it represented an old dream of theirs.

hurtinky, you might be right about dumping him.

StrongerOne posted 8/1/2013 16:27 PM

I'm friends with one of my FWHs exes. I've stayed at her house (she's married) without my FWH. Nothing wierd between us -- they have been over each other for decades.

One of his other exes -- from 30 years ago -- is not allowed anywhere near this side of the country. He's been over her since before we even met. She is still not over him

You are dead on right EA_confusion. He is not "over" these women. Even if he were, if it makes you uncomfortable he needs to suck it up. If he doesn't want to do that, or he does it but is a total a$$hole about it, you should think very hard about why you are staying with him. He's not putting you first.

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