Several of our Therapists that are seeing clients in person have now been vaccinated. In addition to offering in person appointments we are also seeing clients for online sessions via video call.
Monday, 12 Nov 2018

Should you allow your partner to be friends with an Ex?

By Dr Becky Spelman

Dr Becky Spelman from Private Therapy Clinic talks about whether it’s appropriate to allow your partner to be friends with an ex or not. This can be a difficult decision for someone and there is no black and white answer as every situation is different. This video gets you to think about your particular relationship and whether allowing your partner to maintain a friendship with their ex is appropriate or not.

Video Transcript

I’m Dr. Becky Spelman. I’m a registered psychologist. I’m going to talk about a question that comes up a lot in therapy with my clients. It’s often something that clients are struggling with. And they don’t really know what to do in this situation. The question is, should you allow your partner to be friends with their ex?

There’s no yes or no, simple answers in this question. It really depends on the situation. So what I would advise, if your partner is friends with their ex, that you find out a little bit about the situation. Do they still have very strong feelings for their ex? And you may not necessarily need to ask that as a direct question or you may not feel comfortable asking them that direct question, but you might want to just investigate the situation. Ask a couple of questions in order to establish what kind of feelings they have for their ex-partner. And if those feelings are just positive regards but no strong feelings of love or a compulsive desire to be in touch with their ex all of the time, maybe they just catch up with them on occasions, then that could be absolutely fine. You don’t necessarily need to aggressively place a rule, in your relationship that there is no contact with an ex. It really depends on whether the contact is very over-dependent, over-reliant on the ex-partner or actually, is it just like a normal friendship, just like another friendship and they have long moved on from their relationship and moved on from the feelings, the romantic feelings that were involved in their relationship.

So you might want to say something like, when you think about your ex-partner, what kind of feelings come up for you? And start an open conversation about how does that person see their ex now? Do they feel still very responsible for their ex’s happiness? Do they feel guilty when they don’t reply to their ex? Is there a lot of unresolved stuff still going on? If the answer is, “Oh, no, I just see them as a friend”, “No, I’m not attracted to them”, “No, I wouldn’t want to be intimate with them.”, “We were real long past that we’re kind of like siblings, now”, then you may be getting the reassurance that you need. And you might not necessarily need to place a clear ban on them having contact with their ex.

But use your instinct. If something seems not right, you’re probably on the right track to thinking actually there’s something a little bit bizarre about this relationship, particularly if there’s an excessive amount of communication, perhaps communication on a daily basis. Now in some relationships, that’s necessary because perhaps it’s a co-parenting situation where children are involved and that communication is very practical. But if the communication is reliant on just this person needing a lot of validation, needing constant communication with their ex for no good reason, then maybe that’s a red flag that, actually something is up.

Another thing I would advise is that you try to meet the ex-partner if your partner wants to have them in their life as a friend. If you don’t meet this person or if your partner says, “No, you cannot meet my ex-boyfriend or girlfriend”, then I would say something is up. That sounds a bit suspicious to me. So you can say to your partner something like, “You’re really important to me, I love you so much, and I want to meet the people in your life. And because your ex is a friend of yours, I would love to meet your ex.” And encourage that actually, you meet at some point so that you know this person that they’re having as a friend in their life. And by meeting the ex-partner, you can actually see how do you feel around that person, either being quite warm and friendly to you. And can you see that the feelings are very neutral at this point? Their ex is just a friend, and there is no romantic feelings left.

So I would say be quite open-minded about this. And try to take quite a practical approach. Don’t get over emotional. Or if there is jealousy in relation to your ex being friends with their partner, well, they’re no longer with this person, and they’re no longer with this person for a reason. So rather than jumping to conclusions and being jealous is quite a normal, natural, healthy human emotion, that’s okay if you do feel jealousy, but be aware of whether that’s somewhat irrational and actually, perhaps they’re not doing anything wrong at all.

A lot of people struggle with this issue, and it’s something that a lot of people come to therapy over about couples’ therapy and also therapy on an individual basis. So if you do want more advice or guidance on this issue, you can definitely consult with us.

I’ve helped a client quite recently with this issue, and she’s just finished treatment with me. And the difficulty was she wanted to be very accommodating to her current boyfriend. Now, her current boyfriend was compulsively texting his ex-girlfriend, on a daily basis, quite long and lengthy messages. And he did a quite openly but she didn’t know what was in these messages. Unfortunately, she didn’t feel comfortable with the situation, and she read his text messages without his permission and found out a lot more. And while there was no infidelity in the messages, there was quite clear over-dependence, over-reliance on the ex-partner. To me, some of his emotional needs, he felt quite responsible for taking care of the ex-partner. He felt quite guilty when he didn’t reply, but also he wasn’t respecting the girl. He wasn’t respecting his girlfriend enough, and he wasn’t drawing that line and stepping back from that past relationship.

Through therapy, this girl really learned how to deal with this situation. She was able to open up communication about this problem and establish boundaries in her relationship. She didn’t have to place any ban on her boyfriend having contact with his ex-partner. But she certainly got him to agree to something that was much more reasonable and much more in line with respecting her feelings about what was going on.

So I hope that you found this video helpful. And if you do want to have some advice, if you want to seek some advice on this problem, if it relates to you and something you’re experiencing, my team at a Private Therapy Clinic will be more than happy to give you a free consultation with no obligation to have any therapy or anything, but you might just want a little bit of feedback, a little bit of insight into how your situation is affecting you and what you can do to try and break that cycle.


For help with the issues discussed in this article speak to one of our therapists here at Private Therapy Clinic for a free initial chat or to make an appointment.

If you’d like to read up more on this issue, you can read our pages on relationship issues, jealousy or even infidelity if you suspect something more is happening between your partner and their ex.

Check out other related articles

  • 30 Oct 2012

    Overcoming Romantic Jealousy

    By -Private Therapy Clinic Psychology Writer

    Jealousy is a painful and poisonous emotion which refers to undesirable thoughts and feelings of anxiety, inadequacy and insecurity. It is activated by threats to a relationship and motivates behaviour that counters the threat......

  • 21 Sep 2017

    How Does Social Media Affect Relationships?

    We can credit social media with a lot of things and most of them are positive. As a social media user myself, I am more than aware of the enjoyment and fun that we, as users, get out of it and a lot of this stems from gaining validation through likes and comments. After all, who doesn’t enjoy scro.....

  • 16 Oct 2018

    Understanding Dysfunctional Relationships

    All relationships are dysfunctional in some form or another, but that isn’t to be cynical; not at all. It’s more of a recognition that as beholden as we are to our own unique perspectives, disagreement is bound to occur from time to time......