Being friends with an ex is always a tricky business. If someone was a big part of your life, it’s natural you would want to keep a connection with them—but there might be unresolved or confusing feelings. And once you’re in a new relationship, things get even more complicated. But can you still be friends with an ex once you’re married, or does marriage draw a line in the sand?
The truth is, marriage shouldn't be the dealbreaker. If you had a healthy friendship with your ex when you were in a serious relationship, the fact that you’re saying vows shouldn’t change that. It’s less to do with your marital status and more to do with the individual situation—the ex, your partner, and you. Sometimes, being friends with an ex is totally natural. Either you dated a long time ago or your relationship was never that serious, so it was easy to transition. But emotions are complicated—and often the situation is a lot more ambiguous. And what marriage might do is give you the motivation to decide if this friendship is working, once and for all. If you’re feeling on the fence about being friends with an ex, here’s what you have to consider.
Are You and Your Ex Actually Friends?
A lot of people who are “friends” with an ex aren't actually friends. If you were friends with this person long before you met your current partner—and there were no romantic hangovers—you probably are genuinely friends. But if they randomly text you and want to meet up for drinks after months or years of not communicating, that can be more suspicious. If you’re just people who occasionally show up in each other’s lives and confuse things, that’s not a real friendship—and you probably want to cut ties. And if you feel yourself drawn to this person but you sense it’s not a genuine friendship, you may want to consider if everything is going smoothly in your relationship—or if you’re trying to get some of your emotional needs met elsewhere.
Being Friends Doesn’t Have to Mean Being Close Friends
Remember, being friends doesn’t mean being best friends. Just because you’re friends with an ex doesn't mean they have to dance at your wedding. It can just mean you're Facebook friends or you exchange birthday texts. Maybe you even meet up for coffee. But there are lots of ways you can be friends with your ex without it being too intimate or making your current partner feel weird.
Take Your Social Situation Into Account
Why would you want to be friends with your ex if you weren't close friends? Wouldn't cutting them out be easier? Well, you need to think of your whole social situation. If you have a lot of friends in common, if they know your family, or if you regularly run into each other, it’s just not useful to have bad blood between you.
Instead, talk to your partner and explain that this person is a part of your life whether you like it or not—then work together to find the best way to move forward.
You Need Complete Transparency
Talking to your partner is an important point. If you have a friendship with your ex— whether it’s a close or more distant one—you need to be completely transparent with your current spouse. Ideally, you’ve done this since the beginning—they don’t need to find out after the fact that the guest who got too drunk at the wedding was actually someone you used to hook up with. And you definitely don’t want them to hear it from someone else. Be honest about the previous relationship and the current friendship, and consult with them about how you both feel things should be handled going forward.
Your Current Relationship Should Be a Priority
Your marriage is going to be your priority. If your ex is not an important part of your life, there’s no point in jeopardizing your marriage just to keep up a tenuous friendship. You need to take your partner's feelings into consideration, every step of the way.
Although there is one caveat: If you have a partner who is really threatened by you being in contact with your ex, that can be a red flag. If you’re genuinely just friends with this person and have been for a long time, your new partner should respect the fact that they’re a part of your life. If they can’t handle any ex-partners or old hookups being on the scene, you might want to ask yourself if there are bigger control issues.
Being friends with an ex can be choppy waters to navigate, whether you’re married or not. But marriage might be a good time to evaluate any confusing friendships and decide whether they’re genuine—and whether they're worth it. Keep in mind how much this person means to you, and how big of a role they’ve played in your life, then talk to your partner. And, above all, remember that honesty is key.