Being in touch with one's ex usually comes with a lot of challenges and moral dilemmas. Whether it is the right thing to do depends on a number of factors: what equation you share with them at present; what kind of relationship you had with them earlier; on what terms you separated; whether you have a partner currently, if this affects them in any way; and most importantly, why at all want to stay in touch with them still.
We speak to experts to weigh in on the pros and cons of such a scenario and examine the impact it has on one’s current relationship.
To Be Or Not To Be?
Zahabiya Bambora, lead psychologist at HopeQure, a mental health platform states that there's no harm in being in touch with your ex as long as your partner knows about it and is okay with it. “However, I think it is important to respect our partner's feelings towards our ex as well in this scenario. If you have to hide something from our partner you just shouldn't be doing it in the first place, as maybe deep down you feel that it's wrong,” she warns, adding that it could probably due to unresolved feelings.
Tanvi Jajoria, counselling psychologist and founder of MentAmigo, a mental health service echoes Bambora’s views when she says that “keeping touch with one’s ex can be more complicated, but that doesn’t mean that we should not keep our friendships alive. People may feel envious, insecure, or may just not be comfortable with the thought of their partner being friends with their ex for some other reasons. As much as you would want to make this decision on your own, it is also important to respect your partner’s feelings.” She advises that communicating clearly with your partner about your equation with your ex, why you want to keep them in your life and how you’d want your partner to understand and support you. These are essential to avoid misunderstandings and also value both your relationship and friendship at the same time.
Bambora gives another perspective when she says that there is a certain amount of trust and respect we owe to our current partners. “For instance, if you are in touch with your ex and your partner is uncomfortable, you’d probably want to distance yourself from your ex,” she says. Hiding that you are in touch with an ex is “completely disrespectful,” she adds. However, Bambora also says that if your partner’s discomfort with this stems from jealous or trust issues, then “there is a fair chance that it is more of an ‘us’ problem and the dynamic of the relationship is flawed.”
The pros of staying in touch with an ex:
They can be a good friend: If you have had a long relationship, then it is possible that your ex knows you well, and can probably be a good friend. If you share a healthy bond and have firm boundaries with your ex, being in touch with them can become a significant part of your social support, since the relationship has a certain level of shared comfort. The key is to know what your expectations and boundaries are with each other.
You can get closure: Staying friends with your ex helps you find the reason it ended. You have the opportunity to openly discuss your breakup with your ex when you are friends. It might be challenging to express your sentiments when in a relationship since you may feel guarded.
They can provide valuable insights: You are free to talk about precisely what went wrong, giving insights into yourself. This is a chance to learn from your mistakes and use this as an opportunity to improve yourself.
The cons of staying in touch with an ex:
It may make things complicated: Things can become confusing if one individual isn't over the other person. One person may only want to be friends, while the other person may see a chance to reconcile a romantic relationship or partnership. The friendship or connection could break apart as a result of this. It may have a negative impact on one’s current romantic relationship, too.
It may make moving on difficult: If your relationship ended on good terms and you both don't feel for each other anymore, there is no harm in keeping in touch. But if one of the partners still has feelings, it might be difficult for them to move on with regular interaction.
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You may not be able to create your own identity: Sometimes you may want to stay in touch with our ex because it’s very difficult to imagine your life without them. This dependency on them keeps you in a vicious loop of staying in touch with them and/or going back to them, even if it does not help in your personal life anymore. Sometimes people also associate their sense of identity with a specific person, and losing them means losing their identity too. By being in touch with such a person, it is harder to give yourself the chance to create your own identity outside of the bonds with the people in your life.
These are only some pointers that can be helpful in a situation like this. Not all relationships and the people in them are the same, of course. It is always good to have a clear understanding of all the contributing factors in your unique situation and make a more informed decision for yourself.
Divya Naik is a Mumbai-based psychotherapist