Many urban Indians are now quite comfortable with dating and being in long term romantic relationships that do not end in marriage. Therefore, the chance that they would have been in one or more long term relationships before get married is very high. While some prefer a clean break from their exes by not staying connected at all, there are some who remain friends. This friendship can range from being comfortable to bump into each other to being very close and familiar sans any romance.
Whatever the case may be, if one is in touch with their ex, their partners tend to feel uncomfortable. Take for instance 33-year-old V, who has been married to D for over two years now. A decade ago D was in a serious relationship with his college sweetheart G, for six years. They were inseparable and very involved in each other’s lives. G came from a broken home and struggled with the divorce of her parents. D became the steady anchor in her life. He enjoyed being the glue in G’s fragmented life. As years went by, G’s neediness became severe. Perhaps that was the reason D broke up with G. However, he remained available to her whenever she reached out to him. Even though they mutually agreed the romantic relationship was over, both wanted to be in each other’s lives. One call from G and D would drop whatever he was doing to go to her rescue. When V started dating D 3 years ago, he had been honest about his relationship with G, including the fact that they were still close friends.
V even experienced how he would rush to help G. She had found that quite endearing and appreciated that D was a caring human being. Unfortunately, after V and D got married, there were many times when G started to need D’s help. If there wasn’t some personal issue to be sorted, then it was some problem with the household items, or it was a need for financial management advice. It sounded to V like G was doing this on purpose. At this point, V started resenting D’s availability to G.
They had many fights about this, with D always bringing it to a point where he would question V’s trust in him. Despite all this, V did trust that D had no romantic feelings for G. But V however, believed that G could possibly have residual feelings for D. Considering the frequency with G reached out to D, especially after he had gotten married. Things got a to a point where, in desperation, V tried to do a bit of matchmaking for her husband’s ex.
With great effort, diligence and patience, V was able to make a breakthrough and D did agree that seventy percent of the times that G had reached out to him for help was unnecessary and she could have got this done from a service instead. D has started to push back on G’s demand of his time. V is happy that he is doing so consciously, however, she is not sure if D has emotionally detached himself from G.
V and I are working together to help her reach a place where her reactions are not as drastic as they have been in the past, especially since D has really cut back on being available to G. It’s a slow process but V feels confident that eventually, G will stop being a significant part of their lives.
These feelings of discomfort with an ex being a close friend in my opinion are quite legitimate. If D was just friends with no past of a romantic alliance with G, I am quite sure V’s reactions would have been different. She would have not been insecure about that friendship. It’s much harder to accept that there was someone who your partner had intense feelings for, just like they do for you now. It’s hard for two reasons: firstly, that these feelings can come to an end, which is the root cause of the insecurity; secondly, that there might be residual feelings since your partner continues to be so close to his/her ex, from either side if not both.
What will help is to have a personalised set of rules on how any situation arising due to an ex will be handled by each couple. Both partners should have a say in this, of course, but what should be the bedrock is mutual comfort levels. There might be situations where both partners are close to their respective exes and do not feel any discomfort in either of them continuing with that friendship.
Whatever the case may be, if you do find yourself being subjected to the angst of your partner regarding your closeness to your ex, the question to ask yourself is this – is the relationship with your ex more important than the relationship with your partner? Once you have the answer, you will also know what you need to do.