You genuinely like your ex-boyfriend as a friend and the feeling is mutual. You enjoy having a platonic relationship with him and have a common circle of friends … or maybe you work together. But you’re also in a current relationship and have to consider the effect that friendship has on your current mate and the health of that relationship. So the really important question is, can you be buddies with an old flame without ruining the relationship you have with your current mate?
Understand Your Mate’s Feelings
Be open and honest with one another. Respecting and being sensitive to his feelings about the situation is crucial. If he feels insecure at any time about your friendship with your ex, nip it in the bud. Ask him what bothers him about it and why.
Put yourself in his shoes to understand what he might be feeling. Would you be understanding if he had a friend, husband, or boyfriend who was once a lover?
Be observant of any emotional or behavior changes in your mate that might be a result of the friendship. Is he anxious, depressed, angry, withholding affection? Does he make derogatory remarks about your friend?
Probe. Ask him questions to get to the root of the insecurity if he’s not forthcoming. If these issues are not addressed, the relationship could deteriorate – and worst case, cause a breakup.
How to Make it Work
Don’t wait to fill your mate in on your friendship. Let him know about your ex right away, in the first stages of your relationship or when that friendship develops. By the same token, make your ex aware that you have a new mate in your life up front or when it occurs.
Explain to your mate the nature of the relationship with your ex lover-now friend. Have a mutual understanding of that friendship. Don’t be vague. Tell him why it’s important to you to have the friendship.
Discuss exactly what the friendship involves. If you email one another about certain topics or have occasional lunches or phone chats, help each other problem-solve or brainstorm, or help him make decisions on his home remodeling project, tell your mate.
Explain that your relationship with your ex is not a reflection of your dissatisfaction with your mate in any way and that you are no less committed to the relationship.
Establish boundaries with your ex by being clear about the relationship, explaining that you wish to be platonic friends and not lovers, with no underlying motives.
Steer away from insisting on the friendship. That could give your mate a reason to feel suspicious of your motives and feelings and cause damage that may be difficult to repair.
Even if you do all these things, feelings of insecurity on the part of your mate may surface. If so and they are reoccurring – despite discussions and assurances – you'll have to weigh keeping that friendship against the friction and a possible rift with your current mate.
It CAN Work
Having an ex-lover as a friend and having a current mate who is understanding and accepting of that friendship can work. It may take time and extra effort on your mate’s part in understanding, accepting, and trusting you. You are instrumental in that process. If it works, it will be a testament to the strength of the relationship.