Episode 387: Should I Still Talk to My Ex?

Hello friends!

In this episode, we delve into a deeply personal and complex question that touches on the lasting impact of past relationships, the nuances of friendship, and the boundaries within a current, happy marriage. A listener shares their experience of not being able to stop thinking about an ex, despite being happily married and having no desire to rekindle a romantic relationship. They discuss the significance of this past relationship during a pivotal time in their life and ponder whether they should attempt to cultivate a friendship or strive to move on completely.

We explore the importance of acknowledging the role this person played in their life, while also considering the potential implications for their current relationship. The conversation includes practical advice on navigating these feelings, communicating with both the spouse and the ex, and setting healthy boundaries. We also discuss the potential for “relationship drift” and the importance of being honest with oneself about the true motivations and possible outcomes of re-establishing contact.

As always, you can send me questions to duffthepsych@gmail.com and find the full show notes for this episode at http://duffthepsych.com/episode387.

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Question:

I can’t stop thinking about an ex even though it’s been over a decade and I’m very happily married. I’m also not sure if I want to stop thinking about this person or be friends with them? We dated for a few years in my early 20s (including living together for a year). Although there was some lying on his part and multiple breakups, I really feel like he was my best friend during that time. I think that because I was still very much forming as a human at this time and it was a long and deep and intense relationship, he is kind of baked into me in a sense. We recently reconnected online after a decade of not speaking. It’s been very casual – little friendly messages back and forth. But since the breakup and especially since reestablishing connection, I think about him a lot. I want to talk to him more than we do. I have a wonderful life and I don’t for a second want to be in a romantic relationship with him again (we just were not compatible in that way for many reasons), but part of me must really miss having him in my life in some way. Maybe? Or should I try to just stop thinking about him altogether and if so how do I do that? It’s been 10+ years. I feel stuck.

Response:

When wrestling with the thoughts of an ex-partner from a pivotal time in our lives, it’s crucial to navigate these waters with introspection and careful consideration, especially within the context of a current, happy marriage. Our early 20s are a formative period, often leaving a lasting imprint on our emotional and psychological development. This connection, deep and multifaceted, with an ex-partner can linger due to the significant shared experiences and the growth that occurred during that time. Recognizing this, it’s understandable why thoughts of rekindling a friendship with an ex might surface, despite being happily married and not desiring a romantic reunion.

In pondering the reconnection with an ex, several layers need exploration. Firstly, it’s important to assess the boundaries within your current marriage. Openness and honesty with your spouse about your feelings and the nature of your communication with your ex are paramount to ensure that this reconnection does not infringe upon the trust and agreement of your relationship. Discussing and clarifying what is considered acceptable within your marriage can help mitigate misunderstandings and ensure both partners feel secure and respected.

Furthermore, it’s essential to consider the dynamics of re-establishing a connection with someone who played such a significant role in your past. The history of lying and the complexity of your previous relationship with this person call for a cautious approach. Even if there are no current romantic feelings, the potential for misunderstanding or unintentional emotional entanglement exists, especially if the nature of the past relationship ended on complicated terms.

The phenomenon of relationship “drift” illustrates how interactions can gradually evolve beyond their initially intended boundaries, potentially leading to situations that might challenge the integrity of your current relationship. It’s crucial to remain honest with yourself about your intentions and feelings as you navigate this rekindled connection.

Deciding whether to maintain a friendship with an ex involves careful deliberation of the potential impact on your current relationship, personal growth, and emotional well-being. It requires a balance of respecting your past, acknowledging the growth and experiences it brought you, and honoring your present commitments and the future you are building with your spouse. Communicating openly with both your spouse and your ex about your feelings, boundaries, and expectations can help in navigating this delicate situation with integrity and respect for all involved.

In summary, it’s not uncommon to feel drawn to people who have significantly impacted our lives, even years after parting ways. However, when considering rekindling a connection with an ex-partner, it’s vital to approach the situation with honesty, openness, and a clear understanding of your current relationship’s boundaries. Reflecting on what you truly seek from this reconnection can guide you toward a decision that aligns with your values, respects your current partnership, and nurtures your emotional well-being.

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