Would you consider befriending your partner's ex? I was asked to think about this for a piece that was written in The Independent all about the Netflix show, 'Selling Sunset'. It initially felt like a light-hearted topic, but it's actually a pretty serious subject. Friendship circles and relationships are often messy and intertwined. Would you consider befriending your partner's ex? Should you? Click here to read the original piece in The Independent, and read on to see what I had to say.
Why might someone we feel compelled to be friends with our partner’s exs? It’s possible that you just might really like them, and feel totally relaxed about building a friendship. Or perhaps it’s down to:
Keeping tabs. It reminds me of the old adage, ‘keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer’. If you find yourself cultivating a relationship with your partner’s ex, it might be because you really like them. But it might also be because you see them as a potential threat. And so you might see a friendship as an opportunity to keep tabs on them.
Showing how ‘cool’ you are with the situation. Maybe you feel jealous or angry or anxious about the role that your partner’s ex plays in their life. But it might not feel socially acceptable to display this to the world. So by pursuing a friendship with your partner’s ex, you might be trying to mask how you’re feeling, and show the world - and your new partner - how ‘relaxed’ you are.
Mixed friendship circles. When we’re in a new relationship, sometimes we need to tread carefully if there are entrenched existing friendship circles. You might not have the option to avoid your partner’s ex, so it might feel safer to offer them an olive branch and get to know them.
Pressure from your new partner. Your new partner might explicitly, or implicitly, suggest that they would like you to be friends with their ex. It’s worth treading cautiously here, and understanding their motivation for encouraging this relationship.
There’s traditionally a certain amount of social pressure on women to be ‘likeable’. To be smile and to build friendships. This pressure can mean that women feel compelled to appear friendly and sociable with a partner's ex, even if they are suppressing other feelings. If you feel secure and comfortable in your relationship, then a friendship with your partner’s ex might add something to your life. After all, you’ve already got something in common. And if they have already moved on - particularly if they have found a new partner - then it might feel like a natural step. There might be children, or pets, involved in the relationship between your partner and their ex. If so, there’s likely to be practical arrangements, and emotional baggage there too. If you can build an amicable relationship then it’s likely to make it easier for you to slot into each other’s lives. What about an ex partner’s exes? Could it be cathartic to befriend them? This really depends on your motivation. Maybe it’s just the case that you’ve identified a sense of shared connection, independent of your relationship. Or perhaps you’re united in your dislike of your ex-partner. Either way, it’s worth noticing what has brought you together. And making sure that your friendship feels balanced and secure. Why might it be a bad to idea to befriend a partner’s exes? If you’re prone to self-criticism or negative thinking, then it’s possible that this could be triggered by spending time with your partner’s ex. Are you likely to compare yourself unfavourably, or get drawn into their opinions about your new partner? If so, it’s important to understand what boundaries you need to have in place in order to protect yourself and your self-esteem.
Keen to explore more?
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