Is it Okay if He’s Friends with His Ex?

Is it Okay if He’s Friends with His Ex?So, you start dating a new guy. He’s great. Interesting, attractive, intelligent and fun. All seems well until…

You find out he’s still pretty tight with an ex.

Sure, there are situations where former partners have to maintain contact. If they share a circle of friends, have kids, or work at the same place, for example.

But these two have none of those obligations, and they’re still very close.

Like, they hang out. They talk. REALLY talk. Probably about his relationship with you. They’re downright chummy, and it kind of weirds you out.

It’s not that you’re jealous. You’re not afraid he’s cheating on you with her. If he wanted that, they’d still be dating. No, this is something else.

You don’t want to sound possessive or insecure, but you’re not cool with the connection he has with her.

And the worst part of it is you end up doubting yourself. What if you are just being clingy?


So here’s the real question. Is it okay that he still pals around with a former girlfriend?

The quick answer? Maybe. But probably not.

A recent Oakland University study actually took a close look at over 850 post-dating friendships. What these researchers discovered was kind of alarming.[i]

According to the study, people with “darker personality traits,” like narcissism and psychopathy, were more likely to remain friends with an ex after the breakup. Their reasons were mostly pragmatic and almost always selfish.

Former partners don’t normally stay close friends. Most people move on.

Unless that is, they see their ex as a “desirable resource” they can use when convenient. A resource for what? Well, that ranges from help meeting other eligible singles to easy random hookups.

Yeah. Scary.

Is it a guarantee your guy is thinking along those lines? No, not at all. But if he’s still friends with an old flame, you have good reason to be uncomfortable.

Luckily, dealing with it is pretty straightforward.

First, talk to him. Let him know you’re not comfortable. He may defend the friendship, which is normal. Just maintain your stance.

Is it Okay if He’s Friends with His Ex?Don’t let your imagination get the best of you. In other words, DON’T accuse him of anything. And don’t draw any lines in the sand. It might seem like a good idea to give him an ultimatum, but it’s not.

This isn’t a Lifetime movie. If you end up saying, “It’s her or me!” you’ve gone too far.

Just let him know his connection with a former girlfriend is going to have a negative impact on his connection with you. You’re not okay with that.

If he’s receptive, understanding, and willing to change, great! It may take a bit of time to work out the kinks, but a sensitive, mature guy will get it.

If, on the other hand, he refuses to take your feelings into account, run. Don’t expect him to suddenly decide your feelings matter later. If they don’t matter now, you deserve better.

A lot of former couples manage to be civil around each other after the breakup. That’s a sign of maturity. But if your guy is besties with his ex, that’s a red flag.

Tell him that doesn’t work for you and give him the chance to change it. If he won’t, it’s probably time for you to move on.

[i] Rense, Sarah. “If You’re Still Friends with Your Ex, Chances Are You’re a Psychopath.” ELLE. Hearst Digital Media, 13 May 2016. Web. 19 May 2016.

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11 thoughts on “Is it Okay if He’s Friends with His Ex?

  1. kremesch said:

    I enjoyed reading this article. I started following you, despite how I feel about the advertising, because I felt I needed to understand my relationship better. You caught me at a weak moment, but I find your advise and articles often surprise me. I’m happy to read them. I’m not out to manipulate the opposite sex. It is important for me that I understand whether or not I should continue on the path I’m on.

    Unlike many of your followers (from what I gather), I’m not single. I’m not looking. I’ve been in a relationship for over 30 years. I don’t want to start over, but I feel like I’ve been asleep. I’ve turned a blind eye to things I feel I should no longer turn a blind eye to, and I’m discovering traits I never knew existed in either of us. Some of it surprises me. Some of it alarms me, but most of it keeps me on edge.

    I am a loyal person and honestly can’t recall a time when I flirted with the opposite sex for the last 20 years. That means not even my husband. I’ve grown cold over the years for reasons I wish not to disclose and am trying to remedy that. I’m just not sure if I should.

    Regardless, I feel I would enjoy reading an article on your thoughts about workplace spouses. I have already encountered this issue, but if I were new to the single’s world and still not fully aware of the things I should accept or not accept, what would you have to say about a man who has a workplace spouse? Would you consider it the same as remaining friends with an ex? Or would you approach the topic differently?

    It’s a little food for thought. Perhaps if/when you run out of ideas, it wouldn’t hurt to give some insight on the topic. If I were single and looking for a mate again, it is a possible pitfall I could run into, and when I say ‘I,’ I mean ‘all’ of us, young, old, single, women, men, etc…

    • James Bauer said:

      That’s such an interesting topic, and I’m glad you brought it up.

      And I’m happy to have you as a reader. I hope your efforts to breathe new life into your relationship creates a self-reinforcing cycle of joy for you and your partner. It’s nice to meet brave people like you online. Good luck!

  2. Donna kwikiriza(faith) said:

    This is serious however to me it wouldn’t be good to take the ex as an enemy but standards should be set and limits put across not to go beyond the set standards more so if you have already moved on with someone else,respect the new person you have and put a limit with your ex otherwise you will end up making funny mistakes like cheating in trying to be good. remember the more you give time to your ex ,there are some memories you had together which can be remembered and bring you back some times together and yet you have already moved on with someone else.all i have to say on this is that respect the fact that shes your ex and there are reasons why you couldn’t stay together and set your standards in respect of the new person you have now.thank you.

  3. red said:

    my boyfriend is friends with his ex i did not have a problem with it at first but when i found out that his ex with come over an she would spend the night by him an when i asked him he said he was just trying to help her out cause she has problems with her baby father so i pushed further an asked so where did u sleep he said on the same bed so i was like for real thats when he told me that they almost has sex the only thing they did was kiss and cuddle i was so pissed an felt betrayed we talked about it and try to move forward but he still talks to this ex he had sent her a porn video an told her he want to do her like that i saw that an i just lost my mind i also found out that i was pregnant for him i was so depress an down an super stressed out that i lots the baby i told him in the heat of the argument that he would never get to see his child ever we are still together i love him but i need some advice what should i do should i leave or try to work out an almost 3 years relationship

    • James Bauer said:

      That’s a complicated personal question that would be poorly addressed in a blog comment. You might want to join our private forum where we have coaches to address personal questions like this one.

  4. Ali said:

    I wouldn’t interpret it this harsh, ladies. Different people, different situations. I am friends with my ex, we’ve known each other for two decades now, out of which we spent more than a decade together. We talk probably on weekly or fortnightly basis, buy presents for each other’s birthdays. Yet, there is no coming back. None of us wants it back. We have a very strong mutual understanding that it will never work for us as a couple. We are best being more like brother and sister. There is ABSOLUTELY NO sexual connotation to our relationship with him.

    Some people are surprised, yet they fail to consider that life is more than being about sex. Life is much happier and satisfying when it is about forgiveness, friendship, kindness, and not harbouring negative feelings.

    He knows me for much longer than he knows his wife. I hope that she is not of a jealous kind (we never discuss our current relationships anyway, we have a lot of other common interests. The only time we spoke about it was when he consulted me which one of his several girlfriends I liked better, and I liked the one that later became his wife). But trying to stop it would be more like making him stop seeing his relative: a brother or a sister.

    I just want to say that women have a lot of influence on their men. Don’t teach your man to be angry and possessive, if don’t want those qualities to later show up in his dealings with you too. Teach him to be a better man, and you’ll be the first one to benefit from it.

    • Bea said:

      I’m with you on this one, Ali. I am great friends with my ex-husband of 4 years. We even hang out on a semi regular basis. Always in a group, never alone. THERE IS NOTHING SEXUAL ABOUT OUR FRIENDSHIP. We were great friends prior to our marriage, the marriage fell through, our friendship picked back up after. Yes, we have a daughter together and that was a big driving force to stay friendly after the divorce. But it wasn’t hard to want to stay friends. Even now, it’s not awkward. I’ve dated someone seriously since our split and there was no animosity by either party. All I’m saying, Ladies, is take time to really listen to your guys side of the issue. If the tables were turned and you were the one in that type of friendship, how would you want you potential new guy to come to you with the issue in a way you felt was fair and mature.

  5. Idiot girlfriend said:

    I found messages in my boyfriends phone and pictures she sent him. They talk all cute with eachother “handsome” “beautiful” how she’s so far out of his leage and how she’s just so far away.. Then I findout he met up with her when he went back to his hometown. Like an idiot I’m still here and all we do is fight. He’s friends with all 30+ ex and they message eachother.. Please tell me to leave

  6. S. said:

    I think this is slightly misleading – the article in Elle does not accurately reflect the study.

    • James Bauer said:

      It was an unusual research design. And the findings reported here are really only one small portion of what what the researchers noticed.

      • Cici said:

        My ex and I are friends. We have known each other for almost 50 years. When we were divorced almost 30 years ago. We decided that life would be so much easier if we were on a friendly basis as we had 2 children and would be in contact forever. Both of the kids appreciated this. Birthdays, Christmas, graduations, weddings, births of grandkids etc were so much easier on everyone involved.

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