The Ex-Factor - How to Deal with an Ex Including Your Marriage Partner's Ex
Exes Can Wreak Havoc
Once upon a time, a princess was searching for her true love. In the process of finding him, she kissed a number of frogs before, eventually, finding her prince. They married and began to live happily ever after in their castle - until she started receiving phone calls from a Mr. Frog. This got her thinking about all the others she had been involved with prior to her marriage. Supposing she met them while out on an excursion - should she hug them, greet them from a distance, or just ignore them? Would coffee or online chats be OK? What about the little tadpoles she may have had from one of these previous unions? "Hmmm," she wondered, "Now that I am Mrs. Prince, how does my ex fit into our happily-ever-after?"
The "ex" is not a phenomenon to be underestimated. It doesn't matter whether it was your 16-year-old fling, or 10-year mar¬riage with three children, or two-year college relationship; regardless of how the relationship ended, all exes have the potential to cause mayhem.
For that reason, spouses do not like exes; they make them nervous. As the new wife, you have to be transparent with your spouse from the beginning. When you first meet someone, get it all out in the open, because in the first few weeks of a serious relationship, all is forgiven. The rose-tinted flush of new love is the perfect time for him to find out that you dated his best friend - rather than three years into your mar¬riage when an acquaintance mentions it to him casually.
The second person with whom you need to be brutally honest is yourself. As women, we sometimes rationalize and think with our hearts, which may blind us to our true feelings towards an ex. When you have been intimate with someone, you have created a bond that can never break. This is because, after the relationship dissolves, the grieving process never completely ends. In theory, you gradu¬ally get over them, but it is never quite finished. Being forewarned about this can prevent your unfinished business from potentially destabilizing your marriage.
This matter of emotional "unfinished business" is complicated further by the fact that not all women are in love with their husbands. Women get married for different reasons, including romantic love, financial security, companionship, and to have a father for their children. In an ideal world, all of the above would be rolled into one package. The reality is that, often, a woman chooses what is most expedient, in line with her situ¬ation in life - which leads to a variety of outcomes.
Sometimes, even when women marry for love, they choose the wrong man. Strong, competent women have been known to devote themselves to toxic characters who may be violent, abusive, cheating and self-destructive. If you grew up in a dysfunctional family, you may feel you have to earn the right to be loved. Having extricated herself from such a marriage, a woman may go on to think with her head rather than her heart, getting married the second time around to a good, stable husband who loves her unconditionally, but lacks that "bad boy" allure - and so she may still have very potent chemistry with her ex. In this case, any contact with him would be completely inappropriate and extremely hazardous. We all know of worst-case scenarios where a couple has a big row and she goes off in distress to an old flame, who dutifully comforts her. Before they know it, smoldering embers combust spontaneously into a conflagration of forest-fire proportions.
You've got to be grown-up about it and say, I won't even go there - or else it will all end up in tears. Even cruel exes had to have had their good sides, or else you wouldn't have been with them. An affair with an ex is one of the worst kind to have, second only to having an affair with your spouse's relative.
The danger is we sometimes forget the reasons we broke up with them in the first place. You have to keep reminding yourself. I'm not angry anymore. I can call him with confidence (regarding his child visitations), knowing I won't feel anything, because I just keep remind¬ing myself of all the horrible things he did to me.
Where exes decide to be great friends, often one or the other has unresolved feelings and may still yearn to be with the other person. Bear in mind that even the most successful marriages involve hard, sometimes grueling work. If an ex is lurking about in the background during the low points, a potentially hazardous situation can develop, and a crack in an otherwise-happy marriage may leave it vulnerable to an affair.
Conversely, experts agree that being openly hostile, angry or venge¬ful towards an ex is evidence of unresolved issues, including still being in love with them. Snubbing them, or cussing them out when you meet, is both juvenile and undignified. The type of energy, positive or negative, you expend on a relationship is directly proportional to how deeply you feel about that individual. Hence the ideal outcome would be to reach a level of peaceful co-existence and mutual respect - or, in a perfect world, indifference. That way, if you happened to bump into one another in a social situation, you could still be cordial and perhaps even share a joke.
In the case of a marital split-up, if you are able to handle it discreetly, you will avoid drawing battle lines that alienate in-laws, friends, cousins, parents, grandchildren, and all the innocent parties a marriage normally brings together. This type of courteous behavior is very different from meeting up for coffee or having long telephone conversations - which would fall into the other extreme of having an "emo¬tional affair". Such relationships are, only a step away from infidelity, and show blatant disregard for the feelings of your spouse. In marriage, there is no such thing as a "platonic relationship" with an ex.
In short, exes can be a dangerous species, and should be kept at a respect¬ful distance. Be honest with yourself, be truthful with your spouse, and be bal¬anced and dignified in all your dealings. If there are no children, contact may be civil, cordial and even friendly - but it should be kept to a minimum. Remember why you chose your current spouse and, rather than focus on your past, invest your energy into making him your one and only "happily ever after".
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