How to Prevent Marital Conflict When an Ex Makes Contact
Relationships can end with ex-sweethearts still appreciating and respecting each other. They may move on, marry other people, not expecting that their paths would cross again.
Now, suppose that twenty years after, one recognizes the other on a social network. What are the chances that contact with an ex will create marital conflict?
Imagine that you’re the one who receives a Facebook message from an ex-sweetheart sharing a phone number and requesting yours.
You stare at your computer screen with a large grin on your face. Memories of good times and laughter flood your mind. His request to reconnect makes you feel worthy and special. You get excited about the opportunity to hear his voice again. You take a deep breath and write your response. Before you hit Send, reality hits. You have a husband now, and you cannot ignore the fact that contact with an old boyfriend could create marital conflict. (It could also be a female contacting a male)
Here are five steps you can take to ensure that you do not give your spouse any reason to distrust your loyalty.
(1) Affirm Present Relationships
Your ex has already made the first contact. In your first response, you have the opportunity to set the record straight on an important issue.
“Well, I’ve been married for (state the number) of years. My spouse and I met at (name the place). He or she is a (occupation).” Add whatever else you choose, as long as you talk positively about your partner.
Then ask, “What about you? Did you ever get married?” If you ask about the other persons' marital status before you mention yours, you might give the impression that you are inquiring about an opportunity to take up the previous relationship where you left off. Establish from the start, that you respect marriage--yours and your friend's.
(2) Set Rules for Further Communication
If you are in distant cities, and agree to talk occasionally (birthdays, sharing family news, etc) it would be respectful to introduce the spouses. Have your friend greet your spouse on the phone; let your friend know that you would like to greet his or her spouse. That way, if the spouses answer when you call each other's homes, they would not be strangers.
Nowadays, Skype and Face Time are available where all four can share a conversation.
You may argue that the spouses should feel secure in the marriage. You’re right, and it wise to support that feeling of security by acting discreetly.
No leaving the room to talk a call from your ex. If your spouse is not at home when your friend calls, be as respectful the same way you would if he or she were there. Don’t cheapen your marriage which is intended for a lifetime by a few minutes of forbidden conversation.
(3) Be Open and Honest with Your Spouse
Let’s say you talk with your friend while your spouse is away. The sooner you mention it to your spouse, the better. If you wait until a few days later, you might have to explain what took you so long.
You may have expectations about how your spouse should react. You may wonder if there is hidden jealousy, and begin a series of excessive flattery to deflate it. Your intention is to assure your spouse of your admiration; but he or she could become conscious of your overcompensation; and you could plant a seed of suspicion where there was previously none.
If you are uncomfortable for any reason at all, about talking with your friend, end the discomfort ending communication with the other person.
No matter how precious the re-connection might be, it is not worth the effort you and your partner will spend second-guessing each other. It is not worth an interference with your marriage relationship.
(4) Select the Memories You Share
The speaker phone also makes it possible for all four people to share conversation. In a wholesome friendship between two friendly couples, this is priceless. The spouses may even be comfortable enough to listen in on the memories of the two former friends.
The rule of thumb for everyone’s benefit is: do not indulge in memories which make your spouses uncomfortable. This rule applies even if the spouses are not listening. Your aim is not to create a secret society of two within a circle of four. The marriage relationship takes preference over the old-time-sake friendship, and everyone needs to be aware of this premise at all times.
There are memories which you two may recall and prove interesting to the spouses. They listen, laugh, comment ask questions. No problem there. However, if you detect lack of interest, disgust, boredom or any other negative reaction, redirect the dialogue. Again, if such an activity between the couples breeds discontent, refrain from it. Conversations on any friendship level should leave friends with a feeling of joy and empowerment.
Do you think that a married woman should renew her friendship with an ex-boyfrend?
(5) Be Cautious about Merging the Two Worlds
Be careful in the event that you and your spouse actually meet your friend and spouse. Certain factors will determine how closely the couples can merge, or if you should hang out together at all. The same applies if you do not physically meet, but develop a relationship in which the couples feel free to exchange phone calls.
- · How healthy is your marriage relationship?
- · How healthy is your friend's marriage relationship?
- · Are all of you clear on your personal boundaries, as well as the boundaries around your marriages?
Because you two have the longest history of friendship, you may be tempted to play doctor to other’s relationship if either one is hurting. That would make it tempting to find comfort in each other’s arms (literally or figuratively) and you can rob each other of spousal attention.
However, if all of you are clear and in agreement with the boundaries, it is possible to enjoy a respectful relationship—one couple with another. If there is good reason not to maintain friendship between the couples, part again with the attitude of respect that you both practiced when you were single. Whatever happens, remain true to your marriage vows.
Do you think that exes and their spouses can enjoy a blended friendship without suspicion and jealousy?
© 2012 Dora Weithers