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How to Prevent Marital Conflict When an Ex Makes Contact

Updated on February 9, 2019
MsDora profile image

MsDora is a Certified Christian Counselor. Her views on premarital and marital issues are influenced by her Christian beliefs.

Some sweetheart relationships end with both individuals 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 media site. 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.

Photo by Walton LaVonda
Photo by Walton LaVonda | Source

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 guilty pleasure.

(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 by 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.

Friendship Renewal Poll

Do you think that a married woman should renew her friendship with an ex-boyfrend?

See results

(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.

Blended Friendship Poll

Do you think that exes and their spouses can enjoy a blended friendship without suspicion and jealousy?

See results

© 2012 Dora Weithers


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    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      8 years ago from The Caribbean

      Kasman, you're doing the right thing. You choose to deny contact to the ex-flame and that is your right. Your primary relationship is your marriage, and she needs to respect that. I admire you!

    • Kasman profile image


      8 years ago from Bartlett, Tennessee

      Ms Dora, you have some of the most insightful hubs. This is why I get a kick out of reading them.

      I actually have had this happen several times since before and after I got married to my wife. I have an ex-flame who every blue moon decides to try to contact me even after I told her we couldn't have contact any longer. I don't try to kindle any relationships or keep that fire burning at all. I believe that it must be stamped out as long as there aren't children involved....and even then, it needs to be at arms-length.

      I can respect the people's decisions who decide to carry on as normal with an ex, but I think it does invite too many roosters or otherwise in a henhouse. It's like the scripture says, "Don't even give the appearance of doing evil." Slightly out of context, but I think it may work here.

      Voted up and interesting! Well written and I'm sharing!

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      8 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for your input, Philomena. I agree with you, but despite that fact, some people do. This article is for the guidance of those who break the rules.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      once you get married you should move on with life respecting your wife or husband.I believe going back to an ex brings a lot of suspicion to your spouse .

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      9 years ago from The Caribbean

      Ken, thanks for your input. Happy marriages are what I'm about, and honor/respect is certainly essential. You said it very well.

    • ken blair profile image

      ken blair 

      9 years ago

      A happy marriage is I think measured by the equality between spouses in everything. Honoring one another's decisions is also another thing that neutralizes the relationship in the family. The tips you've shared about are excellent. They're worth applying for to maintain a healthy and joyful marriage.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      9 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for your comment, Eve. Good advice! Really there are different scenarios:

      Premarital exes who have had a wholesome relationship (no sex) before marriage may not have a problem continuing that same respect.

      Exes who had a sexual relationship but have no children, really have no reason to communicate.

      Exes who were married and have children may benefit from a civil relationship which include their spouses.

      Thanks to the comments. I hadn't even thought through all these situations when I wrote the article.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      MsDora, different situations cause different decisions. People can change their minds if they think they made a wrong decision. Change before they do anything they would regret.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      9 years ago from The Caribbean

      Bob, thank you for illustrating that just because some people feel strongly about an issue, they cannot guarantee that everyone will be affected by that issue in the same way. There are good reasons for never contacting your ex--but if there are people who feel that they can manage the situation in the same way that you and your wife do, the guidelines in this article will help them to succeed. Your last two sentences give powerful advice. Thank you for sharing with us, and for brightening up your little town with the light of your integrity!

    • BobMonger profile image


      9 years ago from Carlin, Nevada USA

      I guess living in such a small town as I do gives me a bit different take on ex-s. My wife and I have been together over 25 years, but in all that time we have both made it a point to be friends with my ex and her husband. We share the lives of 4 beautiful children who have grown up knowing their parents-all 4 of them-love and care for them. Because the town we live in is so small it is impossible for us not to have some kind of relationship with each other. On the other hand there have been no "surprise" contacts or clandestine anything where ex-s are concerned because a: that flame died a long time ago and b:there is no way to keep a secret in a town of less than 1,000 people-so any "funny business" would become public knowledge sooner than immediately. I would advise someone who gets a call out of the blue from an ex to be highly skeptical of their motivations. Try to remember why they're an ex instead of a spouse and go from there.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      9 years ago from North Dallas, Texas

      Thanks for the support on my comment, MsDora. And to you, a well thought out hub that was engaging and worthy! Bravo. More please.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      9 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, PegCole17. I totally agree with you. especially that "external emotional relationships can damage the marriage relationship; by their nature, they take away time that could be better spent evolving as a couple." Even those who try it may soon realize this to be the truth.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      9 years ago from North Dallas, Texas

      MsDora, There are times when running across an ex is unavoidable as in the case of divorced parents of kids or relationships that went their separate ways where their kids still are friends. Encouraging an ex who makes contact out of the blue to renew a friendship after a breakup is to invite trouble into the new relationship. It may just be me and others may have no trouble with this but I do. External emotional relationships can damage the marriage relationship; by their nature, they take away time that could be better spent evolving as a couple. Just my two cents!

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      9 years ago from The Caribbean

      No argument from me, EIseductor. It cannot hurt to follow that rule. Thanks for your input.

    • ElSeductor profile image


      9 years ago

      Ms. Dora,

      A married woman should never contact her ex. Never!



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