If you have ever tried to maintain a friendship with an ex, you might know that it gets increasingly harder when one of you starts a new relationship. Other dynamics come into play – buried emotions, unresolved feelings, and a new person holding some influence over the ex all create roadblocks. It is tricky to navigate, but it is certainly possible. With the right perspective, care, and self-awareness, you can move on and build a lasting friendship.
It is equally (if not more) difficult to be the new man. Finding someone who has swept you off your feet, but still maintains a close friendship with her ex, conflicted feelings emerge – jealousy, comparison and a lack of knowledge about the dynamic of that relationship. For many men, this would be a deal breaker. But it does not have to be.
If you have true feelings for someone, you cannot give them an ultimatum with a friend. You must respect them and allow them to make their own decisions regarding their friends. If you feel ready for that, it is time to really open up and deal with the conflicted feelings.
Start by talking with your partner without accusing her of any infidelity. Admit that you are feeling unsure and needing some clarity. Be ready to hear some things you might not want to hear, especially in regards to her past relationships, but stay open and remember you have a past too. If she reassures you that there are not unresolved feelings on her end, believe her.
It might be awkward, but a true sign of moving on is the ability to meet your ex’s new loves. Perhaps you will see why she wants to maintain a friendship and you will grow to understand their new (more friendly) dynamic. Stay open to him. If your relationship works out, he might become your friend too.
Evaluate your trust.
Take some time and make sure you truly trust your new relationship. If you are not ready to trust her, you might not be ready for a relationship at all. Or, if she gives you a reason NOT to trust her, that is a separate thing you two will have to deal with. (Perhaps then it is HER inability to trust your relationship. Either or, that is no way to start something.)
Assess your jealousy.
There is much debate over whether a little jealousy is healthy or detrimental. Truth is, that is depends on the relationship. Some people find their partner’s jealousy reassuring, others see it as a blatant sign of disrespect and distrust. Once again, be open about your feelings of jealousy. Talking about them (before taking action because of them) is key to maintaining a happy, healthy relationship.
Let it go.
Once she has earned your trust and once you believe you are not jealous, let it go. Do not over-analyze or chastise her. Avoid pointed jokes and sly remarks about her ex.
Be open to a friendship yourself.
Whether it happens or not, allow yourself to hang around the ex and be open to developing a friendship yourself. Treat him like you would any of your friends (or at least any of your girl’s friends). Do not remind him of what he has lost, but be honest about what you have.
Remember: she is with you now. Enjoy her. Love her. Be present with her.