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Conversing with exes while you're in a relationship: Under what circumstances is this appropriate, and when is it not?

Asked by girlofscience (7464 points ) March 10th, 2009

Generally, there is probably nothing wrong with maintaining occasional friendly communication with previous ex-girlfriends and ex-boyfriends. Even though the feelings are no longer there (we’d hope not, at least), these people used to be a part of our lives. The relationship may not have worked out, but that shouldn’t eliminate the possibility of amicable conversations thereafter. Right?

Well, maybe. But if you’re in a relationship, exes certainly have the potential to become an issue. There is such a variety of situations involving exes as well as currents, and I believe that different situations may call for different answers to this question.

Specifically, I am questioning if it is appropriate to converse with my ex-boyfriend, given my situation:

I had a serious relationship with Mark* from 2003–2005. He was an important part of my life at the time, and though I no longer care for him romantically, I still value the experiences I had with him during that relationship. Mark’s best friend at the time we were dating (Josh*) is now my current boyfriend. I understand that this sounds horrid, but it’s not actually as bad as it sounds.

I was close friends with Josh while I was dating Mark, but the friendship with Josh was strictly platonic. After Mark and I broke up in 2005, Mark and Josh had a severe falling out. The incident that caused this falling out was entirely separate from my situation with either one of the guys. Essentially, Mark did something that Josh found to be reprehensible, and Josh abruptly ended the 9-year friendship, so offended by Mark’s actions.

Since Josh and I were good friends while I was dating Mark, we continued to be friends after my break-up with Mark. Long after Josh’s falling out with Mark (almost a year), Josh and I began dating toward the end of 2006. At the time Josh and I began our relationship, neither of us had any form of contact with Mark.

A few days ago, Mark began speaking to me again, after years of no contact. (Mark is now married, has a child, and lives 8 hours away from me and Josh.) Mark basically said that he felt enough time had passed, and he would appreciate if we could be friendly. Mark, however, still dislikes Josh immensely, and Josh still feels that Mark is a terrible person.

I thought it would be nice to have this sort of occasional, friendly communication with Mark, but Josh disagrees. Josh is usually a quite reasonable person, so I tend to respect his opinions, but I am honestly torn on this one. When I expressed to Josh that I would enjoy casual, friendly conversations with my ex, Josh said: “He isn’t just your ex. He’s someone I thought was my best friend, who betrayed me and for whom I have no respect. I don’t want him involved in our lives.”

Given this specific situation, is it appropriate for me to converse with Mark occasionally, or does Josh have the right to request that I not speak with Mark, given his own experience with Mark?

* It probably was so not necessary to change the names, but eh, doing so made me more comfortable discussing this.

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