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Social Boundaries for Friendly Exes

Ms. Dora is a Certified Christian Counselor. Her views on singleness, premarital and marital issues are influenced by her Christian beliefs.

My friend’s Facebook page is overrun with posts from his ex-wife. She sends him tons of friendship quotes, motivational posters and even news items. Big deal! She’s friendly.

Bigger deal! She has already remarried. So what is the real reason for her oversized presence in the life of her ex? She visits his house (without her husband) two or three times a week presumably to visit the pet dog they shared. She shows up (without her husband) at social functions which her ex attends. Nothing disruptive ever happens, but she’s just always there.

Without having all the facts concerning why, it is safe to assume that something is wrong with that picture. Could it be that she is not aware of the negative connotations of her behavior?

Here are some social boundaries for her and other exes who find it difficult to cut the friendship ties. Whether or not the ex was from a married or almost-married relationship, these principles will improve life and love going forward.

(1) Avoid Keeping Up Appearances

The sooner the acceptance, the sooner the healing begins.

The sooner the acceptance, the sooner the healing begins.

Obviously, my friend’s ex finds it difficult to accept the end of marriage. Grief and hurt come with separation of friendships or marriages, but a healthy sense of self-worth, plus an attitude of humility and good judgment will help. There may be regret also, but none of these things can be cured by pretending that they are not there.

Fantasizing the continuation of the relationship only aggravates the negative emotions. Feeding the fantasy with an unrequited show of friendship adds constant rejection to the mix. The longer the futile efforts of friendship continue, the more pain the heart will feel when reality surfaces.

Probably, my friend's ex thought that her remarriage would help her feel better. It makes sense for her to invest her friendliness in that new relationship.

(2) Give Up the Previous Benefits

Give up the previous benefits.

Give up the previous benefits.

The end of a marriage cancels some legal and financial benefits which were automatic in the relationship. It also cancels social benefits.

The list of lost benefits after separation and divorce include (but are not limited to) the right to:

  • companionship at social functions;
  • calls in the middle of the night, except for emergencies concerning the children;
  • emotional support;
  • financial help outside of legal arrangements;
  • exchange of gifts for birthdays and holidays;
  • invitation to family functions;
  • unannounced home visits;
  • introduction to new acquaintances.

This does not mean that exes cannot extend appropriate courtesies from the kindness of their hearts, but they are courtesies not rights. Their first concern is the interest of the present partner, and how the marriage is affected by their association with others.

3) Make Space for New Relationships

If previous mates or even longtime friends seem inseparable, someone who is interested in one of them may be afraid of having to befriend both. Who is willing to take on a threesome when the other two have the advantage of a common history in a longer relationship? The following scenario with Ben and Sue actually happened.

Ben and Sue entered a new community together as close, longtime friends. They were never married but they knew each other well. Whenever Ben tried to become friends with another woman, Sue succeeded in becoming her friend too. Eventually, Ben married another woman. Sue’s friendly interference broke up the marriage; then she and Ben got married. Their marriage did not last either, but Ben and Sue continued to be friends.

Read More From Pairedlife

Individuals are free to have friends on whatever level they choose. However, healthy marriage relationships do not have room for the friend of a friend, nor for the ex of a spouse.

If the friendship between exes is indispensable, they may not need anyone else in their lives.

On the other hand, if they consent to a mutual separation, and allow space for new relationships, the two people in the new relationship need private time and space alone in their bubble.

Friends and exes with healthy attitudes will allow them their right to enjoy their unique, intimate, romantic adventure. Special friendships between exes are not allowed after they marry other people. Any show of friendship must be extended to the bubble as a unit, and be accepted or refused by the unit.

Before the New Relationship Begins

  • Try to deal with every last emotional and practical [legal and financial] issue related to a previous marriage long before getting seriously involved with someone new.
  • If you spend 10 percent of your waking hours thinking about your ex-spouse, you are not ready for a new relationship.
  • If you are dating someone who keeps talking about the former spouse . . . the person has lingering issues to work through.

Excerpts from Beginning a New Relationship . . . by eHarmony Staff

(4) Respect New Relationships

“Since you got married, you seem to change your association with us,” said the mother of an ex-girlfriend to the newly wed husband.

“Pleased to meet you” the newly wed wife chimed in. “Since we got married we’ve been making all kinds of changes.”

No individual is alone in a marriage, hence the wife’s response, “Since we got married” (emphasis on “we”). Neither one is free to establish or maintain relationships without weighing the effect on the new relationship. The Golden Rule implies that previous friends of the bride and groom will consider the rights and expectations of the new spouse—to affect changes in other friendships (just as they would want it to happen for them).

There will definitely be less time for exes. If they insist on overreaching their social limits, they can be dropped completely from the agenda. Marriage has many challenges, and the priority spot on that list is reserved for the present spouse.

Finally, special relationships require the release of friends from previous relationships on the same level. Letting go increases the power of self-control and self-worth. It also increases the ability to prioritize and commit fully to new partner.

Advice for Friendly Exes

© 2016 Dora Weithers


Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on June 02, 2018:

Thank you, ATimson00. I appreciate your kind comments. Hope you start writing soon.

ATimson00 on June 02, 2018:

Unique article topic. Love your style of writing, this was very helpful.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on April 05, 2018:

Anne, I understand your frustration; what I don't understand is "every once in a while." If it means that after three years, the man is constantly communicating with his ex, he may not be ready for a new relationship. Like the saying goes, "Don't make him your priority, if to him you're just an option (that is, providing only what he is not getting from his ex.)" Let him know exactly how you feel, and what changes you would like to see."

Anne Fiennes on April 05, 2018:

I so relate to this article! I've been dating a man for 2.5 years who divorced from his wife of 14 years (relationship lasted 20 years) shortly before I met him. This is the only serious relationship I've ever had that lasted beyond a few months. There's so much that is good about us as a couple, but this issue is the biggest problem we have. He thinks I'm insecure for wanting him to move on and quit communicating with his ex. They've been divorced for 3 years, and did not have any kids, but she has the pets from when they were together. She was very abusive of him, and continues to try to use him to pay her bills and fix her problems, and he has slowly phased out most of those interactions during the time we have been dating. However, he says that he won't ever stop texting her every once in a while, to see how the animals are doing, etc. And I don't like that because it opens the door for her to abuse him further, and makes me feel like I'm not enough for him, emotionally.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on January 24, 2018:

Peg, I agree with you. Someone is confused or deliberately being dishonest when he or she appears to move on but keep going back and forth. Some counseling might help.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on January 23, 2018:

You've covered a really important topic here. Hanging on to previous relationships can definitely thwart new or existing relationships. In your example at the beginning, the ex-wife who continues to try to be the best friend - that is a disaster waiting to happen.

MICHELLE BLOUNT on October 26, 2017:

Thank you, Ms. Dora! I have been praying for God to give me the words and open this conversation between my husband and I. Your article was a big help, for I was feeling maybe im wrong.

God bless you!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on October 26, 2017:

Michelle, you need help. Please find someone with whom you can share all the relevant facts; someone whom both you and your husband respect and who will counsel with both of you. His relationship with you is his primary relationship, and no secondary relationship (like with him and that "god-sister") should be allowed to interfere. She needs to respect you, your marriage and also respect herself. The ball is in your husband's court to set the boundaries. Hope you can get through this. Keep being sweet and respectful, yourself.

MICHELLE BLOUNT on October 26, 2017:

Greatly appreciate this article! My husband of 5 years now has always placed his friends before our marriage. Its as he feels indebted to them or not loyal if he distance himself from them. One female friend that he calls his god-sister, he is especially close to. I feel there may have been a relationship at some point and time in the past, he denies. However, my husband acts as if he cant live without her in his life, I've asked her to respect our marriage and the fact that he is married now and she exploded. Even made threats of harming me. My husband was angry at me over this, they stooped talking and recently she sent a text stating "I miss you brother". He became very depressed and eventually started calling her, now my during the day calls have stopped and he secretly sees her. I dont feel I will ever trust this female, because of her words and the fact she does not respect our marriage. I am a Christian therefore I forgive her, but I can honestly say my husband and I are not one. 3 weeks after marriage all the issues started with her, his mother and other family and friends. Everyone makes him feel im trying to control him when I point out his loyalty to friends over his wife. I honestly feel my husband has no life skills on marriage and he avoids counseling, because someone will show him his role as a husband and how this relationship with the female friend is unhealthy. How do I get past this and how do I get my husband to understand this is slowly destroying our marriage. Keep in mind I honor God in my marriage, so my commitment is to him first.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 15, 2016:

Mo, thanks for your input. Well said and most, if not all, of my readers agree with you.

Mo on November 14, 2016:

Respect for relationships gives priority to the primary relationship. Exes are no longer priority and should not spend their time on a busted friendship. Except for children, their friendship is better off dead and buried.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 03, 2016:

Docmo, thanks for your encouraging comment. Glad you stopped by.

Mohan Kumar from UK on November 03, 2016:

Wise words of wisdom MsDora. Very well articulated and explored. And a timely reminder in these days of social media and over familiarity. you are good at this, very good indeed. thanks for sharing.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 30, 2016:

Denise, it was on oversight on my part, not to recognize your comment. Sorry!

I can understand the discomfort you feel, when your ex-boss' wife tries to engage you in conversation. If she insists, you can preface your statement with something like, "Please understand that I have no ill-feeling toward you," then let her know that you are comfortable foregoing conversation with her (except, perhaps a civil "Good morning" etc).

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 30, 2016:

Nell, I agree with you totally. Sometimes one remarries too quickly in an effort to soothe the wounds caused by the breakup, but instead they only complicate matters. Good advice to wait until they can stand on their own.

Nell Rose on September 30, 2016:

Great points MsDora. the one thing that puzzles me is that if someone has remarried why would they want to keep seeing their ex? it just goes to show that they really shouldn't have remarried until they could go it alone without the ex, nell

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 29, 2016:

Devika, it's those mistakes we want to guard against. Thanks for your feedback.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 29, 2016:

Teaches, thanks for emphasizing decency and respect. If their friendliness is built on these two qualities, there would be little, if anything, to worry about.

DDE on September 29, 2016:

It is important to keep to all you have mentioned in the voting box. Sometimes friendly exes can make mistakes.

Dianna Mendez on September 28, 2016:

This is great advice, Ms Dora. I know people who are still friendly with their ex, some good and some not so good for various reasons. It is always good to maintain a decent respect for others, especially when kids are involved, but I'm not so sure going beyond that is so healthy.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 28, 2016:

Bill, I am aware that TGAF takes a good amount of your time. Glad for your visit whenever you can. Thanks for your encouragement of the practical.

William Kovacic on September 28, 2016:

Late as usual, but better late than never. More good stuff! I enjoyed some of the comments as well. You always have a way to bring out the practical.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 27, 2016:

Shauna, I wonder is she thinking? The whole deal is mind-boggling; you have to see it to believe it. Hoping that she reads this article and others like it. Thanks for your feedback.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on September 27, 2016:

Unless children are involved, ex spouses should move on and out. Why does your friend's ex-wife insist on pushing herself on him? How does her new husband feel about her actions? I would be insulted and quite bothered if I were newly married and my spouse preferred the company of his ex. What is she thinking?!

Denise W Anderson from Bismarck, North Dakota on September 22, 2016:

I recently went through a falling out with my employer, and we agreed to part, howbeit on friendly terms. Now that I am no longer in his employ, I feel almost like I have divorced him. However, when I see his wife in my goings about in the community, she continues to express sorrow that I am no longer working for him. I am not sure what to say, nor how to feel toward her. Although my boss and I parted amiably, I have no more desire to be involved with him or his family. Does this type of situation have any socially acceptable norms?

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 21, 2016:

Kay-ce, it is important to be comfortable with the posture you choose. I appreciate your comment; everyone does not have to feel the same way.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 21, 2016:

Thanks, Eric. You almost always say something that I consider quotable. "Out of respect for my wife and Jesus." I like that.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 21, 2016:

Kimquy, I appreciate your feedback. Thanks.

Kay-ce L Adams on September 21, 2016:

Very nice read. I'm struggling to find the right words to comment here. My thoughts are all over the place. One moment, I understand what the message is attempting to offer. On the other hand, I am completely against it in my personal relationship. So, I remain on the fence with a commitment.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 21, 2016:

Honey child wonderful woman. My lady who is mother of 3 great ones and a life long friend of my momma is not my lover. Oh Lordy I Love her for her joy in Christ and wonderful mentoring of my elder children. By God she spent 3 decades teaching to juvenile murderers. Her art and her wisdom and her love breath life where there is none. She is a saint walking.

But we stay our distance. Out of respect for my wife and Jesus. My wonderful bride and mother of my youngest son deserves all my respect. I may not even get close to that preverbial line in the sand. It is just plain unacceptable for me to even be cordial. Oh sure we hold hands when our children reach milestones of accomplishments. But we hold contact and discussion and communication to our mutual children.

Life is good, we must never forget. But God mandates respect for our spouses. Thanks for this reminder.

Pham Thi Quy from vietnam on September 21, 2016:

thanks, very significant article. Please follow me

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 21, 2016:

Than you, Faith, you're right. I believe that people who follow spiritual guidance are more likely to move on, because moving on is an act of faith and courage.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on September 20, 2016:

A lot of great advice here for those who have exes, MsDora. I am thankful to not have an ex so I can't relate. I can see being in communication a lot for those who have children and I would hope they were friendly towards each other for the children. But if the children are grown or no children, then they should move on totally.

Good hub.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 20, 2016:

Jackie, thanks for sharing your perspective. My thoughts exactly!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 20, 2016:

Flourish, I understand the "strangeness" of being in the company of spouses and exes. Your first sentence is also a good summary. Thanks for sharing.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 20, 2016:

Thanks for your feedback, Manatita. I accept your warning to be careful with advice/judgment; only I'm not clear about where the judgment is. I do not mind at all if you spell it out. I appreciate your clarity.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 20, 2016:

Lori, happy that you got that straightened out with your ex. Thank you for sharing.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on September 20, 2016:

I really respect the couple who can remain friends and manage to see each other occasionally if they have children but I can see no reason for online communications and those who have no children it would be nice if they didn't hate each other but there too, there seems no reason to me for any communication. Some people are just weird in my opinion and try to force the world to go along with them!

Fun scenarios Dora, of how weird life can sometimes be!

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 20, 2016:

I think it's best to keep a comfortable distance. I have extended family members who still invite their exes and the new spouse to our family events. We include them but it's strange.

manatita44 from london on September 20, 2016:

An interesting one, Dee. I suppose that there is space for it. I had to return to the fact that you are a Certified Christian Counsellor.

We are all in pain; all doing time, if you like... and I would be very careful with advice/judgement here. Who knows the ways of the Lord?

In view of what you do, it is a noble effort. Much Peace.

Lori Colbo from United States on September 20, 2016:

What an interesting topic. Some ex's even have the potential to become stalkers. I don't think that's common though. There as a bit rusty brief period where my ex kept showing up at my work

and putting things in my car. After telling him to knock it off he pulled in behind my car in my work lot sideways to keep me from leaving. I threatened to call police and it stopped. We eventually became on cordial terms.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 20, 2016:

Kyriaki, I agree with you. Life is simpler when we stay in our lanes. Thanks for the feedback.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 20, 2016:

Bill, obviously your commitment is where it should be. Thanks for sharing and for your noble example.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 20, 2016:

Dashing, we are on the same page. The important thing is that everyone is happy, and I can assure you that happiness comes when people are fully committed to their primary relationships. Thank you for weighing in.

Kyriaki Chatzi on September 20, 2016:

Great piece! Although, I think it's best if you keep your distance by staying away from anything and anyone that reminds you of the other person. It makes the process easier.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 20, 2016:

I just find that bizarre! I can safely state my ex never felt the need to visit me or contact me on a regular basis. I would have found it very strange if she had. :)

dashingscorpio from Chicago on September 20, 2016:

"Leave Space for New Relationships."

This is very important because you can't "move on" until you "let go".

These days many people proudly state: "I'm friends with all my exes." They often expect their "new mate" to accept it and learn to deal with it. In fact it's not uncommon for them to accuse their new mate of being "insecure" or "immature" for not understanding that it's possible to be best friends with an ex. Gradually it becomes a who's right and who's wrong issue in their relationship.

I've reached the conclusion it's not about "right" or "wrong" it's about "agree" or "disagree".

Very few people are walking around with one hand raised in the air screaming: "I'm looking for someone to change me!"

If you find yourself involved with someone who insists upon being closely tied to their exes and constantly engaging with them and this something you don't like then it's clear that she/he is not "the one" for you!

It's a waste of time and emotion for either person to attempt to get the other to change their mindset. The goal is to find someone who (naturally agrees) with you on the "important things" about maintaining a healthy and loving relationship. Compatibility trumps Compromise!

Personally speaking I would not want my wife running over to ex husband's house alone all of the time or constantly posing things on his Facebook page. However if she made it clear to me early on that she intends to be "best friends" with her ex and I still chose to marry her then it was my error in marrying her knowing that I didn't like it.

Either this woman's current husband doesn't have a problem with it or he's learned to accept her and it. The same can be said for the ex and whomever he may be involved with. Ultimately if all of the parties are okay with the way things are it doesn't matter what (we) think.

However if any of them are "unhappy" with this arrangement he or she should probably move on. Making demands, power plays, or giving ultimatums in relationships usually pushes things "underground" rather than causing our mates to "change". It's important to recognize:

There is no amount of "work" or "communication" that can overcome being with someone who simply does NOT want what you want."

One man's opinion! :)

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