Social Boundaries for Friendly Exes

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.

Big Deal! She's Friendly

"Call Me " by Petr Kratochvil
"Call Me " by Petr Kratochvil | Source

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 posts on my friend’s Facebook page give the impression that he and his ex are entwined in a mutual friendship. Seeing them appearing together at social functions supports the idea. So imagine the surprise to hear him respond to her phone call with “What are you bothering me for, this time?”

The Sooner the Acceptance, the Sooner the Healing

"Woman" by George Hodan
"Woman" by George Hodan | Source

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

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:

Sometimes, the man wouldn't let go. He returns with gifts.

"Man with Christmas Presents" by Jack Hickson
"Man with Christmas Presents" by Jack Hickson | Source
  • 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) Leave 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.

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

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.

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.”

Advice for Friendly Exes

Which of these bits of advice do you consider most important for friendly exes?

  • 1. Avoid keeping up appearances.
  • 2. Give up the previous benefits.
  • 3. Leave space for new relationships.
  • 4. Respect new relationships.
  • 5. All of the above are equally important.
See results without voting

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.

© 2016 Dora Isaac Weithers

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Comments 34 comments

dashingscorpio profile image

dashingscorpio 5 weeks ago

"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! :)

billybuc profile image

billybuc 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

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. :)

Kyriaki Chatzi profile image

Kyriaki Chatzi 5 weeks ago from Greece

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.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 5 weeks ago from The Caribbean Author

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.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 5 weeks ago from The Caribbean Author

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

MsDora profile image

MsDora 5 weeks ago from The Caribbean Author

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

lambservant profile image

lambservant 5 weeks ago from Pacific Northwest

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.

manatita44 profile image

manatita44 5 weeks ago from london

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.

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 5 weeks ago from USA

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.

Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 5 weeks ago from The Beautiful South

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!

MsDora profile image

MsDora 5 weeks ago from The Caribbean Author

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

MsDora profile image

MsDora 5 weeks ago from The Caribbean Author

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.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 5 weeks ago from The Caribbean Author

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.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 5 weeks ago from The Caribbean Author

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

Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 5 weeks ago from southern USA

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.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 5 weeks ago from The Caribbean Author

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.

kimquy2301 profile image

kimquy2301 5 weeks ago from vietnam

thanks, very significant article. Please follow me

Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 4 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

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.

Kay-ce L Adams profile image

Kay-ce L Adams 4 weeks ago from Florida

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.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 weeks ago from The Caribbean Author

Kimquy, I appreciate your feedback. Thanks.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 weeks ago from The Caribbean Author

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

MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 weeks ago from The Caribbean Author

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.

denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 4 weeks ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

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?

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 4 weeks ago from Central Florida

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?!

MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 weeks ago from The Caribbean Author

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.

William Kovacic 3 weeks ago

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.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 weeks ago from The Caribbean Author

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.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 3 weeks ago

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.

DDE 3 weeks ago

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

MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 weeks ago from The Caribbean Author

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.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 weeks ago from The Caribbean Author

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

Nell Rose 3 weeks ago

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

MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 weeks ago from The Caribbean Author

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.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 weeks ago from The Caribbean Author

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).

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