How to Help Your Spouse Accept Your Friendship With an Ex

If you want to forge a new friendship with your ex but your spouse isn’t on board, there are a few steps you can take to convince him or her to accept it.


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    Woo your spouse. Right now, they’re probably feeling extremely threatened by your old flame. Yes, marriage means love and commitment, but it also means bills, responsibility, mortgage payments, late nights with the baby, and a whole host of other unromantic duties. Your ex, on the other hand, is a mysterious could-have-been in your life, and it’s hard to compete with that kind of unfulfilled possibility. Make sure your spouse knows that they’re still the light of your life by bringing romance back into the relationship. Go on dates, have candlelit talks about your dreams late into the night, leave heartfelt notes, and make them feel appreciated.
    • If your spouse is very insecure, they might misread your romantic gestures as guilt, overcompensation, or a way to cover up an affair. If you think this is a possibility, come right out and tell your spouse that you’re trying to bring the romance back. Say that you want them to know just how special they are to you and that they’re not taken for granted.
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    Make it clear that your ex has no designs on you. Highlight such facts as your former flame is happily married, in a committed relationship, or has recently announced that he or she is gay. Sometimes knowing that your ex has moved on too may provide your spouse with more comfort.
    • If your ex popped back into your life after a breakup, be honest with yourself about the possibility that they want more than your friendship. If this is the case, sit them down and set clear boundaries. If they aren't willing to meet you on these points, pull back.
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    Have a serious talk with your spouse in an environment that will put him or her at ease. Even if you've already discussed it, it’s never a bad idea to re-tackle an unresolved subject, especially if it didn't go very well the last time around. Some people seem to do better having a discussion while they're busy, whereas others would prefer a quiet setting so they can completely concentrate on the information. Here are some suggestions for when to raise the issue:
    • Make a private pre-arranged date and set aside some quiet time to discuss your intention. Send the kids to bed or to a sleepover and either have a quiet dinner at home or book a table at your favorite restaurant.
    • Consider raising it late at night in bed. You may want to discuss the matter relaxing in bed after you've tucked the kids in and may be watching TV or reading together. Keep your approach casual and non-confrontational in order to help your spouse feel at ease.
    • While watching TV or doing yard work (or other household chores.) Some couples like to hash out important topics while working around the house together. Choose a moment when you're in the same room and can discuss the topic undisturbed.
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    Discuss the friendship a rational, neutral tone. Some spouses freak out if they think you're trying to place extreme emphasis on becoming friends with a former lover. Know what you're going to say ahead of the chat. Prepare reasons why you’d like to be friends with your ex including both pro’s and con’s. Deliver your message in a logical, emotionless manner so that your spouse doesn't think that you're desperate to connect with your former flame.
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    Invite your spouse to lay down a few (reasonable) ground rules. Your spouse may want you to cut off all ties with this person. You may want your spouse to butt out and give you the trust you deserve. Quite frankly, neither option is fair to the marriage. Your spouse doesn't have the right to ban you from seeing someone any more than you have the right to completely disregard their feelings. Reach a fair compromise by allowing your spouse some control over your interactions with your ex. For example, agree to have dinners at home if it means you can do weekly lunches with your ex.
    • Ask your spouse what you need to do to make them feel safe. A gesture like this can go a long way in easing their anxiety.
    • If your spouse is completely against a friendship, it's probably best for you to back off – at least until they've had more time to digest the information. You don’t want to jeopardize your relationship with your spouse for a chance to be friends with an ex. If possible, re-address the topic at a later date if your ex is still in your life. Perhaps with time and seeing that he or she can trust you, a friendship with your former lover may still be possible.
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    Listen intently to what your spouse has to say about how they feel. Making sure someone feels heard can go a long, long way in working through a disagreement. You may want to go forward with the relationship no matter what, but you must give your spouse the floor and honestly listen to what he or she has to say. Their response may just change your determination when you weigh up which person matters most.
    • Validate your spouse's feelings. If your spouse says, “No way, I’m not comfortable at all” don’t interrupt and start delivering your reasons why the new friendship is a good idea. Allow your spouse to fully express his or her feelings before you talk.
    • Answer any questions with full honesty. If you're asked whether you still have feelings for your ex, be honest. Your spouse needs all the information in order to maintain a relationship based on trust.
    • Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes. Would you honestly feel fine with him or her meeting with an old flame or would you be jealous? Don’t kid yourself––think of your spouse's oldest flame and consider how you might feel if your spouse wanted to include this person in his or her life again.
    • Know thy spouse. If your spouse is easygoing, friendly and very happy to welcome all people into his or her life, accepting an ex may be much easier than if your spouse is prone to jealousy, insecurity and has a loathing for his or her own exes.
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    Introduce the two with care. If you arrange a get-together between the three of you at a neutral place like a café, it might take the mystery out of your friendship with your ex. (In fact, the two may even get along and become friends.) However, if there’s a chance that your ex will activate a lot of insecurities in your spouse (ex. a respected engineer making six figures who models on the side), you’re probably better off keeping them separate.
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    Be completely honest with yourself about the friendship. The more certain you are you’re your feelings are platonic, the safer your spouse will feel. What are you and your ex going to gain from staying in touch as friends? Would having your former lover in your life again be a positive or could you fall into old habits like fighting or jealousy? The reason must be a substantial one, not simply because you think it's nice to be friends with exes. It may be business related, work related, church or socially related, but whatever the reason, be sure it's not tinged with regret for "what could have been" or involve any faint hope of rekindling something more than friendship. If you feel pressured by your ex, that's not a good reason; on the other hand, if you both parted ways amicably and have continued to stay in touch over the years building a solid, non-romantic friendship since dating, then this is probably a good reason to keep maintaining the relationship even though you've now married someone else. Things to consider include:
    • You have unresolved feelings. Did you abruptly end your relationship, leaving unresolved feelings or are you still craving his or her company? Tread carefully if you aren't sure about exactly how you feel about your former lover. You absolutely must know if there is still mutual attraction or if you're both solidly platonic now. If you don't know which yet, don't go back to trying to be friends with your ex.
    • You ended up liking the ex as a friend but not as a boyfriend/girlfriend. Did you break up because the flame was extinguished but you liked him or her as a friend? Perhaps you needed some time to pass before you could become friends and you've found each other again.
    • You have to deal with seeing the ex on a regular basis. Suppose your children are in the same class or you have taken a job where he or she works. In this case, you may want to consider keeping your relationship at least civil so that you can function together in society.


  • Weigh the importance of having a friendship with a former lover with what you have now. Is it worth putting your marriage in jeopardy or making your spouse feel uneasy? Consider how your friendship with an ex makes your spouse feel.
  • Make it clear to both your ex and your spouse that this is platonic, business, professional or whatever and that there is nothing romantically inclined whatsoever. Clarity on this aspect is absolutely vital for all concerned, including yourself.
  • Set rules and guidelines for the friendship with your ex in terms of types of activities or encounters that would be off-limits. For example, you may not want to go drinking with your ex because you may drop your guard, which could lead to inappropriate behavior.
  • Do not work with your ex for the wrong reasons. Working with an ex can be very dangerous especially where the boundaries of emotions and work may cross. This is particularly relevant if your ex is now your boss and pays your salary. Conflicts can arise and then you are in danger of emotional and financial problems.


  • If you have an inkling that your ex still has romantic feelings for you, consider putting the friendship on hold or even ending it permanently. Feelings of romance from your ex could lead to confusion and problems down the road for both of you, and you may make a bad decision as a result of current life pressures.
  • If you have a history of going back to an ex romantically, don't try to make your spouse accept an ex back into your life. The risks are too great and your spouse will hear it on the grapevine somewhere that you have fallen for an ex before.

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