Last week, I opened my inbox to find a Facebook friend request from an ex-boyfriend. At the sight of his name, a comforting memory formed. It was of us in a dimly-lit restaurant, both trying sushi for the first time. With his chopsticks, he pinched a piece of sushi and some rice fell off it. We laughed. Then, he tried to lift it to feed me and it fell to the floor. We laughed again.
My children rushed into the office then and brought me back to reality. I shut down my computer. As I followed them to the kitchen, I thought about my ex-boyfriend. Where did he live now? Who had he married? What sort of work did he do? If I accepted his friend request, I'd get an airbrushed glimpse into his life: his wife, his children, his vacations. But I wondered what my husband would think of my journey down memory lane. It seemed unfair to have an intimate thought that didn't include him. Yet I was happily married. And the friendship would be innocent, right? 10 Twitter And Facebook Dating Red Flags
I asked therapist and newspaper columnist Stephanie Baffone what she thought.
"Don't open the door," she advised. "You have to be the gatekeeper for the integrity of your relationship and be really steadfast in defending those boundaries." She compared it to being a pastry chef while on a diet. In her practice, she says she never hears, "Oh, we friended each other, and the next day we were in bed together." It's that first small bite that leads to another. And another. And before you know it, you've eaten the entire doughnut. So, she recommends staying out of the bakery altogether.
Rather than friending your ex, she suggests you consider why you're tempted by the idea: "We live in a world where we celebrate Platinum Weddings and Say Yes to the Dress," she said. "There's nothing that really helps us with the next step: How to maintain a relationship." Community: Facebook Stalking Can Be A Good Thing
She's right. So I thought it through and decided, when it comes to the seemingly-innocent Facebook requests, that asking these questions would be a good place to start:
1. Do you 'friend' despite your spouse's objections? If so, consider whether you're making a passive-aggressive move to mask bigger problems. "Take this as an opportunity to ask if something is missing in your marriage," Baffone says.
2. Why do you think you're leaving the door to your past open? What did your ex do for you that you're not getting in your current relationship? According to Baffone, a common culprit is not having enough sex. Don't just co-parent. Become lovers. Lose The Baggage! How To Get Over Past Relationships [VIDEO]
3. Does the grass appear greener with your ex? When we look back in time, we only remember the first three or four months of our relationships. But when we analyze our current relationships, we focus on that with which we struggle. "The part of our brain that gets all excited in those early stages of love... it's impossible to maintain that energy," Baffone says. "The novelty wears off in any relationship." Accept that you will need to connect with your spouse on a different level over time.