What Friending Your Ex Says About Your Marriage

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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.

That memory 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 not only be reconnecting with an ex while married, I'd also 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. I was happily married. And the friendship would be innocent, right?

Is it wrong to talk to your ex while in a relationship?

RELATED: 5 Times It's Okay To Reconnect With Your Ex (And 5 Times It's Definitely Not)

Talking with exes has a stigma surrounding it. Many find it to be taboo, while others think it's no big deal.

I personally don't see the benefit of staying in touch with an ex and keeping them in your life, but my opinion isn't the groundbreaking rule for all people and relationships.

Sometimes, your ex is a good friend of yours and you feel the need to keep them in your circle. Others couldn't care less about their exes.

See, the answer isn't straightforward, but what is most important is that you are being open and honest with yourself and the person with whom you are in a relationship, along with the ex you are talking to. 

If you are talking with an ex, open communication and a ton of understanding needs to be put in place before anything goes down. That includes respecting all people involved.

Is texting your ex while in a relationship cheating?

It's not cheating if your current partner knows about it, plain and simple.

The moment you start hiding things is the moment talking becomes a gateway to cheating. The simple fact that you feel like you have to hide it indicates that you may have growing feelings for your ex but may not even know it.

The subconscious is a powerful thing, so if you are hiding it, it can be considered cheating.

Is it bad if I still talk to my ex?

It's not necessarily bad if you still talk to your ex.

However, you should take a close look at the topics you are discussing and how much you talk. It's not bad in itself, as long as your current relationship is strong and your partner knows about your actions.

That being said, we are all human and we have flaws, so talking with an ex can stir up some problems in your current relationship:

1. Trust issues

Trust issues may form if you have hidden your messages with your ex from your current partner.

Because as humans we tend to self-sabotage, trust issues may also arise, so even if nothing is going on between you and your ex, your current partner could become jealous or insecure, and begin to overthink the situation.

To have a healthy relationship, don't give your current partner any reason to second-guess your intentions with your ex.

2. Lack of respect

Talking to an ex can send the message that you are bored with your current relationship, are looking to the past, and that you don't respect them. And that's something you should never do in a relationship where you care for your partner.

Instead of focusing on chatting with your ex, look to the future and building a life with the person you love, not the person you are no longer with.

3. Giving your ex the wrong idea

When you continually talk to your ex, they may get the wrong idea of your intentions and get their hopes up that you want to get back together, leaving your current relationship for them. Talking on a deeper level may instill false hope of you going back to them.

Be clear about your intentions with your ex, telling them straight-forward that you only want to be friends. That way, there will be no error on their part.

4. Comparing your ex to your current partner

Having that connection with a past partner gets you into a weird nostalgic mindset that can end up getting you in trouble.

You may start noticing the things your current partner doesn't do that your ex did. You might start comparing the two, which is disrespectful to your current partner, especially since they may have already had to deal with the fallout of your last relationship. 

Remember that your partner is an individual, unique person who wants to love you in their own way, not how your ex did.

5. Your partner becoming uncomfortable

We all have gone down the rabbit hole of seeing who our loved one has dated before us and wondered why they chose to be with us instead. To have an ex be actively engaged in your life may make your significant other uncomfortable, which is something they shouldn't feel in a safe and trusting relationship.

Reassure your partner that they are the person you want to be with, and if it will ease their discomfort, you will cut off contact with your ex.

RELATED: Our Breakup Wasn't Complete Until He Unfriended Me On Facebook

What Reconnecting With An Ex While Married Says About You and Your Relationship

To know for certain if it's okay to talk to an ex while in a relationship, 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, Baffone suggests you consider why you are tempted by the idea, adding, "We live in a world where we celebrate 'Platinum Weddings' and 'Say Yes to the Dress'. There's nothing that really helps us with the next step: How to maintain a relationship."

She's right. It's probably not a good idea, even if it's just social media. So I thought it through and decided, when it comes to the seemingly innocent Facebook request, that asking these questions would be a good place to start:

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1. Do you 'friend' despite your spouse's objections?

If so, consider whether you are making a passive-aggressive move to mask bigger problems.

"Take this as an opportunity to ask if something is missing in your marriage," Baffone advises.

2. Why do you think you are leaving the door to your past open?

What did your ex do for you that you are not getting in your current relationship? According to Baffone, a common culprit is not having enough sex. Don't just co-parent — become lovers.

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.

4. Do you remember why you ended the relationship with your ex?

It was probably for a reason.

"When you leave a relationship, you take the part that gives you difficulty into the next one," says Baffone. Consider what part of you that may be.

5. Are you happy with yourself?

Does friending your ex turn back your own personal clock to when you were five pounds lighter and more carefree? Maybe it's time to look at you. You'll never be entirely happy with your marriage if you are not entirely happy with yourself first.

Is it OK to be friends with an ex while in a relationship?

While it might not be the right choice for some partners, in most cases, yes, it is OK to stay friends with an ex. It really boils down with how you handle the situation. 

If anything makes you feel uncomfortable, be sure to speak up; the same goes for how your partner feels. Let your partner know about any relationship dynamics that make you uneasy, and work together to fix them.

It's good to remember that your relationship comes first when you have an ex in your life. Of course, if your ex was abusive or manipulative, don't be friends with them! 

If your current partner isn't okay with you being friends with your ex, consider sitting down for a heart-to-heart conversation to explain your reasoning for keeping your ex around, and listen to how it makes them feel.

If you both can't come to an agreement on your own, it's always best to include a professional to help.

RELATED: How It Feels When All Of Your Exes Get Married After Breaking Up With You

Jennifer Jeanne Patterson is a writer, freelance journalist, and author of '52 Fights: A Newlywed’s Confession.' Her work has been featured in the Washington Post, CityLab, Glamour, Star Tribune, and more. Visit her website or follow her on Twitter.