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Can I be friends with my ex-wife?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  August 20, 2012 08:30 AM

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Q: My ex-wife and I divorced amicably and remained friends. We finalized our divorce 4 years ago. At the time we owned a home together and spent 3 years trying to sell it. During that time we spoke 3-4 times per week, and got together several times a month.

I have dated two girls since then. The first was OK with the friendship, the second one was not. One distinct difference was that I sold the house right before I met girlfriend number 2. After selling the house, the friendship with my ex-wife was obviously in a transition because we no longer had logistical reasons to speak to each other. The new situation had yet to settle into a routine, so I was somewhat undecided on what type of friendship was going to be maintained.

While building a relationship with girlfriend number 2, I found that she was completely uncomfortable with the friendship, and I was forced to decide between my ex-wife and my current/future girlfriend. Compounding the problem was the fact that I couldn't really explain the friendship because it was in the midst of change. I chose the girlfriend because I couldn't rationalize breaking up with her over someone from my past. I continued to speak to my ex occasionally, and told my girlfriend each time I did (the contact was initiated by my ex).

The transition was difficult for me, but I loved my girlfriend and wanted to see where the relationship would go. My ex was not terribly understanding, but eventually retreated into the background.

My girlfriend and I broke up recently due to what amounts to a miscommunication that we are still working out. During one of our conversations, I mentioned that it was important to me that I have my ex in my life. Meanwhile, I told my ex about the breakup, and she was excited that "we can be friends again."

I don't know the future of either relationship, but my fear is that in the future I am going to run into the same problem over and over again. I don't want to hurt my ex, but I also don't want to miss out on a happy future because of it.

I have received a mixed bag of opinions from friends and family. I really don't know who is right or wrong here or if there is even a right or wrong answer.

– Lost Between Venus and Mars, Boston


A: I can't figure out what kind of relationship you want with your ex, LBVAM. You say that you don't want to hurt her, but that's not why you want her around, is it? If it were up to you, how often would you talk to her? Once a week? Once a year? You need to make some decisions about your own needs and then talk to your ex about boundaries. My guess is that your latest girlfriend was frustrated because your ex seemed to have so much power.

Your ex isn't a bad person at all, and I think it's cool that you guys want to have a real friendship. I just want to make sure that you're both getting what you want. She should be asking you what makes you comfortable.

As for this recent ex ... well ... maybe it's best that it's over. You broke up over a simple miscommunication? That's rather telling.

My advice is to figure out what you want with your ex and then let her know. New girlfriends should pick up on your confidence and find it easier to trust your motives. If I were your girlfriend right now, I'd be more concerned about your passive role in the friendship with your ex than I would be about the friendship itself.

Readers? Do you get a sense of what he wants? Should he cut off the ex? Should the latest girlfriend have been skeptical about the letter writer's friendship with his ex? What’s happening here? Help.


– Meredith


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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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