Murphy’s Love: Advice on Intimacy and Relationships
Dear Stacy: My fiancé and I are getting married next year. I was in a serious relationship just before he and I got together (2.5 years). My fiancé also was in a serious relationship before we started dating (5 years). Both of us are still in contact with our exes and usually tell each other about our interactions (he lets me look through his phone whenever I want), but lately I am wondering if that is not a healthy thing (yes, we’re in premarital counseling and it hasn’t come up yet...just preparing). It’s true, my ex would like us to get back together, but he knows I’m engaged and we basically just text about current events and mutual friends. I don’t really know what his ex-girlfriend wants from him, but I just want your insights about whether it’s a good idea to stay friends with an ex when you are starting a marriage. – Wondering Dear Wondering: The shortest answer to your question is no. I do not think it’s a good idea to stay friends with an ex when you are starting a marriage. But let’s be specific about what it means to “stay friends.” Texting with Ex, whom you fully acknowledge does want you back, is not “staying friends.” At best, it’s disingenuous, and at worst it’s emotional cheating. Neither of those are healthy issues to help launch a marriage with someone else. You did not say that you are still in contact because you were close to his sick father, or because you share custody of a child, or because you have some other compelling reason. Spend some time thinking about how it feels to stay in contact with Ex. What’s it like to get a text? What’s it like to keep it hidden from Fiancé? What are you gaining by maintaining this dynamic? My assumption – admittedly based on very little evidence – is that it’s a good self-esteem booster. That’s what flirting with the barista [or parking attendant or construction worker or other cliché] is. But you have real skin in the game when flirting with an old flame. Perhaps Fiancé is doing the same thing, but just because it’s balanced doesn’t make it healthy. So you check his phone regularly and don’t fool yourself that it’s because you don’t trust him, it’s because you know he shouldn’t trust you. I’m guessing that you haven’t said anything overt in your own texts – yet. But you check his phone because you believe there’s potential for cheating there, because you know there’s potential for cheating on your end. Confused yet? Me, too. So better to remove the complications and focus on loving the one you’re with.
Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing in Georgetown. This column is meant for entertainment only and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to firstname.lastname@example.org.