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Now that I’m happily partnered, can I still be friends with my ex?

  • Author: Wayne and Wanda
  • Updated: February 2, 2018
  • Published January 31, 2018

Dear Wayne and Wanda,

For years, I've been friends with "Chris," and there were times we were romantically involved, but it never worked out. Our connection had always been fierce and intense, but I have always been focused on my career and very specific goals, and Chris — God love him — has barely been employed. He's the kind of guy who gets by on charm and odd jobs and doesn't take life seriously. I'm a hard worker who needs a partner who can keep up. I'm type A, and he needs someone who is happy chilling on a beach.

Fast-forward to about eight months ago, when I met "Rob." The connection was instant, and I fell in love fast and hard. He's recently moved in.

I'm not writing about Rob. We are great, and he's fantastic. I'm writing because now that I'm in this great relationship, my friendship with Chris is suffering. As far as I've told Rob, Chris is just a good friend. But I know there's more to it than that. Chris and I have a past that's complicated. For whatever reason, we were always drawn back to romance. And we've been involved multiple times. Yet in the scope of the years we have known each other, the romantic times were minuscule compare to the long stretches when he was simply my best friend, platonic at that.

But now that I'm in a relationship, and happy, I don't know how to keep Chris in my life. Advice?

Wanda says:

Lots of us women have a Chris in our lives. He's our plus-one when we're single and are invited to yet another dreaded wedding. He's our first call after a break-up, candidly offering a male perspective. He's our buddy on Friday nights when we need a happy hour date. He's been around for years; his presence is comforting because he gets you, he's been there and there no doubt that he adores you.

But Chris is the past. Rob is your future, at least for now. I understand the struggle. You've carved out a place in your life for Chris, but suddenly Rob is filling those roles. He's your first call on a bad — or great — day; he's your happy hour buddy; he's the one you turn to for fun, for support, for intimacy.

It sounds like Chris has taken up a lot of space in your life, and frankly, now that you're seeing someone seriously, that room probably no longer exists. I get it: You've known him forever and you don't want to lose him. So which should be your priority?

If you're determined to stay close friends with Chris, it'll be tough. In a sense, you need to reinvent and reframe your dynamics. As a first step, I would recommend a frank talk with Rob. See if he's cool with the two of you meeting up with Chris for drinks or lunch. Then, only if he is, proceed as a united front, so that Chris can adjust to the new reality of your relationship being your priority.

Wayne says:

Hey, we all "have a Chris" or two in our lives. And by "Chris" I mean "an ex." That's what Chris is, ultimately: your ex-boyfriend, ex-bestie, ex-friend-with-benefits and ex-etc. Some of us can move on and have perfectly healthy friendships with our exes; some of us can't stand the thought of ever seeing our exes again. But all of us call them our exes for the same reason — because those once-special romantic connections are officially over.

So why are you concerned about re-establishing a strong connection to an ex with whom you share a complicated past­ — to say the least — when you have a current boyfriend and a seemingly bright future? And why haven't you been honest to your real boyfriend about your flaky former on-and-off-again boyfriend/bed buddy?

This is the part where you remember the roller coaster ride that you and Chris were on for all of those years, and how he doesn't even want to keep a decent job, can't consistently be relied on, and would never be a partner for you or provide what you really want and need in life. You guys tried, many times, and failed.

But wait — you had some really great times together! So now this is the part where you gather up all of those special memories of Chris, place them into a nice little metaphorical box, lock that little box, bury it somewhere in the depths of your heart, then throw the key into Cook Inlet and never mention that box again.

At this point, bringing Chris back into your life is only going to confuse him, confuse your boyfriend and further confuse you. And because you haven't been honest with Rob, a closer relationship with your ex will only create distance in the relationship with your actual boyfriend — if you're suddenly honest with Rob about it, that is.

Be thankful that you have found what so many people, including yourself, search long and hard for — a genuine partner, a perfect match, a person whom you love and who loves you back. Some never find one. You have. Commit fully and move forward with him.

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