Dating and marriage would be much easier sometimes if only all of our previous partners simply disappeared, never to be seen again. But in reality, we've all accumulated our own collections of ex-romantic partners or ex-spouses. How much of an impact they may have on our current lives depends on a number of unknowns. Are there children involved? Are there professional or financial reasons why an ex-partner would still be in the picture? Is the former relationship really and truly over for both partners? These are important questions to deal with if you're the new man in her life and you've already encountered at least one of the old ones.
Unless you are her absolute first love, you're going to have to deal with at least one of her ex's along the way. How you handle yourself in this situation can seriously affect your current relationship, so the trick is to play it cool and calm. You may not understand every nuance of their relationship, but she does and it might be best to let her handle things her own way. Here are some tips for handling the continued presence of an ex-boyfriend or ex-husband.
- Remember this person is an ex for a reason. If your girlfriend or spouse decides to let you in on that reason, so be it. If not, trust that she has not forgotten why they broke up and she's not about to reconcile or rekindle their former relationship. It doesn't matter if this person has more money, a better physique or a more dazzling personality than you do -- he lost, you won, end of story. Keep the proper perspective and you'll avoid pangs of jealousy or envy. He's yesterday's news, you're the new thing in her life.
- Resist the temptation to be a guy about the situation. Establishing territory and defending our families are all encoded into our male DNA, but now is not the time to turn Neanderthal. If you encounter an ex-boyfriend or spouse, it falls on you to be a man about it, not a frat boy calling out a rival. If you can't be civil, leave the area. He may not be particularly thrilled about meeting you for the first time either. For her sake, steel yourself and come out shaking hands. Even if he resists your friendly gesture, you'll look like the better man for trying.
- Accept the fact that some circumstances are bigger than you. Your girlfriend or spouse may need to maintain a cordial or professional relationship with her ex for legitimate reasons. There could be child custody or spousal support issues ordered by a court. They may still have mutual interests in a business venture. There may also be a true platonic friendship between them that poses no threat to your romance. It might be tempting to intimidate an abusive ex into permanent exile, but you need to understand the ramifications of sending him packing.
- Sometimes an ex turns out to be a good person after all. If their relationship has had time to cool down, sometimes meeting your partner's ex can be a liberating experience. Instead of having a nagging curiosity about someone from her past, you'll actually get to meet this person and perhaps learn more about your partner or yourself in the bargain. After all, her ex knew her at a different time in her life. He could let you know aspects of her personality you'd never discover otherwise. The reason they broke up may have something to do with her search for a more caring or devoted or mature partner, and you fit the bill nicely. With the right ex-partner under the right conditions, you could learn how to strengthen your relationship by learning what NOT to do.
- If you do need to confront an abusive ex-partner, do it through legal channels. Encourage her to obtain a TRO (temporary restraining order) against anyone who may be stalking her or trespassing on her property. Take the initiative to change her locks, add additional security measures, change her phone number or help her relocate. Document any reports of harassment or threatening behavior against her or yourself. Do not try to take this person on by yourself unless your life is in immediate danger. An abusive ex can become mentally unhinged quickly, so it might be better to remove her from the scene and allow him to burn out naturally. It's not going to be pleasant, but she needs to have some sense of security if your relationship is to continue growing. There are always legal means to put distance between your partner and an abusive ex, so pursue every last one of them.