If we want to have a platonic friendship with an ex and want to be transparent with our current partner, here is some assistance.
Transparent is a quality that means there is nothing I actively or passively keep from my partner. Transparency does not make me a saint. It just makes my actions and characteristics easily known. Transparency is not a relationship requirement. We don’t have to be or need to be transparent with our partner.
Transparency isn’t for all of us. It’s for me though. I want my partner’s view of me to be a product of our interactions and her understanding and knowledge of me. I do not want all of that to fall secondary to what someone else shares with her about me and what I may have done.
Another reason I want to be transparent in my presentation and dealings with my wife is that it helps her keep me accountable and on track with whom I say I am and what I say I’m about. It is a way of doubling down on the structure I wish to create around myself so I can be successful, authentic, and of the level of integrity that I hope for. Again, this may not be to everyone’s interest or desire.
To clarify, having a friendship with an ex is neither recommended nor discouraged here. Additionally our relationship with our ex doesn’t have to be platonic. Sometimes sentiments of romance and possibility linger, even after the relationship is considered “over.” Most of us like feeling wanted and attractive, and a twinkle in our past partner’s eyes when they look or think of us may be satisfying. We may actually want to keep options open with our past partners. That is OK.
Only we can know our deepest intentions, but it is possible that we can be purely friends with an ex. If we seek a true friendship with an ex while also seeking to be transparent with our current partner (if we have one), let’s chat further.
Some of us may say, “So-and-so is just a friend.” This suggests there is no possible romantic interest in them and often seeks to quell any discomfort our current partner may feel about an ex in our life. This may be problematic and even insincere—the opposite of transparent.
To have an honest conversation first with ourselves and then with our ex, consider the following:
Clarify the friendship: The term “friend” suggests that we are not in a romantic relationship, are not entertaining romance and are not having sex with one another. If we want that descriptor to have weight, certain guidelines are best presented as non-negotiables to our ex.
Examples of guidelines might be:
Discussions about our sexual past are off-limits.
We don’t ever flirt.
I will be allowed and expected to know your partner, and you will be allowed and expected to know mine.
If we really want to drive the point home, we can have this conversation with our ex in front of our partner.
No secrets: We let our ex know up-front that nothing will be kept confidential from our partner. Another way of saying this is to tell our ex, “Don’t ever say anything to me that you wouldn’t say in front of my partner.”
Partners are welcome: We will hang out with our ex only if our partner could join, announced or unannounced, and our ex would be completely comfortable with it. This means if we show up to drinks with our partner, our ex won’t care one bit.
This works both ways. We get to be comfortable bringing our partner when we hang out with our ex. This doesn’t mean our partner will want to go with us when we hang out with an ex. It does mean that our partner has an open invitation to do so. The ex can’t say, “We can hang, but not if River is coming.” And we won’t avoid hanging out because our partner wants to join.
If the ex has a problem with the presence of our partner, they probably are not invested or interested in being actual friends. And if we have a problem with our partner joining, we probably aren’t interested in just being friends either.
Partners and exes can interact freely: We welcome our partner and our ex interacting. Of course they don’t have to be friends. They don’t even have to know each other. But if we are going to call our ex a “friend,” let’s welcome them into our lives like we do all our friends. Invite them over, just like we would any other friend. Sure, there may be awkwardness, but time will help with that.
Some may say that what is outlined here is a lot. In some ways, it is. In some ways, it’s easy. If we are wrestling with all of this, the hard part is most likely our truthfulness with ourselves. If we aren’t clear to anyone else, at least let’s be clear to ourselves. If we truly desire to be transparent, these suggestions will help us stay on track.
If transparency is valuable to us and a characteristic that we wish to manifest and nurture in our relationship, it may not always be comfortable. To the contrary, it may feel uncomfortable at times. However, transparency is an investment that might be valuable to our personal and relational well-being. The more we lean into it, the easier it gets. And the sooner we insert a virtue or vision into our relationship, the sooner it may begin to manifest.
We are not obligated to share our truth with anyone except ourselves. If we can’t be truthful with ourselves, it is doubtful that the truth will consistently show up in our dealings with others. Lying to self is a bigger issue. Much bigger than whatever is going on in a relationship.
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Frank Love coaches individuals toward creating a loving culture in their family. He is also the author of Relationship Conversations You Don’t Want to Have (But Should Anyway) and 25 Ways to Be Loving. To schedule a free consultation, contact Frank at Frank@FrankLove.com.