You know the awkward feeling, the uncomfortable glances… when you and your partner run into his ex on the street. Usually the most you’ll see is a brief hello or a nod, and sometimes it’ll be downright hostile.
That’s crazy, isn’t it? Someone that was a major part of your life and was a source of great joy for you certainly deserves more than a nod or a dirty look, don’t you think?
Dear Dan and Jennifer,
My boyfriend/fiancee and I have been talking for almost a year and a half. He had a weird relationship with his ex and it was always on and off for a year and a half too.
Sometimes I feel like she was such a better person then me and I have a lot of respect for her even though I don’t know her. We run into her a lot, and my boyfriend only says hello to her friends, since they all graduated together. In a way I want to get to know his ex, but don’t want to come off the wrong way to her.
Everyone I know tells me not to try and talk to her and explain that I don’t want the awkward feeling every time we see each other – which isn’t too often. Yet for some reason I want to get to know her. Should I just email her one day, or just listen to everyone and let it be?
— Susan, Florida
Why are people so nasty with their exes?
The truly sad part is that we actually create these venomous situations ourselves.
People have such a hard time moving on from a relationship that’s no longer working out – accepting that it’s time to move on, that they actually look for reasons to hate their partner so they can break up… reasons to justify the break up to themselves.
By the time it’s all said and done, the relationship is so bad that everyone wants it to be over. And all this just to avoid being honest to ourselves and to one another and admitting that the fit may no longer be there, and it may be time to move on.
It’s really sad how we as a society handle exes. Why can’t we just grow up and get along? We should at the very least have as much respect for someone who was a key part of your life as one would for a stranger on the street.
So this is why months and years after the break up, when you and your partner run into his ex, there’s no love there, only resentment. It’s sad, but we do this to ourselves.
But what if you’re tired of this weird interaction with his ex, and would like to reach out to her?
What if you might even like to be friends with her? Is that really so much to ask? Is it really so unreasonable?
Sure, it’s not commonly done in our culture, but… after all, this woman was a major part of your boyfriend’s life for years. Surely she’s someone you should at least know. Is there anything really wrong with approaching her and asking?
The chances of you actually becoming friends are pretty slim, but it COULD happen.
What’s the best way to approach her?
Unless you happen to run into her a lot alone, i.e. NOT with your boyfriend, sending her an email is probably the way to go. A phone call is fine too, but in this case an email is probably better, since she doesn’t have to answer it if she’s not inclined to do so.
Don’t write a long, drawn-out email however, and don’t get on a long, involved phone call with her. Truly emotional topics like this are best discussed in person. This is just first contact, and the objective is to get together in person for “a talk”.
When you suggest a time and place to get together, keep it simple and non-threatening. Lunch or dinner is a long time to sit with a person you may REALLY not click with. Suggest something simple and non-committal, like maybe getting together for a coffee.
When you do talk with her, whether it’s by email, phone, or in person, be open, warm, and honest. Tell her what you’ve been thinking, and that you’d like to get to know her better. Keep it simple, and always be open and honest.
So send her the email or give her a call and see where it goes. But be prepared to not hear anything back, or to get a very different response than you might have anticipated.
What if your boyfriend finds out you’re talking to his ex?
Whatever you do, be very up front and honest about this with your boyfriend as well, or you’ll put that relationship in jeopardy. Tell him before she does! The last thing you want is for him to think the two of you are somehow going behind his back and conspiring against him or talking about him.
But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you talking with or meeting another person that you’re inspired to get to know.
Your friends and family will probably advise you against talking with her, just because that’s the common societal bias. But this is YOUR call, not anyone else’s. So make your own decision.
Bottom line – don’t listen to others. Always follow YOUR heart!