Is it OK to stay in touch with an ex?

Sometimes people ask me if it’s OK for them or their partner to be in contact with an ex after starting a new relationship. If you have been reading my posts and articles for a while, you will know that I avoid categorical judgments about “right” and “wrong”,  except when it comes to abuse and malicious crime. I believe in judging each situation individually and in seeing different perspectives. However, there are some thoughts I will offer on this topic:

I know people who have stayed in long term friendly contact with ex partners and spouses, without it having any bad influence on a new relationship. However, I think that intense emotions, especially when long lasting such as infatuation and love, create neurological paths in our brains, similarly to habits. A habit once learned can easily be re-learned, especially when coupled with hopes, dreams and memories. There are plenty of stories about couples who reunited after decades of separation.

The key question, IMO, is if a relationship came to its “natural ending”, or was it interrupted and left unfinished? If it ended after a long time of drifting apart, cooling down, loss of illusions and perhaps disappointment, people usually feel that the story is truly over and they can focus on a new relationship without looking back.

However, if a relationship ended abruptly, if there is a feeling that things were somehow left unfinished, especially if two people were separated by external circumstances, then old hopes, dreams and illusions can wake up rather easily. It’s easy to idealize one’s past, even if it was everything but ideal. In such a case, I wouldn’t recommend to stay in touch (or to initiate contact) with an ex, especially if the new relationship is happy and healthy.

 

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