For the LGBT community in particular, staying in touch with an ex could be a matter of social necessity. Picture: Pexels

Washington - I had just clicked "complete purchase" on tickets to an amusement park for my family when I realised the park was just a few miles from where my dear old friend lived. 

She was going through a divorce, one of the toughest times in her life, so I thought surprising her with tickets to the park would help cheer up her and her kids. When I told her about the gesture, she gushed with gratitude and expressed how wonderful it would be to see each other. We had been friends for nearly 20 years, but hadn't seen each other in nearly seven.

My own wife was excited when I told her I bought tickets to surprise our son with a day at a theme park. But her face fell when I told her I had also invited my friend and her kids.

This friend and I used to sleep together, but we've been strictly platonic for years since then. My wife knew this, and she wasn't thrilled about all of us spending the day together.

"I don't feel like sharing our family day with someone you had sex with," she said.

She had a point.

A few days later another friend reached out to ask if we wanted to set up a play date for our kids. We had just moved and they were now neighbours. We hadn't made new friends in our area yet. It was a nice invite and a fun prospect.

My wife said okay, but I could tell she was uncomfortable.

Yes, I had slept with this friend, too.

Then my friend cancelled on us last-minute with little explanation.

"Perhaps your friend's wife felt the same way I do," my wife said. "Maybe she's not comfortable hanging out with her partner's ex."

A 2016 study published in the journal of the International Association for Relationship Research surveyed college students about how their communication with former romantic partners affected their current relationships. 

"There are no rules, but there are guidelines," says Jean Fitzpatrick, a psychotherapist who focuses on couples. "It's important to be transparent with your current partner. Partners are in different places with this, so have a conversation and patience and be willing to respond to concerns," she added.

Fitzpatrick noted that exes should be considered "family friends," not "private friends" and to avoid secret texting or social media messaging.

She also recommends taking a good, hard look at your own intentions. If you're unhappy in your current relationship, longing for something or comparing your ex to your current partner, you have some soul-searching to do. In those instances, being in touch with an ex can be a "slippery slope for even the most well-intentioned," Fitzpatrick says.

For the LGBT community in particular, staying in touch with an ex could be a matter of social necessity. "We're already a minority, and if we create standoffs with exes, we could be cutting ourselves off from a lot of people," says Damon L. Jacobs, who's a therapist in New York.

My wife is my one, true love. I have been faithfully devoted to her for nearly a decade. I would never purposely do anything to hurt her, and I would go to the ends of the earth to protect her and our love.

I can respect my wife's concerns, and I imagine that most people think like she does. Women in particular tend to connect sex to emotion and many just don't keep in touch with exes.

The Washington Post