Married and Facebooking an ex?

no1fcbook

If you’re single, the question of whether or not it’s okay to be Facebook friends with an ex has a simple answer: Who cares? You’re single. If you want to make yesterday’s ex today’s next with a text, be my guext.

The world is your accept button!

But you married people know that being FB friends with an ex is a whole other can of squirms.

There you are, relatively innocently scrolling through the Facebook group of your graduating high school class. Look—there’s that person you used to know! And there’s another! And another! There’s that girl who went with that one guy! There’s that guy who was always getting in trouble! Why, it’s just like being at your high school reunion—except that instead of being dressed up and trying to look cool, you’re wearing your ancient bathrobe and sprawled in your chair like Melto, the Wonder Schlump.

And then your mouse-finger freezes, and your heart leaps out of your chest and plops down onto the floor and hustles its leaky self down to the corner drugstore for a band-aide, because suddenly you see staring at you someone you used to really, really know.

Someone you knew so well that the only person in this world who knows exactly how well is that person.

There’s your old flame. Still among the living. Not dead. Not faded into the ephemeral. Not dissolved into the past.

Alive.

And looking pretty good!

And right there is where you need to shut down your browser, Bowzer. Time to execute a Facebook about-face. Don’t look back. Don’t wave good-bye. Don’t let the moment linger. Shut ‘er down like a nuclear power plant that’s glowing.

Facebook has a way of tempting you to turn the past into the present. And at the moment that possibility presents itself to you, it all seems innocent enough. So you become a Facebook friend with an old flame. So what? It’s not like you’re going to run out of your house and meet your erstwhile paramour at the local No-Tell Motel. It’s just social media, after all. You’re really just being sociable, right?

Wrong.

Wrong, wrong, wrong: and you know it. In fact, I’m not even going to insult you by going into why it’s wrong. You already know why.

Well, on the very off-chance that you’ve forgotten: If you did begin to engage an old flame of yours via Facebook, would you tell your spouse that you had? If not, then by hitting that “accept” (or send) button, you just volunteered to become a flat-out liar—and you’re treating your wife or husband the way you sure wouldn’t want them to treat you. Would you want your spouse to be friends today with someone with whom they used to be in love?

The rules of marriage are perfectly clear: If you wouldn’t want your spouse to do it, then you can’t do it yourself. And part of what you can’t do is is in any way leave open the door of your life to someone of the opposite sex who used to be central to your life. Not because you know you know there’s no danger of your again being in a relationship with that person, but because it’s simply not fair to ask your spouse to have to be okay with you maintaining that relationship.

Part of “I do” means “I won’t.” And part of what you’re not supposed to do when you’re married is either lie to your spouse, or give them any reason to believe that you’d like to in any way continue a relationship with your ex.

Don’t worry that you’ll hurt the feelings of your ex by totally ignoring them on Facebook (or anywhere else). If they’re in a real relationship, they’ll understand. And if they’re not in a real relationship, and are instead sniffing around looking for the kind of emotional if not physical dalliances in which people are forever allowing themselves to become entangled because, basically, they get off on the drama of it, then what do you care for such a person anyway? Let them go find someone who, like they, is a little fuzzy on who exactly they are.

You know who you are. The whole key to life lies in never forgetting it. Even at those times—especially at those times—when life seems to be conspiring to give you reason to.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • Anonymous

    Wow… I'm single, but have several married "exes" as facebook friends. I have often wondered whether she tells her husband that we're "poking" each other often.

  • onemansbeliefs

    I think it boils down to two questions…

    1. Do you honor your spouse?

    2. How do you wish to represent your marriage?

    How you answer these are key to the actions you would take in the scenario above.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Meredith: I'm not at all assuming that just because a person is an ex means there’s a chance of somehow rekindling those feelings simply by friending them on Facebook. That's not the point. You can know that your romantic feelings for someone are dead beyond rekindling, but it's unfair for you to expect your spouse to be okay with you keeping that relationship going because you feel that way. I utterly disagree with you that being "open and honest" with your spouse about your ongoing relationship can serve to make continuing that relationship okay. It's not fair to your spouse to ask them to be okay with that relationship, is all I'm saying. Of course marriage is about working through problems. But life brings up enough problems of its own to deal with, without having to put on both of your front burners something like this, which shouldn't be on the table at all. It's not EASIER to reject temptation as you move through life; it's harder. But (obviously) it's the right and honorable thing to do.

    The simple question is: How would you feel if your husband came to you, and told you about the ongoing e-relationship that he's keeping alive with an ex—and told you all the reasons that you SHOULD be okay with it?

    Matt: I think you write your exes, and tell them that you're married now, and then even though you and THEY understand the two of you are no longer an item, out of respect for your wife and her natural feelings you're going to shut down your relationship with them. No woman in the world wouldn't understand and respect that; that's what they'd want out of their husbands. And if they DO have a problem with that, it just shows they don't yet understand what real emotional commitment is all about.

  • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

    That is completely ridiculous. Any mature adult can maintain friendships with their exes without screwing up the current relationship. I'm assuming you are not talking about high school kids here. Some of the most important friends in my life are past lovers and I can't imagine my life without these people.

    Does this opinion stem from a lack of self control on your part or is it that you imagine this lack of self control in others?

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Willam: It comes from 30 years of being happily married. Are you married? (I see from your FB link that you're not. So … ..)

  • Meredith

    I don’t know that I totally agree with you on this one, John. I think you’re assuming that just because a person is an “ex” that this means there’s a chance of somehow rekindling those feelings simply by friending them on Facebook.

    I have an ex who is a Facebook friend, and while this person is an extremely nice person, and I love this person’s wife and I think they have adorable children, and I’m so very happy that his life has turned out so well, the ONLY “us” thing in my head when I view his posts on Facebook is “Thank GOD we’re not together anymore.” I don’t dislike him, but I see now that we were not good for each other and I’m glad that we broke up, even though it hurt at the time. I’m also happy that I’m able to still keep up with what is happening with him and his family, because they really are wonderful people.

    I think the best way to handle anything like this is simply to be open and honest with your spouse. Ask them if they have a problem with it–and if they do, then find out why and talk about it. Don’t just assume that there’s no way to get past it. Work at it. That’s what marriage is (or should be) about.

    There shouldn’t be any closed doors in a marriage. I do agree with you on that–if you can’t talk to your spouse about something, or feel uncomfortable talking about it…it’s a pretty good sign you NEED to talk about it. And if they just can’t figure out how to be comfortable with whatever it is, then commitment and love dictates you shouldn’t do whatever it is.

    But don’t take the easy way out by putting a blanket ban on something. That might be easier, but it’s not going to make a marriage deeper or help bring people (beyond just marriage) into healthy relationships.

    • Boricua

      Well. as for me I am cool with being friends with my ex's and or male friends (in a relationship or not) but unfortunatley their girlfriends, spouses or women in their life have a problem with it. I was friends with several men and no pokes or messages were sent or posted and next thing you know they are NOT my friend anymore and they have BLOCKED me from their page. What insecurity!!!!!

      FB is only what you make of it and what someone post doesn't always make it true. Its unfortunate for sooooo many immature persons in the World that they can turn something great into a War Zone!!!!!! Jelousy is a killer and FB should be a sign of exactally where you are at in your relationship especially if you cant have a female as your friend because who your with is insecure. If a man is gonna cheat, be friends or speak with another female FB is NOT the only option!!!! Your just blocking the option you yourself have access to. HMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!

  • Matt

    I think I agree with you.

    However, pretty much everyone 23 and below has a Facebook page and usually all their friends including their exes are on it.

    So when they get married all there exes will still be there. Unless of course they want to go through the process of blocking the ex from their Facebook page, which could be miscontrued by the ex as a malicious putdown. It’s one thing not to accept a friend request, but it’s another to actually block them, I think. Any thoughts?

  • Matt

    John, I totally agree with what you said.

    I think one can go too far with this line of thought however. I know their is a certain type of Evangelical who thinks it would be a really bad idea for a married man to even be alone in the same room with a woman (or vice versa). Maybe I’d think differently if I was irrestible to women and they were thowing themselves at me but I’ve never had that particular problem (if you could call that a problem). I’ve always been of the opinion that this type of thinking is a bit too paranoid. I mean there are all sorts of temptations everywhere, and if one truly wanted to avoid them all he wouldn’t even be walking out of his door in the morning. I’m single though, so maybe you’ve got a different opinion.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Matt: What?! No, of course I agree with you that it’s … well, insane for a married man to have a rule in his life that he could never be alone in a room with a woman. That’s … absurd. That’s … not my line of thought at all.

  • Matt

    I figured that was the case. It’s a shame that some people do believe that however – I can’t imagine they have much of a life.

  • Sarah

    I think this is one of those things that kinda has to be decided by each couple. I don’t think there’s a blanket rule about it. Some people can handle that kind of thing and some can’t. I don’t think that the feelings of your mate should suffer because of it though … no friend or ex should be that important. I WILL say this, though. I do have one old boyfriend as one of my FB friends, but I didn’t do it without talking to my husband about it first, and fully believing that he was really OK with it. And we talk about the few conversations I’ve had with the ex.

    One of the most interesting things that came out of my accepting a friend request from an old boyfriend was this: He wasn’t as smart or charming or wonderful as I remembered. And he made me so much more grateful than I already was that I married the man I did. So yeah, maybe sometimes people find themselves longing for those glory days with the ex … but it had the exact opposite effect for me. I wonder what I ever saw in him.

  • Denise

    John, I kind of disagree with you on this one. However, I do agree that if you are doing this in “private” without your spouse’s knowledge that is indeed a red flag. I think that Facebook can be an nice way to stay in touch with people who used to be a part of your life. However, if one is engaging in personal conversation that they need to hide from a spouse, it’s definitely not okay. One caveat, if it bothers your spouse, regardless of your intentions, you shouldn’t do it. But, I know that it wouldn’t bother me–unless, it was secretive. I don’t consider all of my Facebook friends to be people that I speak to on a regular basis, but it’s still nice to catch up and see how they are doing once in awhile. I think it’s the secrets that destroy relationships, not the past relationships. And, I know I’m not married, but I’ve seen my married friends maintain Facebook relationships with old flames and not have any problems.

  • http://www.1truebeliever.wordpress.com wickle

    Here's the thing …

    Why mess around with temptation? If I might wax mildly theological here for a moment, I seem to think that we all have this sinful nature. Why tempt it?

    How many people do we all know who play games with (figuratively) stick their hands in the fire just to prove that they won't get burned? How many of them wind up getting burned?

    I knew a kid who decided in college that he would go to a college bar and witness to the other college kids there. Then he started going to the night club, figuring that those people needed him even more. Do I need to tell you how that worked out?

    I do not have a friendly relationship with my ex-wife. (Granted, she's an adulteress who tried to drive me to suicide, but that's beside the point …) I wouldn't expect my wife to understand if I wanted to hang out with my ex-wife. I'm married, and that is more important to me than anything I might get from being in touch with my ex. We have a semi-cordial, businesslike relationship. That certainly doesn't include Facebook.

    I'm with John … there are enough temptations out in the world already. Why add to those the person with whom you used to sleep?

  • Melesa Garrison

    I totally agree with John on this one! Why would you even want to converse with somebody that you used to share everything with…How did that work for ya? Don't even think about it (unless you have small children to share) it's over! STAY AWAY!

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Oh–right. I keep forgetting to say that. Shared children is the one factor that does make it okay to maintain your relationship with an ex. Righto. Of course. Thanks, Melesa.

  • RogerC

    I almost feel sorry for you today, John; taking a definite stand is always unpopular with somebody. Many people would never tell their spouse they object to the facebook friendship with the ex-even if they feel weird about it. If we ask them if it is okay and they say no, then we will ask why they don't trust us. If they feel weird about it and say yes, then they are forced to live with the weirdness while acting like everything is ok. The fact we all know we should discuss this with our spouse is evidence of our objecting conscience.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Roger: EXACTLY! See, now, if I would have put it THAT way, I wouldn't be being called asinine and immature. Thanks for the support—and the good phrasing! But, in truth, I knew I'd get some resistance with this. People LOVE them a little extra-curricular emotional buzz. I knew people would claim it's a mark of emotional sophistication/maturity that in their marriage its okay to maintain FB friendships. It's just … something people are really, really loathe to give up. Cuz very few things tickle your ego like innocently corresponding with an ex.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    I’m okay with a blanket rule on this one, because all people are the same: They’re jealous of the affections of those with whom they’re in passionate love. If you’re in a marriage and it doesn’t bother you that your spouse is maintaining a relationship with their ex, that’s not a mark of emotional maturity. That’s a mark that you’ve got a problem with your marriage.

    Look: There’s no way you should be okay with your spouse emailing their ex: if you are okay with that, you’re not really in love with your spouse, and so don’t really care what they do. The only possible way for you to be okay with them having exchanges with their ex that you can’t possibly be aware of it is if you SEE every email that transpires between them and their ex. But how exactly would that work? Do they print out and bring you every exchange? That’s insane.

    You’re either interested in what’s going on with your ex, or you’re not. If you’re not, you can let them go. If you ARE, then why?

  • http://emphaticasterisk.com Lindsey

    I think it can be okay.

    I would hope so, as I have “friended” an ex on Facebook. My husband also knows about it, and isn’t threatened by it. This particular Facebook friend is someone I’ve known most of my life (childhood and adulthood) and remained friends with even after our romantic entanglement ended. We both know we’d never have worked long term as a couple and neither of us is seeking to rekindle old flames that never should have kindled in the first place.

    As Freud would say, “sometimes a facebook friend is just a facebook friend.”

  • Denise

    Again, I'm still a little surpised that you are generalizing so much about marriages and how they are supposed to work. I think there is a BIG difference between emailing someone every day and being Facebook friends with them. Emailing definitely seems more intimate. I like to know and find out how people in my past who I don't communicate with on a regular basis, and I think Facebook acts like the annual Christmas letter–allows me a chance to see how they are doing and that things are going well. I've had friends on both sides of the fence–ones who have "secretly" been in contact with exes and ones who have just had them as Facebook friends. The ones with the Facebook friends don't seem to have any secrets and aren't trying to hide anything from their spouses AND their spouses don't care. I think there is a problem with a marriage if one is so insecure that they are going to be jealous of their spouse's ex(es). They exist. They are part of their life and always will be. Being a Facebook friend certainly doesn't indicate a "relationship." Cause I have over 200 Facebook friends and can honestly say I don't have a "relationship" with all of them. Maybe, it's because I KNOW without a doubt that I personally would never EVER cheat on someone or help someone cheat on their spouse that it doesn't bother me. I'd much rather have that own faith in my spouse than to spend my life worried that he might be going back to an ex. If someone is going to cheat, they are going to do so whether it's with an ex or not. They'll usually find a way. I think your all or nothing take on this seems a little harsh. I'd much rather have a little faith that my spouse wouldn't have an affair with an ex, than constantly be worried that he will.

  • Liz Edmundson

    You are right. Period.

  • RogerC

    I agree with you John, therefore you must be wrong!

  • Stephanie

    John, I think you were a little harsh with William. You probably shouldn’t creep around on peoples FB pages who have been kind enough to “friend” you and give you access to their page. And you certainly should not use that information against them in a way that can be as hurtful as a person’s relationship status. By all means continue the discussion but don’t be rude and have some compassion, please.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Freud (if he lived today, of course) wouldn’t have said that. He knew better.

  • Beth Guy

    I agree 100% with you on this one John.

    Steve Arterburn wrote a book titled “Every Man’s Battle”, whereas he does go into the reasons why a married man should never ever reconnect with a old flame. He fills up three chapters at least on the subject. A woman would do well to read this book too.

    Basically, if you crack open the door to temptation, you are leaving yourself extemely vunerable. Don’t most affairs start off innocent? Maybe right now you and your spouse are happy and getting along. Things are running smoothly. But all of us that have been married for years and years know the status quo can change on a dime. Illness, money woes, in-laws, job demands. teen agers, It doesn’t take long for there to be a shift in a marriage that strains the relationship and then…watch out.

    At that point, having a friend of the opposite sex that you find attractive, that understands you, that you share an intimate history with. One you can sit back and literately open the history book in your mind and reconnect with the images, sounds, tastes and feel of thier body with yours. Thats not imagination, or fantasy,,That is reality, and it is dangerous to the married couple. Period.

    God’s rules on this are very clear. It ‘s all over the Bible. Not just what we do physically, but with our hearts and minds. Satan is real, If you think that you are somehow immune from this tempation, you are being very foolish. If Satan wasn’t afraid to go into Gods own turf (Eden), and mess with God’s own people (Adam and Eve) and twist God’s own words, what makes you think he won’t mess with you?

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Stephanie: William started his comment by saying that my post was “completely ridiculous.” That’s a pretty raw insult, and gives me permission to lean on him a bit. And he linked his name, right here, to his FB page: I hardly went “creeping” around it. And I wanted to know if he was married; because, frankly, if he’s not, what he says carries no weight. It just … can’t.

    If you don’t mind—what with it being my blog, and all—I’ll go ahead and keep handling people who comment on it (this is not Mr. Ely’s first commentary on my thoughts) the way I think best. Thanks.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Beth: Thanks—but I’m not saying you shouldn’t keep an old relationship alive because YOU’LL be tempted to transgress. I’m saying it’s not fair to ask your spouse to be okay with you remaining in contact with an ex. That’s all.

  • textjunkie

    They’re jealous of the affections of those with whom they’re in passionate love. If you’re in a marriage and it doesn’t bother you that your spouse is maintaining a relationship with their ex, that’s not a mark of emotional maturity. That’s a mark that you’ve got a problem with your marriage.

    Nope, gotta disagree with you there; it’s a mark of emotional self-assuredness. This “oh my god you talked to another woman/man you’re EVIL” jealous response makes no sense to me.

    I think a lot of it depends on what this “relationship” consists of–emailing every day with personal updates that you don’t cc your spouse on is yeah, weird and asking for trouble. The annual happy-birthday email, swapping Christmas letters or an occasional group outing with mutual friends, ok fine. If you’re not writing or saying anything to your ex anything you’d be ashamed to let your spouse see, what’s the problem? (and yes, I’ve been married 15+ years–not the 30+ you’ve done but give me time. ;)

  • Beth Guy

    I’m still in agreement with you John.

    My comments were more directed to the folks that seem to think its harmless. Its not.

    You are also right on target about our spouse’s feelingss. It’s not worth it. My spouse is my best friend. I care deeply about what hurts him. I’ve spent the last 18 years (yesterday was our anniversary) working on making our marriage last this long. Many times, I’ve had to sacrifice what i wanted to the best interests of us as a couple, and visa versa. Like you lasting 30 years, I’m sure you understand that comment too

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Textjunie: How is being okay with your spouse’s continuation of a relationship important in their past a sign of emotional self-assurance? What does it say about how I feel about my wife if I basically don’t CARE if she has chosen to maintain her relationship with an erstwhile flame of hers? On the surface of it my being okay with that can masquerade as emotional self-assurance. But right below that can only be one thing: emotional detachment. I either care, or I don’t. There’s no way to be in love and NOT care. If I don’t care, then that can only mean that … well, that I don’t care.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Beth: Yeah, it’s so weird to me when married people say, “Oh, it’s okay that I’m still in contact with my ex. Nothing’ll happen there. That relationship means nothing to me.” I’m always like, “If that relationship really means nothing to you, why is it still happening?” And, most importantly, it’s not a matter of whether or not it’s okay with YOU that you keep that relationship going. Of course YOU’RE not worried about it. The point is: Why would you ask your spouse to be okay with it? If they ARE okay with it, then … you’ve got a whole other monstrous problem. Cuz that necessarily means that, at some level that shouldn’t be okay with you, they really just don’t care all that much. If they don’t care, that’s bad. If they do care, you shouldn’t be doing it. Either way, it has no proper place in your life.

    • http://www.visionapp.com Paul Ardoin

      John, this might be good advice for you, and it might be good advice for some others. But generalizing like this for everyone simply isn't true. I've been happily married for 10 years and I'm friends with ex-girlfriends on Facebook. My wife knows about my Facebook friendship with both of them. She and I went to lunch with one of my exes when she was going through a divorce. Neither my wife nor I think it's a big deal.

      My relationship with my exes don't mean NOTHING to me. We're friends, and we enjoy talking to each other, even if it's only on Facebook. TBut the romantic spark with both of them is completely gone; and I'm a different person than I was in high school and college and my early 20s.

      If you don't feel like it's appropriate for you to be FB friends with your exes, that's fine — and if it's not OK with your wife, that's for you and your wife to decide. But it never even crossed my mind that being Facebook friends with my exes was inappropriate until I saw this post.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/William-Ely/614396749 William Ely

    If you are not capable of simple friendship with an ex, then you immature, period.

  • Meredith

    John, I think you are making some jumps in logic here.

    First, you are assuming that “all people are the same”–jealous about the affections of their spouse. That’s just simply not true. It may be the way YOU are, and the way many other people are, but it is not the way ALL people are. And to further make the statement that if you are NOT that way, then you have problems in your marriage is not only false, it’s also quite an offensive accusation. You don’t know anything about my marriage, for example. We’re coming up on 13 years, and our relationship is the joy of our lives as well as the envy of most of our friends. And it is completely absent of jealousy or possessiveness. More on that below.

    Second, you are assuming that when I said “talk to your spouse” I was meaning to TELL them what you are going to do and EXPECT them to be okay with it. That is not what I said. I said TALK–meaning you sit down with your spouse and say, “Darling, if I was to continue being friends with so-and-so, how do you honestly feel about that? I am interested in keeping up with them simply because they were an important part of my life at one point. I am not attracted to them or anything like that. However, if you don’t feel comfortable with it, then I won’t do it because you are so much more important to me than this other person.”

    And then you listen to your spouse without defense or protest, and you ask questions, and if you aren’t comfortable with what they’re saying, then you ask more questions, and you listen some more, and you keep on doing this until you both arrive at an understanding and a comfort level that you can live with.

    That is how you honor your spouse. That is how you build a close relationship. When you have that sort of open communication and honor and your spouse feels and knows and experiences that priority in your life, then there is no room left for jealousy.

    This is how my husband and I treat each other, and this is the reason that neither of us feels at all jealous or worried about each other’s relationships. It’s called communication, honesty, and trust, and it’s a far more mature and Christlike way to handle relationships than simply cutting yourself off from people in your past with an assumption that no one can or should be able to manage it.

    Your way–a blanket rule against even friending an ex on a social network online–prevents personal growth and doesn’t require trust in the marriage relationship. It also continues to splinter and fragment relationships and community. My opinion only–it’s a shortcut, an easy way to manage an awkward situation. But real life is messy, real life requires risk and honesty. Real life is not a bundle of assumption or blanket statements. This is a topic that matters to me greatly because I believe we humans have the ability to sort through this mess and have positive healthy relationships with each other–whether spouses or exes or men or women or anyone else. The fact that we usually choose NOT to is not an indication of lack of potential or ability. It’s an indication of either lack of maturity, lack of tools, lack of information, or lack of desire to make those choices–with a good dose of fear thrown in.

    And frankly, it doesn’t bother me one bit if you want to ban your exes from your FB page. Have at. But to lay down some sort of John Shore edict, claiming that anyone who disagrees with you is being unfair to their spouse or even has a marriage in trouble is asinine behavior. This is not universal truth or some moral imperative you’re dealing with here. This is your own opinion, and it needs to be kept within that boundary.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/William-Ely/614396749 William Ely

    Sorry to sound so harsh and insulting, but I seriously cannot believe what I am reading here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/William-Ely/614396749 William Ely

    So, according to this post, if I were get married, I would have to give up ALL my female friends? All of them have been romantically involved with me at one point or another. That would leave my life rather empty in the friend department. Friends are VERY important and you should not have to give them up just because you are in a serious relationship. It is just not a reasonable thing to ask of your significant other. It shows a complete lack of trust.

    I am not trying to harass you here, I just think I am missing a piece of the puzzle. I do not understand at all. This idea of yours sounds a bit crazy and paranoid to me.

  • Meredith

    Couple questions:

    John said:

    >>Look: There’s no way you should be okay with your spouse emailing their ex: if you are okay with that, you’re not really in love with your spouse, and so don’t really care what they do. <>The only possible way for you to be okay with them having exchanges with their ex that you can’t possibly be aware of it is if you SEE every email that transpires between them and their ex. But how exactly would that work? Do they print out and bring you every exchange? That’s insane.>>

    Why should that be necessary? Why would anyone even WANT to police their spouse that way? The only reason I can think of is if they are so fearful and so lacking in trust and confidence of their spouse and their spouse’s love that they NEED this sort of control over the other person. But that’s not an indication of health in the relationship, in my opinion.

    I’ve done some marriage counseling, and if I was working with a couple that demanded–or even desired or needed–that sort of monitoring of the other person, I’d be suggesting that person work with a therapist to become healthier in that area of their life.

    John said:

    >>You’re either interested in what’s going on with your ex, or you’re not. If you’re not, you can let them go. If you ARE, then why?>>

    Um, because that person is a great human being who is worthy of being friends with? Because just because they are a person I no longer am with romantically doesn’t make them scum? Because there are already too many holes and broken relationships in the typical life that adding to them by choice makes no sense?

    And as a Christian, because cutting an ex from my life simply because he’s an ex does not seem like something Jesus would do. Granted, I don’t think Jesus had “exes” but I just can’t see him banning anyone from his life simply for that reason alone. I think following Jesus means looking at people differently and learning how to treat them honorably and with love, whether they are a spouse or a former flame. And that’s not something that can be handled with a simple rule.

  • Meredith

    One more point I tried to make but it didn’t post in the above comment for some reason:

    John said:

    >>Look: There’s no way you should be okay with your spouse emailing their ex: if you are okay with that, you’re not really in love with your spouse, and so don’t really care what they do. <<

    Wow! Really? That's news to my husband and I who are head-over-heels about each other. Huh. Who knew you could evaluate an entire marriage relationship based on that fact alone. I guess we've just been deceiving ourselves for 13 years that we are deeply in love and deeply satisfied and happy in our marriage when really we don't give a flying flip about each other. Fascinating.

    Okay, sarcasm tag off now. But are you serious? Is that really the criteria you use in your own marriage? It sounds like you equate love with jealousy, fear, and distrust. That's not really what you meant, is it?

  • missrose

    Hey John!

    I think you might have called out 90 percent of married people! Not for emotional adultery, but for FB friending an ex. These two are not always connected.

    I am friends with an ex… he came out as a gay man many years after we dated. My husband is not jealous at all! Can I get a waiver for this one?

    M

    P.S. The scenario you described in your post is common, and I am glad you brought it up. I just think sometimes it is okay to be friends with an ex.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Hmmm. Apparently I’ve failed to effectively communicate about this. Lemme say this one more time, and hope it’s clear:

    From the point of view of the spouse who Facebook-friend’s an ex: They’re either–in any way, to any degree—interested in their ex, or they are not. If they are, why? If they’re not, then what are they doing? Either way something is wrong.

    From the point of view of the man or woman whose spouse is FB friends with an ex: They’re either okay with their spouse doing that, or they’re not. If they ARE okay with it, something’s wrong, because who’s okay with their husband or wife keeping open private communication lines with their ex? If they’re not okay with it, then why would the spouse keep doing it?

    Conclusion: If you’re married and Facebook friends with an ex, something’s wrong. There’s no way out of that.

    And Meredith, I am okay saying this is true for virtually everyone, because pure romantic love is universal in nature and experience. Love is love, everywhere and for everyone. Marriage is marriage. Personal commitment is personal commitment. Wrong is wrong.

  • Lisa

    Wow John…you sure got the fire goin on this one!

    Glad to see you think it's okay when there are shared children involved. Pheeeew. If you didn't…I'd delete my ex.

  • Meredith

    John, I think on this one, we are just never going to agree. You apparently have a much, much different experience about what makes for a good relationship than I do. You obviously feel very strongly about this, and if your relationship and marriage is such that something like a FB friend ex would cause problems in your marriage, then I think you are right to avoid it.

    I am a bit frustrated by the fact that you are refusing to acknowledge the equally valid testimony of several of us who have commented saying that we have a different experience on this topic. I also am a bit resentful that you insist that something must be wrong with my marriage because my husband and I have a far different approach on this than you do. If you could actually spend time with my husband and I and see how we live our lives, you would see that not only is our marriage INCREDIBLY healthy, but that we are falling more deeply in love every day–FB friends and all.

    It's one thing to have a deeply held belief of what your preferences are and what works for you. But to refuse to admit that others of us have a different approach that also is working well for us, and to blow that off by saying that there must be something wrong with us is not intellectually honest, nor is it respectful.

    The good thing in all of this is that we aren't bound by your opinions or your insistence that something is wrong with us or our marriage. We're going to continue on as we have been, and be blissfully happy together. Hope that won't disappoint you too badly! :-)

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    No, no: I just got terribly busy this whole afternoon; right after my last response I had to drive some hour away to get some pretty major dentistry work done. But I just posted a new piece–which of course would now be at the top of the blog—about this, in which (at the end) I did in fact say that I understand the validity of what you and others have said.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore
  • http://www.aelc.edu.au/the-naked-ape-blog/index.html Nathan

    Hi,

    For my two cents worth, I’ve asked my ex-girlfriend to be best man at my wedding (or civil union – thanks bigotted Christians). I think its rare in life to form a meaningful heart connection with someone. They are like a pearl or memory and experience that you string around your soul. Why throw them away?

    PS. Its just important to have absolute boundaries in yourself. It helps to maintain those boundaries with your ex girlfriend when you discover your gay.

  • lil

    I agree with you John. I am glad I am not the only one who feels that way, for a while I thought I was. I thought that maybe I thought this way because I am 21 and that I was being immature. Thanks for this post.

    What is your opinion on ex's remaining friends? I don't think it's appropriate, let alone them hanging out, but other people seem to think otherwise.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Hi, lil. Thanks. As you can see, you and I are about the only ones who see it this way. This is easily the post with which the most readers have ever disagreed. Almost NO ONE heard what I was saying here.

    Buuuuuuuuuuut whaddaya goona do. Anyway, I appreciate you saying what you did.

    I have no set opinion on the advisability of remaining friends with one's ex. I would say, though, that I think that in such relationships it's almost inevitable that (and, again, we're only talking people who don't have children between them) someone's bullshitting someone. Somebody's trippin. Something's not right. Something unhealthy is happening. Someone in that relationship has too much power, etc. It's just never …. right. It's always unhealthy. They're never really "friends' at all.

  • Shanny

    I think it may be carried a little to the extreme here. I have 101 "friends" 99 whom I actually know, 30 that I really pay any amount of attention too as far as posting goes and a whopping 3 that I would have a text conversation with if they popped up. I have an Ex who tries to pop up on text sometimes but I always have an excuse as to why I have to go after a couple of friendly banters back and forth. I'll tell you why I gave the okay at reconnecting on line with these ex's. It wasn't to rekindle anything – it was to show off my incredible pics, my beautiful family, my successful life and let them know what they screwed themselves out of. After that initial warm fuzzy feeling I never even look at their pages or respond to a text. They are there but not for any reason other than I wanted to get a passive aggressive "neener-neener" in there at them before smugly moving on with my life. I have a total of 2 ex's on my friends list- one who I wanted to get back at with my wonderful life (and it worked, he is the one I ignore when he texts) the other I never really was in love with he was a more of a friend and so there is no awkward feelings about it. He never texts or posts anything on my wall. So unless someone is posting on your wall or bugging you with chat i think it's natural for many reasons to accept them on your friends list.

  • Shanny

    I agree- it’s not about being “friends” it’s about a hundred other things- like I was talking about. Getting back at someone or showing everyone you are still accepted by them. If there was hurt between you – a facebook friendship isn’t going to heal anything but in my case it was kind of therapeutic- I could care less if he dropped me or I never talked to him again- my point was made.

  • Enrique

    William Ely doesn’t know what he’s talking about because he hasn’t been married. IF you respect your spouse’s feelings when they uncomfortable with your friendship with your exes, then you would defriend them.

    Speaking from experience, my wife, after 20 years of marriage and 2 children, was found on facebook by an old flame from when she was 18 years old. They had only lost touch with each other because he went to work in a different country. And it all started so innocently, unfortunately she never told me about this. Innocent facebook private messages escalated to online chats, to text messages, to hours of phone calls between them-all behind my back. It became a full blown emotional affair and it was in the process of being a physical affair as I later discovered evidence that she was planning to leave us and move to another country to be with him before I discovered the affair.

    This is becoming a VERY common problem. Simply google: emotional affair facebook old flame.

    You can be friends with an ex, BUT you must be totally open with your spouse about it and the moment that it starts crossing the line (being romantic, flirty, sexy), then you have to cut it off immediately!

  • Joe

    Coming from someone who was friended by an ex, I think that it depends on who the ex is. There are some who you can be facebook friends with and others who you cannot. It depends upon the motives of the 2 involved.

    In my particular situation, I have contacted by an ex-boyfriend over the years. via phone Phone calls each year, to just catch up and that was it. He always initiated the calls and I really never thought much of the calls. He found me on facebook recently, I accepted his friend request, out of curiousity – to see what he was up to. My marriage was in bad shape and his is as well. Right away, he started with talking about why we broke up in the past, our prior pregnancy together, wanting to get back to what was,professing that I was the one and that we should have gotten married, he wanted to meet and get pregnant and that he was going to leave his now 3rd wife. All very bad. Countless e-mails, phone calls, chats, pictures and webcams. I am now in the midst of a divorce (did not leave my husband for this guy but this situation definitely was the death nail in my marriage). I cut it off with this guy recently, blocked him from finding me on facebook again. I came clean with my soon to be ex. I guarantee that his spouse did not know, especialy since she walked in our webcam conversation. At times I feel bad for her but not really as this guy never changed and as they say, you reap what you sow!!

  • DotDonahue .

    Thank you. This blog post helped make up my mind about whether I should befriend an old ex. :) The answer is no. I love my husband and I love our marriage.

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