The internet lost its collective mind earlier this month when photos surfaced from the annual Academy Museum of Motion Pictures Gala, showing pop star and actress Selena Gomez looking chummy with Hailey Bieber, model and wife to Gomez’s ex Justin Bieber.
The response was positive for the most part, especially since rumors of a vicious feud have long encircled the two since the Biebers’ sudden marriage three months after they started dating and six months after Selena and Justin called it quits. Many fans are now calling on them to become best friends and are extremely hopeful of a future where these two famous ladies hang out regularly.
Over in another corner of the online world, fans of the Try Guys brand are still piecing together the bombshell scandal of “wife guy” Ned Fulmer cheating on his spouse and mother of his two kids, Ariel, with one of the brand’s producers. Observant viewers have noticed some holes in Ned’s shiny, supposedly family-centered facade going back years, including one clue Ariel unwittingly revealed on the podcast You Can Sit With Us, which she hosted with the other “Try Wives.” In one particular episode from 2020 where she recounted how she and Ned met, Ariel revealed that she specifically had to ask Ned not to invite his ex-girlfriend to their wedding.
In both scenarios, exes are a distinct feature of two very publicized relationships, and red flags are present throughout, but probably not for the reasons you might think. The age old question asks, can you be friends with your ex? Forget that – is it possible to be friends with the woman your man used to sleep with?
Bad Ideas Might Seem Good at First
You know the old saying “don’t ask questions you don’t want the answers to”? Many of us put this adage into practice every day with our husbands and boyfriends.
It might be natural to wonder about your man’s life before you came along. You might be curious about his old social circle, his old girlfriends, whoever he dated before you, especially if they’re still in contact with one another. Relationships can end for all kinds of reasons, some of them serious, some of them not so serious, but if your boyfriend or your husband were still friends with his ex, how would you feel about it? Not only that, but would you want him to be friends with your ex?
Even if your man isn’t on particularly good terms with his ex, you might think for some reason that it would be beneficial to be friends with her. But what does that relationship between the two of you look like, and how does the originator of your meeting – your boyfriend or husband – fit into the dynamic? Does he benefit in some way from your relationship with his ex, or is he made uncomfortable by it? These are serious things to consider, however good an idea it might seem at the time.
This kind of potential relationship is fraught with emotional pitfalls for everyone involved. It’s one thing to have to be on good terms with your man’s ex if there are children and custody arrangements involved, but it’s another to actively seek them out when there are no other ties between him and her and decide for whatever reason that you should be their new best friend.
The Truth About Sex
As much as we want to pretend or wish that sex doesn’t have consequences, it does. And even if we manage to escape the snares of hookup culture or contracting sexually transmitted infections or unplanned pregnancy and save sex for our serious dating relationships, there’s still a distinct possibility that we have shared the most intimate part of ourselves with someone who will one day be an ex.
This happens all the time. We might pride ourselves on not falling prey to casual sex or “situationships,” but we’re still sharing an important piece of our identity with someone on the basis that they might one day make the ultimate commitment, only to find ourselves single, alone, and heartbroken later on.
We’ll forever be tied to the people we’ve slept with, no matter who we end up with.
Sex in any context is an exchange of passion and pleasure, but it’s also an exchange of vulnerability, intimacy, and even identity. Whether it’s for one night or for a decades’ worth of nights, when we have sex with someone, we willingly relinquish the innermost part of ourselves as unique individuals to them. Many might go on to respect that gift and commit to us fully through the bonds of dedication, marriage, and family, but many won’t. And that’s the hard truth as to why breakups these days seem to hurt so much more for us. It’s not just that we lost a person we loved or that it didn’t work out for whatever reason – it’s that we gave part of ourselves to them and they to us, and even though the relationship ended, we still have to carry that around with us for the rest of our lives.
While we have to deal with the emotional fallout from our own relationships, we also have to consider the person we will one day marry and whom they shared themselves with. The fact of the matter is, even though so many long-term couples these days break up, we’ll forever be tied to the people we’ve slept with, no matter who we end up with.
Protect Your Relationship
If you decide that you need to be friends with your man's ex, prepare for a third wheel in your relationship: the what if. What if I could ask her about the things he does that annoys me, like leaving clothes on the floor or not listening when I ask him to do something? What if she decides to ask me about something, like our sex life or if we plan to have kids? What if I were to ask about why they broke up? What if she asks me about my relationship with his parents?
If you don’t already know, this is a terrible idea. Not only are you not addressing the insecurities you have with the person who needs to hear it, but you’re bringing an external influence into a two-person relationship who is likely incapable of seeing things objectively.
Don’t bring an external influence, who is likely incapable of being objective, into your relationship.
Furthermore, you might not even want to be friends with her for the right reasons. It’s one thing to think of her as a genuinely lovely person and know that her relationship didn’t work out with him for whatever reason, but it's another to want to get close to her because you’re threatened by her presence in his life or because you want her to like and approve of you.
No one will consider you a bad wife or a bad girlfriend for not wanting to be friends with his ex, even though feminism tells us you should be able to because sex is meaningless and we should support all women no matter what. But you have the integrity of a relationship to protect, and that means not opening it up to situations you know will damage your self-esteem and sense of security. Digging deeper into their dynamic and forging a friendship with her because you feel guilt or a weird sense of curiosity will not only harm your emotional well-being but jeopardize the entire reason you know her to begin with as well.
The whole concept of being friends with any ex seems like a relatively new and modern development. These days we’re so concerned with offending or hurting people, but that normally comes from a place of societal pressure, not because we genuinely care about them.
Selena and Hailey shouldn’t have felt pressured to show their friendship off to the world in order to win brownie points with drama-addicted fans, nor should Ariel have had to request that her spouse not invite his ex to their wedding. Exes are exes for a reason.
It doesn’t make us cool and we don’t deserve some type of special modern relationship award if we’re friends with the woman our man used to date. Again, it’s one thing to be cordial and civil, even if it’s just on speaking terms, with them if there are other factors involved, but if there are no ties to her, it's best to leave her in the past where she belongs.
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