Partner Still Friends With All Of Their Exes? An Expert Offers Tips To Navigate It

Being friends with an ex is a complicated road to navigate. You know them in ways you don't know many others, and you've seen them at their best, their worst, and most vulnerable. There's an intimacy there that you only experience with a handful of people in your life. Because of this, some exes choose to keep the friendship part of their relationship alive, and some are really good at it. 

As much as it's admirable to be friends with your exes, it can get complicated if you're dating someone who's friends with all their exes. While it definitely says a lot about them as a person in that it shows they value their relationships, it can make the person who's currently dating them feel a bit uneasy, as well as jealous, suspicious, and even angry.

Still, before you start throwing around ultimatums and stomping your feet in true toddler tantrum form, hold up. It's pretty cool that your partner is friends with their exes. You just need to learn how to handle the situation, which is why we spoke to Lisa Lawless, Ph.D., a clinical psychotherapist with more than 20 years of experience and the CEO of Holistic Wisdom.

Establish healthy boundaries

Every relationship should have established boundaries because things can run amuck without them. So, when it comes to your partner and their exes, just tell yourself that this is another boundary that needs to be discussed in a realistic and honest way. As you would with determining any boundaries, stand your ground and don't waver, but also hear your partner out. 

"[Setting boundaries] includes determining what both of you feel comfortable with and remembering that these boundaries are not set in stone," Dr. Lawless tells Glam. "Should discomfort arise later, you will need to revisit these to ensure that you mutually agree on what is reasonable and respectful for your relationship."

Any rational partner will be able to understand where you're coming from and your need to have boundaries for this type of scenario, especially if this is the first person you've dated who's friends with their exes. Keeping the lines of communication open, expressing your feelings and thoughts, and agreeing that boundaries are necessary for a healthy relationship will give you both a sense of solace.

Trust your partner

If you've been burned before, trusting your partner when it comes to their ex is definitely going to be a challenge. Because of this, you want to share any trust issues you have with your partner so they understand why you may second-guess their intentions for being friends with their exes. Tell your partner what you need from them to trust them implicitly. "Part of this trust is through the demonstration of behavior that shows they are reliable, supportive, and emotionally available to you," says Dr. Lawless. "This includes communicating openly about their relationship with an ex."

Meeting your partner's exes may be a good way for you to learn how to trust. You'll be able to see for yourself that the romance is gone and only a friendship remains. However, we can't ignore the fact that sometimes an ex can still carry a torch for someone, so if you pick up on any energy or comments by your partner's exes that don't sit right with you, talk about it with your partner.

As Dr. Lawless points out, it's "essential that those exes are not participating in any manipulative behavior that could threaten your relationship, including sabotaging it through negative comments about you." Of course, if one of your partner's exes is still in love with them, that's not your partner's fault. But it's still something that needs to be acknowledged and discussed if you're going to be able to trust your partner 100%.

Learn how to manage jealousy

Jealousy is a very normal and natural feeling to have in a relationship. In fact, a bit of jealousy is actually a good thing because it makes you realize how important your partner is to you and what you'll do to keep them in your life. If jealousy does arise, Dr. Lawless suggests communicating those feelings to your partner for "validation while also working on your self-confidence and self-worth."

Although your partner's friendships with their exes may be the source of your jealousy, these emotions are more about you and how you feel about yourself than they are about your partner's friendships. People who are confident in themselves and their relationships are less likely to experience feelings of jealousy. If your self-esteem is lacking and therefore contributing to your jealousy issues, as Dr. Lawless says, this is something to work on for yourself and the health of your relationship.

Focus on what you and your partner have

Getting used to your partner being friends with their exes will take time, but instead of wasting energy on the "what if," bring your attention back to where it belongs: your relationship. You can't expect your relationship to stand the test of time and the inevitable bumps in the road if you don't give your partnership the mindfulness you both deserve.

"Prioritize [what you have]," says Dr. Lawless. "Ensure that you have quality time and emotional intimacy with one another to foster your bond and strengthen it. In addition, make sure to nurture and cultivate your friendships for added support." No one will ever tell you it's a breeze to handle your partner being friends with their exes, but if you remind yourself that those relationships came to an end for a reason, that can help you see that friendships after breakups can, for some, exist. Maybe even for you and your exes too.

If you're unable to keep your jealousy in check or focus on your relationship in a positive way, then Dr. Lawless wants you to remember that you don't have to be in a relationship with someone who's still friends with their exes. It's a choice, not a requirement or an obligation. But if you do choose to be in that relationship, it's up to you to acknowledge that this is a decision you made and, according to Dr. Lawless, "taking responsibility for it is essential."