A relationship expert with over 25 years experience counselling couples, individuals and families.

Jill Goldson: Can exes be friends?

I have been with my partner for a few months now and it really bugs me that he is still friends with his ex-girlfriend – the one he was with before me. I don’t normally have an issue with exes being friends but in this case, they only broke up three months before we got together and she quite obviously tried to get him back when we first started seeing each other. He promises he doesn't have feelings for her and that they're just friends but they text and snapchat on a regular basis. Am I wrong to want him to stop being friends with her?
You can try and be friends with exes, but will it really last?
Photo / Thinkstock
You can try and be friends with exes, but will it really last? Photo / Thinkstock

Of course you are not wrong to be concerned about your boyfriend staying friends with his ex. Your needs are very important in this and if your boyfriend is turning a deaf ear to your feelings then you will inevitably begin to resent him.

It is all too easy for people like your boyfriend to take the line "we are just good friends now" or "you are so possessive and insecure".

The reality is that your boyfriend probably feels like less of a "bad guy" for leaving and upsetting his ex. Does he worry about pleasing people?

For all of us, letting go of someone is painful, even if it is our choice. Staying "good friends" means you don't have to miss them so much. Chances are that this friendship is also painful for his ex and you already know she didn't want to lose him and tried to get him back when he was starting to see you. Seems likely she is still hoping she has a chance.

Got a broken heart, relationship niggle, infuriating family member, or anything in between? Email your questions here and check back next Friday to hear Jill's wisdom.

The research tells us that compared to platonic friendships, friendships with ex lovers have lower levels of emotional support and trust and sharing of good news. In other words the costs outweigh the benefits. Add to this the unhappiness of a current partner with the arrangement and I think the answer is clear in your situation.

Your boyfriend is unwisely disregarding the fact that his minimising of how much this matters to you is putting your relationship future at risk. All up, there would seem to me there are no winners here. Trust your feelings of discomfort and let your boyfriend know very clearly that this arrangement is not okay for you. He needs to let his ex go so that she can love again. And very importantly for you, he needs to demonstrate how much he values you by listening properly to your feelings.

Perhaps this is an opportunity for him to become a bit more insightful and in touch with other peoples needs.

- www.nzherald.co.nz

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A relationship expert with over 25 years experience counselling couples, individuals and families.

Jill's fascination for what makes us tick stems from sheer bloody-minded curiosity and a genuine desire to see people live healthy, happy lives. Born in Manchester, the award-winning family and relationship counsellor moved to Auckland when she was nine. Being the middle child of an immigrant family she was neither the oldest nor youngest child, neither a Pom nor a Kiwi. This kicked off a lifelong fascination with how people can make sense of transitions and how uncertainty can be turned into a greater understanding of ourselves and of those who push our buttons. Her career has spanned more than 25 years, and seen her working for the Family Court; in hospitals; universities; aboriginal training programmes, inner London social work practices, and now–her own private practice in Auckland. Whether she's counselling everyday Kiwis, highly paid power couples or the children of Bengali immigrant families, Jill has an inherent ability to tease out what's really going on in people's lives, and strategise to improve the situation, whatever that may be. • Jill Goldson is a Family Dispute Resolution mediator and counsellor, and Director of The Family Matters Centre in Auckland.

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