Modern technology makes keeping in touch with people from your past a snap, if not inescapable. It also means that your exes, friends with benefits and one-night stands never go away.
Imagine that a woman you used to sleep with texts out of the blue to see how you’re doing. You have a girlfriend now, but your previous partner doesn’t know that. While this may seem harmless, a few messages later, you’ve slipped back into a dangerous pattern, sending flirty texts and photos.
Or perhaps you’ve had a boyfriend for the past few months, and then you receive a private Facebook message from an old college boyfriend. He comments on how hot you look in your profile photo. You start catching up and reminiscing... and then set a time to meet.
WHAT’S THE PROBLEM
While these interactions arise all the time, if you’re hiding them from your current partner, they’re not harmless. Whenever you share personal things with someone
to whom you’re attracted, but consciously hide these actions from your partner, you’re creating distance from your partner and forging closeness with the outsider.
While you may make certain never to cross inappropriate lines, it’s important to ask why you’re doing it at all. Does reconnecting with your former flame alleviate boredom? Boost your self-esteem? Keep the door open for future interactions? Whatever your motivation, the lack of mindfulness surrounding it can be dangerous.
WHAT TO DO
Two words: boundaries and transparency. First, learn to be comfortable drawing boundaries around flames from your past, even if you’re afraid of hurting their feelings. Then, practice being transparent with your current partner regarding contact with exes. Finally, discuss boundaries around flirting with others so that you’re on the same
page about what kinds of interactions you’re both okay with. This isn’t about controlling or being controlled by your partner; it’s about building healthy communication, closeness and trust... and creating the chance for a mature, healthy relationship to thrive.
Jennifer “Dr. Jenn” Gunsaullus, PhD, is a sociologist, sexuality speaker, and relationship and intimacy counselor. Her hobbies are beach volleyball, soo bahk do, learning Spanish and talking about sex. DrJennsDen.com
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