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My ex and I broke up a while ago, but we have remained friends. I’ve started seeing a new guy, though, and I think we want to make our relationship official soon. I still talk to my ex all the time, and I do care about him, but my new guy is insecure about my relationship with my ex and wants me to cut it off. What’s the best thing to do? Should I give up my friendship with my ex for a relationship with this new guy, or should I stand my ground and continue with both relationships? — Between Boys at Binghamton
Dear Between Boys,
You have something extraordinary in your friendship with your ex, and your boyfriend needs to realize that. It’s impressive you have been able to avoid, or rise above, the awkwardness and hurt that frequently accompanies a collapsed romantic relationship and establish a different kind of meaningful bond. You and your ex can still enjoy each other’s company and even perhaps learn something from one another. It sounds as though preserving this friendship is important to you, but it would be for the best if your ex kept his distance for a while as you establish this new relationship.
It’s completely normal for your new boyfriend to feel uncomfortable. This other guy has known you intimately in the past, and he’s still featured prominently in the picture. The fact that he feels a little jealous testifies to his feelings for you. Both these guys care about you, so feel comfortable openly discussing your conflicted feelings with both of them. Just be careful not to badmouth anyone; you need these two guys to emerge from this with tacit respect for one another.
With your new boyfriend, articulate the importance of preserving your friendship with your ex. He should be able to understand this. He may be friendly with some of his exes, or maybe he’s had some bad breakups that he wished had played out differently. In short, I doubt the concept of remaining friends with an ex is completely foreign to him. If he’s still suspicious of your platonic friendship, then he has some trust issues and may not deserve a place in your life. However, as long as you stress that you empathize with his feelings, he will probably understand. What you should not do is try to bring your ex and your boyfriend together. The idea could make both guys feel awkward, and you can’t force two people to hit it off and become friends.
Arguably, the conversation with your ex will actually be harder because you have to explain why you may not be around as much as you establish your relationship with your new guy. If he really cares about you platonically, he will probably keep his distance, at least from situations when the two of you will be together. Don’t stress out about it too much; you two have likely been through a lot together. Remind him that you are his friend and that your faith in this friendship gives you the confidence to have this conversation with him. Emphasize how important he is to your life, so he won’t be offended that you will be spending less time around him for a period.
Do not, do not, say that your boyfriend is jealous or even oversensitive. Approach it from the perspective that you yourself are uncomfortable. If your ex/friend reacts negatively, then you definitely need to distance yourself from him. It would be disrespectful of him to cause stress for you as you pursue a relationship.
Stay strong about your intention to maintain both relationships, but share your deep ambivalence with both guys. If you show how this situation confuses and frustrates you, then these guys should be able to understand and overcome their own feelings of discomfort.