Episode 121: "What if my partner is upset, because I'm friends with my ex?"Support the show
On today’s episode, we’re answering a question from local teens about when partners try to control who your friends are.
This is Jessica Skultety, Outreach and Prevention Manager at Safe+Sound Somerset. We are Somerset County, New Jersey's lead domestic and sexual violence response organization, providing services at no charge to survivors for over 40 years.
Today's question from local teens is: “Dear Ava, What if my partner is upset because I’m friends with my ex?”
This is a situation we hear about from teens a lot. Two people start a new relationship, and one (or both) people still want to be friends with their exes. Sometimes the other partner has a problem with that. We also see this play out a lot in media – in movies, tv, and music, for example.
Jealousy is a natural human feeling, but here’s the key: your partner can’t use jealousy to control your every move.
Think about it this way. Let’s say two people named Riley and Jesse are high school students in a relationship. Riley sees Jesse talking to their ex after school in the hallway. Riley gets upset and later tells Jesse they can’t talk to their ex anymore, because it looked like the ex was flirting.
In every relationship, both partners have the right to have friends, and a life outside the relationship. Even if the friend is an ex, Jesse should be able to talk and be friends with them. In this situation, Riley can’t control whether or not the ex decides to flirt. The ex might even say they weren’t flirting.
Let’s look at this a little deeper. In a healthy relationship, both people have equal power and control. This means they both have the right to make decisions, set boundaries for themselves, and give or take away consent or permission. If Riley says Jesse can’t talk to their ex, they are trying to control and take power away from Jesse. Jesse has the right to make decisions for themselves, and this might include being friends with their ex.
Instead of forbidding them from seeing their ex, Riley could talk to Jesse and say something like, “Hey, I saw you talking to your ex. Is everything okay?” Jesse might then say that not everything is okay, OR that they are friends with their ex.
A lot of times people think Jesse might be lying to cover up something, but that’s not always true. Again, we think this comes from seeing that happen a lot in media. Anyway, Riley could choose to move forward with Jesse, trusting them. If Riley doesn’t trust Jesse, they have every right to leave the relationship. But remember, no matter if they’re dating or not, Riley does not have the right to tell Jesse who they can or can’t talk to.
To sum it up – you have a right to be friends with your ex, if you want to. You should be able to talk with other people, and spend time with family and friends outside of your relationship, without your partner making decisions for you. Here’s a healthy relationship sign: when your partner encourages you to hang out with others! And they have the right to do the same thing.
To speak with an expert about relationship or sexual violence, call or text the Safe+Sound Somerset 24/7 confidential helpline at 866-685-1122 for supportive listening, information, and safety planning.
Want to “Ask Ava” a question? Visit our website at www.safe-sound.org/ask-ava. Thank you for listening today. Join us next time here on Ask Ava.