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How to Handle a Meddling Ex

Unless you and your partner are both novices to love, you have both dated in the past. But it becomes a problem when the past negatively affects your present relationship. According to Port Elizabeth-based love coach Jann Warner, it’s natural to feel some insecurities about your partner’s past: “When you’re in a relationship with someone really special, and enjoy being the object of his affection, it’s inevitable that you’ll feel some apprehension about his ex.”

While some people manage a friendship with an ex (and can even reunite), for most people an ex’s presence can hang like a dark cloud over your relationship. If you want it your current relationship to work, there are ways of dealing with a meddling ex. Clinical psychologist Joanna Kleovoulou suggests the following four ways to deal with a meddling ex:

1. Set healthy boundaries
Continuing contact with an ex often delays the mourning process, sends mixed messages and hampers the ability to move on or start a fresh relationship. If meddling relates to an ex-spouse, be clear about keeping the contact cordial for the sake of your children, maintaining a strong relationship with your children and a loving relationship with your current partner.

2. Be clear about expectations and your role, so if it is a meddling ex-boyfriend/girlfriend, you need to ask yourself what is in it for you by continuing the contact. As for your ex-spouse, keep communication related to the logistics of the children and your role as their parent only.

3. Identify who owns the problem: As a general rule, don’t agree to any changes of plan when having a discussion with your ex without first touching base with your current partner.

4. Keep emotionally and physically distant. This will create healthy boundaries and protect your current relationship.

If clarity of boundaries are not respected, seek mediation assistance or psycho-therapeutic guidance to assist both parties (in the case of a marriage) in meeting the needs of the children and still keeping the parental relationship intact. If the meddling escalates to obsessive heights within a non-marital case, a restraining order may need to be put in place as the final resort.