Jen, Brad & Angie: Can ex’s be friends?

I read today that Jen and Brad have been in touch.  Seems that Jen’s dog, Norman, (whom Brad helped raised from puppy hood) died, and Brad was moved to call Jen.  Reportedly this resulted in an intimate conversation where they shared memories of Norman and talked about their own lives  as well. Apparently, Angie would flip out if she knew this because she has forbidden Brad to be in contact with “the Valley girl” as she derisively calls Jen.  Think there are some hard feelings here?

Now, whether all of this is true or just tabloid fodder, I don’t know.  But it does bring up some important relationship questions: Can exes be friends when one or both of them is with someone else?  Does the current spouse or SE (spousal equivalent) have the right to forbid their partner to have contact with his/her ex?  And if this contact is forbidden, should the person go behind their spouse’s back and do it anyway?  Reportedly, that’s what Brad will do if Angie lays down the law about Jen.  Again, who knows whether or not any of this is true, but for the sake of discussion, let’s say that it is.

Can Jen and Brad still be friends?  I say “it’s possible.”  I mean they once loved each other enough to be married for five years and that love  doesn’t go away even after divorce.  Perhaps the kind of love they shared as husband and wife no longer exists, but I believe that when two people love each other and share a life together, those bonds don’t go away even if the form for their relationship changes. Therefore, if they want a friendship, it seems like a very good thing to me.

But the second question makes it tricky…does Angie have the right to forbid Brad to have contact with Jen?  “Forbid” is a very strong word; one that I have a hard time accepting.  I don’t think partners should forbid each other to do anything.  That sounds more like mommy and little kid, rather than two adults living in partnership with one another.  However, I do think that Angie has the right to tell Brad how she feels, and to ask him not to be in contact with Jen.  The conversation might go something like this:  “I know that my insecurities are creeping up here, but I want to ask you not to be in touch with Jen since it sets off a huge reaction of jealousy in me, so huge that it interferes with my being close to you, which I very much want. I  know I need to work on this because I don’t really like having my insecurities restrict you from having something that’s important to you.”  Granted, this is how an adult/mature person with self-awareness might talk.  But is that Angie?

Now, it’s up to Brad to decide whether his relationship with Jen is worth his not being as close to Angie as he could be….or worse.  And as far as the third questions goes…should he go behind her back and do it anyway? Definitely not! That would undermine the trust that they presumably have, and undermining trust in a relationship is something that is very difficult to repair.  If he feels that he doesn’t want to cut off contact with Jen, then he should be up front with Angie.  It would bring to the fore important issues between the two of them that apparently need to be resolved.

My last comment is this: Good for Norman!  He brought together two friends who got to share some lovely moments with each other, and perhaps melt away some strain.

Check out my book, The Affair: From Breakdown to Breakthrough, A Therapist’s Real-life Journey, for great tips and insights about relationships, infidelity and more. You can read a synopsis of the book on my website, and buy it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

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