Love, Lindsay

'My Ex Just Moved To My City. Should I Reach Out?'

All your relationship questions answered — right here, right now.

Dear Lindsay,

An old ex of mine is moving to the city I live in (with my current boyfriend) with his current girlfriend. We dated six years ago in college and ended things on good terms, so I'm not worried about any awkwardness if we run into each other randomly. What I'm wondering is whether or not I should reach out to invite him and his girlfriend to dinner with my me and my boyfriend. I think it would be a nice gesture because I'm pretty sure they don't know many people here, but I don't want it to be awkward for our significant others. Of course, I plan to run this idea by my boyfriend before texting my ex because I'd want him to do the same for me, but I'm not sure how he'll react. He's a pretty chill guy, but I feel like everyone can get a little touchy when an ex comes up, even in the most platonic way. So do you think I should try to reach out so we all can be friends or would that be weird?

- Emily

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It's funny how the simplest thing, like sending a text, becomes incredibly complicated once an ex is involved. Traditionally, we're told that once a romantic partner is out of our life, they should stay out. Otherwise, we run the risk of emotional complications. This is definitely true for some ex-couples, but every relationship has a different dynamic with a different set of rules. These rules often depend on multiple elements: how long it's been since the relationship ended, the circumstances of the breakup, the length of that relationship itself, the level of security and trust you have in the current relationship, the maturity and ability for all parties to have open communication, and ultimately, the desire to have an ex remain in your life as a genuine friend. In this case, you and your ex parted amicably six years ago, so you're off to a good start. 

Still, relationship expert Samantha Jayne recommends clarifying why you want to get in touch with your ex. "What is the real reason behind wanting to be friends? Is there any attraction?" she challenges you to ask yourself. If there's even the tiniest bit of lingering attraction, then it's best not to rock the boat. If not, you still need to make sure your intentions stem from wanting a genuine friendship with your ex and a genuine interest in his girlfriend, according to Jayne. Again, ask yourself, "Am I doing this to check out the new girl and compare her to myself? Am I trying to make her jealous?" If so, put the phone down and walk away. 

If you decide you do want a genuine friendship with your ex, I agree with your plan to run it by your S.O. Simply bring up the fact that your ex has moved into town and you are toying with the idea of reaching out. No need to mention potential dinner plans off the bat. First gauge your S.O.'s reaction to the general idea. While being mindful that your ex might be potentially "touchy" about the issue, you should enter the conversation giving him the benefit of the doubt that he's mature enough to trust you and respect your right to be friends with whomever you want.

If he does express feelings of jealousy or insecurity, take it as an opportunity to be empathetic and address why those issues exist in your current relationship. Jayne recommends putting yourself in your boyfriend's position and to be honest with yourself about how you'd feel if the situation were reversed. 

Then, have an open and honest conversation about how to resolve these issues together and how you can be sensitive to his concerns without sacrificing a potential friendship with an ex if that's truly important to you (and truly platonic). No matter how this conversation goes, remember that it's about you wanting to be friendly with your ex. It's not about convincing your boyfriend to want to be friends with him. 

If/when you do bring up dinner, if he doesn't want to come, that's his prerogative. After all, if this were just a random friend that made your boyfriend uncomfortable, you wouldn't want to force them together, just as you wouldn't want him to do that to you. 

On the flip side, if your boyfriend turns out to be totally cool with your dinner idea, it could present an opportunity for your partner to learn a bit more about your romantic history and ultimately strengthen your current relationship. 

While you should respect your partner's opinion on the situation — wherever that falls on the spectrum — it's totally fine to reach out with a simple "Hey, I heard you're moving to [your city] and just wanted to say welcome!" text. This lays down some friendly groundwork so that, on the off chance you randomly run into each other, it doesn't come as an unwelcome surprise. Even so, Jayne cautions "there is a lot of uncertainty around the situation."

So you might not receive a text, or you might receive something simple like, "Thanks! Hope you're doing well, too." If so, it's best to leave the conversation at that. You did your part to be welcoming, but you don't need to go out of your way for someone who doesn't seem that interested. 

If your ex's response naturally leads to a longer conversation and you're absolutely sure you both feel nothing more than friendship, you can suggest a group dinner (if your boyfriend is cool with it). If neither of your S.O.s are interested in a meet-up, you can try catching up over lunch or coffee instead. There's nothing wrong with that, so long as you "keep the boundaries in track," according to Jayne. 

With all this in mind, ask yourself before sending a text if your ex's friendship is really worth it. While you may not have broken up due to any bad blood, there is a reason you haven't stayed in better touch throughout the years. Do you feel like your life is missing anything just because your ex isn't it? 

While it's always nice to have another friend around, Jayne notes that, "It is often easier to remain friends with your ex when you are single, as significant others from both sides need to be considered." I get that you want to be nice and have everyone get along, but in this situation, the best way to do that may be to do nothing. You can't please everyone, so you might as well focus on pleasing yourself.

Love, Lindsay

Lindsay here, A Plus's resident relationship guru/columnist. While I may not know everything, I do know a lil something about love and our seemingly endless pursuit of it. Having written dozens of A Plus articles about dating, relationships, and sex, I'm ready and willing to investigate all of your romantically-inclined questions (submit here!) — because I've asked them myself. What I hope to bring to A Plus's readers is a sex-positive, body-positive, and most importantly, you-positive perspective on modern love. Consider Love, Lindsay your digital Cupid.

Cover image via Maria Savenko on Shutterstock

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