Reconnecting with an ex while married is unarguably tricky territory. You may reach out or entertain their overtures because this person was once an integral part of your life. A desire to hold on to that connection or revive it even after years is natural. But with the possibility of unresolved emotions coming into play – even if you don’t feel or recognize them upfront – you have to think long and hard: Is reconnecting with an ex a good idea?
In doing so, are you playing with fire that can catch your marriage in its spate? What are the risks of reconnecting with an old love who is married? Does rekindling your connection with an old flame indicate there is trouble in your marital paradise? Or is it possible to build a genuine friendship where a romantic connection once existed?
We spoke to counseling psychologist Kavita Panyam (Masters in Psychology and international affiliate with the American Psychological Association), who has been helping couples work through their relationship issues for over two decades, for a clearer understanding of the risks and pitfalls one needs to be mindful of when reconnecting with an ex.
Reconnecting With An Ex While Married – What It Says About You
People recognize that reconnecting with an ex while married can be the key to opening up a Pandora’s Box in your life. Even so, instances of a married woman talking to an ex-boyfriend or a married man contacting an ex-girlfriend are not unheard of. When an old flame reaches out, most people find it hard not to reciprocate their overtures, despite their better judgment. In fact, thanks to social media and technology, this trend is becoming far more pronounced than ever before.
So, when you willfully go down that road – with an awareness of the potential consequences – what does it say about you? Kavita says, “Reconnecting or talking to an ex while married depends largely on the state of the marriage too. If the marriage is lacking in emotional, physical, spiritual, financial or intellectual intimacy, then that gap can become a facilitator for a third person to come into the equation. Often, in such situations, it is easier to trust and lean on an ex with whom you already share a connection and comfort level than a total stranger.
“The same is true for people who feel lonely in their marriage, going through life as if they’re still single. Being married to a narcissist or not having a kind, empathetic partner can be common triggers for such loneliness that can pave the way for reconnecting with an ex.”
However, these are not the only circumstances where exes touch base, in the garb of catching up on each other’s lives or forging a friendship, and then, going on to develop a much deeper connection.
“We also see cases where the curiosity of what could have been leading people to open the door to their exes. They don’t want to live in the uncertainty of not knowing how things would have played out had their old connection materialized. What if they had been married or stayed together longer? This curiosity almost always leads to rekindling of an old romance or building a fresh connection on the foundation of what you once shared,” Kavita adds.
The pull of reconnecting with first love while married can be markedly stronger than that of other exes you may have had over the years because there is something fantastical about the notion of first love. Do you always have feelings for your first love? Not necessarily, but they always have a special place in your heart and that’s what makes turning down the prospect of reconnecting with first love after many years that much harder.
Of course, if you have been in love with an old flame but married someone else, then the possibility of reconnecting with them becomes your way to have a foot in the door that supposedly closed many years ago. All those latent feelings that you have been bottling up can become the motivation for reconnecting with an old love who is married, even if you remain in denial about them until they resurface even stronger than before.
That said, Kavita believes that what reconnecting with an ex while married says about a person is not for others to judge. It, ultimately, boils down to the two people going down that road, their circumstances and their ability to cope with the consequences or escape unscathed from such a connection.
The Dangers Of Reconnecting With An Old Love Who Is Married
Debra and Steven were living the dream – secure jobs, a house in the suburbs, a beautiful little girl and two gorgeous fur babies. When they were together, their home was a happy place. But there was one trouble – Steven’s job entailed frequent travels and sometimes led to long spells of separation.
The pressure of juggling home and work responsibilities by herself and the boredom stemming from what was turning into a long-distance marriage pushed Debra to give in to her temptation to slide into her ex’s DMs. They were both married – and supposedly ‘happily’ so – and so she thought what harm could come out of a few texts or harmless flirting even.
But before they could get a grip on reality, they were deep down the rabbit hole of texting each other through the day, talking late into the night (with her ex sneaking out of bed to make those conversations happen), catching up over coffee. It was the classic case of developing feelings for an ex while married and led to them sleeping with each other.
Before she could even get a handle on her feelings, she was in love with an old flame but married. Debra was living the many dangers of reconnecting with an ex while married first-hand, the most common among which are:
1. Deep emotional attachment
When reconnecting with an ex, the risk of that connection quickly turning into a deep emotional attachment cannot be overstated. “This is a person you already share a comfort level with, so neither of you feels the need to take things slow. No matter how much time has passed, you can just pick up from where you left off or build a new connection on the foundation of what you’ve shared in the past.
“Some of the tell-tale red flags that you’re getting emotionally attached to an ex you’ve reconnected with are – texting frequently, talking on the phone for long hours, an urgency to respond to their texts instantly, and the need to share every tiny detail of your life with your ex.
“From texts to calls to video calls to a full-blown romantic connection, you can go through the various stages of reconnecting with an ex very quickly. This can get out of hand, and start impacting your emotional state, your marriage and your life,” says Kavita.
2. Breach of trust in the marriage
All the while Debra was in contact with her ex, she didn’t so much as breathe a word about it to her husband. Instead, she would diligently wipe her phone clean of all traces of interacting with him just before her husband was to return from a trip. There can be many latent emotions at play when reconnecting with first love while married or even a subsequent partner, which you may choose to not acknowledge because reviving this old connection feels good.
But there is a pang of guilt at play here that may make you hide it from your spouse, and that guilt is your wise mind telling you that you’re going down a road you shouldn’t. The moment you start feeling the need to hide something from your spouse, know that it’s because you’re crossing a line drawn in the sand.
A lie by omission is still a lie, and it dents the element of trust in your marriage. Without trust and transparency, you cannot hope to sustain a healthy relationship with your life partner. When an old flame reaches out and you stop yourself from sharing it with your partner, know that it will spell trouble for your marriage sooner or later.
3. Risk of an affair
Is reconnecting with an ex a good idea when the possibility of it leading to an affair is rife? It’s not as if a married woman talking to an ex-boyfriend or a married man contacting an ex-girlfriend always starts with the intention of cheating on their spouses.
“They may do it out of curiosity or to compensate for what’s lacking in the marriage or merely to hold on to a part of themselves that no longer exists,” Kavita says. But reconnecting with an ex while married is akin to rekindling an old flame.
Your dormant, residual emotions drive that decision, whether you recognize that fact in the moment or not. Sooner or later, these latent emotions can surface to the fore, leading to a hot, passionate affair with your ex. When an ex reaches out, do you want to be in that comfortable place of being in love with an old flame but married to someone else?
“Even if you’re doing it to tie up the loose ends of what was left unfinished in the past, there is a good chance that you may not be able to stop yourself at that. That’s why it’s vital to keep your eyes open and be aware of what it can lead to when reconnecting with an ex,” she adds.
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4. Disrespectful to your spouse
Talking to an ex while married or meeting them in secret sends out a message that you’re dissatisfied with your spouse and your marriage. Questions about what made you reach out or respond are bound to come up at some point.
When reconnecting with an old love who is married, the possibility of making a third-party privy to the goings-on in your marriage and having the front row seat to theirs cannot be ruled out. Since you already share a comfort level with your ex, you can quickly become each other’s shoulder to cry on.
When that happens, you will end up discussing the issues in your marriage with a third person. That is disrespectful to your spouse. Instead of venting to your ex, perhaps focus on overcoming communication barriers in your relationship, so that you and your spouse can work through your issues.
5. Impact on families
Kavita says, “Whenever the matter of reconnecting with an ex while married comes up, a lot of people argue that if one is not happy in their marriage, they should simply walk out and start anew. However, due to financial, social, emotional repercussions, ending a marriage is never easy.
“At the same time, getting involved with an ex while married will create a complex equation that impacts everyone involved – respective spouses, children if there are any, families and so on.”
For instance, to carve out time to talk to or meet your ex in secret, you may have to cut back on the time you can spend with your kids or your spouse. This can leave them feeling neglected and ignored. When your action has the potential to scar so many people you care about, you have to think: is reconnecting with an ex a good idea?
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6. Financial dealings gone wrong
Say you’re connecting with an ex with whom you shared an intense, intimate relationship. That person holds a special place in your heart, and a part of you may still trust and care for them. The mark they leave on your psyche is indelible. Now, if this person asks to borrow money or leans on you for financial support, you may instinctively say yes, without even thinking that they could be out to dupe you.
“Cases where exes get involved in financial dealings, with money changing hands and either party failing to uphold their end of the bargain, can blow up badly. Eventually, the spouses may get involved and the whole situation can become ugly very quickly,” Kavita says.
When an old flame reaches out, take a moment to mull over what their intentions might be? Why now? could they have any ulterior motive? When reconnecting with first love after many years, you cannot rule out the possibility they may have grown and evolved into a person you no longer know. So, don’t go in with your eyes closed or you risk being completely blindsided.
7. Giving the ex the wrong idea
For Debra, talking to an ex while married was like an easy escape from the loneliness that had crept into her marriage. She liked talking to him, and even though she was developing strong feelings for him, she hadn’t even entertained the thought of it leading to anything more than conversations and occasional hookups.
Yes, she was in love with an old flame but married. The thought of giving up her family for the sake of those rekindled feelings hadn’t even occurred to her. Her ex, who was in an unhappy marriage, on the other hand, wanted more. One day, he suggested that they both divorce their respective spouses and start afresh.
That’s when Debra realized that they were in very different stages of reconnecting with an ex. After she turned down his proposal, her ex started acting like a scorned lover. He even threatened to tell Steven all about the affair if she didn’t comply. Mismatched expectations can make this already complex situation uglier and messier.
8. The slippery slope of constant comparisons
Let’s say you’re reconnecting with your first love while married. In many ways, the person sets the benchmark for what you desire or look for in all your relationships. When reconnecting with first love after many years, you may be blind to the fact that the connection you shared with them was so long ago and your ex has, in likelihood, evolved into a person you don’t really know.
Psychology and neuroscience professor at Concordia University in Montreal, Jim Pfaus says that the person you experience your first orgasm with, particularly if the experience is pleasant and there are affectionate gestures like cuddling involved, can go on to define what you find attractive in all your future connections.
By letting that person back in your life, you’re making yourself susceptible to the trap of constantly comparing your spouse with your ex. Given that you’re looking at them with rose-tinted eyes, chances are it will only augment your spouse’s perceived shortcomings in your eyes. Driving you two further apart.
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9. Alienation between spouses
You may have reconnected, and gone to develop feelings for an ex while married because something was lacking in your relationship. Lack of intimacy, loneliness, monotony, boredom – the reasons can be many. Now that these needs are being met outside your marriage, you may no longer feel the need to work on resolving the issues with your partner.
For instance, if the issue has been that your spouse doesn’t give you enough time or attention, instead of talking about it or even complaining or fighting, you may simply take the easier way out of using their lack of involvement as an opportunity to spend more time with your ex. This may cause you to become more alienated, and your relationship problems begin to mount, as they do unaddressed.
The long and short of it is that reconnecting with an ex while married can open a can of worms that can take a toll on your marriage as well as leave you emotionally conflicted. Unless the ex in question is someone you had a brief fling with but share a history of a long, genuine friendship, and your spouse is completely onboard with the idea of them being in your life, it’s best to steer clear of the temptation. Let your exes be where they belong – in the annals of the past.
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Yes, given that your ex was once such an integral part of your life, it’s normal and natural to think about them every now and again. Although not ideal, stalking your ex online can be considered acceptable. But anything beyond that is inviting trouble.
Talking to an ex while married may seem like a harmless proposition. But given that you have a history with them and may still have some unresolved feelings toward them, it’s best not to. Things can escalate quickly, putting your marriage in jeopardy.
Unless the ex in question is someone you had a brief fling with but share a history of a long, genuine friendship, and your spouse is completely onboard with the idea of them being in your life, it’s best to steer clear of the temptation.