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 up front – you have to think long and hard: Is reconnecting with an old love who is also married 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 contacts you, 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 talk to an early love – 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.”
“We also see cases where the curiosity of ‘what could have been’ leads 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 a lost love or building a fresh connection on the foundation of what you once shared,” Kavita adds.
That said, Kavita believes that what reconnecting with a young love 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
It doesn’t take much for people to fall down the rabbit hole of reconnecting with an ex while married. Accepting a friend request or sliding into someone’s DMs, or even meeting through mutual friends leads to reconnecting, texting late in the night, some harmless flirting, you know the rest. Reconnecting with an ex years later brings with it the promise of comfort and the thrill of playing with fire. However, reconnecting with an ex while married brings with it a lot of dangers, the most common among which are:
Related Reading: 10 Signs Your Ex Is Testing You | How To Respond?
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 based on what you’ve shared in the past,” says Kavita. According to her, some tell-tale red flags that you’re getting emotionally attached to an ex that you’ve reconnected with are:
- Texting frequently with them
- Talking on the phone for long hours
- Urgency to respond to their texts instantly
- The need to share every tiny detail of your life with your ex
- Sneaking out of your room/house to text a lost love
2. Breach of trust in the marriage
There can be many latent emotions at play when reconnecting with a past lover while married or even a subsequent partner, which you may choose to not acknowledge because reviving a connection with a lost love feels good, even if you know your current partner won’t appreciate it. Reconnecting with an old love who is married can be a breach of trust for your current relationship for the following reasons:
- You will hide the conversations with your former partner from your current partner
- Increased emotional dependency on a past lover will lead to problems in your current marriage
- Even if it’s a lie by omission, you will dent the element of trust in your marriage
- The thrill of a rekindled romance or other situational reasons (like an unsatisfactory marriage) might lead to an extramarital affair
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 spouse.
“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 a lost love. The risk is heightened and may spell doom when:
- Any residual emotions you have might take precedence over your rational decision-making
- The initial excitement of speaking to a long-lost love can quickly lead to something physical
- You may want to tie up the loose ends of the past and give in to temptation
- Reconnecting with an ex years later especially when you’re in a bad place in your marriage might lead to an affair with your ex
Related Reading: 15 Clever Ways to Turn Down An Ex Who Wants To Be Friends
4. Disrespectful to your spouse
Can old love be rekindled? Regardless of what the answer to that question is, pondering over that while you’re married is disrespectful to your current partner. 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. To that end, when an old flame contacts you and you respond, it could be disrespectful to your current partner because:
- You will discuss the details of your current relationship with a third person
- This may cause communication barriers in your relationship
- You might ignore discussing things with your current partner and instead only speak to a lost love
- You might not be able to stop comparing your current partner and an ex
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 with their current partner, they should simply walk out and start anew. However, due to financial, social, and 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.” Especially if you’re still in love with your first love but married to someone else, reconnecting with that lost love can be detrimental to your family.
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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. 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, reconnecting with an ex while married and being duped out of money can lead to the current partners being involved, and the whole situation can become ugly very quickly,” Kavita says.
7. Giving the ex the wrong idea
For you, talking to the person you shared your first kiss with in a high school reunion might just be to catch up, but the false hope that your lost love receives may cause a lot of issues. When old lovers reconnect and one of them is in an unhappy marriage, the expectations they have may be completely different.
For starters, seeing an old flame after a long time might leave your ex asking if old love can be rekindled, but for you, since the breakup, you perhaps just wanted to stay friends with this person. A new relationship such as this may cause a lot of issues down the line for such reasons, especially for your lost love who wasn’t able to let go.
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 your lost 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.
Hence, by reconnecting with an ex years later, you might not be able to stop comparing your current partner to your lost love. Given that you have all the signs of infatuation and 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.
Related Reading: 9 Probable Reasons You Still Think About Your Ex
9. Alienation between spouses
When you’re reconnecting with an old love who is married, you may go on to develop feelings for them 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. Such issues can lead to further alienation between spouses because:
- You might not be able to stop comparing your lost love and your spouse, which may lead to unhealthy expectations
- When old lovers reconnect, it may lead to communication problems between spouses
- When you’re still in love with your first love but married and start talking to your ex again, the infatuation may lead you to stonewall your partner
- Seeing an old flame after a long time can lead to emotional dependency, problems in your current marriage, and an extramarital affair
- When an old flame contacts you, it makes sense to be honest about it with your current partner and set up clear boundaries with the ex — if you wish to entertain their messages at all
- If one person is in an unhappy marriage, the expectations from the conversations can be very different for both parties involved
The long and short of it is that when an old flame contacts you, it 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 on board 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.
This article was updated in January 2023.
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 on board with the idea of them being in your life, it’s best to steer clear of the temptation.