The Ex Factor

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By: Gabriela Yareliz

We are entering a new age— one where many of my friends, who have never been married, are dating men who have been married and have children. I feel like back in the day, that wasn’t something most young women in their mid-to-late twenties and early thirties did.

That said, most of these men are good men— ones who didn’t cause the downfall (so-to-speak) of their prior marriages. The relationships they have now, with my friends, are great, a work in progress like all relationships. But these relationships bring with them a sort of shadow, it seems. The shadow of “the ex.”

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Now, hear me out. Meeting someone’s ex, and even more so, spending time with someone’s ex can be extremely psychological. You pay close attention to the dynamic, who the person projects him or herself to be— and most women start a Venn diagram (you know, for the compare and contrast). You start questioning perhaps what you and that person have in common or what your partner saw in the other person.

It’s a science, I tell you. It adds a whole other layer to a relationship— another dynamic. Especially, if there are children from that union. I am sure even when both people have been married, both past experiences color the present relationship— if you let it.

I have a friend who is dating a recently divorced man with three children. And it’s interesting to hear her thoughts and struggles. How everyone must see each other at some point for the holidays, etc., etc. (I don’t say that to belittle her struggle, but I won’t go into details— it’s just so you get an idea). The stress; the tension; the weird fights you try to stay out of, etc. It’s real stuff.

The ex’s family is family for life; there are memories and history there. Everyone has history with someone, even if it’s just at the friendship level. That’s basic human fact.

But for all of the young women embarking on this adventure of navigating the “ex factor,” I have some random thoughts to throw into the pot. (And if you have any, leave them in the comments)!

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1. Healthy People Make Healthy Relationships

If someone is still hooked onto someone or overly affected by someone’s presence or interaction, they may not be in a good place. And to be fair, I think this takes time. But if you are going to be in a relationship, you need that person to be healthy and ready for it. That person shouldn’t be comparing you to an ex, angry at you or making you “pay” for what another did. Once both individuals are healthy, a healthy relationship can be formed.

2. If Your Partner Is Over His/Her Ex, You Should Be, Too

Don’t suggest former flame or criticize (or even praise) the person for their past selection. Leave the ex in the past, where he/she belongs.

3. If There Are Children, The Ex Is Part Of The Package Deal (To A Limited Extent)

Be cordial. If this is the real deal, then you will be a part of each other’s lives and the child’s special moments, forever. Better to make it a less awkward time; no unnecessary hostilities.

4. An Ex Should Never Control Dynamics In The New Relationship

An ex should not get to, at a whim, change around your entire schedule or plans, single handedly. This is manipulation. No one should be a pawn or puppet. There is no room for a third party in a healthy relationship.

5. You Decide Whether The Old Memories Haunt

I used to think that I never wanted to go anywhere where a person had been already with their ex. Ugh. Makes things weirder if they were world travelers. What are you going to do? Cross everything off of your bucket list? Nope. I mean, that said, you don’t have to stay at the same hotel or in the same room, but you can make new memories in “old” places. That’s part of restoration in life. I mean, Amal Clooney went to George’s Lake Como house, where he took a zillion women. She survived. And now the house is theirs.

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6. You Choose Who You Are

You can’t change who the ex was or what they did or didn’t do. You don’t get to change the story and you gain nothing by demonizing them either. Just be you. Accept that tragedies happen and relationships have been broken but keep your focus on you and the relationship and future you want and see for yourself.

7. Don’t Expect Others To Understand

Your friends who have never been married and say they will only date guys their age who are just like them, they won’t get any of it. People will say ignorant things to you, but you do you.

8. Love The Child As Your Own

And you never dishonor the ex or other parent in any way. It’s not nice; it’s not your place; and that adds nothing positive to the relationship. Good vibes only.

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9. Winner Takes It All

Through observation and my own experience, I want to say this— the winner can take it all. What do I mean by this? The wise ones are the ones who live life embracing the present and envisioning the future. Don’t allow the past to haunt you, but embrace the idea of redemption and restoration. The concept that accepts that God makes all things new.

No one remembers George Clooney and his other random girlfriends anymore. We know there were many, but at the end of the day— only one woman won his heart and changed his world. Who you decide to be in someone’s life can make it infinitely better or worse. It’s in your hands. Attitude is everything. You can be someone’s Amal.

When you find the person you want to choose above all others, the past fades and doesn’t matter because it doesn’t determine where you are going next.

So the person has an ex, we all have people in our lives that we learned from or learned with. What gives? Life is a journey. Forget who was holding that hand before you, and just make sure you do all in your power to be the one holding it until the end.

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Published by Gabriela Yareliz

Gabriela is a writer, editor and attorney. She loves the art of storytelling, and she is based in NYC.

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