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The "Ex" Factor on Social Media

CCP: My partner and I are both on social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). She ‘s not comfortable with my ex-lovers having access to my page and posting comments she believes are inappropriate. This is causing a great deal of distrust in the relationship.

Social media is not for the faint at heart. It gives us access to people all over the world and from different phases of our lives. It also gives us a public platform to share news, opinions, and aspects of our lives at the click of a button. At this point you and your partner may already have several social media accounts as well as a multitude of friends and followers. Some of them may be your ex-lovers and the connection was made prior to the relationship you’re currently in. Whether or not you decided to be friends on social media with an ex before or after you got into a relationship or tied the knot, it’s time to do some “brand management”.

“Brand management” refers to assessing the way you would like to present your relationship to your world. This requires you to look at all of your behaviors and communications through your partner’s eyes, giving consideration to how much respect you show for what the relationship “appears like” to outsiders-not what it is actually like from your view. I’ve watched many couples reach an impasse on this issue because it can appear to be an issue of one partner trying to control the other’s freedom, relationships, or communication. Inability to move forward can also be related to perceived issues of distrust. The discussion typically goes like this:

“She has nothing to worry about. Even if my ex posts something on Facebook that my partner doesn’t like, that doesn’t mean I’ve done something wrong or am going to respond inappropriately. Why does she get so mad at me for something another grown person did or said?”

Every situation is different. All posts and comments are subject to the reader’s interpretation, which means that both of you can look at the same statement and take something vastly different away from it. Even if the comment would be harmless to most people, the important piece to consider is who it is coming from. Would you two be having this issue at all if you weren’t in contact with your ex-lover through social media? It’s something to consider; especially if you are happy with your current partner and feel fulfilled on most levels by them. Is being in contact with a romantic partner from your past worth the strife it can cause in the present and future?

Many people believe they can be friends with their ex-lovers and value the new dynamic that was created after they broke up. They believe that as long as they are sure that the romantic feelings have dissipated between them and they govern themselves in a way that isn’t disrespectful to their current partner then there shouldn’t be a problem. Guess what? We may still have a problem:

“When I see those questionable comments on his page from his ex, I feel so disrespected. His ex knows that he is in a relationship so why are they still saying these things? It makes me wonder if he is provoking the comments or if his ex still has feelings for him. Either way, when I ask him to address it, he says I’m making a big deal out of it. This makes me so angry because it feels like he is defending his ex and minimizing my feelings. I also believe it disrespects our relationship because the comments are out there for everyone to see. If I see them as rude or inappropriate, what must others be thinking?”

If you are friends on Twitter with an ex-lover and your partner is uncomfortable with the comments your ex makes, it might be time to address it differently. First, let’s do a self-check. What are you getting out of the relationship you have with your ex(es)? Shared history? Advice? Additional companionship? Ask yourself is there anyone else in your life who can provide those things for you without creating an uncomfortable situation between you and someone you care deeply about? If there are parts of you that simply miss the good aspects of your old relationship, then you need to own that and examine how it can eventually lead to the demise of your current one.

Next, there are many ways to maintain relationships with people from our past. By choosing to stay in contact through social media, you have chosen a very public platform to display this relationship, and it’s quite possible that it could hurt the brand that you and your current partner are trying to create. If you maintain that you are in a monogamous relationship based on respect and trust, then you have to align your outside relationships with that. You may be quite certain that your behavior and communication with your ex has been appropriate, but if their comments can be misinterpreted by others who have access to your personal page then it’s still hurtful to your partner.

If you’re not the type of person who would embarrass your partner or flirt with another person in public, then why allow it to look that way on Social media? By not addressing your ex or excluding them from your page, you inadvertently allow them to paint a picture of how you represent yourself in your current relationship that is not true. You may not care what other people think about what type of partner you are, but if your significant other feels hurt or embarrassed, then that’s something to care about. In the end, if your cost-benefit analysis renders the benefits of this old relationship playing out through social media versus some other less public way, then you and your partner have to have a deeper level of discussion about how to eliminate their hurt feelings.

Otherwise, you could simply make the decision to address your ex and/or modify the ways you communicate with them. If they are truly your friend and are supportive of your relationship, then it shouldn’t be a problem to honor what is best for your current relationship both on and off social media.


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