DIVORCE

Is It Your Job To Warn An Ex's New Flame?

07/31/2014 11:56 am ET
Dirk Anschutz via Getty Images

Many years ago, I found myself standing in my boyfriend’s home, listening patiently as he argued with his ex on the phone. It was one of those petty discussions about absolutely nothing, a mere excuse for connection between two individuals struggling to let go of each other.

At the time, I was the New Girlfriend, and his ex had recently learned about me. Needless to say, she wasn’t happy about the news of him moving on. She was screaming loud enough that I could hear her across the room.

“Does that woman have any idea what a horrible person you are?” she asked.

At that point, he opted to involve me in the conversation. “Tara?” He he turned to me. “Do you know how horrible I am?”
I smiled and gave him a sarcastic, “yeah.”

At that point, his ex decided to speak to me. Once we were connected, her angry tone dissipated as she embraced a more big-sister kind of role. “When I met him, I never thought he would ever hurt me,” she confessed.

At the time, I thought she was crazy and tried to contain my laughter. “Well then,” I told her. “I guess you must’ve done something to deserve it.”

To this day, I have no idea what her intentions were. Did she honestly want to warn me about the dangers of getting involved with the man who had caused her so much pain? Or was she just trying to scare me away in hopes that they might reconcile? It doesn’t matter. The point of my story is this: Don’t bother trying to warn a new woman about your ex.

You might have the best of intentions. Perhaps you really do want to save her the trouble and heartache that you’ve come to know so well. However, chances are your advice will fall on deaf ears. Here’s why:

She doesn’t want to hear it. Their relationship is new and exciting. When they’re together, she feels exhilarated and happier than she’s ever been in her life. Your ex is currently fulfilling the role of Man Of Her Dreams, and she can’t imagine him as anything else. Your well-intentioned warning of his dark side would come as an unwelcome buzz kill. If she were to hear you at all, she’d likely reject your advice because it conflicts with everything her heart tells her.

She won’t give you any credit. In their love story, she’s Cinderella and he’s Prince Charming. Who are you? You’re the bitter ex and unfortunately, your experience doesn’t count for much in her mind. He probably told her that you were a terrible partner and he suffered miserably for most of the time you were together. It’s realistic to assume that she thinks you’re jealous of her age, beauty and happiness. Why on Earth should she listen to you?

She needs to make (and learn from) her own mistakes. Remember when you thought your parents were old fuddy-duddies who knew nothing? They probably warned you about a lot of things, yet you had to find out for yourself. Didn’t you? She does too.

You might be wrong. What if the New Woman is truly better suited to build a life with your ex? The possibility exists that she’s a more compatible partner than you were. As time goes by, she might bring out the best in him, and that will likely make things better for you.

The cold hard truth is this: Once you and your ex have separated, his relationships are none of your business. As a mother, you have every right to be concerned about your children’s comfort and safety with the new woman. But as an (angry, wounded, bitter, smarter) ex, you have no right to counsel another adult about her choice in romantic partners.

The good news is, while you’re not busy worrying about your ex’s new flame, you have more time to think about yourself. Keep learning from your own experiences, and you can look forward to greater happiness in your own life.

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