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Marriage 911

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Dr. David Hawkins is the director of The Marriage Recovery Center and has been helping couples in crisis restore and revitalize their relationships for more than 30 years.

At The Marriage Recovery Center, Dr. Hawkins promotes '3 Days To a New Marriage, Guaranteed!' Contact TMRC for a free 20-minute consultation.

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Friendship with An Old Flame

There’s nothing going on,” Tom said defensively. “She just wanted to know how I was doing,” he continued, talking about his recent email conversation with an ex-girlfriend. 

“Nothing like that is innocent,” his wife, Sarah said angrily, pointing at her husband in disgust. “Why in the world would she contact you, and why in the world would you answer her? And what if I hadn’t discovered it on your computer?” 

“I knew you’d be upset, and that’s why I didn’t tell you. I answered her because we were friends once and I think it’s rude to ignore someone.” 

“That’s a bunch of bull,” Sarah replied, then turned to me asking, “What do you think? We don’t seem to be seeing this the same way, but I don’t want this woman in our lives.” 

“What am I supposed to do?” Tom said, slumping in his chair like a whipped pup. “I can’t do anything to please you, so I’m not surprised this bugs you too.” 

“Oh please,” she said, becoming more annoyed. “How would you feel if an old boyfriend of mine emailed me? I doubt you’d like it. Besides, the way our marriage is going, don’t you think I might feel a little threatened?” 

Tom and Sarah had been married for five years before coming to see me for marriage problems, including this recent issue with broken trust. While Tom wasn’t open with his wife about his recent emails to a former girlfriend, he didn’t seem highly guilt-ridden about them either. 

As I listened to Sarah’s anger and hurt over Tom’s secretive contact with his ex-girlfriend, I thought about the dozens of other situations I’ve faced in the past year with ex-boy and girlfriends. Countless couples have been in marital trouble because an “innocent friendship” was renewed. Why is this a problem and what should be done about it. Let’s consider the issues. 

First, more often than not these friendships are begun secretively. Anything done in secret has the potential of being problematic because the secretive behavior betrays trust. When something is discovered it raises the question as to what else has occurred that is unknown. Marriage is a place for transparency—not secrecy. 

Second, rarely are these friendships innocent. While they may indeed be started with innocent motives, trouble can erupt quickly. Friendship with the opposite sex, especially if it is with an old girl or boyfriend, can move from friendship to passion rapidly. A friendship that becomes passionate is then difficult to reverse or stop. 

Third, email relationships easily take on a flirtatious or seductive quality. If a relationship becomes overly friendly, particularly when there are already unresolved issues in the marriage, you’re in for double trouble.  “The grass looks greener on the other side of the fence.” This old friend, willing to listen to your problems, quickly becomes someone more than simply an old friend. 

Fourth, we make “Seemingly Unimportant Decisions” (SUDs) that compromise our values. One small compromise often leads to another small compromise, and soon we’re in a very compromising situation. While many say “It just happened,” the truth of the matter is that the friendship moved from innocent to troubling in step by step fashion. 

Finally, we should never do anything that causes alarm or fear in our mate. Even if we believe we’re on solid ground, if our mate feels threatened, we shouldn’t do it. Carrying on a friendship with an old flame is rarely met with approval by our mate. 

Many couples who come to The Marriage Recovery Center are in trouble because of “another woman,” or man. A relationship begun in innocence can wreak havoc in a short period of time. A friendship that turns into an affair can cause irreparable harm. So, in a day of Instant Messaging, easy access to old schoolmates and social networking, be extremely careful that social networking doesn’t become a rationalization for getting emotional and perhaps sexual “hits” from the interest of an old friend. Stay away from trouble. The price you’ll pay for an indiscretion could be very costly.

What are your thoughts about social networking and the impact on marriage? Can we ever be “friends” with an old flame? Should we always respect our mate if they feel threatened by our friendships? Share your opinion or send a confidential note to me at TheRelationshipDoctor@Gmail.com and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on my website, www.YourRelationshipDoctor.com. You’ll find podcasts on affair-proofing your marriage as well.    

Print      Email to a Friend    posted on Tuesday, April 14, 2009 12:17 PM

Comments on this post

# RE: Friendship with An Old Flame

I've been on both sides, I've had a friendship with an old flame that did "flame" very quickly and I've had a friendship with an old flame that has continued to be a good friendship that includes his wife and my husband.

One thing that my husband and I have tried to do is make sure the other one has all the password's to our social networking and e-mail, accountability is the key. Also, on Facebook or Myspace to not "Inbox" anyone or be in contact with someone that is not out for everyone to see, again, continuing accountablity.
Left by keljo100 on Apr 15, 2009 12:21 PM

# RE: Friendship with An Old Flame

Once you make that decision to be married to someone it should be a decision, not like lets try it out for awhile. It seems too many are not willing to put any effort into a relationship, and they just think they can bounce to another relationship as if it will somehow be better. This is immature. There is no harm in talking to someone as long as no one lies about their current living situation. Once they start LYING it causes the other to see a green light. If they aren't sure they wanted to be married to their current partner they never should have got married.
Left by patfinley on Apr 15, 2009 1:17 PM

# RE: Friendship with An Old Flame

While I think accountability is a critical issue, I don't think that is the only issue. When we make Seemingly Unimportant Decisions/ Compromises, we will find ways to justify devious behavior. We are all capable of lying, minimizing and telling half-truths. Accountability won't protect us completely from those issues, and places our mate in the position of having to "watchdog" our behavior--which is unfair.

So, accountability, "yes." Protecting ourselves from slippery places, mandatory!

Thoughts?
Dr. David
Left by yourrelationshipdoctor on Apr 17, 2009 11:49 AM

# RE: Friendship with An Old Flame

My husband and I had an issue with this early on in our relationship. He was talking to his ex behind my back when I discovered it through cell phone records I confronted him about it and began a friendship with my ex as a payback. This did not last long as I quickly found myself in a sticky situation when my ex started flirting with me over the phone. I ended our friendship and made sure my husband did not speak to his ex by having the phones turned off. There was no way I was going to allow my husband compromise our relationship, nor would I allow myself to compromise the relationship for some past failed relationships we had. I still do not know to this day if there was anything to their friendship however, I know there was a stop to it. While we can no be, our mates Holy Spirit we do need to make sure they understand relationships like that are not acceptable in a marriage. One should never permit secret conversations between the opposite sexes.
Left by Oloveia on Apr 21, 2009 6:52 PM

# RE: Friendship with An Old Flame

Few months back, I discovered my husband exchanging emails with his old flame, the emails I've read are flirtatious. We argued about it, he said there's nothing to worry about it, I shouldn't be insecure. I'm not sure if he's still doing it. I suggested that we'd share email passwords, but he refused the idea, I never had his password.

I realized that I can just agree with the things that are not acceptable to me. But I'm tired of arguing about the issue and I want to maintain peace in our relationship. There's nothing I can do but pray for him.
Left by Precious on May 22, 2009 4:25 PM

# RE: Friendship with An Old Flame

This subject is why my husband and I are so close to divorce.He has been texting and getting calls from an exgirlfriend and then erasing them also doing the same with his exwife.They only call him during his work hours. The only reason I know is that I have been checking his phone too.This has put us at odds and I dont trust him AT ALL.We even went to counseling and it seemed like it was a okay thing(he wasnt a christian counselor). He says he did nothing wrong but in my eyes if he is sharing our life with ex's then he is putting them between us and having a emotional affair.He wont change nor tell them to stop calling.Does this mean that I should just give up and get divorced or should we try another counselor? He is not a christian and Im just coming back to God. I'll tell you, this is making it harder but God is mighty and wants His children to come to Him.Im finding it hard to pray for him with all this anger too. Help!


Left by jude on May 26, 2009 7:27 PM

# RE: Friendship with An Old Flame

I have mixed feelings on this subject. My husband and I have been married for 7years together for 10. I have always been very supportive to him where his ex is concerned. I have encouraged communication because they have a daughter. She goes from nice to mad in seconds. Almost four months ago as we were preparing for the birth of our third child I discovered that he was texting her alot. I questioned it and he was very offended. I called her and questioned her also they both said they are just friends. Within a week my husband said he was leaving it was over. A month later he filed for a divorce and now they are living together. It was my worst fear come true. Now I am raising a 4, 2, and 2 month old on my own and he blames me. I love my husband and do not want a divorce but I am sure she is pushing him to do it as soon as possible.So did I push him into this? Is it my fault that my family is torn apart?
Left by Promise0202 on Jun 27, 2009 9:11 PM

# RE: Friendship with An Old Flame

Dear sweet lady, you did nothing wrong on your part. It seems that your husband is confused with who he wants to be with. The only thing that you could do is pray for him to come back to you and see that he is truly making a big mistake and yes it is the other women that is pushing him to get divorced. Let your husband know that you love him and you will wait for him to come back home to you and the kids. And start texting him day or night and express to him how much you need him emotionally and sexually. This really does work with men. And do not give up! This is your marriage and put on your body armor and start defending your marriage. Another thing is if he ever comes to see the kids wear something sexy and flirt with him, but stay away from arguing with him because that will push him towards the other woman. Good luck, never give up and I will be praying for you. Lily
Left by Lily on Jul 25, 2009 3:15 PM

# RE: Friendship with An Old Flame

I am sorry you are having these issues. I just had a big fight with my husband about keeping in contact with an ex fiance. He sees nothing wrong in talking to her and since the communication has supposably stopped he thinks I should just basically get over it. No I am sorry if this hurt you I love you nothing. He left his email open one night and I saw her name and of course I read the emails! He will not even talk to me now because he is mad about me reading the emails. I thought married people shared everything? I have nothing to hide he can read my emails, facebook twitter etc.. He has hurt me beyond belief. And then told me not to contact her because SHE did not need that in her life!! What do I do? I feel as if there is nothing left to save with his attitude.
Left by confused09 on Dec 30, 2009 7:20 PM

# RE: Friendship with An Old Flame

I discovered a bunch of emails by accident on my fiance's computer from his ex-wife. They had been emailing each other daily for about 3 weeks until I found out. They have no children together. She cheated on him before they were married and then left him for another man two weeks after they married. The marriage was annulled 20 years ago. She went looking for him on Classmates and initiated the contact. The emails were not sexual, but they were flirty and he told her he thought she was pretty. I was devastated that he kept up contact with her and even more so that he didn't tell me. After he notified her that he didn't want further contact, she responded with many abusive emails and posts. (of which he did not respond) I believe if she had not been interested in resuming the relationship with him, she would not have been upset. He doesn't think he did anything really wrong and doesn't understand the pain I am going through. We had a good relationship (of 6 years) before this.
Left by Kate on Mar 27, 2010 11:15 AM

# RE: Friendship with An Old Flame

It's more than an 'old flame' in our situation. While my husband and I were dating, I found a book that referenced he may have homosexuality tendencies. I was broken and we discussed it, he, of course, reassuring me that it wasn't an issue I needed to be concerned with. He said he should have thrown it away. I believed in him. We continued to date for 2 more years. We got married and within the 1st couple of months of marriage I found porn on the computer. He denied it at first, then the discussion came and he said it would never happen again. Once again, I put faith in him. 3 years later, I found more porn, this time also gay porn. I was devastated so we separated. 3 weeks went by b-4 he called. I've since find out he had been in contact with a mutual female friend and a lady at work. And also discovered he'd visited one of those friends on a trip he'd taken. More devastation. There are very few signs of repentance. We have been in church together since we started dating. Advise?
Left by bizechick on Mar 27, 2010 8:45 PM

# RE: Friendship with An Old Flame

I am so sorry to hear about your situation. I would say the only thing you can do now is to pray and try and seek God's word. Know that God is the only person who will be able to comfort you in times of great hurt. My husband contacted an ex-girlfriend on a social networking site and starting texting her. She is currently going through a divorce and they were "helping" eachother with problems for the past several months. We are going to talk to our preacher this week, but the overwhelming pain is sometimes almost too much to handle. I have relied on friends and family (which I usually do not do) I have been a "keep it to myself kind of girl". I deceided that I needed someone to lean on too. What I discoverd is that the greatest person to lean on is God....he is your strentgth and your portion forever! I know there may be rough days ahead for us both, but pray and read your bible getting in His word may be what sustains us all for a while.
Left by shopgirl on Mar 29, 2010 4:21 PM

# RE: Friendship with An Old Flame

I am glad to have found this blog. It is validation to know that others feel the same way and that any secret communication with the opposite sex, and especially an old flame, is a betrayal of your trust. He kept it secret because he knew it was wrong, period. I got a lot of support and help also on the web from SurvivingInfidelity. You can talk to others going through the same thing as well as learn a lot. I've learned that there are indeed such a things as emotional and cyber affairs.
Left by Kate on Apr 06, 2010 7:50 PM

# RE: Friendship with An Old Flame

my husband "old flame" was his lover when he was married for the first time. because he did not want to live his wife and little son he left this woman and the country when i met him he was a widower his wife died suddenly he told about his lover and said it was finished but after 16 years of good married life he looked her up and found her she is married to but she is not happy. when i said that i do not like it he started to call her from public phones he sent her presents and photos and she sent him a love song we had fights and i do not trast him anymore. it is very sad he was my best friend and lover and now i feel so lonely...he says that loves me that this is nothing but something is broken inside me .
Left by orly on Feb 26, 2011 4:11 PM

# RE: Friendship with An Old Flame

Triangulation in a marriage does nothing to promote trust. There is no reason for anyone to make contact with an ex other than to escape the real issues in the marriage. If things are innocent, they can be shared with each other. To do otherwise is wrong and will be discovered. My husband has been communicating with an ex affair partner secretly after 21 years of no contact. Nothing is secret when you have no trust with your spouse. You will go looking for reasons to access e-mails and passwords. This is how I discovered my husbands e-mails and I told the other woman to butt out of my life. To stay away from my husband. She in turn told me to grow the hell up and get a life that she was e-mailing an old friend. I don't think so sweetheart. I don't think so. There is no reason for you to ever e-mail or talk to my husband again. Ever!!! Needless to say this has caused immense pain in my life. I am not sure what to do other than take care of myself.
Left by phyllis on Jul 20, 2014 5:19 PM

# RE: Friendship with An Old Flame

I accidentally discovered porn on my husband's computer and he promised me that he would not do it again, that again, has turned into three more times which is all that I know about. In addition he has now confessed that he has been emailing his ex-finance. I want to email his ex and tell her I know but he says I need to forget about it and let our relationship heal. I feel as if I don't even know this man anymore and now I am having a difficult time trusting him.
Left by bluebonnet on Jul 27, 2014 7:03 PM