'When my ex contacted me after a year, I realised what had made me end it in the first place.'

An ex-situationship slid back in a few weeks ago.

There must be something in the air, because this was the second time this happened in the same month. But, unlike the first time it happened, this one went down a little differently.

I confirmed something I had always suspected about him and learned something new about myself.

For context: we haven't had any contact for almost a year and I am now in a committed relationship. But, we were on/off over 18 months and always had a great time together. The last time we spoke, I let him know I was starting to look for something more serious and we agreed to leave it there, as friends.

The messages started with the usual pleasantries of hi, how have you been, it's been a while, how's the new place going etc. This guy is notoriously cagey on details, which always kind of bothered me as I often wondered if he had a secret wife and family somewhere. 

Because the stakes are now pretty low with him, I asked him directly if he was seeing anyone special. He replied with the usual ambiguity — "I like to think I'm always seeing someone special" — so I called him on that and eventually he admitted he has a girlfriend (and I let him know I am also in a relationship).

Long story short, he asked to meet up. As 'friends'.

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I'm not going to pretend that I am perfect here. Meeting up with someone who has previously provided validation and boosted my ego would be a sweet little dopamine hit. In a previous life, I might have seriously considered going, telling myself that technically I wasn't doing anything wrong. But this time, it was a hard no.

A hard no, with some follow-ups.

"Not sure my boyfriend would be entirely comfortable about that."

"Why, doesn't he trust you? My girlfriend trusts me."

"He trusts me to be open with him about something like this, just as I would expect the same from him."

"We're just friends, what's the issue?"

"The issue is that he knows our history, and if I was in his shoes I'd be uncomfortable with it."

"What? How does he know our history?"

"Because I told him. He knows we're messaging."

"Oh. Maybe best just leave things as they are, then."

Now, I don't know for sure, but my gut tells me that this exchange just confirmed two things for me.

1 — His girlfriend does not know our history, and he had no intention of being open with her about that.

2 — He likely was in a relationship or some other arrangement he didn't want me to know about when we were dating.


But, way more importantly, this experience gave me the opportunity to show up for my current relationship in a way that I haven't always done in previous relationships.

I haven't been super sneaky in the past, but I have been in s**tty relationships where I didn't feel safe. And when we don't feel safe, we seek comfort and validation outside of the relationship. This can look like messaging with the cute guy at work, flirting with someone at a party or concealing the fact that you're in a relationship. It's behaviour that sits on the fine line between innocent interaction and dodginess, so we can justify it by saying "nothing happened!"

When I was married to a serial cheater, our relationship was full of these arguments. My ex was very good at dancing around the edge of inappropriateness and would always try to rebut my accusations on a technicality of 'nothing happening'. It became a form of insidious gaslighting for us, and my threshold for what I would even bother to bring up with him became weaker and weaker. I found it really hard to articulate my issue, because in many cases I had no evidence of actual cheating, but it still felt wrong.

This latest experience with old mate ex-situationship has shown me what the issue is.

It's intent.

If you or the other person have an intention that isn't in service of the relationship either you or they are currently in, then that is an issue.

And if you choose to conceal or lie about something of this nature to your current partner, it's a very clear sign that either you or the other person have an intention that isn't in service of your respective relationships.


That's it. That's the thing. It's pretty simple.

And so, this is where I found myself. Not willing to conceal anything from my current partner. Calling someone else out when I thought they might be concealing information from theirs. Not chasing a cheap dopamine hit or validation from outside my relationship, because I feel safe enough to ask for what I need from inside my relationship.

I don't want to come across too judgemental of this guy from my past; I could be completely wrong about him. Or I could be right and, in that case, acknowledge that he is only human, and that I myself have certainly had the thought bubble to text an ex before.

But I've said it before and I'll say it again. Safety is hot. 

Seek out people who help you feel completely free to be yourself. Invest in relationships that support healthy communication. Lean in to connections where you can have tough chats and disagree but eventually come through feeling more connected.

It's not always fun, fast and easy like an 'innocent' coffee with an ex, but after many years of relationship anxiety, I am finally at peace with a constant state of calm.

This story originally appeared on Medium and has been republished with full permission.

Feature Image: Getty.