Experts tell you how to deal with your partner's past

Oct 16, 2017, 08:04 IST | The Guide Team

The recent spat between Ivana and Melania Trump shows that exes don't always fade into the woodwork. How do you deal with your partner's past? We ask experts to weigh in

Last week, US President Donald Trump's ex-wife Ivana made headlines when she called herself "first lady" in an interview ahead of the launch of her memoir. The real first lady, Melania Trump, didn't take this lying down, putting out a sharply worded statement calling the former's comments "attention-seeking and self-serving noise."

This incident begs the question: what do you do when you have your partner's tricky ex to deal with? Alternatively, what if you're the ex who has been wronged?

Donald Trump with Melania, his wife and first lady of the US. Pics/AFP
Donald Trump with Melania, his wife and first lady of the US. Pics/AFP

New and (not so) shiny
"Often, the new person tends to get insecure with regard to the ex, to the point where s/he becomes obsessed," says Seema Hingorrany, who has counselled couples as well as ex-partners through such a predicament.

She shares that last week, a woman came to her with a problem stemming from a similar insecurity. "Her husband was going on a holiday with the children, and since they live with their mother [his ex-wife], she was travelling with them. The husband had done everything to reassure her that even if they ended up hanging out as a family on the holiday, it didn't mean he was getting back with his ex. But there was no consoling her. She was getting anxiety attacks thinking about it," she says.

Ivana Trump
Ivana Trump

It is not just the new partner who has trouble dealing with the ex. If you're the ex, there's plenty that you could be doing wrong, too, whether intentionally or otherwise. Consulting psychiatrist Dr Sagar Mundada says, "We had a couple come to us complaining that they weren't getting along. The man had been married before, and the wife later revealed that the ex-wife had reached out to her on Facebook, and they had started talking. It turned out that this lady had been badmouthing the husband to the current wife — how he was nice in the initial years and then revealed his true colours — and the wife, who was in a vulnerable position, believed all this."

He explains that often, exes react in this manner subconsciously, either to seek revenge when they haven't achieved closure, or simply to try and win their "lost love" back, especially in situations where the new person is the reason the relationship ended.

"This is not healthy. If your relationship ended abruptly, you need to seek closure and then decide if you want to remain friends with your ex. If you can't manage that, it's best to cut off completely, because it will end up being traumatic for you," suggests Mundada.

Seema Hingorrany
Seema Hingorrany

Torn between the two
The person that is caught between the ex and his/her new spouse plays a crucial role in maintaining the peace. S/he needs to reassure the current partner that the past relationship has no chance of resurrection. Similarly, the new spouse needs to place a high level of trust in the partner. Hingorrany adds that they must not resort to comparing the two. "Even if you think your ex-wife made better pasta, or your ex-husband was good at fixing things around the house, does it really matter? At the end of the day, you still thought it prudent to split up, right?"

Issues revolving around the ex tend to go deeper than just insecurity and badmouthing. Dr Mundada shares, "Often, the new partner is predisposed to think negatively about the ex, a bias most often born out of what their husband/wife has said to them about this person." At this juncture, it is important for the new person to keep aside all biases and try to have a working relationship with the ex, especially if children are involved.

Dr Sagar Mundada
Dr Sagar Mundada

"You need to have a high level of acceptance and emotional maturity. Don't be judgmental about a person you barely know. At the end of the day, you don't have to be best friends with the ex. If you meet them at a family event, maintain eye contact and be humble. This shows that you're in control of the situation," says Hingorrany.

She adds that children need to be kept above all the mud-slinging. "The ex needs to be told in no uncertain terms that badmouthing the new partner will not help the kids. If you want the children to be happy, you need to move on and learn to be happy for your ex and his/her new partner."

'He wouldn't leave us be'
Mumbai-based HR professional Rhea Vinod (name changed), who has been in a relationship with her current partner for four years, says that for the first year, her ex-boyfriend interfered in their lives, despite the relationship having ended because of his indiscretions"He couldn't handle the fact that I had moved on. He would constantly call and text; he even called my partner once and threatened him," shares the 26-year-old. Luckily, her partner was understanding, and asked her to tackle the problem in the way she thought best. "Within a year, I decided to cut the ex off completely. It helped that he didn't live in the same city. He did reconnect with me a couple of years later. He is married now, and in a much better space."

Dino Morea with Bipasha Basu and Karan Singh Grover

Friendly exes
* Bipasha Basu and Dino Morea have remained friends even after their break-up in 2002. Morea even attended Basu and Karan Singh Grover's wedding reception in April last year.
* Deepika Padukone and Ranbir Kapoor indulged in some mud-slinging after their split, but have moved past the bitterness since, claiming they're in a better place now than they were as a couple.

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