Welcome to the latest installment of Ms. Opinionated, in which readers have questions about the pesky day-to-day choices we all face, and I give advice about how to make ones that (hopefully) best reflect our shared commitment to feminist values—as well as advice on what to do when they don't.
Dear Ms. Opinionated,
I'm going to keep this short and sweet. I want to invite one of my exes-turned-into-a-friend to my upcoming wedding. My fiancé, who is not ever the jealous type nor the controlling type, has absolutely put his foot down. How do I convince him? Should I even try? Am I totally in the wrong here?
I will admit up-front that I have a long-standing bias on this issue as someone who remains friends with a lot of exes for whom I still have (non-relationship) feelings and with whom I have no interest in getting back together. I think especially in a day and age in which many people -- even most people -- have relationships both big and small that don't work out for tons of reasons unrelated to unrequited love or unforgivable behavior on one partner's part, there are some great reasons to keep someone you care about in your life, but in a different capacity than just an "ex" (for those people for whom it makes sense). And, as one of those people for whom it often does make sense, I have zero tolerance for a new partner's jealous behavior towards an ex/friend, and never really have -- after all, every current partner is, on a certain level, a potential ex (I'm a fatalist, what can I say?), and if a partner really can't conceive of why me and an ex would be great friends after a relationship ended, that says a lot to me about how that partner views romantic attachments and friendships.
So, in general, my reaction would be... extraordinarily negative, were I in your shoes.
That said, you need to ask yourself a couple of serious questions and be really, really honest about them before I can give you carte blanche to take what I think is the general high ground on this issue.
- Do you really have zero romantical feelings for your ex/friend? Does s/he appear to have any for you? What is your fiancé's awareness of and/or opinion of those?
- If you have an ongoing sexual attraction to your ex/friend, does that violate anything spoken or unspoken-but-understood in your relationship with your fiancé?
- Do you think your ex/friend has an ongoing sexual attraction to you? How do you feel about that? How does your fiancé feel about your feelings and those of your ex/friend?
- Are you inviting your ex/friend because you want that person to be part of your special day, or to show off in any way?
- Is your fiancé opposed to the friendship, or just the wedding attendance?
In other words, if things don't appear to be "done" in all the ways that you or your fiancé needs them to be done, there are things you have to talk about, openly and honestly -- everything from why you might be attracted to other people from time to time (normal) to what, if anything, you're likely to want to do about it and whether you would do anything about it and how that fits into your understanding with your fiancé. Maybe you need to talk more about why that relationship ended and how you've moved on from the romantic phase of it, or not, and why none of that impacts how you see your marriage. Or maybe you do still carry a bit of a torch for the person and you need to figure out what that means to you, for you, and for both your friendship with the one and your relationship with your fiancé.
And if things are really done but for whatever reason your fiancé doesn't see it, then it's incumbent on him to explain what he's seeing that you're not and for the two of you to honestly assess whether that is a truthful, patriarchal-baggage free analysis of the situation or a bunch of hooey about the fact that you might have loved and/or fucked someone before him and don't hate the person because that's not required after a break-up to get over someone.
Finally, if this is all some thing about the ex/friend showing up for the wedding but not about you two being friends, I hate to break out the -zilla here because maybe your fiancé is totally chill about everything else, but dude needs to get chiller about this. If you'd invite the ex/friend to any other party, there's no reason to leave him or her out of this one unless s/he is going to be all mopey-faced and terrible (in which case, see also: things you probably need to discuss with your ex/friend and also give credit to your fiancé for recognizing).
(Full disclosure: I've also been the ex/friend at three weddings off the top of my head, and was really happy to share my friends' special days with them, our friends and their families. Also knowing too well that, for some people, my attendance might have been an issue, I also appreciated and respected their now-wives more than I did before their weddings for wanting and having me there. So there's that possibility for your fiancé to consider, too.)
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Photo credit: Kate Black, kateblack.com