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I recently experienced a divorce. After a couple months of not talking to my now ex-wife, we began engaging in text messaging back and forth to one another. She expressed a desire to see me but said she’s afraid of how she might behave, suggesting that it will most likely take a course towards intimacy. This type of conversation excites me, but I can’t go there with her since we’re divorced. I responded and told her it’s inappropriate.
In a scenario where a man and woman are married, is it okay to be flirty and explicit if your partner initiates the conversation with an image or hints at some kind of intimate behavior? My wife was like this with me for our entire marriage, now I find it difficult to turn that off. I also question myself about the appropriateness of keeping the saved photos acquired over our marriage. Should I delete these photos? If the answer is “yes”, should all other memories be discarded and deleted as well? And, is there something wrong with me because I want to revisit those images and experiences?
Before we talk about what to do with these pictures and memories, let’s talk about the lingering romantic feelings you both seem to have for each other. Even though you’re legally divorced, your hearts aren’t divorced. You didn’t provide any details around the reasons for the divorce, but it’s clear that you both aren’t done with the relationship. Perhaps the divorce was impulsive or hasty? These mixed signals need to get clarified so you don’t cause each other unnecessary suffering.
You were wise to pause the text exchange, but don’t stop there. You need to confront this non-committal fantasy and have a serious conversation about each of your intentions. This isn’t playful flirting with a stranger. It’s a mish-mash of mixed signals from former spouses who are vulnerable, lonely, and wounded.
Share your honest intentions with her and allow her to do the same. It wouldn’t hurt to sit down with a marriage counselor to help you structure this conversation. You may discover that you both regret the divorce or that you want to make another attempt at the relationship. Either way, you’ll need to proceed carefully in the aftermath of divorce. Permanent lines were drawn that not only impacted the two of you, but many others as well. It’s not wise to mess with those lines and act as if they didn’t happen. You both deserve respect and clarity as you navigate this post-divorce confusion.
Now, let’s talk about those photos of your ex-wife. You’ve asked several questions, so let me answer each of them separately.
First of all, married couples are encouraged to flirt with each other to keep their passion and romance strong. Flirting builds anticipation and novelty, which is healthy for long-term commitment. As long as both partners consent and are comfortable with the exchanges, these interactions can bring excitement and playfulness into the marriage.
Even though you and your ex-wife exchanged flirty pictures and messages during your marriage, I don’t believe it gives you the right to keep those photos forever. Those messages were sent in the safety and trust of a private and committed marriage. They were sent to build anticipation for real physical, emotional, and sexual connection with each other. Now that you’re divorced, these pictures and messages don’t serve that same purpose anymore, so why would you keep them?
If you’re keeping them to fantasize about your ex-wife, this brings up a couple of concerns. First, this is a form of objectification that your ex-wife isn’t consenting to. Second, it will make it more difficult for you to grieve the loss of your marriage. If you’re still holding onto those memories, it’s time to let go and allow yourself a chance to begin the grief process.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with you for having these feelings, as you’ve only been divorced for a few months. The grief and loss process is multi-faceted and needs time and support to fully integrate. Even if you decide to get back together with her, set healthy and respectful boundaries around your former marriage so you can make sure you learn the lessons you need to learn and give each other a proper chance to heal.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at [email protected]
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples, pornography/sexual addiction, betrayal trauma, and infidelity. He is the founder of LifeStar of St. George, Utah (www.lifestarstgeorge.com) and Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com). Geoff is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity” and creates online relationship courses available on his website www.geoffsteurer.com. He hosts the Illuminate Podcast and has created the Loving Marriage educational vlog on YouTube with his wife. He earned degrees from Brigham Young University and Auburn University. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.
You can connect with him at:
vickieAugust 30, 2019
I never heard if he is in another relationship. is he married already to someone else or engaged or dating someone else. if so they that isn't good. they need to talk and understand why they were divorced and why they took a permanent plunge. maybe this was a one sided divorce...we are only hearing one side not hers. it could be totally different.