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How Do I Tell My New Girl I’m Friends with My Ex?

Even if she’s firmly in the buddy zone—and you’re sure of it—having an ex around might make your latest lady say, “huh?” But there’s a right reason (and a right way) to break the news.

Q: I’m friends with my ex. How and when do I bring that up to my new girl?

A: While it’s noble to try and remain on good terms with an ex, let’s address the elephant in the room in regards to an actual friendship: Why are you friends with your ex? Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure she’s a lovely woman with many fantastic qualities. I mean, you dated her for some time, right? Here’s my problem, though: there needs to be at least a couple of good, healthy reasons for maintaining a friendship with an ex, like you have the same group of friends or cross paths at work.

So, with that in mind, ask yourself: Are you over your ex? Romantic feelings are sticky, and they blur the lines between what you once were and what you want to be now—and what you should want to be now is strictly platonic. But to get to “strictly platonic,” you both need space. So if there is no reason to stay in contact, you have to cut ties completely—for at least six months. It’s the best way to heal your breakup wounds. Any mingling you decide to do during this interval is going to thwart your efforts to move on and enter a truly happy new relationship, because you may backslide into the broken one. Stop the bleed.

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That said, if you are sure you have a healthy friendship with your ex—and it’s been well over the six-month grace period—it can still be an awkward subject to broach with your new girlfriend. So when do you bring it up? At the beginning of dating, there are very few reasons you should need to bring up your ex. “You want to address this issue only when you are at the serious stages of your relationship. This is not important enough to mention in the first month of dating,” says Match.com dating expert Whitney Casey. The exception is if you are taking her to a place you know your ex is likely to be, like a mutual friend’s party or wedding. Other than that, stay mum.

When you finally broach the topic, here’s what to say: Keep it short and sweet. State the situation, and leave it at that: “I just want to be up front with you. My ex and I have mutual friends, so we’ve made an effort to be cool with each other.” That’s it. The longer and more elaborate the explanation, the more it looks like you’re lying or telling half-truths. Feel like you have to forewarn your new girl about your ex, or justify your behavior with her? “If you feel you have to mention it, then it is probably an inappropriate relationship you maintain with your ex,” Casey says. (And you should refer to point #1.)

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The bottom line? If you can honestly tell the girl you’re dating, “I hold no ill will toward my ex,” without need for a complicated explanation, she is simply going to respect your ability to break up and remain civil—not feel skeptical of you. If you need to explain why you call your ex constantly and hang out with her every Saturday night, you haven’t moved on—and need more distance. When you’ve truly let her go, justifications won’t be necessary, and this very conversation with your new flame will be easy-peasy.

ABOUT THE HOT GIRL: Claire Austen is a 20-something freelance writer, sports enthusiast, and polka-dot-lovin’ everygirl trying to bridge the gap between what men know about women and what women wish men knew. She gives smart, super-honest advice about your biggest dating and relationship conundrums.

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