My ex called me and now I feel the love for my new wife is fading fast. What can I do? | australian way of life

My ex unblocked my number and she called me when she found out I had moved on quickly and married someone new. I was struck by very fond memories of my ex and now feel that the love for my new wife is fading very quickly. It causes me a lot of stress. What can I do?

Eleanor says: I’m curious how to get married to someone when there was an ex whose reappearance could derail things so quickly. Does your wife know about the ex? Have you had any conversations about the possibility of residual feelings? If so, was it a “even if she came back, I would still choose you” or “she won’t come back so the problem won’t arise”?

Part of what you’re doing by getting married is making a commitment, not just a choice. You say that you have chosen to be with this person, but also that you are committed to maintaining it. You will strive to actively encourage your feelings for her and your union, even in the face of obstacles.

In this way, marriage closes a question. Getting married means that you have made your decision: I want to stay with this person. You’re not auditioning the relationship yet—checking out if you want it to last; evaluate it against its competitors. These are things we do when we date, but the purpose of marriage is to say that you agree to treat who you are with as settled. You want to be together.

So the question of what you should do is not just a question of which relationship or which woman you should favor. It’s a question of whether you can deliver the mentality that constitutes a marriage. One of the worst things to do would be to stay in this marriage, but on a temporary basis, see if it works out (even if it seems like a safe compromise). It’s a good way to fuel doubt and scrutiny in the relationship, and it’s sure to damage it, even if your ex’s reappearance doesn’t.

Don’t stay in a way where you wait to see if your choice was the right one. Don’t stand back like a scientist watching an experiment to see if your wife can regain the position you think she’s lost. People may sense that you are taking your approval away from them. They can tell when you look at them through appraising eyes instead of loving ones. It’s not a good feeling.

So if you stay, stay with commitment. Make the choice to continue to actively nurture love. Feelings are to some extent beyond our control, and if you think those are just too strong, the fairest thing might be to leave.

If you decide to stay, you won’t be the last married person to have complicated feelings for an ex. But there are things you can do if you decide you want those feelings to go away. Reflect on your reasons for breaking up, minimize time and contact with the ex, and consider whether those feelings are in fact part of a yen for freedom, or an earlier time in life, rather than a burning desire for that particular person. Sometimes these feelings are natural responses to big life changes, especially those that come with new responsibilities and obligations, like marriage.

That’s how I think you should approach it. Not as a choice between women, or even a response to how other people make you feel, but as a decision you can have some control over. What feelings do you want to nurture?

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