Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Afternoon Quickie: “He Ignored Me While Visiting His Ex-Mother-in-Law”

My boyfriend of a year and a half is divorced and he and his ex-wife share no children. It was a mutual separation and they remained somewhat friendly with one another and still live in the same town. From time to time they converse through text and the occasional phone call as they both somewhat helped raise her blood niece, whom he remains very close too. That part doesn’t bother me, but his ex-wife’s mother contacts him on Facebook from time to time and calls him “Son Number 2.”

Recently, his ex mother-in-law had a health issue and he travelled two hours to surprise her and spend the night with his niece. I was somewhat uncomfortable that he feels the need to remain that close. I didn’t say too much about it, but he knows how I feel! When he left for the visit, we were OK. We text often when we’re not together, but when he went down there it was like I didn’t exist — the entire second day I didn’t hear from him at all, which completely pissed me off! He thinks I’m over-reacting and being childish, but I think, if he hadn’t have ignored me during his visit, I may have felt more comfortable, especially since he knew I wasn’t thrilled about it to begin with. So what do you think: am I over-reacting? Acting childish? I know I’m insecure — I’ll agree to that much! — Not Thrilled

I actually side with you here. It can be an uncomfortable thing when a significant other remains close with his ex and his/her family, but you seem to keep your feelings mostly in check. You aren’t making unreasonable demands, like he cut off contact with these people, and, while you expressed your feelings of discomfort about your boyfriend visiting his former mother-in-law, it sounds like you didn’t make that big a deal about it. I think he could have shown better appreciation for your understanding by throwing you a bone while he was away (i.e. sending a couple of texts, which would have taken a total of maybe two minutes).

On the other hand, it’s possible he just lost track of time, was distracted by his mother-in-law’s condition, or just focused on his niece and didn’t realize that going 24 hours without contacting you would result in such hurt feelings. I say let him know you were hurt and that, while you realize you have insecurity issues regarding his ex and her family, they could be easily assuaged by his being a little extra attentive to you in situations when he’s in their company. That said, I bet those situations will be fewer and further between as time goes on. If this is one of the only issues you have with him, I’d let it go. It doesn’t sounds like it’s worth making a big deal about. If he and his ex still wanted to be together, they would be, and him remaining in casual contact with his former in-laws, who could very well be the closest thing to loving parents that he’s had, doesn’t mean he loves you any less.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].

29 comments… add one
  • rainbow

    rainbow April 15, 2014, 3:13 pm

    “I think, if he hadn’t have ignored me during his visit, I may have felt more comfortable, especially since he knew I wasn’t thrilled about it to begin with”

    The “may have felt more comfortable” (not would have) sound theoretical as fuck and pretty dishonest. It makes it sound like you believe your bad feelings about this are unreasonable so you try not to own them, and then can’t help taking any “more valid” chance you have to feel disrespected and blowing that out of proportion as an outlet for the whole thing.

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    • avatar

      lets_be_honest April 15, 2014, 3:33 pm

      Well, it is theoretical because that’s what it is. She “thinks” she “may” have felt better. I would say the same thing if I thought something might’ve made me feel better. Its not necessarily dishonest. Its just a guess really.
      I actually think its good that she thinks these bad feelings are unreasonable and therefore tries to not keep them.

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      • rainbow

        rainbow April 15, 2014, 3:39 pm

        I think so too!
        I mention it because I used to do this a lot when I was still focused on playing it cool, and I ended up looking insane. Sometimes the real choice is not between sharing your feelings or not, but between sharing your feelings honestly when you feel them and sharing them in ways that are twisted and rely on technicalities after they’ve been repressed for too long, and I figure that’s what’s going on here.

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        lets_be_honest April 15, 2014, 3:45 pm

        Ohhh, gotcha. That makes sense.

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      • Fabelle

        Fabelle April 15, 2014, 3:53 pm

        Yes, yes, yes. Totally agree with you, rainbow, & good catch. I also used to do shit like this, & that part of the letter stood out.

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  • avatar

    SasLinna April 15, 2014, 3:25 pm

    I kind of see the level of contact with his ex (and ex’s mother + the niece) and the lack of communication on the day he was there as two unrelated things. At least they likely are unrelated from his point of view (or does he always text and this was the one exception?). I think you should decide what your issue is – do you want him to have less contact with his ex and her family or do you want him to increase communication while he’s away from you? If it’s as simple as “send me at least one text per day when you’re away”, it should be relatively easy for him to do that.

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  • katie

    Katie April 15, 2014, 3:27 pm

    I mean if I was your boyfriend id say the same thing. Does he even know about the apparently unwritten rule that he has to text you everyday? I get that your used to that, it’s a change of routine bla bla bla, but like does he understand that if he doesn’t that means, to you, that you don’t “exist” and you get pissed because of it? If he doesn’t know that you should probably tell him.
    .
    What I don’t get is that he didn’t even see his ex. These are just people in his life that he loves. I don’t get how they have become evil characters.

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  • LlamaPajamas

    LlamaPajamas April 15, 2014, 3:33 pm

    In February I spent a week with my parents while my dad had cancer surgery. It was exhausting and emotionally draining and, to be honest, texting and calling my fiancé wasn’t always a priority. This wasn’t because I didn’t want to talk to him, I was just overwhelmed and when I got to the hotel in the evenings I just wanted to zone out in front of the TV with my mom. It doesn’t sounds like your BF’s ex-MIL had this severe of a health issue, but still, I’m sure your boyfriend wanted to focus entirely on her and his niece during the short time he was with them. That’s not an excuse because, like Wendy said, it takes just a minute to text or call someone, but I’d give him the benefit of the doubt that he was focusing on his family (even if they’re not legally family anymore). And I’d give him a lot of credit for staying civil with his ex and close to her family after the divorce – he sounds like a very reasonable, caring guy.

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    • avatar

      ktfran April 15, 2014, 4:41 pm

      So, speaking of visits wearing you out…

      Often, when I visit my nieces, I need a break when I get back. They wear me the eff out. Seriously. I love them to death, but man, is it tiring. So, when I go home and visit, I rarely go out and see friends. Instead, when the girls leave for the evening, I stay home, so on the couch with the parents and enjoy the silence. So, couple the exhaustion of visiting a kid you rarely see with someone who is have medical issues, and dang. That’s a long day.

      Although a text does only take a second, but LW, did you text him at all that second day? Maybe he would have sent something quick if you contacted him. You didn’t say. Why did it fall on him to get a hold of you first?

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  • lemongrass

    lemongrass April 15, 2014, 3:33 pm

    I often forget to text my husband when I’m away from him for a couple days.

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  • Miss MJ

    Miss MJ April 15, 2014, 3:38 pm

    I agree that you need to figure out exactly what the problem is for you. Is it that he visits the ex-MIL and niece and is a part of their lives? Is it that he didn’t text you when he was away? Or is it that he didn’t text you specifically while he was visiting them and you’re wondering if there is some significance to that?

    If it’s the first one, then you need to decide whether you want to be with someone who still maintains contact with his “ex family.” I wouldn’t worry too much about that. These were people who were important to him, and I think it is admirable that he didn’t just walk away from them when his relationship with his ex ended, especially the niece, whom you said he has helped raise. Presumably, the ex-MIL fills the grandmother role there, and so it’s not that surprising that he’d go see her when she was ill and it has nothing to do with his commitment to you or for any lingering feelings for his ex-wife.

    If it’s the second, and he normally is lax about texting when he’s away, then you need to talk about contact when one of you is away.

    And, if it’s the third, and you think that the reason he didn’t text you is because he was with them and that he thinks that would be weird, then you guys need to have a serious conversation about (a) whether that is true; (b) why he thinks it would be weird; and (c) how he sees himself “blending” his two “families” going forward. Is he always going to keep you separate from them? Are you okay with that? If you have kids, are they going to be a part of that side of his life? How is that going to work?

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  • GatorGirl

    GatorGirl April 15, 2014, 3:40 pm

    I oddly don’t think this is that big of a deal LW. My aunt is still very close with the parents of her ex (from over 30 years ago). They came to her wedding (to another guy) and she talks to them regularly. They have more of a friendship, than an in-law relationship. Sometimes you just get along with people.

    But I would be pissed he just didn’t contact you. That would not be okay with me.

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  • avatar

    XanderT April 15, 2014, 3:41 pm

    I have been divorced for 8 years (married for 20) I am still in touch & friendly with my ex & his family. A couple of years ago I was visiting our home town & went to lunch with his folks. His mom introduced me as her daughter to a few of their friends at the restaurant. After we sat down she said she hoped I was OK with that because she thinks of me as her daughter. I think of her as my 2nd mom. I’m supposed to give up my “family” because my ex chose to divorce me? No. When my ex goes to our home town he spends an evening with my brother and when my parents were alive he would visit with them also. Is my ex supposed to give up his “family” because he chose to divorce me? No. I can’t have independent relationships with his family members because they are his family members? Makes no sense. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure his family likes me more than they like him…JK.

    Every time the subject of having to give up your ex’s family members comes up of DW I feel very defensive – and it doesn’t even involve me! And then I think, how would it make me feel if the guy I was in a relationship with was in close contact with his ex’s family. And I just don’t know how I would feel. It gets all twisted around in my head.
    I feel for you, LW. I hope you are able to work this out with yourself and with your boyfriend. Depending upon how sick the former MIL is and how close of a bond he has with his niece, the visits may actually become more often instead of less often.

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  • avatar

    lets_be_honest April 15, 2014, 3:44 pm

    This just reminded me that my stepmother apparently hates that my grandma (her MIL) still has pictures of my mom up in the house. My stepdad gets mad when junk mail comes to his house addressed to my dad too. People are weird.

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  • avatar

    No Pants April 15, 2014, 3:52 pm

    He Pants and I visit our respective families on our own all of the time, and very rarely text or talk during that time. If you want him to keep in touch with you, you need to tell him that. Seriously.

    Also, you didn’t give too much info re: his personality, but I think the fact that he maintains contact with his former MIL and is close with his niece speaks volumes. He sounds wonderful. Don’t let your insecurities get in the way of recognizing that.

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    • avatar

      Banana April 15, 2014, 4:38 pm

      Yeah, when I was reading I thought, “Well judging by his behavior, he sounds like an incredibly decent man.” I’d just let him know that you feel hurt and ignored when he doesn’t text you, and maybe agree on a minimum amount of contact per day (barring emergencies). So agree that when he’s away you’d appreciate at least one text/call/email per day, just to know he’s doing okay, and it doesn’t even have to be anything lengthy or detailed, just a note to let you know he’s still thinking of you. Communicating that to him directly will hopefully make a big difference, if he’s as caring and considerate as his actions make him seem.
      .
      I used to get really antsy on days when I’d only hear from Banano once or twice, in brief texts in response to ones I’d initiated. Then I went home to hang with family on my own one weekend and didn’t even realize it had gotten close to midnight before I made our nightly call, because I was so wrapped up in hanging out with my dad. It made me feel a lot more chill about the days when we have low communication, just to put myself in his shoes like that and imagine a busy day or important occasion, and how I was thinking of him all along, but I just couldn’t make it to the phone.

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      • muchachaenlaventana

        muchachaenlaventana April 15, 2014, 4:50 pm

        Not to mention f you are constantly texting your significant other or breaking away to call them whenever you get a free moment you aren’t even involved in what is happening in the moment with your family. People (general) have lost so much touch with the reality of what is important and what things even mean. 10-15 years ago this would be the norm and people survived and it was great. Personally if my boyfriend was with family/friends and texting me constantly I would wonder WTF he was doing, because he obviously would not be enjoying himself or really being in the moment. Also being on the end of a family member who has a sibling who would do this constantly when we were together (text her boyfriend literally every 30 seconds) it gets SO old and was so incredibly rude/sad to see. Rant over.

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      • avatar

        ktfran April 15, 2014, 4:59 pm

        I had dinner at a really nice restaurant two Saturday’s ago with a friend in from out of town and a few others. My favorite restaurant actually. We were waiting for one of the courses and two or three of them had their cell phones out. I made a couple jokes about it and told them it was poor form. That was also probably poor form too – me pointing out bad manners. But come on!

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      • avatar

        ktfran April 15, 2014, 5:03 pm

        Ooh. also, after dessert and before leaving, I used the wash room. When I cam back, cell phones were out once again. Do people not know how to talk to one another?

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      • muchachaenlaventana

        muchachaenlaventana April 15, 2014, 6:10 pm

        Oh no I always call my close friends or family out, if we are at a nice restaurant and people are checking social media I straight up am like, Hey I am here in front of you, put your phone down and talk to me. I really have no tolerance for that and don’t even joke ask people to put shit away.

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      • avatar

        bethany April 15, 2014, 5:11 pm

        YES!! If it’s not an emergency situation, you really should be prioritizing FACE TO FACE interactions over texting!!! I can’t stand it when I’m with a friend and she’s texting with someone while we’re supposed to be having quality time. Actually, none of my friends really do that. I used to have friends who did it all the time. Probably part of the reason they’re not my friends anymore.

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      • Amanda

        Amanda April 15, 2014, 5:25 pm

        I had a friend who did that on vacation once and I called her out on it. We are no longer friends. Granted, it probably has more to do with her leaving me in New Orleans while she went back to Chicago.

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  • othy

    othy April 15, 2014, 4:03 pm

    One of my favorite aunts hasn’t been an aunt for many years. But, she’s awesome so we still keep in touch. And I talk to her more than I talk to my uncle, even though I’m ‘blood related’ to him.
    And, I think it speaks highly of him that he still wants to stay close with her. Listen to NoPants- “Don’t let your insecurities get in the way of recognizing that’.

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  • Amanda

    Amanda April 15, 2014, 4:03 pm

    For the most part I agree with Wendy – especially if you sent him a text and he didn’t respond (which is what I’m gathering you meant from him ignoring you). That’s just not right. Everybody looks at their phone at some point. Even if it’s just to charge the thing.
    .
    If, on the other hand, you waited for him to get a hold of you…maybe just relax a tiny bit.

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    • avatar

      ktfran April 15, 2014, 4:45 pm

      YES! If she texted and he didn’t respond, well, then I think she has a right to be a little bit upset. I would be too. BUT… if she was sitting around waiting for him to text or call, then that’s on her just as much, if not more, than him.

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  • avatar

    bethany April 15, 2014, 4:26 pm

    Eh, I’m gonna side with the BF on this one. I know when I’m visiting with my out of town family, I don’t even have my phone around me most of the time. It’s very possible to just get caught up in what you’re doing, especially when you’re with a child all day, and dealing with a sick in law.

    If him “ignoring” you becomes a habit, then I would side with you, but if it’s a random occurrence, I think you need to calm down.

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  • redessa

    redessa April 15, 2014, 5:29 pm

    What I don’t understand is that when he told you about the trip you claim you didn’t say much, but then insist “he knows how I feel!” How exactly was he supposed to figure that out? You have to tell people clearly what your feelings are and what behavior you expect from them. You still may not get what you want, but you’ll never get it I you’re just hoping people can read your mind or pick up on little hints.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark April 15, 2014, 9:24 pm

    God, this letter is so fucking petty. And yet — so many women find themselves wondering why they are doomed to be forever single. Gee, I dunno… Could it be that you are a massively insecure bitch, LW? Honestly, I don’t get it. What’s the fucking problem? You think he is banging his ailing ex mother-in-law?

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  • avatar

    peachy April 16, 2014, 7:50 am

    LW, if you’re this insecure about people who really can’t do you any harm and counting on your boyfriend to prop you up, counseling is the key. Insecurity is not a “quirk,” it is insidious and damaging to any relationship, so go find out why you are insecure and what to do about it.

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