Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“He Says He’d Take His Ex Back”

My boyfriend and I are both divorced (I have two children, he has none). Each of our most recent respective relationships were with addicts (my ex was a serious porn/sex addict and his was a serious alcoholic). We have both worked very hard to overcome co-dependency issues that we experienced in our past relationships. However, I spent over two years staying single purposely so that I could work on my issues while he dated the entire time between his last ex and our relationship. I worry that he didn’t give himself enough time to deal with what his ex did to him (cheated on him after 11 years, engaged in constant drunken escapades) before dating.

In addition to that worry, I have reason to doubt his commitment to me. About five months into our relationship I felt ready to say “I love you” to him. While I did not say it, we ended up in a fight about commitment in which he said that he could not give me a 100% commitment and specifically saying that, if his ex became a better person, he could not guarantee that he wouldn’t get back with her (she has made it clear she wants to get back with him).

We are now ten months into our relationship and last night I brought up that I was bothered that he had not yet told me he loved me (I have told him, once). He got angry that I had brought it up, and he said that he’d tell me when he felt it. He felt that I was ignoring his actions which should reveal his true feelings.

Aside from these issues, our relationship really is wonderful. We both work hard to be good partners to each other, have great communication, and have a lot in common. When I suppress my worries, we get along blissfully. It’s when I bring up the issue of commitment and emotional closeness that he pushes back. I’m worried that I’m putting myself in a situation that has no good ending. — Looking For a Happy Ending

I always feel a little sad when I get letters like yours that describe one’s relationship as “wonderful” or “blissful” or “the very best ever,” except for this very small little thing like, oh, I don’t know, HE SAYS HE WANTS HIS EX BACK. Or: He gets angry when you express your feelings. (I’ve also heard: “Our relationship is perfect except…he cheats on me.” And: “He hits me sometimes.” And: “He won’t tell me where he lives.” And: “He always tells me how fat I am.” And from tomorrow’s column: “He won’t accept my grandchildren because they’re half black.”). You know what all of these various relationships, including yours, have in common? THEY AREN’T GOOD.

I don’t care what else is going on in your relationship. It may be 90% wonderful. But if 10% of your relationship — hell, if even 2% of your relationship — involves things like cheating, abuse, and seriously wanting to be back together with an ex, then the relationship is not on the right track. Not only has your boyfriend admitted he wants his ex back, but he also has told you that, after ten months, he still doesn’t love you. It’s one thing for a person not to SAY “I love you,” but, if your boyfriend has told you he’ll say it when he feels it and he hasn’t said it yet, then he clearly doesn’t feel it. And, I’m sorry, if a person doesn’t feel it after ten months of serious dating, I don’t think there’s much chance he ever will.

Honestly, if I were you, I’d probably move on…unless you can accept that this relationship likely won’t ever progress to anything more serious than it is and that your boyfriend will probably never want to commit to you. If you can accept the relationship for what it sounds like it is — temporary companionship and intimacy without any commitment — go ahead and stay, but understand that there will be an ending eventually and it probably won’t be a happy one if the only ending you want is one where the two of you are a committed, loving couple.

It sounds like you’ve been through a lot — you’re a single mom, divorced from a sex addict, and have spent a couple years working hard to undo some of the damage from your marriage. You deserve a relationship that makes you feel great and doesn’t leave you questioning your partner’s feelings or commitment to you. The last thing you need is more damage done that you have to work to undo before you’re ready to trust someone else again. Listen to your gut and, if it’s saying move on, do it. Do it before you get any more invested.

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

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

13 comments… add one
  • kmtthat

    kmentothat August 20, 2015, 8:31 am

    LW, you don’t want to live everyday in the shadow of his ex. You’ll always wonder if you are going to come home one day and out of the blue he will be gone. Because….that is what will happen. Not only does he want to get back with his ex, he thinks so little of your feelings he straight out TOLD YOU. Don’t believe who you think people are, believe who they TELL YOU they are. You said you dealt with your issues. Clearly he has not. Do you really want to be in another relatio nship where he has all the power and you just stick around for the scraps of affection and intimacy he is capable of?
    .
    It’s only been 10 months. I suggest therapy, and a clean break. It’s as much as you (you deserve someone 100% invested in your relationship) as it is for him (so he has the time and space to get over her). Please find the strength, before you are living together or get pregnant and are really stuck. You can AND SHOULD do it.

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  • avatar

    keyblade August 20, 2015, 8:38 am

    WWS. You want more. You are enjoying his company but you want more. So why put more time into waiting? I agree with Wendy that a little more time is unlikely to emotionally change things for your boyfriend. If after two years and a new, 10- month relationship he is still reserving an ember for his ex-wife, he hasn’t moved on yet. And neither has she. You shouldn’t wait for him to decide it’s time. You should be choice A, not the contingency plan. I don’t think he has figured out which one of you is which, yet. I’m sorry, but move on.

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  • avatar

    Ale August 20, 2015, 8:44 am

    “We have both worked very hard to overcome co-dependency issues that we experienced in our past relationships”

    I think this is also a co-dependency issue, which means that the process of overcoming co-dependency issues in relationships hasn’t worked for you LW. I am sorry but you seem codependent, you need him to tell you taht he loves you, and you decide to stay with a person that clearly wants to be with someone else. You are a “while” person, he is with you “while” he gets back with his ex, he is with you “while” he finds someone better, he is with you because you give him something that he needs before he gets back with his ex. That is not fair to you, you deserve better. You need someone to love you for who you are, that wants to be with you and only you, not thinking about someone else. Please find therapy and move on from this relationship that isn’t doing you any good.

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    • avatar

      Cleopatra Jones August 20, 2015, 8:53 am

      And I would be definitely leery of being in a relationship with another person who tends toward co-dependency. You are bonding over the shitty stuff that happened to you in past relationship which is not healthy.
      .
      You two didn’t gravitate towards each other because of attraction or love but because the dysfunction of the other person felt familiar to you. That is not a good foundation for a relationship.
      .
      Please leave this relationship because it is going to leave you in a worse place than you were before.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros August 20, 2015, 8:53 am

    How can you say you have good communication if the only way that you are happy is if you suppress your feelings? And if you do express them, he gets upset? That’s the definition of bad communication.
    .
    Also, you had this fight over him SAYING he loves you, when the conversation should really have been about whether he loves you. People move at different speeds, but the issue here is that he’s probably not over his ex and he seems to not love you enough that he’d choose you over her. And that’s not something I’d stick around for.

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  • avatar

    Laura Hope August 20, 2015, 9:01 am

    I completely agree with Wendy– this is not going anywhere. If you do decide to stick it out, please don’t let your kids get attached to this guy.

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  • avatar

    Deigh August 20, 2015, 10:05 am

    I was ready to say “I love you” before the guy I’m dating. It took him an additional two months and that was hard. His actions said it but he didn’t say the words.

    The difference is when I said it to him, he said to me that it takes him a long time to say those words because they mean a lot. That he cares deeply for me and sees me as a part of his life. He just wasn’t ready to say it yet. Notice, he didn’t say, “Well but I might get back with my ex, so…”

    Move on. You don’t have a wonderful relationship if you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop all the time.

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  • Diablo

    Diablo August 20, 2015, 10:26 am

    To Wendy’s list above of things in letters that make her sad, i would like to add: people who are a little bit older (whether 35 or 65), who think that therefore, they need to jump at situations that are not good for them and compromise basic values in order to not “end up alone.” They waste so much time that could be put toward finding someone who is good for them, or at least respecting themselves. Every second they continue to languish in relationships they know are bad, clinging to faint hope that they will somehow work out, that their partners will change, they are also NOT out finding a real friend. Sure, maybe that wouldn’t work out, but you KNOW this isn’t working. You KNOW it. Just admit it to yourself and act accordingly.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark August 20, 2015, 11:40 am

    Eh, honestly. Ten months into a relationship is still pretty early on. Stop trying to rush things. And when the fuck will (apparently, most) women EVER learn that the words I LOVE YOU are fucking empty and meaningless when spat out so fast? Why do so many of you remain intellectually and emotionally frozen at 12 forever? Seriously? I just don’t get it. But no wonder so many of you pen needy, and desperate letters like this. Stop trying to live out your NOTEBOOK fantasies and come back to reality, please. Constantly, LWs like you sob and whine about how all you really want in relationships is honestly — then when you FINALLY get it, you sob and whine about how it wasn’t quite what you wanted to hear. Ugh, it’s exhausting to read about. I dunno. Focus on your kids, LW, and buy a fucking cat already, I guess.

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    • avatar

      keyblade August 20, 2015, 12:18 pm

      I don’t think feeling in love necessarily means the logistics of a relationship need to move forward. Because she has kids, I think she should take it slow. But I don’t blame her for wanting to date someone who feels love for her back.

      Just five months ago this guy said he couldn’t guarantee he wouldn’t get together with his drunk, cheating, ex-wife, who still says she wants to be with him. His judgment sounds off, too.

      Putting one and one together you get non-future material.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark August 20, 2015, 12:35 pm

        Five months into a rebound relationship with somebody who also just happens to have two kids… do you REALLY think anybody sane would rush to declare their undying love? Seriously? Frankly, anybody who did so should send the LW running away screaming in the other direction. But sadly, delusional and romantic fantasy is still very much alive and (un)well. Or so it seems.

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      • avatar

        keyblade August 20, 2015, 1:14 pm

        Undying love is different than just love, at least to me. I think you can feel love for someone without deciding you’re meant to be with them forever. I see your point about five months being soon for a lot of people. But I think the letter writer feels like giving more to the relationship, emotionally, than her boyfriend. This doesn’t mean the boyfriend is a bad guy. He might just be an honest guy that likes keeping it casual. There is nothing wrong with that, but it isn’t what the letter writer wants now or later on down the line. This doesn’t mean I think she should be rushing to move in or marry someone. But I don’t think she should stay put with someone still hung up on their ex, either.

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  • findingtheearth

    Findingtheearth August 20, 2015, 3:15 pm

    I spent 2 years being single after I found out I was pregnant. I’ve tried to date, but I discovered I really want something different than what most set out wanting. I decided to take a break, because I did not want situations like this. You have a kid. You can’t be with someone who will just take their ex back. I assume they’ve met. How will your child handle this?

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