Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“I Moved In With My Girlfriend, But Her Ex-Husband’s Things Are Still Everywhere!”

ex

I moved in with my girlfriend months ago, but four years after her divorce, she still has a lot of her ex-husband’s things in her home and it makes me uncomfortable. His clothes are still here, wedding rings are still out in the open, and their pictures, though off the walls, are lying around everywhere. I got rid of all that kind of stuff from my marriage before deciding to date again, let alone move in with another person, and I figured this stuff of hers would have been long ago packed away and even then gone through when she asked me to move in. However, she has moved none of his stuff. I have tried to express to her that, while I know that everyone has a past and I don’t want to sound controlling or insecure, I do feel constantly hurt at seeing it all.

Am I wrong? Is it a sign she hasn’t let go of her past even after she claims she has? I am tired of seeing his face everywhere and seeing so many detailed reminders of their many special moments when I want to know that she has special memories of the two of us and events we have been, and will be, sharing. What should I do? — No Need for Detailed Reminders

If you moved in with your girlfriend months ago and she still has her ex-husband’s crap out, including wedding rings and photos and his clothes, and she hasn’t boxed that shit up even after you’ve expressed how much it hurts you to see it all the time, then, yeah, I’d say there’s a pretty big problem. Whether this is a sign that she can’t let go of her past — which it may very well be — or not, what is perfectly clear is that this is a sign that she doesn’t respect or care about your feelings as much as she should. There’s simply no excuse for ignoring your expressed discomfort and leaving old wedding rings out in the open. No excuse.

What’s even more troubling is that you don’t seem to have confirmation that she has special memories of your relationship with her. Are there any mementos of past events you’ve shared? Does she have photos of you two up on the wall or tacked to the fridge? Do you communicate with each other about special memories you share? As you know, since you’ve been married before, relationships wane and change over the course of months and years. It can’t ALL be special memories. A lot of a relationship — especially a domestic one — involves the tedious activities and chores and obligations of day-to-day life. And while there can be special moments within that tedium, they aren’t typically the sort of memories that sustain a couple when life — or their relationship — gets rough. A couple needs to re-visit special memories — through photos hung on the wall and shared stories and conversations — as a way of reminding each other of their bond and of the foundation their relationship is built upon so there’s confidence and security to carry them through less special and challenging periods.

If you lack such confidence with your girlfriend, then seeing reminders of the foundation she built with someone else must be doubly difficult. It must make you question her commitment to you. It’s time to have some serious conversations with her about the state of your relationship. You need to communicate just how hurtful it is to you seeing these mementos of her past relationship in a home you now share. And you need to tell her that you question whether she has similar special memories of your own relationship and why there aren’t mementos of those moments on display in your home. If you can’t get confidence in your girlfriend’s commitment to and feelings for you, it would seem this relationship lacks the kind of foundation you can build a future upon and perhaps it would be in your best interest to MOA.

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

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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.

22 comments… add one
  • avatar

    PumkinSpice December 14, 2015, 9:04 am

    Wow, why wouldn’t she pack those things away is a great question and only one she can answer. Maybe in the back of her mind she wants him back? This is so strange to me. You need to have some serious conversations like Wendy said. Because her shoving her ex in your face day and night is hot okay, not okay at all. And you need to tell her that.

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  • Raccoon eyes

    Raccoon eyes December 14, 2015, 9:20 am

    WWS.
    *
    LW, you kinda gloss over whether there were any discussions beforehand as to what was going to happen to her ex’s stuff/pictures/mementos. Im more interested in that, as context to now. You didnt move there in a vacuum (I hope). Like, all this crap was there when you would sleep over or come over for dinner, etc, etc, right? Is your GF just really really really scatterbrained, or claiming she is holding onto it for him to get at some vague future time?? How in the world did you agree to move in with all this stuff around?!?!? I mean, what does “wedding rings are still out in the open” even MEAN? Are they mounted and framed in a some creepy cross-stitch square with “forever” sewed above? I dont get it. HOW did you agree to move in with all this detritus of a marriage strewn about.
    *
    Bottom line, time to put on your Big Boy Pants. Lay down the law- stuff is gone/packed away/in storage space/whatever by X time or you are gone. Because having needs =/= needy.

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    • Diablo

      Diablo December 14, 2015, 9:42 am

      This seems like a conversation to have had before moving in. Surely that stuff was all around her place before you did, so surely you must have seen it all before. If you didn’t mention it before moving in, what did you expect, that she would read your mind? But i don’t know about an ultimatum. I tend to think if you are at the point of an ultimatum, the proper move is… out. laying down the law, as it were, only works if you are the lawgiver, and people in adult relationships have got to stop thinking that they can demand things. That just sows the seeds of discontent, and leads to moving out later. If you can’t talk it out to a successful result for you, then make your decision: dealbreaker or not? Sounds like it is to me.

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      • Raccoon eyes

        Raccoon eyes December 14, 2015, 9:59 am

        Diablo, I totally agree that when an ultimatum is issued, one needs to be ready and willing to fully back it up and deal with any fallout- for either outcome. But this guy MUST have had SOME sort of conversation before he moved in (I hope), so he needs to enforce a concrete time- this also presumes that the original time period to sort all this stuff out was to be BEFORE he moved in. Buuuut who knows?

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      • avatar

        LisforLeslie December 14, 2015, 10:36 am

        Agreed – there should have been a few weeks of prepping for the move in, including getting rid of clothing, taking down pics, etc. But also putting duplicate furniture in storage, or selling on craigslist or whatever.

        LW – the only reason I can see for putting up with any of this is if she’s a hoarder and cant’ get rid of anything. Not that hoarding is a positive thing, but it’s at least a mental/emotional condition that would prevent her from easily tossing anything.

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  • avatar

    laurahope December 14, 2015, 9:40 am

    She may no longer be his wife legally but it sounds like she’s still married to him emotionally. I’m curious–who ended the relationship and why?

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom December 14, 2015, 10:35 am

    ” and I figured this stuff of hers would have been long ago packed away and even then gone through when she asked me to move in”

    This sounds like you hadn’t seen her place before moving in? You assumed the stuff was gone and moved in to find it still there? How does that happen? How could you not know all of his stuff was still in her home? How do you reach the point of moving in with someone whose place you don’t know well enough to know it has all this leftover stuff from a previous marriage? If you didn’t know it was there you moved way too fast by moving in before getting to know her well enough to know she had all of this stuff around.

    If you moved in knowing it was there but assuming she would sort it and put it away you also moved in too fast. You moved before talking about why she still has all of that stuff around. You moved before talking about whether she would pack it up and put it away. You moved too fast and now there you are looking at all of that stuff every day. You need to ask her why she still has all that stuff. You need to say, “Hey, why are all these pictures still lying here?” or “Would it bother you if these rings were put away?” Just basic questions. If the relationship can’t handle basic questions it isn’t at a point where you should be living together. Basic questions and their answers are one of those essential foundations in a relationship. They build togetherness and understanding and intimacy. You can’t have any depth to your relationship if you can’t ask basic questions.

    It might be as simple as she doesn’t notice clutter and so once the pictures came down she didn’t pay any attention to them laying there. They might be like white noise, there but nothing to note. It might be that she isn’t over the ex. It might be that those are things that he’s supposed to have come by and picked up and she doesn’t feel like she can do anything with them because they aren’t hers. You can’t figure out what they mean to her if you don’t ask.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros December 14, 2015, 11:13 am

    I’m confused. Did you not see her place before you moved in? It would have been best to ask her about that stuff at that time. Also, you said you have told her how you feel about it, but what was her response? I think that would be the most important piece of information here. Did you just tell her your thoughts, but not ask for a response from her? This is pretty much just a situation where you have to ask her why those things are out, tell her that you need them to go away, and then if nothing happens, move on.
    .
    FWIW, I lived with a roommate who was really messy and packrat-y, and I didn’t know her long enough to know if any of the stuff left out was her ex’s, but I wouldn’t have been surprised. She just didn’t throw things away and didn’t really pick up clutter. I think when she and her girlfriend moved in together (in a new apartment), it was the first time in four years that she had actually gone through her things, so is your girlfriend also lazy? (Also, she would literally “intend” on doing things and then not do them for years.)

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  • avatar

    joanna December 14, 2015, 11:34 am

    When something is around in a certain spot long enough, it just becomes part of the scenery and a person notices it less. Perhaps that’s the case with your girlfriend.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy December 14, 2015, 11:52 am

      Regardless of whether the gf notices it, the LW clearly does and has told her he feels “constantly hurt” by the visual reminders of the special moments she shared with her ex. The fact that the gf has ignored this and hasn’t boxed her ex’s crap and moved it out of sight speaks volumes.

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover December 14, 2015, 12:05 pm

        Yeah, I’m someone for whom stuff like that quickly becomes part of the scenery, and then I stop noticing it. But if my bf had told me it really bothers him and he’s constantly hurt by it, I’d at least get up the energy to stick it in the basement or something. I’m lazy about that kind of stuff too, but knowing how unhappy it made my loved one would make me do it.

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      • avatar

        saneinca December 14, 2015, 2:28 pm

        Yes, even if the GF is a lazy ass hoarder, the least she could do is pay attention to LW’s feelings and move stuff when he asked.

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  • avatar

    PInky December 14, 2015, 11:43 am

    Does she just have a lot of stuff? I come from a family where people keep EVERYTHING: baby clothes, old toys, photos of people they knew in elementary school, broken watches, school papers, everything. Some people are savers and some people are purgers.

    I suggest you let this one go. That is, unless you hate a lot of stuff. In that case, MOA.

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  • avatar

    Sue Jones December 14, 2015, 11:53 am

    Ummm, were there no discussions before you actually moved in about how the place would be, like decor, etc.? Was this not discussed before the move in? Face it, by the time you have reached a certain age, there is history. Not everyone has a conflict with their past. I have so much of my husband’s stuff intermingled with mine, that were something to happen to him, I probably wouldn’t even realize that some of his things were a trigger to a new guy. I think a discussion about “redoing/redecorating the place” and “tidying up and organizing” to make the place “ours” should be had and then you HELP with that organizing. Cleaning out closets and drawers and shit is a pet peeve of mine and I have hired people to help me do it to make sure I actually do it because it is the last thing I will do on my own. It probably won’t happen without that support. And when you have lived somewhere decades it is even more of an issue.
    .
    But the real issue I don’t understand is why this wasn’t discussed before you moved your ass in there? Seriously?
    .
    And when someone has a past, especially if kids are involved, it is good to lighten up about this stuff. It is probably not a reflection on you at all.

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    • avatar

      Sue Jones December 14, 2015, 1:03 pm

      I will add that I hate things like filing also. I tend to stack and file every few months, though I am good at throwing stuff away… we all have our strengths.

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  • avatar

    keyblade December 14, 2015, 12:37 pm

    I haven’t read all the comments but I think Wendy nailed it. Coulda, woulda, shoulda, but this guy has only now come to realize that this bothers him. Wendy did a good job teasing apart why it might be irritating. It’s communication time.

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  • avatar

    Tania December 14, 2015, 1:14 pm

    I can think of a number of reasons why she hasn’t felt the need to pack up and tuck away all this stuff, and many of those reasons have nothing to do with being hung up on the ex. Maybe it’s a good sign that she can look at this stuff as just stuff, without it producing intense emotions (anger, sadness). Your mementos of your ex retained the meanings they were assigned while you were in the relationship (symbols of your bond together) because you ceremoniously put them away after the relationship ended and preserved their meanings. If you had left them out, their meanings to you probably would have changed as you emotionally moved on from the relationship. Another explanation is that she is keeping this stuff as a sort of defense against jumping in fully to her new relationship with you, subconsciously communicating “don’t forget that I already had a BIG relationship, so I don’t see you as the only love I’ll ever have, and so I won’t get hurt as badly this time around if it ends” or “please don’t enter this new relationship assuming you can immediately replace or erase the memory of my past one” or “I really value the commitment of marriage and won’t value this relationship quite as much as my marriage until you are ready to marry me” or even “I’m somehow uncomfortable thinking about the fact that YOU were also married and were that close to someone else, so let’s keep it equal by remembering that I was too.” Maybe your relationship is new enough that you don’t have much stuff from your memories together to replace the old stuff with, at least not yet, and so the old stuff simply hasn’t been replaced.
    .
    There are also a separate set of unknown reasons why she has left the stuff out after you told her it made you uncomfortable. Unfortunately, most of the reasons I can think of are irrational or careless — like the stubbornness of digging in her heels and saying “you can’t make me change what I still consider to be MY house” or simply laziness. I see the real problem being that she is choosing to prioritize her feelings (which you understandably see as being irrational and careless) over yours. But does that mean you’re entitled to assume your feelings win over hers and the stuff should go? I really understand why you don’t want the stuff around anymore, and I’m on your side here in thinking it’s unreasonable she hasn’t changed it. But I don’t think that automatically entitles you to a win, and I think you still need to go through the difficult process of gently and calmly talking through each of your differing feelings/opinions and reaching some compromise you’re both good with. Maybe that’s putting the stuff away by a certain deadline, having a timeline for redecorating to your shared tastes or moving to a new home where you can start fresh in making memories, and/or putting away only the worst offenders of the stuff for now. If you can’t reach a compromise on this relatively simple thing, or you learn that she is bad at listening to you and caring about your feelings during this type of conversation, then you may be better off without this relationship.

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  • avatar

    Vathena December 14, 2015, 1:26 pm

    The thing I find most odd is that his clothes are still there. Doesn’t he need them…??

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    • avatar

      RedRoverRedRover December 14, 2015, 2:21 pm

      Maybe he said he was gonna pick them up and never did? Four years later, if I were her, I’d contact him and tell him to get them or I’m giving them to a shelter. If I was no longer in contact with him, I’d just give them away. Like, I’m sure he’s replaced them by now.

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      • avatar

        Vathena December 14, 2015, 4:14 pm

        Right? I can’t imagine giving over my closet space for that long!

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  • Monkeysmommy

    Monkeysmommy December 14, 2015, 1:35 pm

    I think this is a really bad sign for your relationship. If your girlfriend was committed to moving forward, the past wouldn’t be in your face. I get keeping old photos or momentos for the kids (if there are any), but clothes?? Wtf, no. When I got divorced, I shed all existence of my ex. I have been remarried for 6 years, and I may see a random pic in a photo album I missed here and there, but I’ll be damned if you would find one personal item of his anywhere near my home. OP, I would consider moving on from this. Whatever is up with your girl isn’t healthy or normal, and if she is refusing to honor your wishes (which are totally reasonable), then there is little else you can do.

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  • findingtheearth

    findingtheearth December 14, 2015, 2:32 pm

    She’s been divorced long enough to have removed the items. I am sure other people have been in the home and asked about these things. I am really confused why they were not removed before. Time for a serious talk.

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