Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“I’m in a Band with My Ex and My Girlfriend Can’t Deal”

FMacRumours

I’m a 39-year-old male who’s been in a relationship with a 35-year-old woman for about a year and nine months. Up until the end of February, we had been talking about moving in together in May. I had said yes. I was into it . . . but, as the date when we’d have to notify our respective landlords of our intention to vacate came closer, I started to feel a lot of doubt. A day before we would have had to give our notice, I told my girlfriend I wasn’t ready. She was incredibly hurt that I suddenly reversed course. I did mean it when I said all those things to her, but I guess I didn’t examine my feelings enough. I acknowledge my mistake and apologized profusely, but I know that doesn’t take away the pain.

Of course, she wanted to know why I wasn’t ready. At first, it was just a gut feeling, but, when I spent some time thinking about it, I realized I do not feel fully trusted. And this is where the background comes in: I am a musician, and I have been in a band for five years. For two of those years, I was romantically involved with the keyboardist in my band. We had a tumultuous and difficult relationship that I ended in early 2013, about three months before I met my current girlfriend. The band pre-dated my romantic involvement with the keyboardist, and so we decided to try to keep it going after we broke up. Things were certainly a little rocky at first, but we managed to come to a good place with it and operate solely as bandmates. I swear on everything I hold sacred that I have absolutely zero romantic interest in my ex. At my age, it is really hard to find people who want to play for free with whom one clicks, musically, and music is very important to me. That’s all this is to me.

The problem is that, from the beginning, my current girlfriend has had a problem with me being in a band with someone I used to be romantically involved with. I was honest with her about some of the ways in which my ex mistreated me (example: She didn’t tell me she had herpes before we were intimate, and I got it from her), and she says that the fact that I want someone like that in my life at all is disturbing to her. She has said repeatedly that she is worried my ex might have some sort of hold over me or my feelings. She has told me that my ex’s presence at all in my life is disrespectful to her. She has never given me an ultimatum, but she has made clear that the fact that this hurts her, that I know it hurts her, and that I continue to do it, leads her to feel like she can’t fully trust me with her feelings.

I struggle with this. On one hand, I know it is important to honor my girlfriend’s feelings, even if I don’t understand or agree with them. I acknowledge that this pain is real for her. At the same time, I can’t feel like I am doing anything objectively wrong. My ex and I see each other only at band rehearsals (once a week) and shows (a couple times a month), and never alone – the rest of the band is always there. We don’t hang out socially and we don’t idly shoot the breeze – 99.99% of our communication is band business-related. Very clear boundaries are in place and respected…and I get no indication from my ex that she has any lingering weirdness or feelings for me; she has moved on and been through a couple of relationships since ours ended.

My girlfriend and I have fought over this almost monthly for a year and a half. It is without a doubt our biggest issue. I understand someone having an ex in his or her life isn’t typical (although, working in the arts as I do, I know a lot of people who have continued to work with people they were once involved with), but, at the same time, I feel like I have taken steps to help my girlfriend feel safe and have been true to the things I’ve said about how I feel about her (my girlfriend concedes that I am very affectionate and attentive) and about my ex.

All of this has come up again in the wake of my pulling out of moving in together. The fact is that we’re not in a relationship that’s built on trust. That’s a really hard place for me to be and I can’t see taking a step like moving in together and looking toward a possible marriage-and-kids future when that’s what’s going on. We’re in couples therapy now, and I’m hopeful that might help somewhat . . . but a big part of me also wonders if all of this means that we are just not the right fit for one another, that maybe I need to be with someone who can handle the things I’m asking someone I’m with to handle (having an ex still in my life in some capacity), and she needs to be with someone with a less complicated situation. That idea makes me very sad, because there are really good things about our relationship too, but I just don’t see how we can move forward when she can’t trust me with her feelings and I don’t feel trusted. — Still Making Music with My Ex

You were wise to pay attention to your gut feelings and put a stop to moving in together when you still had doubts about your relationship. I don’t list it in my 15 things couples should do before moving in together, but “feel at peace in the relationship” would be number 16. And, unfortunately, you don’t feel at peace. And it sounds like, in almost two years, you never have felt total peace with the relationship, and neither has your girlfriend. And the truth is, you may not be the best match. You may be two people who love and care about each other but can’t get past your differences. Maybe your couples therapist will help you, but, if in almost two years you have not reached a resolution on this issue regarding your ex-girlfriend, I’m not sure what compromise you can happily meet that will get you the peace you need to move forward.

The way I see it is you have two choices: give up the band or give up the girl. Your girlfriend isn’t going to suddenly become cool with you playing music with your ex. She’s just not. You have done everything you can to help her find some peace with the situation and she’s not there. She’s not ever going to be there. In her mind, it sounds like the situation isn’t quite a deal-breaker yet (or she would have broken up with you by now), but could be eventually. Like, she might be thinking/hoping this band won’t last forever and eventually you are going to move on and the ex will finally be simply part of your past and no longer part of your present. She is banking on that. And every month that you continue to play music with this woman, your girlfriend is hurt, which is why you have a fight about it every month.

And for your part, you are banking on your girlfriend finally getting over her jealousy and accepting that this ex is nothing more than someone you click with musically. And every month that she is still jealous and upset that you are, in essence, continuing to choose your happiness over her sense of peace, your relationship continues to suffer. And this all begs the question: Why don’t you choose her sense of peace? Why don’t you just quit the band or find someone else to play music with when you know it’s what will make your girlfriend happy and may save your relationship? Because . . . you don’t want to. And that’s totally fair. You don’t want to make this compromise, especially when the whole situation makes you question whether your girlfriend, as someone who is so jealous and doesn’t trust you, is really the right match for you. Because it isn’t JUST about your playing in this band. There’s the principle of the matter. There’s what it says about you and your values (and her and her values) and the way you might face other issues in the future if you give in and give up something that brings you joy because your girlfriend can’t deal with her jealousy.

And that’s what it all comes down to. How much do you value this relationship? Are you willing to give up the band for your girlfriend? And if you did, would you resent her? Would you feel like your relationship still was not based on trust (because you had to remove yourself from the thing/person that your girlfriend was jealous of rather than her accepting that you would never compromise your relationship for someone else)? Your answers to these questions should give you a pretty good indication of the state of your relationship, your commitment to this woman, and whether you are, indeed, the right fit for each other.

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

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

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

37 comments… add one
  • avatar

    absurdfiction March 17, 2015, 12:26 pm

    Haven’t read the letter yet but like always, Wendy wins at picking illustrations!

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    • avatar

      absurdfiction March 17, 2015, 12:38 pm

      Now that I’ve read this, I think you’re girlfriend is acting bananas. You were very smart to rethink moving in with her. I don’t know how this can be resolved, because I don’t see how rewarding her jealous behavior by giving up something that is so important to you is reasonable at all. You will definitely resent her, and so will your bandmates who I imagine also rely on you, at least as much as you rely on your ex to be a good match musically. I doubt your girlfriend is going to wake up tomorrow and go, “Gee, I guess I have been really unreasonable about this and I am now totally fine with everything and I will never bring it up again.”
      .
      By all means, give therapy another couple of months if you really want to see if this can work, but I just don’t think y’all are a good match. And whatever you do, don’t drag this out if you’re looking for marriage/kids. It wouldn’t be fair to either of you.

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      • Just Max

        Just Max March 17, 2015, 3:43 pm

        “I don’t know how this can be resolved, because I don’t see how rewarding her jealous behavior by giving up something that is so important to you is reasonable at all.”

        ^This.

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    MsMisery March 17, 2015, 12:29 pm

    Ahhhhhhhhhhh, this photo. Fleetwood Mac is MY JAM.
    .
    That’s…. really all I have to contribute.

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    • Moneypenny

      Moneypenny March 17, 2015, 1:18 pm

      Meeee tooo! This makes me very happy. I went to their concert in November and it was the BEST!

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      • LadyinPurpleNotRed

        LadyinPurpleNotRed March 17, 2015, 4:45 pm

        I’m seeing them Saturday and I cannot wait. I *may* be more excited for that than my 3 year anniversary on friday.

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      • Moneypenny

        Moneypenny March 17, 2015, 7:28 pm

        OMG!! Have fun!!!

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      • LadyinPurpleNotRed

        LadyinPurpleNotRed March 17, 2015, 7:32 pm

        Thanks!!

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      • avatar

        MsMisery March 18, 2015, 11:49 am

        YAASSS. I’ve seen them together and Stevie solo a buncha times. You’re gonna have a blast.

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  • avatar

    cleopatra jones March 17, 2015, 12:33 pm

    WWS && MOA.
    This just doesn’t feel like it’s a good relationship for you. Seriously, if you’ve done everything in your power to reassure her that you and the ex aren’t secretly pining for each other, there’s really nothing more that you can do.
    .
    I won’t say she has trust issues but this constant arguing, is about so much more than you playing in the band with your ex.

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  • avatar

    Bittergaymark March 17, 2015, 12:39 pm

    Dump the GF. Jealous people? Are simply NOT worth dating. Ever. I’ve NEVER met a jealous person who wasn’t also fucked up in a vast myriad of other ways… RUN!

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  • avatar

    ktfran March 17, 2015, 1:00 pm

    I’m in the choose the band camp. If, as you have said, you’ve been completely up front and honest with your girlfriend about your life – past and present – and she still hasn’t accepted it, then she isn’t the right person for you. I actually thought Wendy was a little too forgiving of this girlfriend in her response. I just don’t see it as you choosing your happiness over her sense of peace, because frankly, I think her sense of peace is unwarranted.
    .
    Chalk this up to mismatched values, MOA, and find someone who isn’t so jealous, because those women exist. Your girlfriend needs to find someone without a past, or someone who has no problem cutting off ties completely with anyone from his past. Frankly, I think it shows far better character to remain friendly with someone you once cared about than to cut all ties.

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    • avatar

      absurdfiction March 17, 2015, 2:40 pm

      I love your last point. If I started dating a guy who was on bad terms with all his exes, I would be very, very wary. That doesn’t mean anyone is obligated to remain friends after a break-up, but I think it shows maturity to be able to at least be civil, if not friendly, with the people you used to date. Especially if they remain a part of your social circle!

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      • avatar

        ktfran March 17, 2015, 2:59 pm

        Agreed! You stated what I was thinking perfectly.
        .
        Of course, I do understand there is often reason for bad blood between exes… and occasionally, civility is just impossible… but, IDK, i’m totally projecting, but all of my relationships with serious boyfriends have ended on good terms and I just don’t see a point for over dramatics unless there is good cause.

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      • avatar

        absurdfiction March 17, 2015, 3:06 pm

        Yeah, and while the ex in this case doesn’t sound like a total peach (re: lying about herpes), if LW can overlook that and is fine with having her around, that is 100% his right!

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  • avatar

    Juliecatharine March 17, 2015, 1:15 pm

    WWS, you can’t fix your girlfriend’s insecurity. Yes, she’s harping on your ex but the bigger issues are insecurity leading to lack of trust. I am in the MOA camp, music is important to you and brings you joy. Your partner should support that and encourage your interests. I do feel for your GF though, it’s not easy to have a really good relationship at 35 that just isn’t quite what it should or could be. However, you shouldn’t be guilted into staying with her just because of the investment of time you’ve both made at a point in your lives when time is extremely valuable. If after almost two years things aren’t peaceful and have never been you have your answer. Do you really want to spend the next 40 years arguing about the same crap every month?

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  • avatar

    lbmatthews March 17, 2015, 1:24 pm

    This one hit home for me. I’m a writer, and my boyfriend of two years does acroyoga on the beach with a plethora of 23-year-old gymnasts and Cirque du Soleil acrobats. We both have to support the other. He’s an acro base, and if I got jealous of every time he threw a perfect female form into the air, we would never have gotten off the dime. Some of them have even asked him why he’s dating me because I don’t have a body like theirs! But I know and trust his values, I know why he loves me, so it really doesn’t bother me and I love that he gets his time in the sun. And it keeps him in great shape!

    Likewise with me, he has to put up with intense stages of no contact when I dive into a serious draft. I travel, I spend money, I have intense artistic sessions with other writers, many of whom are male, I subscribe to and buy stuff that supports my artistic pursuits. And while sometimes he misses me when I go into the zone, he supports it all. He’s actually the first boyfriend I’ve had that I didn’t have to break up with to do a major rewrite. Everyone else I had to show the door first.

    I know there’s the wrinkle that your bandmate is your ex, but I think in essence it’s the same thing. Life partners have to support each other’s pursuits, even if there’s some weirdness, for the partnership to work. If they can’t, that’s a sign that the duo is not good to be partner-o. And it’s nobody’s fault, people are just different and want different things. People are triggered by different things. Sometimes I think good relationships stem from not happening to set off each other’s triggers.

    She’s got triggers that you’re setting off. Not your fault. Let her go, enjoy making music, and be ready to meet someone who isn’t triggered by the things you love.

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    • Miel

      Miel March 17, 2015, 1:56 pm

      You made me look up acroyoga and it looks so cool !!

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      • avatar

        lbm March 19, 2015, 7:29 pm

        It is very cool!!! 🙂 You should try it! It’s a very friendly community.

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  • avatar

    Kaluu March 17, 2015, 1:32 pm

    I’m the jealous type but I wouldn’t go that far. The fact that you only see this person at band and talk about band stuff and the fact that she has had other relationships and doesn’t (like other stories here) insult the new gf, text ex or call him or try to see him or influence him, that would all make it ok for me. I get that it’s hard to find a new band so I’d accept this even being the jealous type. How about some personal therapy for the girlfriend as she’s going a bit too far with this. Such an obsession is not healthy and she must be suffering.

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  • honeybeenicki

    honeybeenicki March 17, 2015, 1:35 pm

    As the wife of a musician, I say pick the band. You will never be able to have a sturdy relationship full of trust if you continue in this relationship. When you find a group of musicians you click with and you work well together, that’s amazing. It doesn’t happen all the time. You can’t do anything about your girlfriend’s jealousy. You’ve done everything in your power to make her feel better about it, but that’s all you can do. And I’m with BGM – I’m not a fan of jealous people. Both of my kids are being raised by a jealous person (their mom) and it bleeds over (ex: Dad looking at a picture of a pretty woman on FB? OMG YOU’RE CHEATING! …er, no). That’s no way to live.

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    • Diablo

      Diablo March 17, 2015, 2:29 pm

      Yeah, I will also echo the sentiment of the letter writer that at our age (I’m even older then him – gasp!), it’s not always easy to find people to play with. Music in my town has gone either techno/DJish or rather limp “new folk” or highly technical death metal (apparently, Saskatoon has this huge underground death metal scene that oldies like me are only nominally aware of), none of which is exactly to my taste. A lot of people playing my types of music (songwriterly R&B, some folk, lots of punk, guitar-driven pop, etc of the last 30-40 years) are in half-assed bar bands that play “Brown Eyed Girl” to death. After my longtime music buddy moved to the coast a few years back, it’s taken me several years, and I’ve just recently found new people to play with, and it’s great. Because two of these people are women (a professional colleague and her sister), I’ve introduced them to M, so that she can feel okay. (They are married too, but also to non-musicians.) But it is a fine line to walk. M made a joke that they were giving me something I couldn’t get at home. A joke, yes, but you could feel the fear in it. Because making music is an intimate, emotional experience. if you’re doing it right.

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      • honeybeenicki

        honeybeenicki March 17, 2015, 4:10 pm

        Sorry, but when I saw “Saskatoon” and “death metal” in the same sentence I just about spit out my water at my desk. But, I love death metal so its all good 🙂

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      • Diablo

        Diablo March 17, 2015, 6:39 pm

        I know, right? Never judge a book by its cover. The city was actually founded by a temperance colony (ie – no alcohol), so when I was a kid, there was still a bylaw that all bars had to have their widows blacked so no young impressionable persons should know alcohol existed. It was a bit like Footloose. And this was the 70’s, As in, following the 60’s. Hippies. The sexual revolution. Recreational drugs. It was easier to score grass as a 16 yo than to pull beer. But perhaps this explains the undercurrent of rebellion, and the current generation’s rage. [makes horns of metal sign]

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      • Diablo

        Diablo March 17, 2015, 6:41 pm

        Oh, re the 16 yo grass and beer thing, i just forgot to type, “or so I heard.” Not me. I was an honours student. A cub scout. uhhh… nemmind.

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  • avatar

    muchachaenlaventana March 17, 2015, 1:56 pm

    Yeah so I think your girlfriend is way out of line here. I agree this is about more than the band mate and honestly if in almost 2 years she has not gotten over this and you have given her no reason to doubt you or mistrust you regarding this ex, it may be time to move on. My boyfriend is in a band and they are all dudes but I would never ever ask him to choose that over me. He is also starting a new band with a female I like but am not overly fond of, again I would never feel jealous or resentful of that time they spend together or whatever because that band fulfills a really important void in his life. I get the feelings of insecurity she may have to an extent, but that is something that should have been resolved a long time ago.

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  • avatar

    memboard March 17, 2015, 2:15 pm

    Didn’t we read the same story but from the girlfirend’s perspective a few weeks ago?

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  • mylaray

    mylaray March 17, 2015, 3:44 pm

    Yeah, I think if you give up the band for your girlfriend, both of you will feel resentment. Plus, I do think she is being unreasonable. Dating band members is so common and it says a lot that your band can go on regardless and work everything out. If she hasn’t gotten over it now, I doubt she will change her mind.

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  • avatar

    jessmess March 17, 2015, 5:05 pm

    Am I the only one that finds it odd that the ex hid the fact that she had herpes from him and he still wants to be around get? Romantically involved or not, I wouldn’t want to be around that kind of person and if the ex can give him herpes, it seems like she may be capable of more.

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    • avatar

      shakeourtree March 17, 2015, 8:05 pm

      I think you’ve pointed out something really important here. He says he was mistreated by his ex. Not telling someone about having herpes and having unprotected sex with them is a pretty shitty thing to do, and since he now has herpes, it affects his girlfriend too. If the ex would do something like that, I wonder what other crappy things she did to him that the girlfriend knows about. That might be part of the girlfriend’s problem. He thinks it’s not a big deal because they’re just playing music together. His girlfriend, though, might see it as him having boundary issues or being a pushover by allowing toxic people to remain in his life. Honestly, I think it’s probably a little of column A and a little of column B. On one hand, his girlfriend might be a little insecure, sure, but on the other, I can totally see why she wouldn’t like him seeing his ex so much. Hopefully couple therapy will give them some clarity.

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    • niki

      niki March 18, 2015, 8:09 am

      I have to say I also find it odd that the LW would choose to keep someone like that in his life. As the girlfriend I wouldn’t be jealous that he was civil with an ex, I would wonder about my bf’s character in that he would keep someone so morally bankrupt in his life. But, having said that my solution wouldn’t be to fight about it on a monthly basis. I would either have to make peace with it or leave.

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    • avatar

      tbrucemom March 18, 2015, 9:38 am

      I agree. I think its this particular ex that’s the problem. I would question his judgment wanting a person that would knowingly give him an incurable and contagious disease in his life. That’s a big fucking deal! It sounds like there are other things too. I think there’s more going on with him. Maybe he does still have a thing for the ex or there’s some guilt about his girlfriend having to deal with him having herpes. I would make him choose because as it is they’re not going to make it anyway.

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    • avatar

      Greyson March 18, 2015, 12:02 pm

      Wow, I completely agree with all this comments. That was what stuck out for me as well.

      It’s possible the OP is a push over for letting toxic people remain in his life yet stubborn and inflexible towards his GF. Hard to tell from this letter, though it seems the truth is somewhere in between.

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  • avatar

    Joanie March 17, 2015, 5:32 pm

    I disagree that the girlfriend is being totally unreasonable with her feelings. This is an unusual and hard situation that most people in relationships don’t go through. The occasional lunch or catch-up with an ex, sure. But it is not abnormal for someone to have a reaction to their significant seeing someone on the regular with whom they have an intimate and sexual history.

    I’m a musician, and I do get that it’s difficult to build musical relationships and even harder to find people you really click with. If he’s unwilling to end this musical relationship with his ex, I wonder if there could be ways to make his girlfriend feel more comfortable – having his girlfriend be at a practice a couple times, or getting to know the ex a little better, just so she’s not living with stories in her mind on what “could be” happening (or re-blooming, which is not completely outside the realm of possibility).

    I agree with Wendy that it comes down to his willingness to compromise, or find a creative solution which respects his girlfriend’s feelings and also allows him to pursue his musical endeavors. I don’t think it’s necessarily at the pick-one-or-the-other phase yet – it might just take some compromise and finessing, which is part of any relationship.

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    • avatar

      Greyson March 18, 2015, 11:35 am

      I agree with you.

      We are reading the letter from the OP’s perspective. If the girlfriend was to weigh in there might be information he conveniently failed to mention because I don’t think people are by rule jealous for no reason. That aside, from what he did share I can see how the GF became bothered.

      Ex-GF is someone who gave the OP herpes, which affects the girlfriend’s sex life with her guy. By his own words he overshared other anecdotes of HOW the ex-GF treated him badly, so is it any surprise she doesn’t get why he keeps someone like that in his life?

      Right now, they are at an impasse. There are plenty situations where Exes played together in bands without lingering drama, they two REMAINED friends (No Doubt is a great example of this). I find it odder that the OP has zero contact with this ex-GF except for band practice, yet is reluctant to change up his band situation. I play music too. It’s hard to find people, but it’s not impossible. Personally, I wouldn’t want to play with musicians I didn’t share at least friendship and mutual respect.. so this ONE THING bothers his girlfriend and he’s fighting tooth and nail to keep a woman he has a bad history with but says he doesn’t interact with at all outside of music practice/shows in his life? Doesn’t pass the smell test for me.

      That he is so unwilling to compromise makes me think either he has unresolved feelings for her in some way, or he has misrepresented to his GF what his relationship with the ex-GF is truly like. I would advise the girlfriend to MOA because the man she wants to marry is having doubts because he values having an Ex as a bandmate — who he supposedly never talks to outside of band — is more important.

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  • avatar

    SasLinna March 18, 2015, 1:52 am

    The band issue is probably just a symptom of a bigger problem. It sounds like you haven’t found a way to resolve this conflict. I really wonder why that hasn’t been possible – maybe both of you weren’t honest enough about its dealbreaker nature, or maybe you were too afraid to just put your foot down on this and see whether whe would be able to accept it. In any case, this doesn’t bode well for future conflicts. Also, I think you’re just not that into her. Making a commitment should not be so hard, especially for people of your age who know themselves quite well. If it were right, you’d be more excited. Couples therapy after less than 2 yrs and not living together also shows this I believe. This just sounda unnecessarily hard.

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  • avatar

    Breezy AM March 20, 2015, 4:41 pm

    Wow.
    .
    I used to always get grumpy when people said jealous people are wacko ( 😛 BGM! ) but… reading this… I realize I am not actually in fact jealous. I was having totally normal reactions to the abnormal head fuckery my ex was putting me through. I was having tingly spidey sense that something was OFF. And it WAS.
    .
    Jack Sparrow on the other hand? Despite having open relationships his whole life, he totally didn’t care I wasn’t up for it, was like “whatever, that’s cool, we won’t do that now then.” (And I don’t have any weird spidey sense screaming THIS DUDE IS FULL OF SHIT like I did with my ex). And he has this girl at work who is always making comments on how well built he is (seriously, oh.my.god…. I keep telling him he has a better body than most guys half his age, and he doesn’t buy it because he looked like a greek god then 😛 ). And like I totally do not care! It doesn’t even make me do a thing other than giggle in amusement at his shock that someone else notices he’s hot.
    .
    So I’m NOT a jealous person. I WASN’T a crazy bitch.
    .
    This woman, if OP is being honest, she seems rather jealous, or tired of the massive amount of space she may perceive the ex is taking up in their lives. I can imagine both sides.

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