Late last night during our phone conversation. he mentioned that that he had gone out to dinner with his daughter, his ex-wife, and his ex-father-in-law. It bothered me a lot and I’m not sure if it was just plain jealousy or the fact that I didn’t really have a head’s up or time to adjust to the idea or even to talk about it with him. I’m not exactly sure how I’m supposed to feel; I like that he and his ex have a civil relationship and I don’t expect them as a family to never get together, but what is acceptable and what is not acceptable?
She’s not a fan of me whatsoever, considering I have just disrupted her idea of the pretend perfect life she wanted her kids to live, and she has tried to talk my boyfriend out of allowing me to be any part of the kids’ lives or even his, so I guess part of me feels like every chance she has to capture his attention is a victory for her.
Is it wrong that I feel like the only interacting they should be doing is in regard to business about the kids? — The New Girl
I don’t think you’re wrong to not trust the ex-wife or to feel confused by the nature of the relationship between your boyfriend and his ex. But I do think you need to get clarity for yourself about what you’re ok with and what you aren’t and then to express that tactfully to your boyfriend. You say you “don’t expect them as a family to never get together,” and then ask what is and is not acceptable, but the truth is that only YOU can say what boundaries you’re comfortable with and think are appropriate. Your boyfriend may disagree with you, and that’s his right. That’s when it’s important to have a conversation about this in which you discuss your feelings, what you’re comfortable with, and what you aren’t comfortable with. And he can explain where he’s coming from (it sounds like this is all pretty new for him, too, and he’s also figuring things out). And maybe, through the conversation (or conversations, plural), you both gain a clearer understanding of the other’s perspective. And maybe there isn’t a solution that feels 100% comfortable — you may never like when your boyfriend spends time in the company of his ex, for example — but you can at least appreciate intent and feelings. And you can continue to re-visit the issue, check in with each other, and even adjust boundaries and expectations according to circumstance and feelings. Ultimately, what this comes down to is respect, trust, and open communication. If you can maintain those in your relationship — and, really, this goes for all relationships — you’re setting yourself up for success, especially if you are well-matched in terms of values, goals, and compatibility.
All that said, I’d be a little leery about your boyfriend being the kind of guy who “just goes along with whatever is expected from him.” In a healthy relationship there’s give and take — there are two sets of expectations, not just one person solely meeting the expectations of the other. You may think, in regards to his ex-wife, this trait of your boyfriends puts him in a sympathetic light, making him something of a martyr, but it’s not heroic to keep your own needs buried and to simply do “what’s expected of you.” It’s actually kind of emotionally lazy and passive. In a relationship, you want your partner to be an active participant, to take equal responsibility in the “mental load” of maintaining the relationship — to not just strive to meet expectations, but also to express them and to work with you in making sure the expectations are fair and just. You have a chance to work on exactly that when you bring to your boyfriend’s attention your feelings about his relationship with his ex. Good luck!
Then this summer he started liking my Facebook posts, and even though I like to say I didn’t notice, I did. I know it sounds stupid — that a Facebook like is just a Facebook like, but not with my ex. Then I visited my friend at her school — which happens to be the same school that my ex goes to — for a party and I drunkenly called him just to let him know that I was there and wanted to say hi. He followed up by saying that he missed me and was going to end things with his current girlfriend (of over a year) and that he wanted to see me. We text a little bit now, but sometimes he just stops responding. If I am being honest with myself, I still love him but I am not in love with him. Part of me wants to stay in contact with him because I feel like he is the one, but another part of me knows that it’s just going to be difficult, especially because he still has a girlfriend. He said he was going to break up with her, but that was a few weeks ago and they are still together. Maybe he is waiting to see me to see if we could become something? What do I do to stop him from walking all over me and using me? How do I finally get him to want to be with me and not just sleep with me?
My friends are sick of hearing about him, so you’re all I’ve got. — Waiting for the Ex
Oh, for God’s sake, just move on. It’s been over four years of this bullshit. Aren’t you over it yet? Your friends are! Your ex probably is (hence why you haven’t heard from him in weeks). This clearly is not healthy for either one of you. You’re not in love with him, you think he’s “walking all over you” and “using you,” which doesn’t even make sense as you are as much an active participant in this silly game as he is. What are you two doing? Just stop. It’s immature and it’s dumb. If he were “the one,” none of this would be happening. At some point in the years of these random exchanges — the drunk texts, the Facebook likes, the hook-ups — you would have reignited your relationship. It hasn’t happened. It’s been years and it hasn’t happened. You’re probably both a little bored and unfulfilled and have these nostalgic, warm feelings for each other that keep manifesting in bad decisions. Leave the past in the past. Let the nostalgic, warm feelings exist in your memory and leave your heart open for someone else, because this guy isn’t “the one.” You should know that by now. Don’t you??
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.