Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Morning Quickie: “My Boyfriend Still Tells His Ex He Loves Her”

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I have a question that I am not sure I want to know the answer to; however, in order to move to the next level I need an outside view. My boyfriend and I have been going out a year, we have both been married before and have grown children with our exes. We are in our 40s and both have careers. My issue, and what I feel may be the ultimate demise of our relationship, is that he still tells his ex wife he loves her and supports her financially even though it is not a court order. She is a meth addict and has no known work and probably never will. I feel he may ask me to marry him — and oh how I want to say yes, but how can I?

I have told him it bothers me that he says he loves her and I think he has stopped?!? I am not a snoopy person, but every text he gets I feel it may be her. It’s always in the back of my mind — ALWAYS — and it’s driving me crazy!!! I tend to bring it up more then I should.

What if he asks me to marry him? Do I say yes but give him ultimatums? Do I say “not until you’re ready to give yourself fully”?? I need advice on what to say and quick before I ruin a good thing. — Preparing for a Proposal

How good of a thing is it if you’re constantly worried about your boyfriend’s relationship with his ex-wife, wondering every single time he gets a text if it’s her, worrying about whether he still loves her and is telling her so, and obsessing over what to say if he asks you to marry him? The time to tell him you’re unsatisfied in the relationship isn’t when he proposes; it’s now. And until you’re satisfied with him and aren’t feeling any more insecurity about the ex-wife and her role in your boyfriend’s life (and heart), the answer to any potential proposal should be “No.” Not “maybe,” not “yes, but first…,” not even, “I’m not sure.” The answer is “no” until you have no more doubts about him, your relationship, and his feelings towards his ex. If your boyfriend is still supporting his ex-wife and telling her he loves her, something’s not right. You deserve to know what the deal is, and until your boyfriend can convince you he’s moved on, you should not move forward with him.

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16 comments… add one
  • avatar

    SailBobo September 15, 2015, 9:31 am

    I agree with Wendy that now is not time to think about getting married. But without knowing more about the situation it’s tough for me to say whether he’s too attached or you’re to sensitive.

    How long has he been divorced? How frequently does he talk to his ex? Do they talk about more than just the children? Are there any other indications that he has romantic feelings for her?

    Some people say “I love you.” for more than just romantic reasons. I have a male friend (I’m male) that says it to me. Some people are just very open with their feelings. As far as financial support goes, does he give her a lot? Has it created a financial problem? It’s going to be tough to tell him what he should or shouldn’t do with his money.

    All in all, he sounds like a decent guy who feels sorry for his meth addicted ex-wife. Some people are just more moved by human tragedy than others. I find it interesting that you feel threatened by a hopeless meth addict. I would feel pity instead of jealousy (unless there are other indicators).

    Here’s what bothers me in relationships though, some women love to date nice guys because they’re sensitive to people’s feelings and they do kind things, but once they start dating the women only want those guys to be nice to them. Here’s the crux of the thing, you have to take all of him. If you like him because he’s a nice guy then you have to realize he’s going to be nice to a lot of people – and that it might take some time away from you. You have to look at all of the clues and decide whether you think he is still holding out hope for his ex-wife, or whether you think his doing it because he’s just a nice and decent guy who can’t bear to see someone he once cared about hit rock bottom. If you decide it’s because he’s nice, then you have to decide whether you are the kind of person that can be with a truly nice guy, understanding that you are not the only person who is going to be on the receiving end.

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    • Guy Friday

      Guy Friday September 15, 2015, 9:42 am

      Here’s the crux of the thing, you have to take all of him. If you like him because he’s a nice guy then you have to realize he’s going to be nice to a lot of people – and that it might take some time away from you.
      .
      For the record, LW, this was a HUGE issue for my wife when we first got together, so please don’t feel bad if that turns out to be the issue here. It took her through our engagement and into our first year of marriage before she could accept that, yeah, I’m going to buy homeless guys sandwiches and give rides to clients who don’t have bus fare and generally extend myself for others, even when it’s inconvenient for me. I’d like to say we resolved it by equal compromise, but the truth is it involved me bending a little (letting my wife set defined “no phone” times) and her bending a lot (accepting that I can’t change my nature on that front). Sometimes that’s just what needs to happen.

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      • avatar

        anonymousse September 15, 2015, 10:09 am

        You sound like a stand up guy!
        My husband is that way, and frankly, I adore it. It’s made me be more giving.
        One of the things that really struck me when we first started dating is how many people would come up to us and sincerely thank him for helping them in whatever way., for a sandwich or a coffee or for listening when they really needed a friend. We went to a wedding, and the groom thanked my husband in his speech for hiring him and giving him a second chance…
        A lot of people probably think this generosity is unfounded and you are being taken advantage of, but I really believe in the concept of community and what goes around, comes around. Charitable, generous people are what make the world a little bit better of a place, especially when it can often be very dark and gloomy.
        LW, accept him for how he is now, or move on. If you have no idea, really that he says “I love you,” to her, you shouldn’t worry about it. He’s dating you. You can still have love for someone who was once in your life. It sounds like he cares for her and her wellbeing. While I’d worry he was enabling her addiction or bad behavior, it is his money, and his to do with as he pleases. If anything, I’d talk to him about long term plans for her. Maybe he could get her into a treatment program and really help her out. Then once she’s stable, cut down the money? But don’t give him an ultimatum. Accept him for the person he is and try to see the bright side of his generosity.

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  • Guy Friday

    Guy Friday September 15, 2015, 9:35 am

    I agree with Wendy’s advice about the LW not accepting the proposal until she doesn’t feel these doubts anymore, but allow me to play Devil’s Advocate for a moment on the issue of “love” and financial support: this guy has at least one grown child with his ex, so if he’s in his 40s then he was at least 31 when the child was born. More likely than not he was in his 20s, meaning that he likely spent almost half his life connected to this woman. So she’s in the grips of an addiction — which I’m assuming the child knows about as well — and can’t keep a job, which you’ve got to imagine upsets him (as the father of their child) and the child. He may feel partly responsible for not helping her with her addiction sooner; as irrational as that is, it’s a common feeling in spouses and family members of addicts. Is it possible that the financial support is for the sake of his child, not his ex? That perhaps he’s doing it because it will help his child not worry about whether his/her mother will end up homeless on the streets? I mean, we don’t know what “financial support” means, and I think there’s a difference between passing her cash and paying directly for rent on an apartment.
    .
    As for “love,” there’s this notion that a person only has X units of love to give, and that any amount spent on someone other than your significant other means you have less to give him or her. But, again, he probably spent half his life with this woman. He had a CHILD with this woman, presumably one the guy loves and is close to. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that there is going to still be some love between the parents of a child, even if it’s more a “Look what an amazing kid we made together” thing. And if you couple that with the addiction, I could absolutely find it plausible that he’s saying “I love you” to his ex as a way of saying “I support you emotionally, and I’m here for you if you’re struggling with your addiction because it benefits our child to have you healthy.” Sure, he could say it that way, but if she understands his meaning to be that then that’s all that should matter. And, more importantly, when you asked him to stop you haven’t been given any reason to believe he continued it beyond your own fear, which shows that he’s concerned about how you feel. But I don’t think any love he feels for her negates what he feels for you, nor does it mean he’s any less committed to a life with you.
    .
    All I’m saying, beyond the obvious “Talk to him and tell him what you’re thinking,” is that it’s possible he’s doing these things for his child moreso than his ex, and so I would make sure that’s not the case first. You dated a man with a child and an ex, which means he has baggage, but that doesn’t mean his baggage can’t fit in your home; it just make take some teamwork to figure out what closet to store it in 🙂

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    • juliecatharine

      juliecatharine September 15, 2015, 9:56 am

      Very well said. I would like to know how long both of them have been divorced and if it’s a first serious relationship since either or both their respective exes. Maybe I’m naive but I would hope some love would remain between people who were once married and had children together. The LW’s boyfriend doesn’t seem to be hiding anything or acting shady. If anything she could choose to be happy that her man is the type of guy to keep the mother of his child close to his heart even if their romantic relationship is long over.

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      • avatar

        kali September 15, 2015, 11:54 am

        Sorry, juliecatherine, you’re naive. Just because people have been married, even long term, and had children together doesn’t mean that one partner can’t effectively kill off any positive feelings the other might once have had for them. Sadly.
        .
        I was married to me ex for over 20 years, we have two wonderful daughters together and three grandkids and can barely stand to be around him. He doesn’t all the same stupid crap he did when we were married and his new heavily medicated wife thinks he’s a godsend because he doesn’t beat her like her first spouse. There’s someone for everyone, I suppose.
        .
        Sorry to go so far off topic.

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      • Stonegypsy

        Stonegypsy September 15, 2015, 2:44 pm

        Sorry, what’s naive about saying that it’s a *good* thing when people who were a big part of each others’ lives can still have good feelings between them? Just because it didn’t work that way for you doesn’t mean that anyone who does have a good relationship with their ex is shady.

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  • avatar

    humboldthoney September 15, 2015, 9:40 am

    Wendy’s right. You should voice your concerns now. If you do end up engaged, will he still be supporting her? What is his end plan for taking care of his ex wife?

    I think we may need some more info like a pervious comment said. Do you think he still loves her, or is IN love with her? There’s a big difference. I mean, when you get married, typically its for best and for worst. Perhaps him taking care of her still is a sign that he took his vows seriously and cares for her as a person, but isn’t in love with her. You two should talk about his feelings, your feelings, and how long his plan for caring for his ex wife?

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  • avatar

    Essie September 15, 2015, 9:46 am

    Just a thought on the financial situation….I have a divorced friend with grown children who still partially supports his ex-wife. She’s got physical and emotional issues and also doesn’t work. He does it for a few reasons: he’s protecting his kids from having to support her, at a time when they’re just starting their own adult lives. He doesn’t want her to lose the house, as she probably wouldn’t be able to get an apartment on her own. And, he can afford it. He makes good money and looks at it as part of being a dad. And even though he doesn’t love her anymore, it would pain him to see her out on the street. He’s a religious man, and I don’t think he could square it with his faith if he let her drown.
    .
    Sure, many people would say why the hell would a man support his ex-wife if he doesn’t have to. But in the case of my friend, I can’t argue with his reasons.
    .
    Just something to think about.
    .
    Now as for telling her he loves her, that’s another story. Wendy’s right. This is something you need to discuss with him, in detail, before either one of you even thinks about marriage.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros September 15, 2015, 10:08 am

    Ugh, I typed this whole thing and then posted it on the wrong thread and then lost it. If you are unsure, then don’t say yes (or maybe). Ultimatums are bad news. I’m concerned that a proposal could come without you ever having resolved this because typically proposals come after couples talk about their futures and other plans. The fact that you have gotten to this point without talking about it makes me question the communication you two have.
    .
    Considering his ex’s situation, I imagine he knows that if he didn’t help, she’d probably end up homeless or in financial ruin. Despite the fact that he’s probably a kind person, he probably doesn’t want his kids to be responsible for bailing their mom out when they are probably raising their own families or getting started in life.
    .
    You need to ask what I love you means in that context. Telling him to stop is useless because if there is something behind it, all it does is just make him lie to you or feel it and not say it. The problem is if he is IN love with her, not whether he says it or not.

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  • Diablo

    Diablo September 15, 2015, 10:37 am

    As a non-standard male, I have always had more female friends than male. I had a wide group of close female friends when I met my wife. Many of those friendships I just had to let go of. My wife had been hurt before, and it was just too complicated to pursue her and these other friendships at that time. (No problem, good deal for me anyway.) It was easier later to make new friends with her involved, and I still remained friends with the closest of my former women friends. Lately, I have started making music with a couple of newly made female friends. (Understand this: playing music is a very intimate and personal activity.) When my friend W wanted me to record some guitar tracks on a song of hers, even now, it created a bit of awkwardness. The difference is M and I have been together for 26 years. She trusts that i won’t carry the musical relationship over into anything that would affect our marriage. (And i won’t. I love M. And W is married and i have met her husband.) She trusts that I can share friendship and even this type of intimacy with others, but will not betray her.
    .
    LW, you don’t have this level of trust with your guy. I do think you need to find out where his feelings truly lie. I liked a lot of what Guy Friday had to say. What your guy and his ex shared can never really be over because of the child(ren? not sure). His love for the child(ren) will always connect him to the ex no matter what happens to her. And in the long run, you really can’t expect any person not to share love with anyone else on the planet besides you. That’s not really the promise made in a marriage anyway. I think you need to find out where you stand. Even if YOU are being unreasonable, if you can’t shake your doubts, well, you can’t. Even in your 40s, you should never be in a rush to be married. As Wendy says, do it only when you have no doubts.

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  • avatar

    kali September 15, 2015, 11:58 am

    One other thought: the guy is totally enabling his ex. This is not a good way to handle addicts. Maybe he needs to go to Al Anon and learn some different coping skills.

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    • Guy Friday

      Guy Friday September 15, 2015, 2:04 pm

      Well, we don’t know that he’s enabling her. Like I said, “financial support” can mean many things. If he’s handing her money, then I’d agree with you. If he’s instead paying her rent and literally putting food in her fridge, I don’t think I’d call that enabling any more than I’d call it “enabling” a college student by helping them with tuition and food. Or a child. Because, let’s face it, when you’re deep in addiction your impulse control and rationality becomes that of a child. Truthfully, if this woman is as bad as the LW says, she’s going to find her food/shelter somewhere, and if taking care of rent and food keeps her from engaging in riskier behavior than she already is by using than it may be the lesser of two evils for their family (and by “their family” I mean the boyfriend and his child(ren) ).

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  • avatar

    Katmich15 September 15, 2015, 12:22 pm

    Just wondering, has she ASKED him why he tells his ex he loves her? She’s asked him to stop, but has she asked him why he does it? There are many possible reasons but only he can tell her for sure. Sure he could lie but it might just be that he feels sorry for her, or that he does still love her but not in a romantic way. Regardless of the reason, it’s inappropriate for him to say that to her but I think the reason behind it is the most important thing. And if she’s even considering marrying him they need to be able to communicate well enough to have a discussion about something this important.

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  • avatar

    Texas T September 15, 2015, 1:12 pm

    In the words of Iron Maiden: “RUN TO THE HILLS! RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!”
    Like honestly! Why put up with this bull hockey?!

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  • avatar

    Slh64 November 18, 2017, 12:31 am

    The simple fact that he has had a physical relationship with this person and bore a child together and is now devoted to bother but saying the same thing to both women. I’d feel quite displaced and upset. Especially if there us a burden of financial needs. Love shouldn’t be a part of it caring and comforting and supporting and ex partner doesn’t need to entail love. Especially when he jadls devoted himself to another and says the very same thing to you. There are lines and boundaries that should be respected. His past life may entail other relationships and children, but is he even seeing how this effects the person he is supposibly currently in love with? If it’s a monogamous relationship saying I love you to a person you were previously in a serious relationship with means a hell of a lot than “I care about your well being”

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