Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Girlfriend Isn’t Over Her Dead Boyfriend”

I’m a 22-year-old guy dating a 21-year-old lady whose high school boyfriend of two years died in their last year of high school, while they were still dating. The lady claims to love me so much and I love her even more, but she can’t stop telling me about and posting stuff about her ex/dead boyfriend and celebrating his anniversary by totally ignoring me and not being willing to even be around me for a few days before and after the anniversary.

I don’t believe I can force her to give up this “celebration of his death” but perhaps if she understands that, by respecting the memory of him, she does not have to include everyone she knows on how she is still grieving, this would be better. She should at least consider my feelings. I’m not asking her to completely give up her rituals on the anniversary of his death — I can understand that they were partners. But at the very least, she should not post all her thoughts and photos and other stuff on social networks or whatsapp for the world to see that she misses him everyday. I really feel uncomfortable with it — it makes me believe that she has low interest in me and that she really believes that that the dude was her soulmate, which makes me a rebound who doesn’t feel like she loves me with everything she’s got.

I am wondering if the lady is really ready to be in a relationship where she can give her heart to a guy. It kinda sounds that her heart is in the grave with her ex right now. For me, dead or not dead — he’s still an ex. Please advise me on this as I really don’t know what to believe. — Tired of Competing with a Dead Ex

First of all, your “lady’s” dead boyfriend isn’t really an “ex” unless they were broken up when he died. If they were still dating, which it sounds like they were, he’s her “late boyfriend” not “ex-boyfriend.” It’s more than just semantics — “ex” has a different connotation, symbolizing a type of closure that is different than the closure you get from a partner dying. It may be that she still hasn’t found closure from her relationship with her late boyfriend. Or it may be that she’s simply still mourning. Or it could be that, like many people who have lost someone they love, the anniversary of the death stirs up a lot of emotions that take a few weeks to absorb and process. This doesn’t mean your girlfriend isn’t “ready for a relationship” or that she can’t “give her heart” to anyone else though.

What’s most striking to me about this situation isn’t so much her behavior, which sounds pretty normal for a 21-year-old still processing the very early death of her high school sweetheart, but it’s your reaction to her behavior. You sound jealous, possessive, and disrespectful. To say she’s “celebrating” the anniversary of her late boyfriend’s death, for example, rather than “observing” it is akin to calling him her “ex” — it signals a total lack of regard on your part for what he meant to her when he died and how his death affected her. And not for nothing, but calling your girlfriend “the lady” is another example of how your choice of semantics speaks volumes about how you regard her. I don’t sense love or compassion from you at all. And I don’t think you have the emotional maturity to handle a relationship with someone dealing with complicated emotions. Or, like, any emotion at all that deviates from blind devotion to you and the public expression of that devotion so that everyone knows whom she belongs to.

Women do not exist to serve you, to fluff your ego, and to make you feel adored. That doesn’t mean you can’t find one who will do just that (lord knows I’ve received hundreds of letters through the years from women who eagerly fit that role), but clearly this woman has other priorities. If you can’t handle that — and it doesn’t sound like you can — you need to MOA.

I have been dating a man for twenty months. He is 54 and I am 50. Our recurring issue is his Facebook activity. He constantly friends single women he doesn’t know, and then he likes every single post or picture they put up. He loves to post our dates, but without mention of his being with me — just a picture of himself at a ball game or on a bridge… and he won’t change his relationship status from “single” or mention to anyone on FB that he has a girlfriend. He thinks because he isn’t “inappropriate” with these girls he is doing nothing wrong. He says he thinks Facebook is just silly fun, that he is committed, and that he is a private person, so I need to get over it. I keep saying I am not comfortable with it and do not want to date someone who behaves this way. We keep breaking up over this until he says he understands and admits he needs to do things differently. But then a new girl pops up and he does the same thing all over, and we repeat the same words. Do I just need to give up and lose this guy? I want to show him your answer – he thinks he is doing nothing differently than anyone else does. — Tired of His Behavior

 
I get where you’re coming from — I wouldn’t want to be with a guy who behaved the way you’re describing either. Some people might not be bothered by it, but I would be. Which is why I’m not with a guy who behaves that way. Why are you? You’ve told your boyfriend multiple times you are uncomfortable with his behavior and that you don’t want to date someone who behaves that way, and yet… you keep dating someone who behaves that way. You can’t control his behavior, and he clearly isn’t interested in changing anyway. But you can control your own behavior! If you say you don’t want to date someone who behaves like your boyfriend behaves, STOP DATING YOUR BOYFRIEND. He sounds like a loser, anyway. A fifty-four year-old man friending random women on Facebook and then liking everything they post? Creep alert! MOA!

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

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​(AT)​dearwendy.com.

22 comments… add one
  • avatar

    dinoceros August 18, 2017, 9:08 am

    LW1: On one hand, I think it’s possible she’s not ready for another relationship. On the other hand, it’s hard for me to trust your observations because, like Wendy said, you appear to have no empathy or caring for your girlfriend. Nowhere did you say that you’re worried about her or hate seeing her hurting. You were only concerned about how it makes you look and how jealous you feel. So, knowing that, I don’t feel that I can trust your observation that she’s doing anything abnormal. Regardless, I think you need to move on. Either she’s not ready or she’s with someone who doesn’t really care much about her as a person, and neither one of those things makes for a good relationship.

    LW2: You don’t need to show your boyfriend the answer, you need to show YOURSELF the answer. This is a no-brainer. Your boyfriend does stuff that makes you feel disrespected and is not how you want to have a relationship. You break up, he lies, you believe him and get back together, and he doesn’t change. Why on earth do you need a stranger on the internet to tell you to stop getting back together?

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    • avatar

      ktfran August 18, 2017, 9:17 am

      You perfectly summed up what was bothersome about LW1. It was all about him and how she made him look on social media. Ick.

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  • avatar

    csp August 18, 2017, 9:10 am

    LW1 – This behavior is very normal but you just don’t know enough grieving people. I have a friend whose wife died in their twenties. He is now remarried with a child but every year on facebook, he posts a pick of his first wife and says it will always be her day. You wouldn’t feel this day if it was her mom or her close friend. This doesn’t mean that she doesn’t love you, just that she has lost someone.

    LW2 – while this isn’t heinous behavior, I wouldn’t like it and wouldn’t take it.

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  • Copa

    Copa August 18, 2017, 9:27 am

    LW1: Two of my friends from high school dated during our senior year, then on and off for awhile during college. The woman met someone new when we were seniors in college. Not long after, her ex-boyfriend died of colon cancer very suddenly and at a very young age. This was almost 10 years ago. She STILL posts to social media when she thinks about him. She STILL posts that she loves him and misses him and thinks of him often. It’s far less frequent now, but for years, it was pretty constant. He was her high school sweetheart and one of her best friends, and I’ve never thought it was weird. It was how she processed her loss and handled her grief. Her new boyfriend was fine with all of this. That said, I think you need to move on because, like Wendy says, you can’t handle a partner with complicated emotions — and because you seem sure that she’s not ready for a relationship.
    .
    LW2: Your boyfriend sounds creepy. Any time you “keep breaking up with someone” over any reason, that’s a pretty good indicator that it’s time to stay broken up.

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  • avatar

    napoleon1066 August 18, 2017, 9:36 am

    I’m going to start calling my wife “the lady” all the time. I expect divorce to follow shortly thereafter.

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    • avatar

      MaggieB August 18, 2017, 6:38 pm

      I would love for him to refer to me as “the lady,” but he’d be required to say it in a different funny voice every time. “The layyyyyydeeeee!”

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  • TaraMonster

    TaraMonster August 18, 2017, 10:03 am

    “I want to show him your answer – he thinks he is doing nothing differently than anyone else does. ”

    LW2, you SHOULD show him this because his behavior is super creepy and gross. I sometimes get random friend requests from men, and used to accept the friend requests before being certain I knew them somehow*. I NEVER do this anymore because they behave exactly like your creepy ass boyfriend—liking all my pictures and/or sending me weird messages, which would prompt me to unfriend/block them. After you’ve let your bf see the general consensus that’s he’s acting like a gross, misogynistic weirdo, go ahead and dump him.

    *My boyfriend has extended family in another country, so his relatives sometimes friend me. I found it a bit odd at first, but this is their way of getting to “know” me, and it’s actually quite sweet. One of his aunts, whom I’ve never met, regularly sends me adorable photos she finds of my bf as a chubby toddler <3. However, I quickly learned to screen all random requests through my BF or his mom to keep the creepers out!

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom August 18, 2017, 10:16 am

    LW1 I think you need to move on. I don’t think you are ready to handle her emotions and she may not be ready for a relationship.

    He isn’t her ex because they never reached the point where at least one of them realized they weren’t going to work long term. They never had the relationship break apart because they weren’t getting along or realized they had different life goals or dreams. Part of the trouble with that is that he can always seem perfect. He will always be the right guy who died. He will always be a perfect fit and a perfect partner. It is easy to fantasize about how life would have been with him and in the fantasy he will always do things right.

    I’d move on because it is hard to compete with a great guy who died. I’d also move on because you aren’t happy in this relationship. If you aren’t happy it isn’t going to work. I’d move on because the two of you aren’t emotionally at the same place.

    I don’t see anything wrong with calling her the lady. I think it can be a regional and cultural thing and isn’t disrespectful. I’m assuming you also didn’t want to use her name and didn’t see the need to make up a fake name.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom August 18, 2017, 10:20 am

    ” But at the very least, she should not post all her thoughts and photos and other stuff on social networks or whatsapp for the world to see that she misses him everyday.”

    If she is doing this frequently or daily then she probably isn’t ready to date. If this is the week of the anniversary of his death then she may be fine.

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    • avatar

      Ruby Thursday August 18, 2017, 11:35 am

      This is the part that also stood out to me. If it’s near the anniversary of husband death, that’s understandable. But that sentence made me think that she posts about her late boyfriend frequently.

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      • avatar

        Ruby Thursday August 18, 2017, 11:36 am

        I don’t know how that ended up saying husband.

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    • avatar

      ele4phant August 18, 2017, 12:23 pm

      Yeah – I agree. I’m surprised out how harsh some of the other responses are.

      He says he understands why she wants to acknowledge her boyfriend’s death, but it hurts that 2-3 years later, she’s still constantly talking about and posting how much she misses him. To me, that would indicate she has not moved on and is not ready to be with a new partner.

      And yeah, that’s got to be pretty soul crushing to be in a relationship with someone you care about but to know they’re still hung up on someone else. I feel for him.

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover August 18, 2017, 1:23 pm

        The way I read it, it’s during the anniversary week that’s she’s doing this, not all the time. The sentence Skyblossom called out came right after he was talking about what she does for the anniversary week, it seemed to me to still be in that context. That she posts every day, for the week surrounding the anniversary. If it’s everyday all year round, then yeah that’s an issue, that’s just not what I got from the post.

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      • avatar

        ele4phant August 18, 2017, 2:03 pm

        Hmm possibly, and if that’s the right interpretation, I’d definitely agree with everyone else he needs to chill out and let her be for those couple of days.

        I read it though that she posts and talks about her late boyfriend all the time, and then specific to the anniversary of his death she goes AWOL a couple days. But, now that you’ve pointed it out, I could be wrong.

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  • avatar

    va-in-ny August 18, 2017, 12:00 pm

    LW1 – if you’re all “no1curr!!!” to your “Lady” regarding the anniversary of her late boyfriend’s death, I’m not surprised that she doesn’t want to be around you a few days before and after the actual date.

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  • avatar

    ele4phant August 18, 2017, 12:08 pm

    I dunno – I thought the answer to LW1 was a little harsh.

    It is reasonable to want to be with a person who is not hung up on someone else. It is not unreasonable to feel hurt or upset that the person you love and are into is constantly making references to someone else they loved. I understand where he’s coming from. He loves his girlfriend, and is hurt that she is preoccupied with someone else. That would hurt anyone.

    Obviously, it sounds like she’s not yet grieved and isn’t really in a place to date anyone else yet. The advice to him should be to move on and let her get there on her own, but I still feel empathetic to him. This sounds hard. I don’t think he wants her to exist to adore him or stroke his ego, but he does want her to be present in their relationship.

    She didn’t write in, but if she did, I might say she needs to work on moving on. While tragic, it sounds like it’s been two or three years since he passed. If she’s posting something about how much she misses him *everyday on social media* still and talks about him frequently with her new boyfriend, that doesn’t sound healthy.

    Of course she doesn’t need to forget he ever existed and strip every reminder of him for her life, but she should be able to move on and form relationships with someone else without needing constant reminders of her late boyfriend. I agree with LW1 that it doesn’t sound like she’s there yet, or that she’s genuinely trying to move forward.

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    • Cleopatra Jones

      Cleopatra Jones August 18, 2017, 1:43 pm

      Yep, I agree.
      It’s OK to be sad about his death but the constant grieving of a HS boyfriend? I honestly think she needs grief counseling to help her move past his death. No one is saying that she needs to forget him but being this distraught after 3 years of anyone’s death is not normal or healthy.*

      LW needs to move on because until she gets herself into some therapy to deal with the situation, she is not in the appropriate space to date anyone.

      My mother passed away after a short battle with cancer on my birthday. On my birthday, y’all. Do y’all have any idea how hard that is? Even with all of that, I couldn’t imagine grieving this long and frequently. A 3 year long period of grief has to be taking toll on her mentally and physically.

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      • avatar

        csp August 18, 2017, 2:02 pm

        But do you post on your wall that you miss your mom on her birthday or mother’s day? I think this happens on anniversaries.

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      • avatar

        ele4phant August 18, 2017, 4:48 pm

        I guess the hang up for me is that I interpreted it that she posts and talks about her late boyfriend every single day, and then for about a week around the anniversary of his death she retreats. If she’s still talking about him/posting about him everyday, I don’t think you could argue that what she’s doing is healthy anymore.

        As others have pointed it out, it’s possible to interpret a different way – that she’s only posting about him surrounding the anniversary of his death, in which case, yeah, that would be normal and healthy and new boyfriend needs to back down and work on his own insecurities.

        But I’m not convinced my first interpretation is wrong…

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      • avatar

        dinoceros August 18, 2017, 7:24 pm

        I thought so, too, ele4phant. I think the boyfriend is still being harsh, but only because it’s not his job to police this. If he isn’t comfortable with how much she talks about her late boyfriend, then he needs to move on. Grieving looks different for everyone, but a person who posts about their late boyfriend every day is not ready for another relationship.

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  • avatar

    MiMi August 18, 2017, 1:47 pm

    LW1, I don’t think it’s wrong or bad to feel insecure when your SO is pouring out her sadness over her lost love, whether it is public or private. Your feelings are your feelings and just as valid as hers. I didn’t see that you’ve discussed any of it with her in a calm moment not right around the tragic anniversary? She’s not a mind reader and you should not try to be one either by assigning meaning to what she does when you don’t really know. What doesn’t work, especially around death, is to hope or expect someone else to just ‘get over it’. Maybe try talking with a grief counselor yourself, someone who has the training and experience to help you put this situation into perspective. Sometimes people do lose their way in grief and need some help from a professional. We don’t know if your girlfriend falls into that category (and you should not be the judge of it). Sometimes timing is far from perfect between two people who would otherwise be a great match. This isn’t a wrong or right situation, this is one that calls for you to be kind and thoughtful, to understand what you need, to find out what she needs, decide what you can offer, what you can accept, what you two can compromise on, etc. without ego getting in the way. Good luck!

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  • avatar

    Miss MJ August 20, 2017, 9:30 am

    Both of these letters are excellent examples of “You can’t change someone’s behavior and it’s okay to just break up.”

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