As a 46-year-old man who’s had several relationships — both good and bad — over the years, I’ve attempted to explain to her that her behavior is considered disrespectful and is cause for distrust by not only myself, but also most likely by ANY man with whom she becomes involved, because it serves no realistic purpose. Otherwise, her ex would not be her “ex.” I’ve attempted to convey to her on numerous occasions that everyone else I know ceases all forms of communication with their ex-mate AND the ex in-laws once they are divorced or the relationship ends (UNLESS AN UNDERAGE CHILD/CHILDREN ARE INVOLVED). Unfortunately, my friend refuses to see it that way and repeatedly tries to justify her actions by claiming I “am just being immature or insecure about the situation.” She refuses to believe that most men (hell, even women too) would have a serious problem with someone they’re considering becoming closer with maintaining any type of communication with an ex and/or a family member(s) of an ex . . . especially since their child is now grown and on her own. Such illogical thinking prevents a relationship with anyone else from being able to progress.
She shared with me that, when the man was married to her, he cleverly took advantage of her, from the very beginning, by talking her into financial deals involving real estate in which she was the one really responsible for acquiring and maintaining the property/properties and by leaving her responsible for making the bulk of the mortgage payments and paying for costs associated with raising their daughter.
She even shared with me that at one point she became so frustrated with him for his incorrigible attitude towards anything relating to managing their rental properties that she voluntarily told him to “be accountable for one of two properties they own(ed) together because she was only going to be responsible for the one property.” The apartment building(s) each of them owns has four apartment units per building. So, when she informed me that he collected monthly rent of between $850-$900 per apartment on a building, I was blown away when she also revealed that he had not shared any of that money with her and/or their young daughter at the time throughout the 18-20 years they owned both buildings! Which means that he collected over $300,000 in rent money acquired on a property she never benefitted from, even though her name was still on the deed until they actually divorced about one year ago. And upon being divorced, she voluntarily gave him the one building instead of asking the courts to sell/divide the finances from selling the property.
According to her, she was not happy with him and has no desire whatsoever to be involved with him again. However, every few months she finds a way to come up with a poor reason/excuse to conveniently place herself in his presence or that of his sister(s). For example, last year she invited him to help her drive their adult daughter across country from Georgia to California to attend law school instead of paying a moving company to do the job (which would’ve turned out to be just as cost effective, less time-consuming, and less stressful). To add to this madness, she’s continued to coincidentally meet one of his sisters out at various events, communicates frequently with both sisters and the one sister’s husband by phone, and only God knows what else. She also occasionally communicates with her ex via phone and/or in person, too.
As you can imagine, he does not have a close relationship with their adult daughter but continually makes it a habit to make her a reason to call my friend seeking her involvement. And, for a time, their daughter was doing the same thing instead of communicating directly with her father about anything. I expressed to my friend that she needs to encourage her daughter to take the initiative to communicate with her father (and vice-versa) directly instead of her daughter and ex relying upon her to be the go-between.
I was recently diagnosed with kidney failure and doctors discovered a lump in my thyroid as well, so I am not in the mood for any unnecessary added stress, and this never-ending situation definitely generates stress for me. I am at a point where I am tired of feeling disrespected and I am ready to cut ties altogether with such a so-called “friendship” and remain single or move forward by seeking someone new who does not desire to maintain ties to a past relationship or the relatives of their ex. However, I wanted to be fair and seek your perspective . . . although I do not necessarily need it. The thing is, there are very little resources out there for men seeking advice in such relationship situations, so I felt compelled to inquire about your response to see if it seemed unbiased. Although you are a “relationship professional,” I also realize that cultural differences may prevent you from seeing my perspective accurately. (I’m an African-American male and my friend is an African-American female; you are a Caucasian female). Traditionally, what is seen as being permissible in the Caucasian community is NOT acceptable in the African-American or Latino communities as it relates to relationship etiquette. However, I am open to hearing your perspective and it would be humbly appreciated. — Full of Ex-amples of Disrespect
Why ask me my advice (sorry, I mean my “perspective”) if you’re going to discount it based on my skin color and culture? Oh, because you will only discount it if my perspective differs from yours (“She’s white, so therefore, she doesn’t understand interpersonal relationships in the African-American culture”), but, if I agree with you, then you’ll embrace my opinion (“Clearly, she knows what she’s talking about; she’s an expert!”). Well, in that vein, I’m about to waste both our time because I don’t agree with your perspective. In fact, I think you sound a little . . . well, mad (which is ironic since that’s the same term you use to describe your friend’s behavior).
Let me explain: First of all, it’s not true that ANY man (or woman) would have a problem with a potential significant other maintaining a cordial relationship with an ex (or ex in-laws), particularly when they share offspring (regardless of their age!). Sure, lots of people experience irrational jealousy like you do, but not everyone is so insecure. Plenty of people understand that, when two people shared a life and family for years and years, it makes sense that some sort of connection might still exist even after the romantic connection/marriage has been terminated. For example, I’m remembering a column about two exes who still had holiday dinners together every year for the benefit of their grown daughter who enjoyed being having both parents present for Christmas dinner. How wonderful for their daughter!
The example you share of your friend inviting her ex-husband to help drive their grown daughter to law school is a similar situation. Sure, maybe hiring movers would have been just as or more cost-effective and less stressful, but maybe these grown adults were thinking about their daughter’s emotional well-being more than their own and more than their budget. Maybe they understood how meaningful it could be for her to have the support of both her parents as she moved all the way across the country to embark on a new and challenging and exciting venture. Maybe — just maybe — this was all about the daughter. Because their love and care for her didn’t expire once she was no longer underage.
And even when situations aren’t all about the daughter — like when your friend is in touch with her former sisters-in-law, it doesn’t mean there’s anything unsavory going on. These woman were part of her extended family for two decades! Clearly, they were close. Those relationships don’t automatically end simply because a marriage does (And perhaps they even preceded the marriage). And if everyone in the immediate scenario — the ex-husband and the ex in-laws — are ok with maintaining ties, there’s no reason those ties and close friendships shouldn’t be maintained. YOUR being jealous certainly isn’t a reason for her to stop meeting up with the women who were part of her family for many, many years.
Your being jealous IS reason for you to move on though. Clearly, you can’t handle the situation and that’s fine. You have medical reasons to avoid stress and this causes you stress, so move on. But do so knowing that your friend isn’t “wrong” or “mad” for her behavior. She’s actually quite healthy. It’s YOU who has the issue here. Own that. Embrace that. Accept that.
Oh, and I’m not even touching the topic of assets in your friend’s marriage and how they were split and settled in the divorce. My feeling is that you seem to think you know all about it, and you can’t possibly know the details of their financial life together over the course of 20 years or all the justifications for decisions made in their marriage and divorce. And for a “friend” who isn’t even seriously dating this woman, those details are none of yo’ damn business. Furthermore, they aren’t a reflection of this woman’s mental state or her emotional availability for a new relationship.
And one more thing: That someone has had more relationships than someone else doesn’t automatically make him smarter in relationships or more knowledgeable about how they “work.” After all, having had more relationships also means having had more relationship failures. Your friend was able to maintain a relationship for at least 20 years. Clearly, she learned and knew something about how to make a relationship work. Just because, in that same amount of time, you potentially were going through many more shorter-term relationships doesn’t mean you learned more. Maybe you did and maybe you didn’t. But if you think one’s personal relationship track records should prove something, it seems like relationship longevity and the ability to maintain healthy boundaries while honoring one’s own emotional needs and balancing the emotional needs of an offspring should count for a lot.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.