Morning Quickie: “Should My Girlfriend’s Ex Still Have a Key to Her Place?”

Golden key in keyhole

I have been in a same-sex relationship with a beautiful girl for the past seven months. She has one-year-old twins with her ex-boyfriend whom she was living with when we met and who was abusive to her while she was pregnant. He continued to be verbally abusive to her after the twins were born and used to call her stupid for wanting to date women. She got tired of name-calling and moved in with me. He didn’t know where she moved, so she felt safe. She never stopped letting him see his twins — she would take them to his place. After six months living with me, she moved from my home to her own place. I think out of guilt he bought everything for her new place — TVs, washer, dryer, couch, etc. I wasn’t okay with her letting him buy her everything, but she claimed the babies needed these things. Then one day, while I was staying at her place, he was over to see the one-year-olds and, when he left, he locked the door with a key that I didn’t think he had or needed. This issue has caused problems. Apparently, he had the key when he was delivering furniture and never gave it back to her, nor did she ask for it back. Should I be, or do I even have the right to be, upset? — The Key Issue

You’re dating a woman with two toddlers (babies, still, really). If you can’t deal with a present father who, apparently until recently, didn’t even know where they lived — so, he obviously hasn’t been that present — you need to move on. Your girlfriend went immediately from an abusive relationship to another relationship with two babies in tow, so there are going to be lots of loose ends for the foreseeable future because she didn’t bother to tie them up and deal with them before moving in with you. (I have to wonder if her desire to date women might even be a reaction to being treated poorly by men; do you get the sense that she’s truly attracted to you, sexually?) I’m not addressing the issue with the key because that’s only a symptom of a bigger problem. Honestly, if you want any hope for something serious and long-lasting with her, I’d break up with her for now, give her a year or two to catch her breath and figure shit out, and then reach out to her again. But be aware that her two kids and their father come with the deal.


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  1. I’m sorry, LW. You gave this woman and her babies a soft place to land and now that she’s pulled herself together, she’s moved out and made unilateral decisions that don’t seem to reference you or your feelings in any way. Abuse-Dude has a key because she’s fine with him having a key. I think you’ve been used – time to move on.

  2. Wendy, I love almost all of your advice, but I think you missed the mark (in a pretty offensive way) by questioning LW’s girlfriend’s sexuality and suggesting that her bisexuality is a response to being treated poorly by a man. I’m a straight female and don’t profess to be an expert on the matter, but I don’t think that’s how sexual preferences work. I agree with the rest of the advice, but that part made me cringe for the struggle of the bisexuals in my community to be acknowledged for who they are.

    1. Agreed. This is an assumption many bisexual and lesbian women face – that abuse by men caused them to like women.

  3. Sue Jones says:

    If you got yourself involved with a woman with 2 young babies, and there is a father in the picture, understand that they are co-parenting together and he is going to be around in some respect for a very long time. If this doesn’t work for you, MOA and find someone without children. I am actually happy to see this father providing in some way for these kids. He may have been an abusive asshole during the relationship but hopefully he is trying to parent and provide in some way which is a good thing.

  4. Wow, I’ve never commented before, but just have to chime in to say that Wendy’s comment that the LW’s girlfriend may not be sexually attracted to her because she had an abusive relationship with a man in the past was extremely inappropriate and unnecessarily insulting, and perpetuates the stereotype that queer women just can’t find a “good man.” There is nothing in the LW’s letter to indicate that the girlfriend isn’t attracted to women – in fact, the opposite – the ex-boyfriend called her stupid for “wanting to date women,” indicating that this is something she’s been desiring for a while. While some women do chose to date women after having had abusive experiences with men, it doesn’t make their desire any less real.

    1. Honestly, I don’t think that’s what Wendy was saying. I think she was saying that this woman isn’t actually bi or lesbian at all, but was taking advantage of LW for a safe haven and is now close to being finished with her. That’s really the only way the question about whether or not LW thinks her gf is actually physically attracted to her makes any sense at all. I didn’t at all read Wendy’s comment as suggesting that the gf’s ex’s abuse turned her into a bi or lesbian.

      1. dinoceros says:

        I appreciated Wendy’s response to this, which I think clears some things up. I did want to say, though, that she could be taking advantage even IF she is interested in women. The sexuality part is just sort of irrelevant.

  5. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

    I didn’t mean to offend anyone or perpetuate unfair stereotypes about lesbian or bisexual women and if my awkward phrasing did just that, I’m sorry. I definitely don’t believe that abuse of any kind can “change” someone’s sexuality. I know that’s not how sexual preferences work! I do think that people can lie to themselves or others about who they’re attracted to in an effort to seek comfort and security, particularly on the heels of an abusive relationship and when there are two babies who need protection. But I shouldn’t have brought sexuality into it though and apologize if that muddled my point or offended anyone.

    1. This is such a tough one, but I feel like I have to comment. It’s unfortunate, but maybe a tough-love truth that the LW needed to hear. I say this because, as ashamed as I am to admit it, I was the straight girl who used a lesbian friend to help me recover from an abusive boyfriend. It was never a conscious choice, and as soon as I realized that my feelings for her were not real and that I wasn’t really attracted to women, I was honest with her. To this day I am regretful about the pain this caused her. But based on my own experience, I can see how things can happen just how Wendy described.

      The girlfriend could possibly have had the same reaction I did, after the end of a bad breakup with her boyfriend, and decided that the LW made her feel good about herself and loved. Those feelings then make the girlfriend feel like she also loves the LW in return. I had mistaken my feelings of not being turned-off by being with a woman, as the same thing as being sexually attracted to a woman. So it was easy to fall into this new thing that felt so nice after something so ugly. Again, I am not proud to admit this, it was an awful thing to do, even if I wasn’t aware at the time how selfish I was being. I can also see how, although rare, other women can fall into a similar situation. I think this is what Wendy was asking the LW to consider.

      1. RedroverRedrover says:

        Yeah, I think people need to understand a little better that there’s a sliding scale of sexuality, and some people are clearly at one end or the other (hetero and homo), and some are in the middle (bisexual) and some are at sort of ambiguous spots along the scale. If you’re in an ambiguous spot and you start dating the opposite gender of what you’ve typically dated, it doesn’t mean you “switched”, but that’s how people see it. And it doesn’t mean you’re not serious about it either. It just means that it’s less likely for you to go for that gender, but you still might in some situations. If people understood that, I think bisexuals would have it a hell of a lot easier. I actually know a guy who identifies as gay, but describes himself as “65/35”, and he does occasionally sleep with women. He certainly finds specific women attractive and sexy. It would be nice if everyone could be as open as he is about his sexuality.

        That wasn’t a comment to you to be more open mjmaim, your comment just made me think of it. You’re probably like 90/10 or 85/15 from your description – not turned off by same-sex partners, but not really turned on either.

  6. dinoceros says:

    I don’t really agree that the LW is necessarily at fault here. When a person dates someone, they like to assume they have some autonomy in their life that they can decide when they are ready to date or not. Unfortunately, people aren’t good that making that determination, which the girlfriend apparently is not. I think that it’s probably not the right timing for this relationship to work out. With two young children, the dad is going to be around a lot, whether for good reasons or for sneaky reasons. Being uncomfortable with it isn’t wrong, but it’s not going to change and you don’t have a right to change it.

  7. RedroverRedrover says:

    You have a right to be upset, people are allowed to feel however they feel. But you don’t have a right to insist on any changes to the situation. If your gf wants to give someone else a key to her own place, that’s not something you get to weigh in on. Especially when it’s the father of her children and she presumably wants him to have access to them.

    If I were you though, I think I’d move on. Not only has your gf had no time to process the ending of the relationship with her children’s dad, but she was abused by him on top of it, and may still be somewhat under his power. The fact that she let him back into her life so soon after leaving him for abuse is not a good sign. He’s in a “nice” phase now, trying to get control of her, and honestly it looks like it’s working (my guess is that’s what all the furniture-buying was about). I don’t think you’ll be able to convince her of that, that’s not how abuse victims think. Plus she must have the added hope in the back of her mind that things will work out with him so that her babies have their father around, which would further complicate her getting out of the abusive cycle. You can stick around a bit longer and see how it goes, but I fear that he’s going to get control of her again.

  8. It seems like you’re asking the wrong questions here. You moved in together it seems based on your timeline from day one. From the story it seems like your girlfriend needed housing and you had housing. I’m wondering what the circumstances of her moving out were. Was it always planned that it would happen? Did she feel she needed more time/space on her own? Did you all hit a rough patch? Her children are her primary focus and securing them stable housing with furniture and appliances is part of that. The father of the children is helping to provide that, which he should. No matter how he treated her during their relationship or her pregnancy. I agree with Wendy that it is time for you take a step back and evaluate your relationship. And decide if she, her twins and their father are something you can take as a package deal for the long term.

  9. It gets really tiresome, especially as a bisexual woman, to read these negative stereotypes over and over again. I get that this site is really heteronormative, but it would be nice if the advice wasn’t always treated as such. Anyway, I agree with the rest of the advice.

    1. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

      For the sake of constrictive criticism, I’m wondering if you could elaborate on what you mean that this site is “really heteronormative,” and that the advice is “always treated as such.” Assuming that by “really heteronormative,” you mean written from the perspective of a straight person in a straight relationship and featuring letters from straight people and a community of straight people — none of which I have much control over — I guess I’m more interested in what you mean by the advice always being treated as really heteronormative (this particular column aside, I mean, since I get where I messed up here). Thank you.

      1. I know you can’t control who sends you letters….what I was more referring to was letters involving LGBT couples/individuals. I think sometimes, the advice to those people veers into heteronormativity, as if we face the same issues. I don’t want to make it sound like we’re so vastly different, but the issues we face can be. Where a situation with a straight person not wanting to introduce a partner might be more MOA-worthy, as an example, a woman’s girlfriend who doesn’t want to come out to her family is a bit different, and I think that gets treated in a heteronormative way as if it’s the same. There have been letters with one partner being bi where the advice has a serious undertone of bisexuals being confused, deceptive, or being incapable of being monogamous. It’s understandable you would have a heteronormative view, and I think you do such a great job giving advice to people in numerous situations that are different from your own…but I do think you miss the mark a bit in LGBT situations.

        And while I can’t pretend I know what’s going on with the LW’s girlfriend, bisexual women face much higher rates of violence and abuse than lesbians/gays (often from male partners). I think it would help you and the readers (who are also mostly straight) to pay more attention to the unique differences/challenges LGBT individuals face.

      2. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

        Ok, thanks. This is interesting and I’ll pay more attention to my reaction to LGBT questions and issues. It’s surprising to hear — though I’m definitely not saying your view/opinion is off at all — since many of my closest friends are gay and bisexual and I have a handful of trans friends, too, and thought I was probably more sensitive to their issues than maybe the average person. But, it’s all relative, of course, and I don’t discount that I come across to you as having room to grow in this area. I will try to do better.

      3. Thanks! That’s all I ask.

    2. bittergaymark says:

      I disagree. But then I find many bisexuals — male and female to constantly somehow view themselves as oh-so-special, magical unicorns and that they are thus entitled to be oh-so-indulged in their really shitty and often immoral behavior. Treating people like shit and shamelessly using them? That’s immoral by the way. Sleeping with somebody of the same gender? That’s just hot.

  10. Northern Star says:

    The woman moved in with you because she got tired of the name-calling by her ex and felt unsafe? THAT’S the reason?

    So, you were her white knight and provided a soft place to land when things got rough with scary, abusive boyfriend. Now the boyfriend isn’t scary anymore (if he’s got a key, she definitely doesn’t feel unsafe). It really sucks, because I’m sure you love your girlfriend and her babies, but it sounds like she got what she wanted/needed from you. I’m not sure she can give you what YOU want/need.

    1. for_cutie says:

      100% this. Your girlfriend uses people. She asked a lot of you – a place to stay and help/co-parenting twin babies! You gave it all to her willingly and now she is over it. MOA and find someone who is your equal, not someone you have to save.

  11. Avatar photo Raccoon eyes says:

    LW, I do not think this relationship works out well for you in the end- regardless of your gf’s reasoning as to his buying her an apartment-full or household-full of stuff- you dont really have a say in it. The same goes for the key he has. I presume you expressed your feelings on it, and she…disagreed, or just went on with it, right? That is really all you get here. You dont get the right to argue your point of view until she changes it. You dont have to agree with her on this stuff- because, as much as it may hurt to acknowledge, it really has nothing to do with you. I know it FEELS like it does, and that him having a key is a dig at you, but it is not. Really though? She definitely needs some time to sort her own sh*t out. You cant “save” her here- you have already tried, havent you? Time to abandon this sinking ship. MOA and Aim Higher

    1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      I was thinking the same about the furniture, appliances and key. He is the father of her children and should be buying things needed by them. That’s part of being a dad. It’s her place and she gets to decide who has a key. If you can’t agree with the decisions she makes for herself and her children you should move if you find them unacceptable.

  12. bittergaymark says:

    Honestly? If was, say convinced to adopt twins with some guy and then — afterwards, he suddenly announced he wanted to date women… Um… Yeah, you can I’d probably have some real choice words for him, too. Casting the guy his as abusive is a rather feeble attempt to explain away your lovers own rather not so admirable behavior. She used him. She is now using you… MOA. And give up the fantasy of the recently converted homos… Trust me, I know this from experience IN SPADES that they are often just horrible messes.

    1. I doubt t LW’s GF is using anyone. She was in a relationship with a guy and is pregnant by him. If anything I would say probably it was the LW who tried to cinch the deal by inviting the GF to move in with her with the children so early in the relationship.
      Kudos for the GF for moving back on her own instead of being dependent on the LW forever. And if she is trying to have some sort of shared custody arrangement for the sake of kids, that is great too.
      If the LW is concerned about the safety of the GF and kids that is perfectly reasonable. But that is entirely the GF’s business. On the other hand if the LW is jealous of the ex, then it is better for all parties if she moves on from this relationship since she cannot handle it.

    2. Avatar photo Cleopatra Jones says:

      And give up the fantasy of the recently converted homos… Trust me, I know this from experience IN SPADES that they are often just horrible messes.
      OT but I really want to hear these tales of illicit trysts in your life. I don’t need the nitty-gritty details but the general story and maybe the lesson(s) you learned would be great. 🙂 I don’t always agree with your opinions but I do find you to be an absolutely fascinating writer.
      So if you have a blog…I need to know the URL now! 😉

      1. bittergaymark says:

        Thanks! I am thinking about starting a blog — FINALLY… I am just trying to finish up this script first. 🙂

  13. bittergaymark says:

    Until then, I cohost a weekly podcast.

    It’s called THE BEST NEWS PODCAST… Basically, we talk about a big news story — and then improv a comedy scene off of something that came up in that discussion. We have a different guest every week and do about four of five news stories. Give it a listen. I also guest every now and then on THE BEST SPORTS PODCAST, too. Check it out.

  14. Monkeysmommy says:

    So, my first question is- how do you know he was really abusive to her? If it was some name calling as she was leaving him, well…. But if it was legit abuse, that is different. I guess I just wondered if she was over the relationship, and you gave her away to get out.
    I think it’s kind of odd he has a key. My ex never had a key, nor did he buy any furniture for my new place. I guess you could argue that he didn’t want to just give her money, he wanted to make sure things that were needed were bought, which is good from that angle. But why is she leaving your place? Most people do not move out to grow closer… Though there could be other factors involved here. I know some judges will not allow overnight partners in the home when there is a custody case.
    Overall, the situation just sounds kind of difficult and complicated. I would probably move on. She has jumped from a pregnancy to motherhood to a new relationship from another with no time to think. Wendy may be right, she may have used you. Or maybe not. But her life is way too complex right now and she needs to focus on the kids above all.

  15. Monkeysmommy says:

    I also wouldn’t entirely rule out the possibly that she has given him “incentives” to be so generous…

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