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A few days after the ex-wife left, my boyfriend moved a bookshelf that he got in the divorce into his living room. On the bottom shelf was a framed photo of him and his ex-wife when they were much younger and in love, but it wasn’t really on display (bottom shelf, odd angle) and so I thought nothing of it. A couple weeks later I noticed that it was moved to a more prominent position on the bookshelf and has stayed there. It’s right by the table in his apartment so that, when we eat there, I feel very aware of what’s within my peripheral vision.
I’ve never been married. I have kept photos from past relationships, but always tucked away and never on display in my living room. I don’t want to pick a fight over “nothing” or “normal behavior” so, while I’m not sure what I’m asking, I guess I’m wondering if I’m overreacting? Things have felt a little off between us since the ex-wife left a couple months ago and I’m really not sure if I’m reading a lot into something trivial. — Seeing the Big Picture
This isn’t “nothing” and it isn’t “trivial” and you aren’t “overreacting,” especially since it doesn’t sound as if you’ve actually reacted at all (at least not to your boyfriend). So, please start with reacting. Tell your boyfriend how the framed photo of him and his ex-wife displayed prominently on his bookshelf bothers you — how disrespectful to you and your relationship you find it. And tell him that not only are you personally affected by this display of disrespect, but you also are concerned about how it may symbolize his feelings over the ending of his marriage.
Just because he separated from his wife a year and a half ago, their divorce has been final for five months, and they both have moved on with new partners doesn’t mean he has fully processed the breakup and healed yet. It’s possible that he repressed a lot of the grief he felt early on and it’s only now coming to the surface since his ex-wife split town with her “soul mate.” Or, the move may be bringing up some old feelings and what you’re seeing with him is just a small hiccup on his road to fully moving on. Regardless, it seems apparent that he is very much dealing with something and that something is pulling his focus away from you and from his future without his ex-wife (whether that future includes you or not) and is keeping him in the past.
Talk to your boyfriend. Express your concern for his well-being as well as your hurt feelings. You have every reason to be upset. Displaying a framed photo of an ex at the same time she’s moved away and he’s withdrawing from a current partner is not healthy. And it’s certainly no way for him to treat you.
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