I’m 27 and have been in a relationship with my now-fiancé Luke for two and a half years. We are in a loving and trusting relationship; I have no idea how I got lucky enough to call him mine. We met at work but he was dating someone at the time, which was a really toxic relationship to say the least. He eventually ended things with her after three years together and within a few months we began dating, but his ex’s presence was still there. She persisted with calling/texting him, and I know this because I was bad and snooped once, and I couldn’t get over her determination to keep reaching out. She eventually found out he was dating someone else and he had no other choice but to block her.
Fast forward to today and Luke has another job, but I still work at the same place where we met. The other day, I spotted Luke’s ex-girlfriend at work from across the room. I tried to hide, but she marched right up to me – this girl was determined — said her name that she had dated Luke, and she let me know she was working there now. I feel like she had been waiting two years to come up to me and basically give me an anxiety attack (happy Wednesday to me). Her taking a job where I work has royally messed with my head, and it feels like she was out for revenge. We work in a big place so sometimes I never see her, sometimes I see her eight times a day, and sometimes I get this wave of confidence and seek her out on purpose just so she sees me. Holy ego, I know.
Seeing her in the flesh has made me feel insecure and defeated almost. I find that I’m analyzing myself a lot all of a sudden. Am I pretty enough? Did he like how she dressed? Should I dress up more like her? My head spins. This place is where Luke and I met, our friends are here, and he comes to visit from time to time. It also has an amazing culture and environment, which I have always loved. I am very aware now that she is part of that culture, and it drives me mad. Out of all the places to work, why here? I’m so content and happy in my relationship, so why does her being here bother me so much? I need to be content with the things I can’t change and move on with my head held high. I just clearly need a little advice in the process. Help?! — Driven Mad
Well, first of all, I got my popcorn and wine ready like you said and… well, your story was not as dramatic as you promised and now I’m just eating popcorn and drinking wine in the middle of the morning for no good reason like an idiot. Second of all: Let’s break things down, shall we? You work at a very big place with an amazing culture and environment that seems to attract like-minded people (or people like-minded enough that you’ve made friends and found a boyfriend), so it does not seem strange that someone your age where you live might apply for a job there, right? I really don’t think Luke’s ex taking a job where you work has all that much, if anything, to do with you or with her getting revenge, and to suggest so speaks more to your immaturity and over-dramatic-ness than anything else.
I suspect you are not as content and happy in your relationship as you say you are. Why else are you snooping through your boyfriend’s — sorry, fiancé’s—phone, endlessly comparing yourself to an ex you say was really toxic for him, and convincing yourself that she’s “determined” to somehow destroy your relationship or get him back or seek revenge? Girl, relax. I get that it’s not fun to share an office with an ex of your fiancé. That sucks. But, really, don’t you think it would probably suck worse for her? It’s your turf, and you’re engaged to the guy you think she’s still in love with. Plus, it sounds like an all-out obsession you now have (“it drives me mad,” you say), and you want to know why it bothers you so much that she works there now. At least you are aware that this isn’t a totally normal reaction.
It bothers you because you feel threatened by her, clearly. You need reassurance that your fiancé is completely over HER and really into YOU. So, ask him for that reassurance. And if nothing he can say will really reassure you, you need to do some soul-searching and decide whether this is a healthy relationship for you. It should go without saying, but hold off on the wedding planning for now; you aren’t ready for that step.
Ultimately, your relationship has nothing to do with Luke’s ex-girlfriend and everything to do with you and Luke. If things aren’t good with YOU, like from inside, they aren’t going to be good between you and anyone you have a relationship with. If things aren’t good with you and Luke, then it makes sense you’re going to feel threatened by other women, especially a woman he once had feelings for. Get right with you, get right with him, and if you can’t, MOA.
That was five years ago. We’ve been together since that summer, except for a ten-month period when his job relocated him across the country. We moved in together last year, and, for the most part, we’ve been happy, until his ex came back into the picture. They hadn’t spoken in years, until she broke up with her fiancé, got drunk, and sent him a message saying she had made a huge mistake, she still loved him, and she would wait for him forever. It threw him for a loop, but he was again honest with me, he showed me the message, and we discussed how he should respond, which was basically a “thank you, but I’ve moved on. I wish you the best.”
I thought that would be the end of it, but she won’t go away. She keeps messaging him, and while he and I were in a rough patch a few months ago, she took advantage of him. He suffers from depression, which had taken a toll on our relationship, and she has been stroking his ego and manipulating him.
In the last month things have gotten so much better. My boyfriend has started going to therapy and dealing with his depression, which has done wonders for him and for our relationship. But she still won’t go away. He told me about all the conversations they had (which I hadn’t known about at the time), and he has stopped responding to her, but it drives me crazy. I hate her for taking advantage of him in a fragile state, I hate her for getting involved in my relationship, and I hate her for not just taking no for an answer. They broke up almost seven years ago, and I can’t help but wonder if I’m going to deal with her forever.
How do I address this without seeming like a crazy jealous girlfriend? I’m trying not to be, because I do trust him, but I don’t trust her to not manipulate and hurt him while he’s trying to recover. — Tired of Dealing with His Ex
You really trust your boyfriend? Truly? Because if you did, you would not have to worry about him being manipulated or having ongoing conversations with an ex from seven years ago. He was with this woman for eight months years ago, and then one night she sends a drunken text that she had made a mistake and still loves him? The two of you should be side-eying this woman, feeling sorry for her for being a little crazy, and your boyfriend should have blocked her every which way she had of reaching out to him.
If she didn’t get the message after the first “Thank you, but I’ve moved on new I wish you the best,” then that’s on her. But if your boyfriend didn’t respond to any ongoing attempts from her to reignite something with “I have a serious girlfriend I live with, this is inappropriate, I no longer want to hear from you and will be blocking your number now,” that’s on him. I don’t care if he’s depressed or whatever label you’re using to excuse his behavior. If he were 100% committed to you, he would be 100% disengaged from this woman trying to break you up, period. This is 100% on him. HE is the one in a relationship with you. SHE owes you nothing. But he does. Tell him to cut the shit me block her ass or you’re done.
I’m wondering, since your relationship started as a summer fling, during which he confessed he wasn’t over his ex-girlfriend, and then you morphed into something more serious, if you ever got confirmation from him that he HAD gotten over the ex? Or was it left open-ended? Does he — and do you — think on some level that because he basically “warned” you years ago that he wasn’t over his ex, that this behavior is excusable? Because it’s not. And he seriously should not be living with you if an ex-girlfriend can rattle him so much and make him re-consider on any level whether, or how much, he’s committed to you.
Consider this a huge red flag for you. In a long-term relationship, you are going to have far bigger challenges than some crazy ex-girlfriend swooping in and trying break you up. If the guy you’re building a future with is so easily rattled by this, you can bet the bigger issues are going to have far more devastating consequences.
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.
Northern Star April 26, 2018, 10:21 am
LW 2 didn’t say she’s engaged. Luckily. 10 years of on-and-off doesn’t scream “happy marriage material.” I would bet the ever-changing nature of the relationship contributes plenty to their problems.
But the boyfriend is responsible for what he does, even if he has depression. It’s convenient to hate the ex, but it’s sooooooo damn easy to just block someone you don’t want in your life. If you refuse to do so—there’s a reason.
Dear Wendy April 26, 2018, 10:23 am
Oops, you’re right. Not enough coffee for me this morning. Going to edit now…
katmich15 April 26, 2018, 12:18 pm
it’s all the popcorn and wine you had this morning, ha ha
SpaceySteph April 26, 2018, 10:29 am
Yup I think people in this situation so frequently hate the wrong person because its easier than admitting their boyfriend is not behaving properly. Your boyfriend’s ex doesn’t owe you ANYTHING. They don’t have to be nice to you. They don’t have to respect your relationship. They don’t have to pass up a good job because you work there.
You have a boyfriend problem, LW2. Not an ex-girlfriend problem.
JD April 26, 2018, 11:34 am
Ugh I have my ex blocked but for whatever reason on Mac Mail on my computer the messages show up in junk even though I have him blocked email through gmail. When I once in a while look at my junk for something I will find a message there. So annoying. Stop emailing me dude!!! Sigh. Also, if anyone knows how to have them not show up there please share.
But yes, just block. He clearly wants to see the messages from her or he’d have done so long ago .
JD April 26, 2018, 10:26 am
She took advantage of him? They had sex? This was his choice if that is what that means. He cheated. Be mad at the person who cheated on you not her.
Ale April 26, 2018, 11:00 am
LW 1 Does it all have to be about you all the time? Or just this?
YOU are getting anxiety attacks over working with your fiance’s ex?
If anything, she should be anxious of working with the woman her ex rebounded with, a couple months after ending a long term relationship. She was gracious and civil enough to come up to you, so you wouldn’t have to wonder.
Your relationship isn’t so perfect. You’re insecure and immature. Please grow up.
dinoceros April 26, 2018, 11:10 am
LW1: I think you’re overreacting. When you said she “marched” up to you, I expected there to be some sort of aggressive statement being made. Outside of any other details, it sounds like she just was trying to clear the air in a sense. Even if she was trying to be … I don’t know … annoying, has she done anything else besides tell you they dated and then to exist? Coincidences happen in life. Thinking that she changed her entire job just to work where you’re at seems paranoid. (Texting/calling an ex a bunch after a breakup is not crazy enough to warrant assuming a person is changing their career path to seek “revenge” on you.)
The truth is, I think most people do not expect that their ex’s current partner would feel as intimidated by them as you are. They were the one who got left behind and you are the current pick, so I doubt she assumes that her existing in the same world as you is going to make you insecure. I honestly don’t really get that part. Unless your fiance is doing something to make you doubt his feelings or commitment for you, or there’s something sketchy about how things were left between him and her, then I think this is a personal problem you have with your self-esteem that you need to work out with a counselor. If there’s more to the story, then ask yourself why you left it out and what purpose that served.
LW2: Why can’t he block her? Then it wouldn’t matter if she texted him a lot. It would be like she doesn’t exist. Is he really that clueless or does he prefer to get the texts?
I’ve noticed a lot of people write in who sort of pick up these odd and unhelpful beliefs about their relationship due to their partner’s depression or anxiety. I think it might do you some good to do some research/reading about depression because I think that you are misunderstanding it. Everyone is different, but it doesn’t generally just make you super gullible or in need of ego stroking. I think this is a case where you maybe are angry about the situation, but it feels better to be angry at her than your boyfriend because if he’s the victim, then you don’t have to acknowledge that he (presumably) did some sketchy things and undermined your relationship. Also, a lot of people live with depression rather than have it cured, so I’m not sure giving your boyfriend a free pass because of his “recovery” is going to really make for a healthy relationship.
JD April 26, 2018, 11:15 am
Let us also note the “crazy” ex girlfriend. It seems they are all always crazy when a man is explaining something to the new woman. Surely not every single one can be crazy huh? So maybe consider there is another side, he screwed her over, right away shacked up with another woman and she was understandably upset. Seems pretty logical. You need to deal with whatever issues you have with your SO and YOUR insecurity. She just exists. Frankly, I’d probably have nicely introduced myself too, just to get it out of the way and make it less weird, knowing it would be weird no matter what.
PsychDoc October 15, 2019, 7:56 pm
I agree that texting and calling a lot after the breakup isn’t that crazy. Besides, the ex may look back on that behavior and wish she had done things differently. I certainly look back on breakups and wish I handled them in a more calm and rational way, but I was having lots of feelings. I later got to apologize for my behavior and felt good about doing so. I am also *thrilled* when I hear my exs are doing well and are in happy relationships. They weren’t bad people, just not the right people for me.
Ruby Tuesday April 26, 2018, 11:10 am
While I think Wendy has the right advice for LW1, I do think it says a lot about the ex that, as soon as she saw the LW, she marched up to her and announced that she had dated Luke and is now working in the office. Who does that?
MMR April 26, 2018, 1:16 pm
It sounds like it might have been the ex’s (ill-advised and awkward) way of “breaking the ice”. Like she was just outing the elephant in the room in an attempt to make it easier for them to interact? Clearly it has backfired.
Either way, it sounds like the LW is exhibiting a lot more crazy than the ex.
anonymousse April 26, 2018, 11:15 am
Good lord, LW2. Depression is no excuse.
LisforLeslie April 26, 2018, 12:18 pm
“I was depressed! I can’t control my penis when I’m depressed!”
Look – this is pretty easy. You want someone to go away you say “Go away. We are not friends. We are not meant to be together. You need to stop.”
If you want to take the easier way out -you ghost them. Block them. Ignore. Change their name to “She who must be avoided” in your phone so you know not to answer.
If he doesn’t want to do that – then you have a problem.
JD April 26, 2018, 7:42 pm
Damn. Hate when I’m depressed and my vagina just drags me around.
Copa April 26, 2018, 11:43 am
The first letter sounded familiar and I was sure I’d read it or something similar on AAM. http://www.askamanager.org/2017/11/my-boyfriends-horrible-ex-girlfriend-got-a-job-at-my-company.html
Dear Wendy April 26, 2018, 12:23 pm
Oh, yeah — totally the same! The letter I got wasn’t that long, but there were a few things I edited out for brevity — that are in this letter. Interesting to see how the other advice columnist answered (with more focus on work, which makes sense since it’s AAM) and to wonder why we’re seeing the same letter again six nearly six months later….
SpaceySteph April 26, 2018, 12:45 pm
Love the “he was in a dead-end relationship he didn’t know how to get out of” part. If you stole a girl’s boyfriend, at least own it rather than tell yourself you saved him.
Also interesting how the “confrontation” with the ex is portrayed differently and more aggressively here, where in AAM it seems a pretty normal interaction.
Dear Wendy April 26, 2018, 2:00 pm
Right – had I seen the original letter from five months ago, but advice would have been more along the lines of: “Girl, get a grip.”
JD April 26, 2018, 12:26 pm
I thought it seemed familiar.
SDSmith82 April 26, 2018, 1:28 pm
I came on here just to say that!!!!! I knew I wasn’t crazy!
Copa April 26, 2018, 2:05 pm
Yep! In the six months, it looks like he’s proposed (he was her boyfriend in the AAM letter, and is now her fiance), but she’s STILL insecure and threatened by the ex-girlfriend. I get that it’s probably not comfortable and sometimes even a bit awkward to work with your fiance’s ex, but many of us spend 40+ hours at work, so to live every day trying to prove you’re better than some chick in another department sounds exhausting.
peggy April 26, 2018, 12:25 pm
L.W.# 1-If you are so concerned about his ex-be glad she is where you can “keep an eye on her”. She could have gotten a job where your fiancé/boyfriend works! You need to chill out in general. Work on your confidence.
carolann April 26, 2018, 5:50 pm
LW1-Just completely ignore her. If he isn’t interacting with her, and she isn’t interfering with your job, who cares? Rise above it.
LW2- WWS! It is a red flag that your boyfriend doesn’t put her in her place. He could block her, even change his phone number. (That’s what my husband did, his ex wife was still calling trying to be his “friend” years after we got married) The boyfriend isn’t a fragile baby, he is a grown man. Depression is no excuse. She could tell him to cut ties or it is over. I wouldn’t even do that, I would dump him. I wouldn’t stay with a guy I had to ASK to do right by me.
carolann April 26, 2018, 6:00 pm
Isn’t it weird how so many letters are from ppl who are dealing with their SO exes not going away? Why are they putting up with this? Why would anyone want to be with a guy who lets the ex interfere in their relationship? Some of these women are so desperate for a guy they will put up with anything. There are other men out there. Don’t be so desperate. If he doesn’t handle his business MOA. I would never put up with any of that wishy washy b*llshit. I don’t care if he said he loved me and wanted to marry me or not. Some women are so desperate for a guy (any guy, their standards are so low) to marry them they will put up with all kinds of disrespect. Guys pick up on this desperation and use it against you.
If a guy really cares about you he doesn’t take chances on losing you or play with your feelings.
Ashley April 27, 2018, 8:05 am
I think we need a new acronym for LW1. GAH-get a hobby! Seriously if you had more going on in your life then this ex gf would be just a blip on your radar. If what’s above is true and you wrote two different advice columnists, 6 months apart…then this has taken an outsize role in your life. Is it awkward? Yes. Should it take up so much of your time and attention? No.
anonymousse April 27, 2018, 8:44 am
She will never be able to trust him because he started seeing her before he broke up with his ex.
She did something that was wrong, and that’s why she feels guilty and personally offended by the ex. The ex could expose her as morally corrupt. That’s why she is walking around her place of work with high anxiety and anger towards the ex, the woman she and her bf wronged.
brise April 27, 2018, 2:47 pm
Anonymousse: absolutely. LW1 feels very guilty. She was taken aback by the ex’s frank and open behavior.
LW2: I am really not convinced by your relationship. This on and off doesn’t seem very passionate.
DCLite April 29, 2018, 7:52 pm
LW 1, consider that maybe instead of marching up to you to run your nose in it, she’s attempting to address all the awkwardness up front. As Wendy said, if it’s a big, great company with a great culture and she needed a job, maybe she’s spent just as much time as you worrying about how weird this might get and just wanted to be up front.