It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing now. Today we hear from “On the Fence,” the woman who was dating a guy, “Carl,” who still had a drawer of his ex-wife’s underwear, despite telling the LW he loved her and wanted to be exclusive with her. She was concerned about other red flags she noticed about what she considered lax boundaries with his ex, like fixing things in her house and removing the LW’s stuff when the ex comes over (to drop off their kids). Having been in an abusive marriage, she was doubting her own judgment and wanted advice about whether these were, in fact, signs of a problem. Her update is below.
For me, this relationship has a shelf life. For him, he still wants an LTR. And I want an LTR, but not with him. As I write this, he’s in a car with his ex, driving thirty miles to his mother’s house to pick up a car his mother is giving to his son. The reasons I wrote, the situation with the ex, bothers me less as I’ve let go of any thought of change or evolution, and below I’ll describe why.
First, they had to have Passover dinner together because she insisted. He later texted me complaining because she came over too late (for the larger family Zoom session) and generally drove him nuts complaining about changes he’s made in the house since she moved out. Next, it was his birthday. He texted me that he wanted to spend it with me, but he couldn’t because his ex insisted that it was a family night. She brought cake, a card, and the kids, and then they all celebrated together. I think he was surprised that I wasn’t interested in waiting around to spend time with him when they were done. Then he won a large contract in his business, and when his business partner shared the news, his ex said that if she’d known he was going to make that kind of money, she wouldn’t have left.
He says that he can’t insist she take her things – which go beyond clothes to art, knick-knacks, and outdoor furniture – because he doesn’t want her to feel abandoned since she has abandonment issues. So of course, she comes whenever she likes, takes a single item – last week it was a pair of running shorts – and leaves the rest. Last week it was that she made extra food and needed to drop it off – that was Monday. Tuesday it was that she found a certain pastry that they all love and needed to share that.
He has said to me that one of his core goals is family and he’s obligated to her – whether it’s driving twenty minutes because she cut her finger and can’t find peroxide or picking up her prescription because she can’t figure out how to transfer it from the Walgreens down the block to one near her new place – and I think he frankly isn’t interested in setting boundaries despite what he says. To put it in perspective, I do not have conversations with him about this. He tells me or texts me, and I don’t respond. Mainly because his family seems to love drama and sh*t-stirring, and I don’t do that. I’ve thought of asking not to be updated with her every move, but I err on the side of information-gathering for myself.
He said to me just this week, after sending over a dozen red roses to me, that he’s in love, he thinks I’m great, and his biggest worry is losing me. I think he doesn’t have space in his life for a relationship – I am not sure if he ever will, which is fine, but I purposely don’t exist in these kinds of drama-filled spaces. When I game this out, I can see that his ex is likely to want him back (if he makes more money, if she finds out he’s dating, if she breaks up with whomever she’s seeing, or, or…). That, I imagine, will be my cue to find the door.
One friend has suggested I hash this out with him. To be honest, I don’t see how that would help. He’s made his position known: He can’t abandon fulfilling her needs because that would be tantamount to abandoning the mother of his children. I don’t do prescriptive conversations. I don’t want drama. I’ve found out what I need and can make a decision from there. I will say, though, that what I’ve gotten out of this relationship is more guidance in how it is to exist in a space where I’m treated well (outside of this) and am with someone who is genuinely nice. That’s been a breath of fresh air, and I very much look forward to taking those lessons into the next relationship.
Thank you for your update. I know you didn’t ask for advice, but I will say this: If what you want is a long-term relationship and you know you don’t want it with this guy, why not move on now? Is whatever you’re getting from this relationship worth the aggravation and the postponement of true happiness with someone who can better meet your needs? Only you can answer that, and you need only answer to yourself, but I do hope you’ll give it some thought. I’m wishing you all the best.
If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.
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