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Will her ex be an issue?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  January 21, 2010 09:24 AM

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One more day until our year anniversary. The appropriate gift is paper, just so you know.

Q: Hi Meredith,

I've been reading this column off and on since I ended a four year relationship about a year ago. My question today doesn't deal with anything earth shattering, but I think it's a valid one, regarding a lovely girl (or woman, for those of you who may interpret "girl" as demeaning) I've been dating for about five months.

The background: We met over the summer through mutual friends and started our relationship soon thereafter. Since then, we've hung out at least three times every week, and we have a good mix between hanging out with friends, going away on weekend trips, and just taking it easy. We have a great combination between a passionate relationship -- yummy, frequent GCs -- and a friendly one, which to me seems 100% ideal!

We live about 40 minutes away from one another, but still manage 2-4 sleepovers per week. We are both 25 years young. We've met each other’s parents and friends from home, and both have gotten good feedback from all parties involved. We have yet to go to bed angry at one another (meaning any "fight" has been resolved that day). There's basically nothing I don't like about this girl, and I definitely can tell she has a strong liking for me. Perhaps even more than a strong liking. So, a few weeks ago, I told her that I love her.

She responded by saying "I love you too", and I said it a couple times since then, and got the same reply. However, it feels somewhat mechanical; an automatic response when I say it to her. And she has yet to say it to me first. So, I asked her if she feels comfortable with those three very important words. And her honest response was to say "no, not yet, but I can see it becoming natural eventually. I've only said it to one other person in my life, and it's a big step. I'm scared about taking that step -- but in a good way." So, she likes me enough to say it, and maybe mean it, but not with 100% conviction. The fact that it does have a deep, reserved-for-someone-special meaning to her is also a positive in my mind.

Some more background: She ended a 3 year relationship after college because they moved 3 hours apart, and that's the only reason they broke up as far as I know, other than just wanting to adapt to post-collegiate life.

So now for my question: Could it be that she still loves her ex? They never had a falling out, and she admits to keeping in touch with him on a very limited basis. Their contact is limited to a rare phone call, and seeing each other at homecoming. The fact that she was able to tell me this is rather telling as to how she feels: it probably really is over. She also told me unprompted (i.e. I didn't ask, it was more of a disclosure, for the sake of earning my trust). I have no problem with this contact, as I am pretty understanding and acknowledge her right to do this. Also, I do the same thing with my ex: a rare phone call, or contact via a gathering of mutual friends. I don't love my ex any longer in a romantic sense, so it's entirely reasonable that she could have the same situation with her ex. So should I be concerned that the lack of saying "I love you" could be derived from a continuing love for her ex, or should I trust her frank and purportedly honest response? Should I be concerned if they ever move nearer one another? Did I jump the gun by telling her how I really feel? Is 4 months too soon (please, share your personal experiences with this matter!) I should note that this upcoming weekend is her college homecoming, which is what prompted me to write in, since I expect her to see her ex from 3 years ago.

I thank you in advance for you honest response.

– Cause For Concern?, Connecticut


A: CFC, let’s take this on one question at a time.

So should I be concerned that the lack of saying "I love you" could be derived from a continuing love for her ex, or should I trust her frank and purportedly honest response?

No and yes.

Should I be concerned if they ever move nearer one another?

I doubt it. And unless the ex has plans to move next door, I wouldn't waste any mental energy thinking about it.

Did I jump the gun by telling her how I really feel?

No. You got an "I love you" back. And she's scared -- in a good way. A good thing.

Is 4 months too soon (please, share your personal experiences with this matter!)?

It depends. But you felt it and you said it. It will mean something else when/if you say it in another year. And that's OK.

Don't worry about the weekend. Think about what it would be like to see your own ex at a reunion. It would be like seeing an old, close friend, right? Try not to freak out.

This woman has been nothing but forthcoming and empathetic. Enjoy this relationship and take your time. Your future with her isn't secure, but at four months, what is? So much of love is out of our hands. My advice is to trust her. She's a little tentative, a little scared. But when she does say an unprompted "I love you," you won't have to doubt what it means.

Readers? Sounds pretty perfect to me, but he wants "I love you" stories -- and some thoughts on the ex. Ideas? Stories? Does he have reason to worry? And can he really love her after four months? Share.

– Meredith



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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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