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He always helps his ex

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  March 31, 2010 09:03 AM

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Yesterday's letter hit home with a lot of people. For obvious reasons. We could debate it for weeks. But instead, let's consider today's letter, which is about tending to exes. Less controversial ... but stressful in its own way.

And chat at 1.

Q: Meredith,

I'm in a serious relationship with a man I absolutely love. We have been together for about 8 months and I would do anything for him and I know he would do anything for me. The problem is his ex-girlfriend, who always seems to be lingering around. I'm not worried about him cheating. He is always open and up front about his relationship with her. He broke up with her about a year ago, they stopped talking for a while, but then she started calling him again.

He says he has no feelings for her, but he still feels the need to help her out with things. He says she has no one else so he feels bad. He has given her money for the down payment on a car, brought her dog to the vet, paid tickets for her ... etc. He is a nice guy and does a lot of favors for all of his friends, it's not just her that he helps out ... and he would obviously help me out with anything I needed. That's not the issue.

The problem is, he talks to her fairly often and I can't help but think that he is leading her on. I do believe that he's helping her out because he is a genuinely nice guy, but then part of me thinks maybe he likes the attention he gets from her. I don't know what their conversations consist of ...

Either way, it bothers me that he talks to her and does these favors for her. Being a girl, I know that if an ex-boyfriend were still doing all of these things for me, I would think that maybe there was still a chance for us and I would not leave him alone, I would continue to call him and ask him for favors. How long is this going to continue for and how long do I have to put up with it for? Can I tell him I do not want him talking to her anymore or is that going overboard?

– Trouble with the Ex, Boston

A: "Can I tell him I do not want him talking to her anymore or is that going overboard?"

Yes, TWTE. You can ask him to stop talking to her. And you're not going overboard by doing so.

What I love about your letter is that you're not just worried about your relationship. You're legitimately concerned about your partner's ex. You don't want her to get her hopes up for reconciliation. This isn't just about your jealousy. Two thumbs up for empathy.

There are no real rules regarding how much contact with an ex is appropriate. It depends on the players involved and their individual comfort zones. Your boyfriend's behavior is out of your comfort zone, which means you have to talk to him about boundaries. Set some together. And don't be afraid to ask for what you really want, which is for her to go away.

He needs to know that his current relationship has to be his priority. You're not wrong. His interest in making you comfortable should outweigh his concern for an ex-girlfriend. You're his present.

As you set boundaries with your guy about this ex, talk about the bigger picture. It's fantastic that he's such a great friend to so many people, but at what point is his concern for others hurting you? Is this about attention or obligation? Why is he so quick to help someone buy a car? Is this how he was raised? Why does he feel so guilty about the ex? What's with his need to be needed? Does he feel strange about having more resources than others? Get some answers now. You're not wrong for wanting to know.

Readers? Can she demand that he sever ties with his ex? Or should he just minimize his contact with the ex as opposed to cutting her off? Should the ex’s problems be his responsibility now that the relationship is over? Is this about attention? Discuss.

– 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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