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Coping with my boyfriend's divorce

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  April 21, 2010 07:00 AM

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Some business:

My friend/colleague Geoff Edgers made a wonderful movie that's playing at the Somerville Theatre on Saturday night as part of the Independent Film Festival Boston. It's called "Do It Again," and it's about Geoff's quest to reunite his favorite band, the Kinks. It's very funny and has some great appearances by Sting, Zooey Deschanel, Robin Hitchcock -- and me. I'm only in it for about a minute, but I still like to tell people that I'm starring in a movie with Zooey Deschanel. I can't imagine I'll ever be able to say that again … unless they do make "Love Letters: The Movie" and Zooey plays ... Alice? BackBayBabe?

Anyway, you can buy tickets to the screening here, but Geoff is giving us a pair for free. If you want them, write two sentences explaining why and send them to meregoldstein at gmail.com. Make sure the subject line says "PICK ME GLENN" – because rocker/Love Letters guy Glenn Yoder will be going through my e-mail and picking the winner. Submissions are due tomorrow at 9 a.m. Glenn will contact the winner by 5 p.m. tomorrow.

Speaking of Glenn, he'll be running today's chat while I'm out of the office for a trip. Be nice to him.


Q: Long time listener, first time caller --love your show! Now, down to business. Here's my situation: My boyfriend and I have been together six months. It was love at first sight. It was magical. We're inseparable. I want him and us forever. He wants/feels the same. We talk about the future. I'm 28. He's 31. I've dated a handful of good, quality guys through my 20s, some for a couple months, some for a couple years. I've had single time to learn who I am and what I'm looking for. I wasn't ready to talk "future" until I met this one. Everything is different and I've never been happier.

Here's my "but." Here's my dilemma. Here's why I'm writing. Technically, he's still married. He was married for seven years. They had been separated for two years when he and I started dating. There is no question that the pending divorce will happen. However, over the course of our six months together, more and more details have come out regarding exactly what the divorce road is going to look like for him/us. Long story short, the soon-to-be-ex is a feisty one. They own a house together (she lives there -- he has his apartment). They own a time share together. They have multiple credit cards in both of their names. His father receives financial assistance and for some reason those checks go to her name only. They still share car insurance. Since it's not legally over, he's still getting her benefits deducted from his check. He transfers money to her personally every month, not to the actual cards or banks. I conclude that she's feisty from the many interactions that I've witnessed and heard about. One day they'll talk and she'll be happy and cooperative. The next day they talk, she'll be crying, upset, profane, hang up, not return calls, or even drop the "I love you" on him. I understand this means reality is setting in for her. When I bring up my opinion/suggestion/advice such as paying the banks directly and taking initiative to get this stuff taken care of, I am met with his desire to not "rock the boat." He has explained that he's waiting until the divorce is complete to push anything else because he's scared she'll retaliate, get attorneys, push them further in debt, etc. Since I learned of this relationship (he told me on our third date), I have tried to prepare myself for whatever direction this road is going to take. I believe my boyfriend and our future together is worth going through this.

One more important detail. He moved for me -- across several states. They don't see each other. There is no potential for that. Also, he lived with a roommate for those two years they were separated. Lately though, I've been fearful that this isn't going to end. He's made a couple comments about how in the future, maybe he'll check in with her on her birthday or maybe they'll be friends on Facebook when all of this if over. For some reason I've been OK with everything we're currently dealing with, but now I'm beginning to think she will never go away.

My questions/concerns I hope you and your readers can help me with are: Am I living in a fantasy world thinking she'll just disappear when this is over? Why wasn't this taken care of before we met? Am I being pushy? How do I continue to deal with this situation (that I'm convinced could take years with debt and house)? Am I over-reacting? Am I entitled to be uncomfortable? How do I avoid resentment that I can offer him 100 percent but I can’t have the same in return….yet?

– Want Him All To Myself, Waltham

A: You're right, WHATM. Your boyfriend has been passive about separating from his ex. That's something to resent, for sure. Postponing necessary conflict out of fear is one thing when you're only worried about yourself. It's another thing when it hurts your current partner. I get that he doesn't want to rock her boat, but he should be worried about rocking yours. Your boat is just as important.

This is bound to be a bumpy ride. It's debt and divorce, after all. But he can help by explaining his plan and timeline to you and by making sure that he follows through. He can help himself by seeking advice from a financial expert. Perhaps he can see someone with his ex so that everyone knows the plan and that there's a witness to an agreement.

At the end of the day, you can't control what he does. You can't put him and his ex in a room and force them to map out their divorce. You can only advise. But you can expect his honesty, and you have every right to demand a timeline. I think that if you know his goals and believe that there are some deadlines, you'll be less resentful and frustrated. Demand to know the plan. If there isn't one, well, he's rocking everyone's boat. Make that known.

As for the birthday/Facebook thing ... well, I'm not worried about that. Feisty or not, this woman was your boyfriend's wife. At some point, they loved each other so much they invested in a time share. It's not surprising that he fantasizes about sending her a birthday card or messaging her on Facebook. It doesn't mean that he ever will. It's just that divorce is hard and he dreams of a time when he and his ex can look back on their relationship with a nostalgic smile. Even if he has moved on and is in love with you, he's still going to have mixed emotions about the end of a seven-year relationship.

Readers? Does the letter writer have the right to push her boyfriend to be more aggressive about the split? Is it weird that her boyfriend still shares accounts with his ex? Is it wrong for the boyfriend to want to remain in contact with the ex? How can the letter writer avoid resenting everyone and feeling helpless? 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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