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His ex is in the way

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  March 27, 2012 08:03 AM

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Q: I have been with this guy for over a year now but we actually have only been dating seriously for the past couple of months. When we first started hooking up, it was casual and neither of us wanted anything out of it. He had a lot of drama going on with his ex from a year ago, and I was just someone he hung out with as a good escape from it all. Over time we did get much closer, and his ex found out about me one day while snooping through his email. We were completely open about our relationship after that -- but his ex would go around saying she was depressed, would talk about what she read in our conversations pertaining to our sex life, and would tell people how he actually wanted to be with her. She completely destroyed my reputation and made me so embarrassed to show my face.

She began becoming extremely depressed, and her father was diagnosed with a bad illness toward the end of the year. She would put really heavy things on my guy by constantly crying and saying her happiness depended on him. She had a new boyfriend, but would continuously text him telling him how she loved him. Finally he told her we were getting more serious and she needed to stop, but she still continued to do the same things over and over. I also tried talking to her to get her to stop, but nothing seemed to work. In the midst of all of this, I heard that they had hooked up during the earlier parts of us talking. He did at first lie about it, but I told him I didn't believe him and he eventually admitted to it.

Now that her father is ill, he feels responsible for the way she is behaving and for her depression. He feels as though he should talk to her about how she feels, but I don't know what to take of it. I hate this girl for what she did to me and put me through when I didn't even know her, and I hate her for what she did to him (she cheated during their relationship). I feel absolutely crazy telling him not to be there for her, but it makes me feel incredibly uncomfortable. All of her friends have stopped talking to her as a result of her actions toward this situation, so he feels as though she has no one.

This isn't a trust issue for me; it's more that I just don't feel entitled to my boyfriend since she knows he will always be there when she needs it. I feel like she takes advantage of that and he allows her to do that. I really don't know what the sane way to feel about this is, and I hope you could give me some guidance.

– Can't Handle the Ex, Boston


A: I understand that there's history here and that her father is ill and that she's friendless, but this can't be your boyfriend's responsibility. Because when will it stop? And how does this woman's new boyfriend feel about all of this? This can't be working for anyone.

I don't expect that your boyfriend will leave this woman depressed and alone, but I hope that he's capable of setting boundaries and explaining to her that he can't be her first phone call. I want your boyfriend to talk to her (again) about what works for him, and to give her some tools to find help on her own. You're allowed to ask him to minimize contact. You're allowed to help him figure out what to say. You're allowed to tell him all about your boundaries and what you can live with as he deals with someone who used to be the most important person in his life.

Realistically, your best-case scenario is that your boyfriend sets boundaries so that his ex-girlfriend fades away. I don't see it getting better than that. He's not going to cut her off right now, certainly not out of the blue.

And that's why you need to be honest with yourself about what you'll put up with. This woman has been a problem since you started this relationship, and you've only been serious for a few months. Meanwhile, you didn't tell us much about the good stuff. Is there enough positive to counter the negative? Can you be happy with your probable best-case scenario? If not, you know what you have to do. Is this worth the hassle?

Readers? Can the letter writer ask the boyfriend to stop talking to the ex? Does it matter that the ex is going through a family crisis? Will the boyfriend ever minimize the ex? What should the letter writer do? Help.


– 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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