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His ex keeps calling and calling

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  March 5, 2012 08:28 AM

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Q: I am writing for a few hundred unbiased opinions on a situation I have been having with my boyfriend. My friends are amazing listeners who are very supportive, but being agreed with repeatedly is not helping me. I need some fresh points of view. So, here's my "I love him, but…" story.

I live with an amazing man and his two kids from a previous relationship who we have about 50% of the time. We were together when we were younger and found our way back to each other about two years ago, both of us now in our 30s. Nothing in my life has ever felt so right. I am not perfect, he's not perfect, but we're perfect for each other. Before him, I was happily single and I could be again, so I am not with him out of a need to be in a relationship.

The problem has to do with his kids' mother. We all get along, she is recently married, they were apart for years before we got together, and we easily navigate custody without legal assistance. Neither of them has the slightest desire to be with the other in a romantic way. The problem is how frequently she calls/texts him. Their children are young, so there is bound to be more calls than with older children, but she calls at least once most days, usually a couple of times and that is often in addition to multiple texts. The kids have their own phone, so she is not calling to talk to them. The children are healthy, normal kids who do not require any special attention, so I can't figure out what is so important it can't wait until they see each other, which they do almost daily to drop off/pick up the kids. There have been times I know they've spoken more than once and exchanged a few texts and he still doesn't know who has the kids that night. Most calls have something to do with the kids but not always. Even when it is about the kids, it is often something trivial that really doesn't necessitate contact.

The other day, I asked when he last went a day without her calling. The only day he could come up with was the day he drove her and the kids to the airport. We fight about this constantly; he says he doesn't care because she is such a nonentity in his life that he doesn't even notice. I can't understand why it wouldn't bother him unless he wants to hear from her (he never calls her unless he has to). It has gotten to the point where I cannot even be rational when she calls for legitimate reasons.

Am I being unreasonable? Why doesn't he want less of her in his life? Should he set boundaries? How can he do that without creating waves (she can easily be tipped into crazy land and things wouldn't be so good for the kids)? Can you suggest ways for me to just accept it as "the thing" in our relationship?

– Feeling Like the Other Woman, CT


A: I understand why this bothers you, FLTOW, but there isn't much you can/should do about it right now. You've told him that her calls bother you, but it's not like he can ignore his ringing phone. The one time he ignores a call it might be a kid emergency.

I'm giving this woman a break right now for two reasons. The first is that she's sharing custody of two young kids, which means that she can be forgetful. She's probably overwhelmed. She's probably making many to-do lists and then leaving them in the car. Your boyfriend's ex could probably get all of her comments out of the way in one phone call, but she's calling whenever she remembers something tiny. That's just how it goes sometimes.

The other reason I'm giving this woman a temporary break is that she's a newlywed. It takes a long time to establish a good routine with kids, and despite the fact that this custody situation is relatively old, her marriage is new. My guess is that she's basically calling to ask, "Are we doing it right? Are we all still happy and friendly?" If she's calling this many times a day for no good reason in a year or so, you can absolutely talk to your boyfriend about making better choices about when to answer. But by then the circumstances will be different, so just sit tight.

For now, take a deep breath and remember that it could always be worse. She could be calling to yell. She could be not calling at all, which would be bad. Like your friends, I'll validate your feelings, but I can't endorse doing anything about them right now.

Readers? Should the boyfriend limit the calls with the ex? Is it worth rocking the boat with the ex? Am I right about the reasons for the frequency of calls? Is there something she can do to cope with the frequent communication? How can they avoid fighting about this? 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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