Q: This letter may be just as much about me as it is about my guy or his ex-girlfriend. My boyfriend, whom I met about four years ago, is loving, caring, sweet, funny, sexy and everything I have ever wanted. We dated for a few months when we met, and started dating again this past fall. Things have become very serious. We are long distance and see each other every 2/3 weeks. We've made plans for him to live up here for the summer and I am moving back down there once I am done with my graduate degree.
My major problem (with myself or my boyfriend or his ex -- I am not quite sure at this point) is that his ex -- who, incidentally, is the local girl who lured him away from me after I left years ago -- is a rotten egg. She wormed his way into his life. At the time, he was about 27, I was 24, and she was 21. Now we are four years older. Why did he pass me over for her? Well, he was living in a rural town, felt lonely, and I was 600 miles away. At the time, it was all a very logical bad decision on his part. I didn't have much choice but to pick up and concentrate on my own life. I just never expected to hear from him again. Well I did, and here we are -- happy but confused!
During those three-plus years apart, he was extremely unhappy and struggled with his ex being verbally (sometimes physically) abusive and manipulative. In addition, a lot happened to us both personally -- he bought a house, I lost a parent, he lost two relatives, and he began a business with his ex that is still up in the air. He has admitted he made horrible choices and was always thinking about me. He is also very much past her and she is not a threat to our relationship at all -- at least not in the sense that he would resume things with her again.
However, she is a threat in that our bad feelings about her are somewhat poisonous and have become embedded into what he and I are trying to rebuild. Although she has moved away from him, she still tries to needle her way into things -- she calls and capitalizes upon the legalities of their business and then it becomes all about her. The fact that they ran this business together makes this almost like a divorce. Whenever she gets mean, he ends the conversation then and there. However, it doesn't stop him from making an unpleasant comment about her -- which, of course, I empathize with completely.
I have no issues with his honesty -- he is the most honest guy I have ever met and always has been. He never lied to me once -- not even when things began with her way back when. I have never met this woman and I absolutely hate her -- which is something I feel uncomfortable about. I hate her because she was a major player in our initial separation, caused me so much hurt, hurt him so much and is still hurting him.
The two of us agree that the years apart were beneficial for us. We are older and wiser and treasure what we have, which is why I just want to find a way for us to not despise her so much. I understand if this letter is a bit confusing, but honestly, it just reflects the resentful bewilderment I feel about her -- or me. I am not sure. I have found myself more than a few times looking her up online and mentally bashing her with the sort of derision I reserve for the Kardashians. That, I know, is not healthy OR constructive.
Our love is strong. This is the one struggle we have. The distance is nothing. Simply put, we are two good people who are feeling really mean and frustrated about this one person. So ... now I am very curious about the armchair online analysis you and your readers have to offer. I just don't know what I can do to make the hateful thought of her less pervasive.
– Nice Chick Otherwise, New England
A: I see two big issues here, NCO. One is that you and your boyfriend are using your shared hatred of this woman as a bonding mechanism. Yes, your boyfriend is trash-talking her because he's processing his anger, but beyond that, it's about using negativity to make your relationship stronger. That's not good.
I want you try to introduce new bonding topics. Whenever you find yourself obsessing about this woman with your boyfriend, shift the conversation so that you're making plans for your life together after your return. When you're on the phone with him, watch the clock. Have you talked about his ex for more than two minutes? If so, distract him (and yourself) by bringing up your eventual move home.
The second big issue here is that it's easier to be angry with your boyfriend's villainous ex than it is to be angry with him. He had practical reasons for ditching you years ago, but you were still hurt. And when he returned, he unearthed a lot of bad memories of you being passed over for a younger woman. You acknowledge your boyfriend's need to process feelings, but you have the same need. You're allowed to be ticked off that he let her worm her way into his life. You're allowed to scream about the past (even if it's to yourself) so that you can really, truly forgive him. Admitting that you're still angry will put things in perspective -- and will make his ex look like less of a monster.
Readers? How can they stop obsessing about his ex’s awfulness? What’s happening here? Am I right about the bonding and the anger at him? Ever become obsessed with a partner’s ex? Help.
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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.