Q: Hey Meredith,
I'm in my mid-20s and I was dating "Jackie" (26) for 3 years. She gave me everything I could ever want and more. We had a great relationship in terms of friendship, love, and communication. In the last 6 to 7 months of our relationship, I started to really understand that my feelings for her were not what hers were for me. I loved her, but I was not IN love with her. I was honest with her about my feelings and we really worked to take some space, and then we got back together after a month of taking a break. This on/off lasted for a while. I was caught up on the fact that I truly care about her, and that she is a genuinely great person ... but I knew the right thing was to break up because I did not reciprocate her feelings. She deserves to be with someone who is madly in love with her, too.
She understood but took the break up hard. Actually, she took it much better than I thought she would, seeing as this was her first "real" relationship (she had never really dated before) and that I was her first same-sex partner. Our relationship did not end badly -- there was no fight, no name-calling, any of that. We talked about how hard it might be to stay friends, especially immediately after breaking up, however we both agreed to be honest about our feelings if it got too hard to talk/see each other as friends.
We broke up months ago. We text a couple times a week and have seen each other about once a month for a meal. Our conversations focus mostly on family, work, current events, and mutual friends. She has not talked about getting back together since we broke up and is always very respectful.
I've been dating "Ashley" for about 4 months now and have been completely honest with her about my relationship with Jackie, including why we broke up and my wanting to remain friends with her. Recently, Ashley has become more and more upset about my talking with Jackie and wanting to get together with her. Ashley says it's not a trust issue but she just doesn't understand why I want to remain friends with my ex. Honestly Meredith, Jackie is such a genuinely good person and friend that I do not want to lose her from my life; I value her friendship (and to reiterate: I do not have any romantic feelings for her and Jackie has not expressed any romantic feelings toward me since the break up!). I try to explain my feelings and reasons to Ashley but she just isn't understanding. Most of our friends have had really bad breakups due to cheating and lying so they are not able to be friends with their exes. Their skewed opinions are influencing Ashley to think that it's "weird" and "sketchy.”
Ashley has said that she feels like I'm choosing to hang out with Jackie instead of her. For one hour once a month ... it's not like I want to see her for a one-on-one 3-hour dinner every single week! I do my best to validate Ashley's concerns and feelings; I remain honest with her about my feelings and thoughts as well. I know things like this take time, but I'm hoping that eventually we will all be able to hang out in a group settings. I don't think it's an issue to be able to have my relationship with Ashley while also staying friends with Jackie.
Can you and your readers give me some insight into this? Or give me any advice on how to move forward with both Ashley and Jackie?
– Staying Friends with an Ex, Boston
A: You've told us a lot about your relationship with Jackie, SFWAE. I feel like I know her. But Ashley? Your current girlfriend? I know nothing. All I know is that you've been dating her for a while and that she feels a bit slighted. All I know is that she exists and that she's annoyed.
I have to wonder whether Ashley's issues are really about Jackie -- or whether she's just getting the sense that you're not very into her. Again, you chose to tell us that Jackie is amazing. Is Ashley great? Is she your priority? If so, why?
I tend to believe that we can put up with significant others staying friends with exes if we feel confident about our place in the relationship. In your case, the relationship with Ashley is pretty new. And your breakup with Jackie is also new. Your attention is split. Do you really need to be thinking about your friendship with Jackie so much? Are the frequent texts necessary? Can you give Jackie some space and let this friendship evolve more naturally?
My advice is to tell Ashley that you're committed to knowing Jackie in some way, but that you don't want the friendship to ruin what's developing with her. The random monthly lunch isn't so important. If it doesn't happen monthly, it's not a big deal. Explain (to Ashley) that she's your present and that you want her to feel like she's the priority.
Because she is, right? If you're not sure, maybe you just need to be single. Ashley should be the center of attention. If she isn't, that's telling.
Readers? Did the letter writer move on too quickly? Is she into Ashley? Is she forcing this relationship with Jackie? How do you prioritize a friendship with an 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.