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Haunted by the ghost of his ex

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  April 18, 2013 08:55 AM

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Q: Hi,

I have been dating this great guy for three months. He's someone with whom I could see building a life. We're both older (mid-30s and early 40s) and have a better sense of who we are and what we want, as well as baggage. Both of us have had serious relationships. In his case, it's an ex-wife of seven years who left him after multiple affairs he knew nothing about at the time.

Understandably, it was heartbreaking. He has taken five years working through it and feels like he is in a place to try again. However, the ex is still around in spirit -- the house they bought, fixtures she selected, and pictures where she's not visible but somehow has a connection to the subject. We talked early on because I was worried after she somehow was mentioned in every date. She's a huge part of his past and I don't want to discredit her role. The references are always devoid of emotion, usually just made in context as he shares stories from his life. Alas, her name still comes up in almost every date. I don't know what to think. On one hand, it doesn't bother me because I really do sense she is a part of his past. On the other hand, I find myself wondering if I would want to build a life around these memories. I'm not sure what to think. Is it normal to frequently reference past loves, even in an emotionally-neutral context? How do you know when someone has truly let go?

– Wondering About a Ghost, Between Land and Sea, Mass.


A: It's normal to bring up an ex if he/she was a part of your life for a long time, WAAG. But your guy has been single for five years. I'm surprised that his ex is a part of so many stories.

What did he say when you first talked about this issue? Was he sensitive? Did he understand? Does he ever talk about the last five years of his life -- when his ex wasn't around?

My advice is to bring this up again. He should know that your concerns haven't vanished. It'd be one thing if he brought her up because he sees her every week to co-parent, but it doesn't sound like there are any kids in the picture. And by now he should know how to tell stories without bringing up his ex-wife. He can say, "I've been to Paris twice." He doesn't have to say, "I've been to Paris twice ... with her."

When you have the conversation, tell him the good stuff too. Explain that you see big potential here, which is why you care so much about working this out. You understand that her name is going to come up on occasion, but hopefully not all the time. You want to hear about him. You don't need the context.

Readers? Is this normal? Is there a way for him to tell stories without mentioning the ex? Should she bring this up again? Is this a deal-breaker? 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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