Q: I am currently living with my boyfriend of 3 years. Our relationship is great in every way except for one… his relationship with his ex-wife. He has been divorced for 5 years and his ex lives out of state. He has maintained a long distance friendship with his ex since the time of their divorce. She emails and calls him on a regular basis. Unfortunately, when we started dating his ex was unwilling to include me in the friendship and therefore I am not involved in any of the conversations or interactions. I have tried to reach out to her via emails but she will not respond to me. She comes “home” to visit her parents (who still live in the area) at least once a year. Whenever she is home, she seeks out my boyfriend to spend with him… lunch, dinner, movie, etc. Although I have no problem him continuing a friendship with his ex-spouse, I personally feel, out of respect for me (the live-in girlfriend) that I should be a part of the friendship as well. It makes me feel very sad when I sit home alone while they spend time together during her return visits. I have spoken to my boyfriend about this numerous times and although he understands that it makes me unhappy, he says he can’t severe the relationship because he still carries a lot of guilt over the divorce and he promised to never hurt his ex-wife ever again, even though seeing her makes me unhappy. This leaves me feeling very unimportant and insecure in our relationship and it is starting to take its toll. I love him very much and want to see our relationship work, I am just at odds at how to resolve the problem in a manner in which we both can feel good. And advise??
A: I cannot tell you exactly what to do in this situation because everyone has to set their own boundaries and what I call “bottom lines” in their relationships. I can understand why this situation upsets you and I feel that they are not respecting you in the situation. It would be nice if your boyfriend could tell his ex-wife that he is in a new relationship now and that he comes as a package deal… but you can’t make him do this. There are many people who are able to maintain friendships after divorce but I personally feel that the relationship you are currently in should take precedence over a past one. On the other hand, if she really only comes home about once a year and it is one day out of 365 that you have to endure him leaving you to see her that’s probably something you could deal with. But if he talks to her frequently despite your wishes, I do feel that he is being unfair to you. I hope this helps and I hope you keep talking to your boyfriend about your feelings. You may also consider couple’s counseling to see if having a third person involved can help resolve things sooner. Good luck.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 10 Jan 2007
Counts, H. (2007). Issue with boyfriend’s ex.. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 21, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/01/10/issue-with-boyfriends-ex/