In 2002 (I was 17) I met a guy (he was 26) hung out in a group that one night. He was recently divorced after a 7 yr marriage. I got married that same year. Never saw this man again. Until 2 1/2 years ago I was going through a divorce after being married 6 years. We ran into each other. Remembered each other. After getting to know one another, and building a friendship over 5 months, we started a relationship. Been together ever since. I am now 26, and he is 35. I have 2 sons from my marriage. He has no children of his own, but loves the boys like they’re his. And their father has since passed away, so he is now their sole father figure in their life. We have lived together as a family for 15 months. Even recently bought a house together. So, that’s a brief history. For the most part we have a great relationship. The main cause of our problems stems from his friendships with females. One in particular is a girl who he had one night been intimate with, but they’ve always been just friends. She started talking to him again about 8 months into our relationship, and he started going over 1 or 2 nights a week to watch movies with her and her sister and their children. (The sisters lived together) At first it wasn’t a big deal to me. Until one night I found out that without telling me, him and a friend of his picked her up one night and they hung out together, and some inappropriate (in my opinion) stuff happened. I got very upset, and it caused us to argue, and this arguing caused him to walk out, and we didn’t talk for 2 days, and he admits that the night he left my house, he went to her house and stayed all night bc he’d had a few beers. (Nothing happened) Ok. Several weeks later, he has one too many drinks and opens up about that night. He tells me he was upset and was discussing our problems with this girl, and she started crying and said to him: I wish you could love me like you love her. I’ve always thought we’d be good together. Of course this upsets me. So, he continues to communicate with her via texting, but he stops hanging out with her. Then, my ex husband passed away rather tragically. We disagreed about some issues and once again he walked out of my house, and we didn’t talk for 4 days. When we finally talked, we agreed to take a 30-day break, and if we still wanted to be together, we would start over. (We laid out ground rules: no communicating at all, unless it was to say we wanted to move on because we’d found someone else. We didn’t want to be unfaithful to each other. We were still considering us to be together, we were just taking a break to think things through) ok, so the next day we meet up and exchange house keys, etc. When I saw him (we hadn’t seen each other in 5 days) he looked awful. He looked tired, worn out, his eyes were swollen. It was obvious he’d been crying a lot. We hugged, and parted ways to begin the 30-day break. Early the following morning he texted and said he wanted to talk. So, we talked. He cried, and said he felt like we’d proved a point, he knew he didn’t want to live without me and the boys and he asked how I felt, and so we agreed to move forward and continue building our family. Of course I learn he pretty much spent the whole 5 days we were apart surrounded by all his friends including the 1 girl I have a problem with. That very day we get back together we see this girl in a parking lot and he waves at her and she doesn’t wave back. He doesn’t seem to care. Ok. Within the month we move in together. A week or so later we are laying in bed and he starts going through his phone and let’s me see where he had been texting her and getting no response and so he asked if she was mad and she finally responded with: I just don’t like how you handled everything. He says she means she is upset that he chose to stay with me. So, she ends up inviting him to a birthday get together and he declines BC I pretty much said no way. And he made a promise that he would never make plans to see her in person again. A whole year goes by with no communication between them and almost 4 months ago she pops up again and they’ve talked constantly since then. He works for a cable company. So he went to her house and installed cable. That was fine. Then he decides he wants to set her up with a friend of his, so him and his friend go to her house. A couple weeks later I specifically ask him if he has seen her other than those 2 times. He says no he has not. So, He ended up getting a new phone, so one day I looked through his old phone and was able to read text messages. I discovered that over a 4 week period he had hung out with her 4 or 5 times. Of course, 2 of those times I know about, the other time he flat out lied. He says it was all BC he was trying to set his friend up with her. This upsets me very much and of course we argued. Pretty much was going to end things. But, once again talked things through. Let me add that I have no concerns of him physically cheating on me. It’s the emotional part that upsets me. It hurts my feelings knowing that he sits and thinks of her and then feels the need to text her to see how her day is. I’ve expressed this to him numerous times. I understand he knew her years before him and I got together. He has explained to me that in a way she reminds him of his ex wife. She is very small and timid and shy and comes off as being fragile. She doesn’t have a lot of friends and she’s been burned a lot by family and friends. She told him years ago that she felt like she could tell him anything and she trusted him more than she had ever trusted anyone. She has a 3-year-old son. She is a single mom. Apparently the father has never been in the picture. Yes, he admits he feels sorry for her. He cares about her as a person. She’s always been nice to him. He says he can talk to her about anything. He can say anything he wants and if she gets mad, who cares? Because he doesn’t have to live with her. Oh and let me add…I have never met her. One way I described my feelings about the situation to him is: “She needs to find her own knight in shining armor.” Yes. I feel sorry for her. I have a ton of respect for her as a single parent. I know she’s a good mom and a hard worker. Does it make me an awful person to feel like “oh well.”? Not our problem?” I’ve never been a jealous person until all these issues the past 2 years. And once again, I truly don’t feel like he’d ever be physically unfaithful. His friends and family who’ve known him his whole life say the same. He’s been burned several times by unfaithfulness. He has several female friends that were in his life before me. I’ve met them and developed friendships with them. But, not this girl. She has stayed away. And if she does invite him to something she doesn’t include me in the invitation. It just really bothers me. The whole situation. What bothers me the most is the fact that she has expressed her feelings toward him, even crying that she wished he loved her the way he did me? And then he’ll tell me how emotionally unstable she is and she’s fragile and he can’t just kick her to the curb, she’s never done anything to hurt anyone she is one of the nicest people he knows. I feel that by him staying in her life it gives her false hope and if she is as bad off emotionally as he says, he’s possibly setting her up for a huge breakdown. That’s just how I feel. I apologize for how long this is and I hope you can make sense of it. Thanks so much.
A: What you are saying makes a great deal of sense, and it is very clearly laid out. I believe there is something called a parallel process at issue here. By not giving him an ultimatum and setting a clear boundary, he is not setting s clear boundary with her. The result is that a type of permission and enablement that allows the confusion and ambiguity to continue. What you have now is a relationship based on potential and promise — rather than actuality.
Ask him for exactly what you want, and set limits on what is acceptable and what isn’t. If you want a more committed relationship then you need to ask for it. If his lying about his contact with her is a deal breaker in the future — say so.
Three people in what should be a 2-person drama never succeeds. If you can’t set limits, goals and boundaries with him, he isn’t going to be able to set them with her. Is this an ultimatum? Perhaps. But I prefer to see it as your basic statement of needs.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 2 May 2011
Tomasulo, D. (2011). My significant other has friends of the opposite sex that I don’t approve of.. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/05/02/my-significant-other-has-friends-of-the-opposite-sex-that-i-dont-approve-of/