Ask Dr. Nerdlove by Harris O'Malley

I Hate That My Boyfriend is Friends With His Ex

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I was introduced to you unintentionally by my boyfriend (let’s call him “P”) that loves watching videos on dating, flirting and how to pick up women, (despite being in a relationship with me for almost 3 years), but P also watches many others videos on how to keep himself looking good too (yay!), P is 56yr old. I enjoyed reading your articles so much that I now come and visit you almost every day to see what’s new and yes! He will read this.

Why am I here? Simple! I cannot accept my partner being friends with his ex, whom he claims was just a FWB for over 3 years and things ended nicely about a year or so before we met. I get the scenario of being friends, because I have witnessed it on someone else, when my sister’s ex-husband’s partner became a good friend of my sister (I’m sure because of my niece). But you know that saying “keep your friends close and you enemies closer”? Just saying.

Ok, let’s back up on things here for a minute…. I come from a wide range of abusive and toxic relationships, ranging from physical abuse like being kicked to the point of giving birth and having an emergency C-section, to being raped while my kids slept on the other room. Not to mention being mentally abuse, controlled and cheated on time and time again.

TRUST is hard to give base on my experiences. Yet, I gave it to this man. I had reached a point in my life when we met where I had said to myself being alone is quite ok for me at this age and then I fell in love with him. Go figure!!

For two years everything was great and amazing, then one day we finally crossed paths with his ex, which I had expected due to places we frequent when going out on dates. Mind you, we were actually on a double “date night” with his friend J and J’s new lady, S. We were at a small music venue where there are various seating arrangements. We were on table for four and the stage was to our left. There was an empty high table for two to our right. I was on the left side of our table and P was to the right.

In comes the ex — call her M. I noticed her right away, my heart started racing, but I kept calm. She walked around and came back to the empty table to our right. She wasn’t alone, maybe with a date. That’s when P saw her and said “Oh! Hey there M”

He quickly introduced us; “This is my girlfriend so and so, this is S  and you already know J.” Ok, cool, right! NOT! He then decided to turn himself around (his back to me) and started a catch up conversation with her. 

Hello! We are here with 2 other people; you’re here with me…  Even his friend J noticed how rude P was being that he made a troubling remark — “Oh he’s digging himself into a hole” — that just made my blood started to boil.

I honestly do not recall what I said to P (shocking!), but I turned myself around to him and I whispered something in his ear about what he was doing. He then stopped and turns my way, music was great and he tried to touch me and caress me after that. Then at the end of the show he turned once again to her (his back to me again) and whispered something to her, because she smiled and nodded her head to him. Grrr! And guess what? We didn’t speak for days after that.

We then had the conversation and I expressed my feelings, the whys and how disrespected I felt. He, on the other hand, didn’t think he had done anything wrong. Still, he understood where I was coming from. We patched things on and all good. We encountered her again 2 weeks later, but it was minor and due to the amount of people around us neither of them got closed enough to talk. No big deal.

A few months, something else happened with a lady coworker where I got signals of attraction between him and the coworker, so I broke into a rage. My bad! I admit I know I can have a bad temper (Puerto Rican Bi*#^$! once someone said) when put on a defensive situation.

When we talked to solve this other issue the M topic came up again. He told me he believes he shouldn’t have to stop talking to his ex, because things ended nicely —  to the point where they meet every year in January for a dinner to celebrate birthdays… hers, her daughter’s (adult) and his. I clearly expressed my boundaries once more, and how I found that disrespectful when you’re in a relationship especially after what had happened. Just so you know he invited me to that dinner next year, because my birthday is in January. Honestly, at that point, I opted for letting it go, why fight about something in the future.

OK! Fast Forward to today!!!

He got a phone called later in the day last night, not typical for him due to his work scheduled. He answered and the tone of voice went down and softer, not his normal louder voice. I was in another room the door was ajar, I could hear the voice but not closed enough to hear what he was saying and I told myself “just let it be”. BUT My gut felt tight (not good). Later at night, I broke my own promise and I (for the 1st time) checked his phone (UGH! I know). I saw that this number had called more than once, either dialed or received. I called it the next day.I was praying to hear a male voice,  and M answered me. I didn’t speak, I just hung up. I felt so little, so betrayed!

I asked him later that day who had called him the night before, he right away said M. I expressed my irritation and how we had talked about her. He keeps insisting that is nothing that I shouldn’t worry about her, that he would’ve not asked me to move in with him if he wanted to do something with her or any other women. He insists on how he’s not interested on her, or M in him, and that this is all innocent. M only had called him days before to ask him on how to get to a restaurant they had been before. Moreover, that he had called her a day before that night, because it was her birthday. And lastly, that M’s called to him that night was by mistake, yet they spoke for a good 10 minutes hhmm!

I was raised with strong values like respect and honesty among many others, and I feel this is breaking my boundaries and what my values on a relationship are. Yes! My personal hurts have a lot to do with it, but my parents taught me better.

I believe they are both, P and her breaking my boundaries. She clearly knows he is in a relationship and by now (I am sure) knows that I moved in with him a few months back. He is clearly choosing (fairly knowing my take on this) to continue the relationship with her despite my feelings. Listen, I’m not saying to be rude, if we encounter her. I’m not saying wishing a happy birthday is bad, but when I see the many continues contacts between them two – MY “I’m gonna get hurt” WALL comes up with a vengeance. Is a defense mechanism, right?!

I am a 48 year old at a lost and tired of fight childish crap, but do I want to accept her presence like nothing or do I take a risk on this relationship and stand up for myself and for what I believe is right for me. I give my 100% respect, honesty and more; and I sure want the same.

Hell No! I’m not perfect, then again nobody is. Please, please, please give me your insight!

Thank you for your time Sir.

Respectfully,

Wanting My Respect

DEAR WANTING MY RESPECT: Well, you asked for my perspective on this… but I don’t think you’re gonna like it.

I’m going to preface this with saying that what you’ve experienced over time — the beatings, the sexual assault and the abusive relationships — are horrific. I’m sorry that you’ve gone through all of that and it’s understandable that the trauma you experienced would have a serious and profound effect on you. I don’t want to take away from any of that.

But none of that justifies your behavior with P. Quite frankly, you’re being jealous of P’s friendship with M to a degree that is NOT warranted; not by your history, not by P’s relationship with his ex and certainly not by his behavior. In fact, P has, by your account, been completely on the up and up with you. When you all encountered M, he introduced you immediately as his girlfriend and made it clear that you two were a thing. He’s kept no secrets from you or acted in any way that would cause a reasonable person to be suspicious. Hell, when you asked him who had called him the other night, he told you it was M right off the bat; he didn’t hesitate, he didn’t try to hide it or try to make it seem like it was someone else. He treated it like had nothing to hide. Because, frankly he didn’t. At most, he kept it low key because he likely felt, rightly as it turned out, that you’d go off on him.

The fact that P has a good relationship with his ex is a good thing. It tells you a lot about him as a person: how he handles a more casual relationship, how he conducts himself at the end of a relationship and the respect that he shows for people who were a part of his life. M may have just been a friend with benefits but the key word in that relationship is friend. The fact that they’re no longer sleeping together doesn’t mean that she’s dead to him or that he doesn’t care for her as a person. The sexual side of their relationship may have come to an end, but the friendship and the affection they have for one another didn’t. Those are all solid indicators of his character; not that he still has a thing for his ex but that he’s a stand up guy who treats his partners well, cares for his friends and is probably someone whose friends know he’s got their backs.

Those are all things I would tell women to look for in a guy they want to date. A guy who cuts ties with everyone he’s ever dated and has nothing good to say about any of them is likely someone who either has supremely poor judgement or is likely the nightmare ex in the equation.

Now it was a little rude of him to have an involved conversation with M while he was on a double date with you and your friends… but honestly, that’s pretty minor in the scheme of things.

You, on the other hand, have been treating him incredibly poorly. You’ve started fights with him about his being friends with M, over what you perceived as flirting between him and a coworker and snooped through his stuff to confirm something that he would’ve freely told you if you’d asked. And quite frankly, none of that is acceptable. All you’re doing is letting your jealousy and fear of being hurt run rampant, for no reason. The fact that it’s a defense mechanism doesn’t excuse it; defense mechanisms aren’t automatically healthy. Especially when those mechanisms are causing you to fly off the handle over perfectly normal and acceptable behavior. Trusting your instincts is a good idea… but only provided that your instincts are trustworthy. And while, again, I understand the trauma that you went through was horrific… your instincts seem to be based far more out of your fears and anxieties than actual, demonstrable behavior.

To be perfectly blunt: his friendship with M isn’t a threat to his relationship with you. The only threat I’m seeing to your relationship is, frankly, you. If you keep picking fights and letting your jealousy get the better of you, all you’re going to do is ensure that he will leave you for someone who won’t demand that he end friendships and accuse him of betrayal for no reason.

Yes, you have a right to your boundaries… but so does he. If you want to make his not being friends with someone a line in the sand for your relationship, it is your right to do so. But if you do, then you need to be prepared for him to tell you that this is unreasonable and he’s not willing to let you dictate who he can or can’t be friends with, especially when that person isn’t an actual threat to the relationship. That’s a line that he has a right to draw.

I honestly think that, more than anything else, you need to talk to a counselor or a therapist. You’re afraid of being hurt again, which is understandable, but it’s causing you to lash out in ways that simply aren’t acceptable. A therapist can help you process your trauma and work through those anxieties and help you adjust your Spidey-sense so that you’re not on high-alert all the time. Getting professional, trained help — rather than a loudmouth with an advice column — will do you far more good than trying to police who your boyfriend does or doesn’t talk to. And it’ll do far more for keeping your relationship intact as well.

Good luck.

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I don’t really have a question, I just wanted to thank you for the work that you do. I think your advice is very helpful, especially regarding abusive relationships.

I was in an abusive relationship this last year, and I’m still trying to deal with my emotional issues that resulted from it. I have a hard time not blaming myself for being involved with this guy. He has a lot of emotional issues, and I excused away a lot of his behavior. Logically, I realize it isn’t my fault, but the urge to blame myself for falling for his manipulative BS is still really strong. I have a hard time trusting people (especially men) because of the relationship, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to move beyond that someday; it will just take time. Reading your replies to people dealing with abusive and toxic relationships has been really helpful for me, so I just wanted to say thank you.

I’m sorry I’m not able to contribute to your Patreon right now. I’m a student, so times are tough. I hope you know how much people appreciate your work. Thank you.

-I Will Survive

DEAR I WILL SURVIVE: Hey, IWS? I am so proud of you for having gotten out of that relationship. It takes a lot of courage, strength and willpower to pull yourself out of a trap like that, and you should be celebrating the fact that you managed it. More than anything else, you should forgive yourself for trusting someone who abused that trust and for caring for someone who didn’t deserve your time and affection. It was not your fault.

You’re 100% right: you will move beyond this. You will heal. Hopefully in time, you’ll be able to trust again and find people who’re worthy of that trust. It may take time, but you have time. Focus on yourself; love will be waiting for you when you’re ready.

Don’t even worry about anything like my Patreon; I’m just glad to hear that you’re doing well and that I was able to help in some small way. Invest in yourself and your healing; that’s where your focus should be.

You’ve got this, IWS.

All will be well.

Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, doc@doctornerdlove.com