DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: My boyfriend and I have almost been together a full year. Things are beyond great, we’ve been discussing moving in together, but there is something that causes me to feel uneasy: he is friends with his ex.
When we first started dating I let him know that I was uncomfortable with this. He has assured me that they are only friends, but I still can’t shake this terrible feeling I get – especially, when he texts her often. It used to be where she would call him during our dates, yes he would answer, and then have long conversations about her own relationships and whatnot. She no longer calls him as often..at least when I’m around. But she leans on him as a source of comfort and it irks me.
I don’t ever get the full picture, but from what I hear, from what little he has shared with me, after they dated she fell for someone hard and it ended terribly and her confidence hasn’t been the same. But again, from my perspective, what she’s missing from her romantic relationships she get’s from my boyfriend. A shoulder to cry on, and someone to listen to her, someone that actually listens. My boyfriend is a great listener so I can understand why she would cling to that.
For a couple of months she backed off after he told her he couldn’t be there all the time for her. Slowly it reverted back to them texting often. I don’t feel as though he wants to be with her because he has told me time and time again that he is over her and wants to be with me. I’ve let him know that I have no interest in being with someone that wants to be with someone else, so if his feelings change…just let me know. I want to trust him, and it’s not that I don’t, but this is just so uncomfortable for me.
He values her friendship but this is more than just a typical friendship. I can’t help but feel this jealousy. I can’t see myself being the type of person that would issue an ultimatum because his feelings are important to me. He said he experienced feeling this way when he was dating his ex and she was close friends with her previous ex. I’m sorry I just don’t get being close friends with your ex. So he said he managed to deal with his jealousy and not really let it eat at him. What I also don’t get is, he knows how terrible it feels, so why would you put that upon your current relationship?
I feel this extreme guilt for feeling this way and for making him feel uneasy whenever he does take a call from her. The last thing I want is for him to not feel comfortable around me. But how do I deal with this jealousy? Any advice would be great. Thank you.
DEAR GREEN-EYED MONSTER: There’re two different issues going on here, GEM.
The first is that your boyfriend’s ex has some issues with boundaries, and your boyfriend ain’t helping. It’s one thing to still be friends with someone you used to date. It’s another entirely when you ignore basically everything going on in their life at your convenience. Calling on dates, for example, is an issue. Now, I doubt that she’s planning on interrupting your dates. I suspect it’s far more likely that it’s a case that Friday night is the loneliest night of the week and that’s when all the little anxiety gremlins come out to play and she calls your beau in order to get talked down from the metaphorical ledge.
But while it’s sweet that your boy is considerate and wants to make sure she’s ok and provides a shoulder… taking calls on your dates that don’t involve someone actively being on fire isn’t cool. She needs to stop leaning on him quite as much and he needs to stop enabling her.
However, this also brings us to your second problem: you don’t trust your boyfriend. You don’t get why someone would still be friends with someone they used to date and see them still being close as reason for suspicion. However, being friends with an ex is generally a good thing. It’s a mark of who this person is and what they’re like in relationships in general. Yes, the romantic side of the relationship came to an end, but the two of them still had that core of respect and affection for one another that was part of why they were dating in the first place. He’s not running around screaming what an evil harpy she was, she’s not dragging him to everyone who’ll listen. These are pretty reliable indicators as to who he is and what you can expect from him.
And to be perfectly honest: nothing you’ve said in your letter sounds terribly egregious. He’s not lying to you about her, he’s not acting shady or concealing things. Actions speak louder than words and, frankly, he’s acting the way he would with a platonic friend who he used to date.
Don’t get me wrong: I get that you’re uncomfortable. This isn’t a relationship dynamic that you’re used to. But when all signs are pointing to “he’s being a straight-up guy”, then if you want this relationship to work, you really need to be willing to take “yes” for an answer.
Now that having been said: if he doesn’t start enforcing some boundaries with her, that’s cause for concern. Not that he’s going to leave you for her but that he’s letting a friend ride roughshod over him and being inconsiderate to you in the process. That ain’t cool and he needs to knock that the hell off.
So, rather than issuing ultimatums or setting up a scenario where you set up a “it’s her or me” choice (which never goes well, no matter who he chooses) – focus on the rudeness and the boundary issues. Ask him to have some limits in how much access she has to him – especially when it’s time for just the two of you. If he’s always leaping to the phone when she calls, she’s just going to call more. Having some (completely reasonable) limits to how often he has to be dancing in attendance will not only make you feel better, it’s more likely to make her follow the rule of Handle Thine Own S
t… or at the very least, dump her emotional load on someone else.
But for real. If he’s being straight with you and letting you know, in no uncertain terms that he cares for you? Then let yourself believe him. Because if you can’t, it doesn’t matter what he says or does; you’ll always be waiting for disaster to strike.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: If I’ve meet a girl in real life asked how she was and blah blah blah and shook hands, is okay to either Facebook message them or Snapchat them to have conversations, and I’m not one of creepy guys either??
Please help me out Doc.
DEAR CONFUSED: Ask. When in doubt, use your words. “Hey, is it cool if I hit you up on Snapchat?” Otherwise, if you don’t already have an existing relationship with them, you’re not likely to get a great reaction.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com)
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’ve been to a few of your panels at A-Kon and you seem well equipped for potentially helping my situation. Thank you for your consideration.
If you asked me when I was going to meet someone special, before that convention, I would say never. A majority of my dating experience comes from my friends or the few unsuccessful dates I’ve had. After 3 years of trying and getting nowhere but hurt fast, I left the scene completely.
Then I met Lady.
To keep things short; here’s a timeline of events;
Day 1-3, met at convention, never really left each other’s side, I expressed my unwillingness to date.
Day 4-8, tried to stifle crush that I didn’t realize was a crush, constant communication between me and Lady
Day 8, admitted constant thoughts of Lady to her. Lady admitted it was a mutual crush.
Day 9, went to a post-con party with the other people we met. Lady slowly broke my barriers down through the night (I don’t like being touched by anyone, by morning we were cuddling in bed)
Day 10, Lady admits that she has the same feelings for appx. 3-5 other men.
Day 11, we go bowling together with Beard, a friend of hers
Day 15, I go to her house, she admits stronger feelings. Mutual.
Day 21, another party. Lots of her friends there.
Day 26, she visits my place and spends the night.
Day 30, during a meetup with Lady, Beard, my sister and me, she admits she cannot date me due to a co-dependancy on Beard, but not because she is, or would be, dating him.
Lady is extremely flirty, to my very reserved personality. Her friends, and those I’ve met, have given me the thumbs up. Her closest friend who told her to stop goofing around with others and take this seriously.
She has been adamant to not use the bf/gf title, and I’ve been patient in that regard, however, made it clear that that is my intent. Has not stopped her from giving me the generic pet names (hun, bae, etc.).
Beard and Lady go way back, and are very intimate with each other, but due to two or three very contrasting lifestyle choices, they will not date. Explicitly stated by both parties.
Here are my questions;
Am I being a good human by giving her time and space with this?
Am I trying to move too fast?
Should I talk to Beard, and try to have an understanding? (We are friends, and on good terms.)
I’ve chosen to ignore the “equal feelings for other guys” notion on the basis that not everyone’s feelings work the same way, and I cannot control how she feels. Is this a sane solution?
Thank you for your time and patience.
Stuck in the Middle
DEAR STUCK IN THE MIDDLE: You’re asking the wrong questions, SitM. Here’s what you really need to ask:
Are you willing to functionally be the side-piece in this arrangement? As much as Lady may like you and as much as you may like her, she’s decided that Beard is her number one priority. Even were she up for a functionally polyamorous relationship – whether with you and Beard or with you and some of those other guys she apparently has a thing for – Beard is her primary emotional partner. Even if things are never official… they’re each the star the other is orbiting, no matter what they call their relationship. While I’m not going to question the depth of the feelings she may have for you, the fact of the matter is that Beard is going to come before you.
This is why your second question has to be: how long are you willing to be in a relationship under these exact conditions with the knowledge that it will never change? Six months? One year? Ten years? And I’m being serious when I say that you can’t go in thinking that you can wait this out; you can’t, because it isn’t going to happen. Not on any time scale that’s not measured in geological epochs.
Maybe they’ll stop doing whatever little dance they’re doing and actually hook up. Maybe one of them will finally pull the trigger and end things. Maybe they won’t and this little co-dependent drama of theirs will continue until the stars burn out. But the entire time that you are part of this will be time that you could be spending finding other partners who are just as amazing and don’t come with the same baggage.
If you’re hoping that you’re going to be the special guy that fixes this, then I have news for you: you aren’t. This relationship dynamic existed before you and it will continue long after you’re gone. So unless you’re OK with that? It’s time to move on and find someone who’s actually available.