DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I really love your blog and I have used it a lot to gain confidence in dating and put myself out there over the years. I am an overweight 27 year old male, I am trying to lose weight and work on myself.
Recently I met an amazing girl before COVID, we have been able to make it work. I have to say that I really like her a lot. However, my girlfriend told me she had shared her bed with a long time ex-lover last week while we were still together. Apparently, she was going to take him to the airport the next morning. The house that she is living in has a guest room and there is always the couch where her “friend” could have stayed. I have to say that I am devastated, I feel like a fool. I know that I don’t own my girlfriend and she’s entitled to do whatever she wants especially in her own home, but I feel completely blindsided.
She is acting like it is completely normal to share an intimate part of her space with an old flame and I am supposed to just accept it.
I asked a friend and he told me if stayed with her I would only be enabling her to act this way and that I would be a cuck haha.
Am I the a--hole for feeling this way?
Thank you for all the advice you have given over the years,
Feeling Like A Fool
DEAR FEELING LIKE A FOOL: As is so often the case, this is a time when the question you’re asking me isn’t really the question you want the answer to. But hey, let’s start with the surface question before we get to what you really mean.
To start with, no, you’re NOT an a--hole for the way you feel. You feel blindsided and upset, and those feelings are real. Telling you that you’re an a--hole for having those feelings would be counterproductive at best; it’d be demanding something from you that you aren’t really in a position to give. While there are plenty of folks who will tell you that having those feelings makes you a bad person, the truth is that it’s very clear that you’ve been blindsided by circumstances you’ve never faced before, and you’re having very complicated emotions because of it. That’s normal. Even the hardest of the hardcore poly crowd deal with jealousy and difficult emotions, and virtually nobody can say that they’re going to be ok with a situation they’ve never encountered before until they’ve actually experienced it.
It seems pretty clear to me that this is the first time you’ve dealt with this, so it’s understandable that you’re gonna feel weird (at best). That doesn’t make you an a--hole. And honestly, having strong issues with your partner choosing to share the bed with her ex when there’re other options isn’t unreasonable.
Now, what you do because of those emotions is what makes you an a--hole or not. Discussing things with her, expressing your reservations (in as calm and collected a manner as possible) and trying to work things out, for example, would be a fairly mature thing to do, NOT an a--hole move. So, for that matter, would be deciding that this is a boundary for you, that you don’t think this is something you could be cool with and that if that’s a thing that she’s going to insist on, then it’s better for both of you to break up.
Yelling, insulting her or throwing around wild accusations, on the other hand WOULD make you an a--hole.
(I’m not saying that you did this; I’m saying that these are examples of a--hole behavior resulting from those feelings).
However, all that isn’t what you’re really asking about. What you’re actually asking me is “is it ok that she did this, is it ok for you to get upset about it and do I think she cheated on you?” Which is a different issue all together. And that is going to depend on a lot of things.
But while it’s easy to dig into the rabbit hole of “did she cheat on you”, let’s take a slightly different tact and address a different issue entirely: a question of safety. Right now, not only is the COVID-19 pandemic still rampaging through the country, but cases are trending steadily up. And while a vaccine is around the corner, immunity is still months away at the earliest. Which means that we have to continue to be very careful in order to check the spread of the disease, especially when people are (foolishly, irresponsibly) insisting on travelling for the holidays, seeing families in large indoor gatherings and so on. And while people have formed quarantine pods with people who are supposedly safe… I’ve seen people who don’t seem to realize just how many people are actually in their pod or bubble. Because when one person in that group is part of someone else’s group and someone in that group has somebody who’s in yet another group, the number of people who are all being exposed to one another goes up exponentially. And while you and your crew might be rigorously safe, you can’t say the same for everyone in those secondary or tertiary groups. So I’ve got some serious side-eye for your girlfriend for bringing someone else around that could potentially lead to her or you getting exposed.
And while this may seem like a nit-picky thing to get upset about, I’ve literally seen people I know get exposed this way. So if the two of you didn’t have a conversation about safety precautions and acceptable levels of risk, especially when seeing other people… well, that’s not cool and a conversation you need to have — with her and with anyone else you may end up dating before the pandemic is over or you get vaccinated.
With that out of the way… let’s talk exes, beds and whether this was ok or not.
If we’re being honest, I’m of two minds. On the one hand, sharing a bed doesn’t automatically equal cheating or even an egregious violation of trust. I know plenty of partnered folks — people in monogamous, closed relationships — who’ve shared beds with people they weren’t dating or in relationships. It was literally two people using the same bed and honestly, that’s not really that big of a deal. There can be a lot of personal variation in whether somebody might be comfortable doing that themselves but honestly, it’s not an inherently intimate act.
(Really the issue that would give ME pause would be one of comfort, rather than intimacy. But that’s because I’ve got joint pain issues, so I need my space.)
Similarly, I don’t think there’s anything inherently untrustworthy or sketchy about being friends, even close friends, with an ex. I think the idea that if you break up with someone, they’re given the damnatio ex memorae and you exile them from your life can be short-sighted. Her being close with someone who was important to her isn’t weird or something to be worried about. Under normal circumstances, being friends with one’s exes tends to be a sign of maturity and emotional intelligence.
Where I start to side-eye her is the fact that there wasn’t a need to share the same bed. You say she’s got a guest room and a couch, so it’s not a case of being in a studio apartment with just the one bed. That makes it a little hinky to me. Not enough to issue some declaratory statement that This Was Wrong, but certainly enough for me to say “did you really need to invite this drama?”
I have more of an issue with the fact that it seems like she’s dismissing your feelings out of hand. While there’s been a lot of ink and pixels spilled about the concept of “emotional labor” and what is and isn’t asking too much from our partners, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to talk things out, to provide some reassurance and hopefully find, if not common ground, then at least some understanding between the two of you. Maybe she could have explained her reasoning better, in a way that would help you understand her position and help you feel better. You could have explained why this makes you uncomfortable and the two of you could have found some form of accommodation for the future.
But dropping this on you from the clear blue sky and then (apparently) saying “deal with it lol” isn’t the coolest way to handle it. Maybe this is just the way she rolls, sure. But if that’s not something you knew about or that she was gonna share the bed with him, then it’s not unreasonable that you’re going to be a bit gobsmacked when it comes out of nowhere. While someone with a little more experience under their belt might have a different emotional reaction… that person isn’t you. Expecting you to react the way that person would isn’t reasonable. And while your girlfriend isn’t responsible for managing your emotions, you both do have a responsibility to each other and trying to work through issues like this falls very firmly into that category.
Now the question that’s hanging around like a fart in a closet is: did she f--k him? Honestly, I have no idea and I wouldn’t feel comfortable making a guess. Like I said: being close with an ex doesn’t mean that those pantsfeels are still there. And even if one of them still had the horn for the other, that doesn’t mean that anything was going to happen; it takes two to tango, after all. Having close friends who correspond to your sexuality doesn’t mean sex is going to happen, even if you’re sleeping in the same bed. So I think that question comes down to “do you trust your girlfriend or not”. If you do, and she tells you that nothing happened, then take her at her word. If you don’t trust her… well, then you’ve got a bigger issue than her sleeping arrangements and that’s usually relationship-ending problem.
(Incidentally, your friend’s take is kinda s--tty and calling someone a cuck is generally a great indicator that you no longer have to take their opinion seriously.)
The question of “Is it ok that she shared a bed with him?” is an edge case. I’m inclined to say “it’s not great“, but more because of how it seems that she’s handled this. If she had brought up that this is how she does things before hand, then you could’ve hashed it out and at least started trying to work on your feelings about it. Similarly, presenting it as fait accompli and telling you that you just need to be cool with it, end of discussion isn’t not cool of her either. Even if she’s used to dating dudes who’ve been ok with it before, you aren’t them.
That’s why yes, it is ok that you’re upset about this. Like I said: you’re dealing with a new situation, and it’s understandable that you have a lot of complex and uncomfortable emotions about it.
What matters now is how you both handle things moving forward. If you and she can have that Awkward Conversation and you can explain — without judgement or accusations — why this bothers you, how you’d like this to be handled in an ideal world, and what sort of compromises you could be comfortable with… then that’s progress. Similarly, if she can accept that you feel this way and need a little reassurance from her and actually give you that reassurance and the two of you can find a compromise that works for both of you, then hey: you got through a rough patch you didn’t see coming. Now you’ve improved your communication, identified some sensitive areas in your relationship and are hopefully coming out of it stronger than before. But if you lose your s--t at her or she dismisses your feelings out of hand and tells you to just get over it? Then that’s a sign that the two of you aren’t right for each other and it’s better that you end things now.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com