DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I had been exclusive with my boyfriend for more than a half year now. As usual, our first months were very smooth. However, just after some months as well, we started to have some trust issues. He happened to make me insecure consciously. For instance, when we we partied, he came to a girl sooo near that their lips were just an inch apart. He insisted it was nothing but the girl involved told me he was being flirty. Mind you, I acted as a wingman for his friend who was single. I invited that girl to our group so she and my boyfriend’s single friend could get into a conversation. And yeah, it ended differently and unexpectedly. Also there is this other situation when he called me while he was out drinking with his best friend. He bragged and told me that he is about to party with other women. He said that in an inappropriate way, he even admitted he was provoking me too. It was unnecessary and hurtful for me because I have not done anything to make him feel in this sort of ways.
Last weekend, we went out with his female friends. Before we got there, he told me that his ex asked him if she could tag along, as their common friend invited her. He made it seem as if she was just checking on us and me to be considerate. I was appreciative of that. I told my boyfriend that I was on a sticky spot though, that technically I will be the b*tch if I say no. I told him that and to say it’s okay. Later on, he told me she won’t be there as she will go out with a different group of friends instead.
As we were at the bar having drinks with the other friends, his ex showed up. It was uncomfortable and awkward. I admit it, their history makes me insecure. I communicated that to my boyfriend already and added I just needed to see and have a feel of how platonic their friendship is, anyway, I’m also friends with my ex. We even agreed to eventually meet with her so that becomes possible; eventually, not on this day though.
So yes, she showed up, I was shocked. There were fishy moments during our time all together… At one point, she shared she feels quite uncomfortable that her now-boyfriend is spending the evening with his ex in a different city. This was the time I got a bit catty, I agreed with her and pointed out she was there too with me and my boyfriend, implying I am also uncomfortable. She laughed it away, but I knew she got what I exactly meant. Regardless, we stayed all together for a couple more hours.
What happened after then is quite irrelevant now; I have problems with what I found out the next two days. I found out she was technically inviting my boyfriend to party with her. I found out my boyfriend was the one to invite her to join us initially and not their common friend. I found out that at some point, my boyfriend told her we should meet another time, because he saw how uncomfortable I got after he pretended that she was checking on us whether it was okay or not. He pretended she really said she was going out with others, when she did not say anything like that to him. He told her the truth about the whole situation, but he chose to lie to me about all those.
I am mad at him for lying to me, those lies were unnecessary. I am convinced he should even be more honest with me right now than with her. We are building our foundation of trust and isn’t such action regressive for us? We are supposed to be the team now too, right, not him and her. I exploded because I felt betrayed, yes, he might not have kissed her or whatever but it felt like he chose her back more than mine. That he was protecting her and their friendship by making all those lies.
I am also mad at her. If she was really considerate, after my bf had told her to just meet us another day, she should have not shown up. Also, I can’t fathom how she could complain about her uncomfortableness as her boyfriend was with his ex, while she proactively does the same thing. Was she making it for herself even, that’s why she insisted on coming? I think that she’s being unfair to me. I also now think, she is really disrespectful to me and my relationship. She tried to tell me how happy she was for us, but at the same time, she still sends my boyfriend her pictures with her cleavage out here and then. I mean, what for? In no universe can I accept that as an appropriate behaviour. She surely doesn’t want her boyfriend to receive such pictures from his ex too, right? So why do the same. If she was really happy for us and respected our relationship, she should not act that way, right?
As much as I am convinced that my feelings of dismay and being mad at the two of them are valid, I want someone to call me out if I’m just really overreacting. I have issues in believing my boyfriend now. I told him not to please lie again. I told him that he should be honest with me with whatever matter, that he just tell me things as how they are and not make a lie around the truth. I also can’t accept their so called friendship now anymore. Of course, I tried telling my boyfriend how inappropriately they have acted in my opinion. I told him how she was fake and disrespectful towards us. I told him too that I can’t accept if he just let her continue. I asked my boyfriend how he would feel if he finds out I write to my ex the way that his ex does, I asked him how he would feel if he learns I send such pictures to my ex the way his ex does. Only then did it click for him that it isn’t as harmless as he initially thought it to be. Even this one, I kinda doubt though. Can it not be that he was just trying to make it seem there’s no malice, as he enjoys the fact that her ex is constantly charming him up until now? I really really hope it had clicked for him as I have no plans acting to my ex in these manner. It’s not difficult for me to assess what is appropriate behaviour and I don’t want to cause these emotions I feel right now to my partner.
Dr. Nerd Love, please call me out if you think I’m crazy. Please tell me I’m not overreacting.
Is his lying about such facts justifiable? Do you think it was also unfair for me that I get lies and the ex gets the truth? Do you also think she’s disrespectful to me and my relationship? Do you think she is acting inappropriately and is foul towards me and her boyfriend? Is it normal that I really see some malice in their friendship now? Is it reasonable I am not happy of accepting of their ‘friendship’ too. I hope you give you your thought about this. And thank you in advance for hearing me out.
Not Taking It
DEAR NOT TAKING IT: Alright NTI, having read through this a couple times… honestly, I don’t think the problem is your boyfriend’s ex. I think the problem is your boyfriend.
As a rule of thumb, I’m a big believer that being in contact with your ex and having a good relationship with them is a sign of emotional maturity and intelligence. Not every break up means that the other person needs to be excised from your life. If you and they are able to (re)build a friendship or maintain one after a break up, then that’s a mark in their favor. Many times, the real issue about one’s partner still being close with their ex is about jealousy and insecurity, not about having lingering feelings.
But then, sometimes there’re reasons to be jealous and to feel insecure in the moment.
Your boyfriend’s ex certainly seems like a piece of work. Some of the behavior you describe comes off as not great – and more on that in a second. But honestly, that’s not really an issue because someone can make all the moves and invitations they want and not really be a threat to the relationship. It’s obnoxious and disrespectful, but the fact that she a) exists and b) seems to be acting inappropriately with someone else’s monogamous partner, but you can’t exactly steal a person. They have to want to go.
No, the problem here seems to be your boyfriend. Even under my most charitable reading of your letter, the dude sounds like an asshole. The flirting with the woman you were trying to set his bro up with, his taunting you about being with other women – something you’re clearly sensitive about… these are all dick moves. Even if it’s under the rubric of teasing and wanting to get a rise out of you… it’s s--tty behavior. There’s teasing someone and then there’s poking them in the spots where they’re most vulnerable and most tender. The former… well, that tends to depend on the personalities of everyone involved. The latter, however, is a s--tty thing to do. Deliberately poking someone in their weak spot for LULZ is, quite frankly, pointlessly cruel.
So I’m not entirely shocked that he doesn’t seem to be taking you seriously when you talk about how much this bothers you or just being flexible with the truth about his inviting her to join you. Nor am I terribly shocked that he’s not exactly drawing some lines in the sand and saying “hey, knock this off, ok?” The fact that it doesn’t seem to sink in that what he’s doing hurt you until he could imagine it happening to him suggests that – again, if I’m being charitable – he’s painfully immature at best and remarkably self-centered at worst. So, if I’m being perfectly honest: I’m not entirely sure why you’re with him.
This clearly is a sore spot for you and your boyfriend’s behavior was the emotional equivalent of splashing gasoline everywhere and then trying to do cool tricks with a zippo. He may not have intended harm, but he certainly set things up so that bad s--t could happen if only by accident.
Now having said that: I wonder how much of your (understandable) anger and frustration with your boyfriend’s antics are coloring your interpretation of his ex’s behavior. It’s a little like making a bad first impression; that becomes the filter that you’re going to see everything through. If you’ve been primed to see her actions as her intruding on your time with your boyfriend and your friends – as he did by lying about inviting her – then it doesn’t seem a stretch that everything she does is going to come off as line-stepping. So when she seems to have invited herself to your shindig after saying “I’ll do something else”, then it really isn’t that unreasonable to see the rest of what she does or says in the worst possible light.
If we divorce her actions from emotion as best we can, then I can see ways that what she says or does could be aboveboard; adding the feelings of mistrust and intrusion would easily make it seem more malicious. On the other hand, I’ve also seen people across the gender and sexuality spectrum who are habitual line-steppers. These are folks who see “I have a boyfriend/girlfriend” as a challenge and think that monogamy and fidelity are things that happen to other people. So it’s not unreasonable that she really was being disrespectful enough to flirt with your boyfriend in front of you.
But again: it doesn’t seem like he was trying to stop her. Nor, for that matter, does his playing fast and loose with the truth – or outright lying – make it any better. So I can see it being both ways: you were primed to be pissed at her by his actions and she wasn’t being out of line, and she and your boyfriend seem to think it’s perfectly cool to make a scene in front of you.
Which is it? I’m not sure. Memory’s a funky thing, and incredibly malleable to interpretation after the fact. A lot of times, what happened and what we remember are two different things and get influenced by how we feel. It may well be worth looking at this with a new set of eyes and getting the opinion of some of your friends who where there. How did they see the ex’s behavior? Did they see it as being flirty and inappropriate, or a normal interaction made awkward by the context? Getting their opinions may help you get a better feel for whether you’re making too much of this or not.
Now, I want to make it clear: even if what she was doing wasn’t innocent, the biggest cause of the drama and insecurity you’re feeling is your boyfriend. He’s already been “playful” with any issues you have around trust or infidelity, and clearly it’s made things worse. If he’s cool with poking your sore spots for s--ts and giggles, that makes it pretty damn hard to trust him when he says he saw how uncomfortable things got and didn’t want to cause problems. So if it really was a case of you overreacting to otherwise in-bounds behavior? That’s more on him for setting the stage for this to happen.
Hopefully, that come to Jesus talk with him got through and he’ll be more considerate in the future. If not…. well, honestly, I’d say you may want to ask whether you still want to be with him or not.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org