DEAR NATALIE: My boyfriend and I have a great relationship, but there is one problem: His ex. They have a six-year-old daughter together and I adore her. His daughter lives with us because his ex is crazy and has a drug problem. But that’s not actually my issue. My issue is the way his ex treats me. I’m very loving with his daughter and we have a lot of fun together, but his ex is constantly berating me in front of her. I think she’s jealous of the fact that his daughter prefers me over her. We have been together for three years and I know our relationship is heading towards marriage. So what should I do? I can’t marry him if his ex is a destructive force in my life, but I also love him and his daughter and don’t want to break it off. I can’t go on like this. She is in my face at least once a week about the situation and it has got to stop. She lost custody two years ago because of her drug problem and she won’t seek help. My boyfriend has washed his hands of her, but he also doesn’t “get involved” when she attacks me. Any suggestions? —SHE’S RUINING EVERYTHING
DEAR SHE’S RUINING EVERYTHING: Sounds as though your boyfriend is trying to remain neutral in this situation. In some cases, I might agree with that position, but I don’t think it is working in this case. The fact that you are loving to his child and that you are willing to stand by him even with all the drama that his ex has brought into your life is very admirable. He needs to recognize and respect that. But I did take note that you referred to her as “crazy” and as a “drug addict.” I would think about how you may be approaching her with judgment instead of compassion. If she is experiencing addiction and mental health issues, those could be reasons for her combativeness. She may feel as though you are trying to take her place in her daughter’s life and that could make her feel defensive or insecure. Instead of being hostile with her, try to empathize how difficult things may be right now in her world. If you can treat her with dignity and respect, see how that may change the energy and dynamic. If nothing else, it may just make it easier for you to be around her knowing what is at the root of all of this. As for your boyfriend, if he balks at the thought of standing up for you, that’s problematic. This woman is going to be in his life. Period. She is the mother of his child. But, you have options. You can either stay and put up with this and hope that it simmers down with time, or you can walk away. If things are going to progress with him over time, he needs to be on your side and realize what a challenging position you are in. If you are able to take a step back so that you don’t interact with his ex as much if at all, that may also help to turn down the heat on this situation. I would talk to him and tell him how you are feeling. At the end of the day, this is just as much his problem as it is yours. The only way through will be together. If he can’t get onboard with that, then you have to decide if you are willing to stick by someone who won’t stick up for you.
DEAR NATALIE: I’ve been dating a guy for about two years now and it has gotten pretty serious. We recently moved in together right before COVID-19 hit and I am hoping this will lead to an engagement. We are both almost 30, and I want to start a family sooner than later. However, he recently told me that he “doesn’t believe in marriage,” and we ended up getting into a big argument about it. What do I do? —HARD CHOICE
DEAR HARD CHOICE: He may not believe in marriage for a myriad of reasons but that doesn’t mean that you don’t. If marriage is something that is a non-negotiable for you, then you may need to rethink this relationship. You either accept that he isn’t going to propose and deal with it, or you have to cut him loose and find a man who has the same set of values as you do. If you try to force him into marriage with ultimatums, he may end up resenting you. If you try to appease him, you may end up resenting him. You are young. You still have plenty of time to find the right fit and have the family that you want. In fact, maybe if you do explain the importance of why you want to marry, who knows? He may see things your way. Whatever happens, just follow your instincts and don’t settle.
Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @NatalieBenci and on Instagram @NatalieBenci