DEAR HARRIETTE: My boyfriend is friends with his ex-girlfriend -- not because they want to be friends, but because their families are friends. They grew up together, and their families are extremely close. He dated this girl for two years before they broke up. I met my boyfriend in college, and we have been dating for just over two years.
My boyfriend still sees his ex because of all the family functions they go to. I know I can’t get jealous because he doesn’t do this on purpose, but it still makes me have a pit in my stomach. He broke up with her, and she had a tough time getting over him and wanted to get back with him for the longest time. It makes me anxious when they are drinking and hanging out at their family functions because I know she tries to woo him, even though he has no interest. How do I try to calm my nerves and anxiety when she’s around? -- Ex-Girlfriend Worries Me, Columbus, Ohio
DEAR EX-GIRLFRIEND WORRIES ME: Do you ever get invited to these family functions? One way to help neutralize things is for your boyfriend to include you in some of these gatherings. Be honest with him. Tell him you don’t want to feel uncomfortable about his ex, but you are human, and her constant presence in his life bothers you. Ask him to support you by including you in these family functions. Hopefully, he will understand and agree.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My husband and I have been married for 15 years. We have three children and a pretty good life. He lost his real estate job in 2009 and struggled for a few years to figure out how to earn a living. He has had a good job for a few years now, so things are looking up. But that time when he was out of work messed with his self-esteem. I ended up being the principal breadwinner for a while, which helped our finances but not his ego.
Fast forward to today, and he and I are having a lot of friction in our marriage. I think it stems from those rocky financial years. I don’t know how to help make things better. I love my husband and want to make sure that we are good. I try to talk to him about it, but so far nothing has helped. What can I do? -- Testing My Marriage, Seattle
DEAR TESTING MY MARRIAGE: Financial strife often causes friction in marriage. The good news is that you and your husband are on more stable footing than you were some years back. Now you have to work on getting your spirits in a healthier space. Find a therapist who works with individuals and couples to sort through their challenges. A professional can be helpful because he or she will listen objectively and help guide your interactions with each other. If you both want your marriage to work, this support may help you to discover the tools to revitalize your bond.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)