Divorce Issues/Boyfriend Very Close with his Ex - Spending Holidays Together?
I have been with my boyfriend for a total of one year. I am in my late twenties and he is in his mid-thirties. He and his wife divorced about a year ago - though they were separated for awhile before that, they officially ended the marriage at that time. They have NO children, nor do I.
My questions concern 1) the appropriateness of the extent of their relationship; and 2) to gain a better perspective on what I can do in the situation. They divorced amicably and remain friendly - speaking approximately once per week on the phone, and texting often. I would guess that they text each other every day, usually initiated by her when she is stressed or upset - about her life, her job search, her friends, etc. The ex moved out of state and has yet to obtain a job or establish a romantic relationship. As such, she is somewhat financially dependent, and I feel that she is very emotionally dependent, on my boyfriend. I can't shake the feeling that if she could get her life moving forward, she wouldn't need to come to him all the time with her day-to-day issues. He and I have discussed this and he agrees, but has stated that he will do "whatever he can" to help her (be it financial or emotional support). This is slightly frustrating to me, but I do accept it - they are close friends and she is struggling right now. I'm lucky to be with the kind of man who is so benevolent.
Here's what I really struggle with: now twice in the last six months, she has been in town (visiting family, getting some of her things) and has stayed with my boyfriend. While I view this as inappropriate, I can and did accept that they didn't view it as such, and I did not request that she stay in a hotel. The issue is that she's always VERY open-ended about her plans..coming and going and extending the trip (as much as two weeks the last time) and doesn't seem to care that it greatly disrupts his relationship with me. She knows about me, BTW. My boyfriend, understandably, doesn't feel comfortable having me over when she's staying there. She and I have met once, but it was very long ago and before they were divorced (and before my boyfriend and I were seeing each other romantically). So, when she comes on these already frustrating visits, and then won't pin down and end date, it is a huge strain on our relationship just in that my boyfriend and I can't spend as much time together.
Secondly, my boyfriend and I have access to eachother's online calendars. I was just looking ahead to November on my calendar to try and plan a work trip and saw that he had "Trip to X" (the city that the ex lives in) over a holiday. I feel very hurt by this. Mainly, because he didn't tell me that he was considering this trip; but also because I have no family in my city and will likely have no holiday plans, and would have wanted to spend it with him and his family. More importantly, I think that spending a holiday together, when there are NO kids in the picture, is bizarre and inappropriate - it's almost like a pseudo-relationship until she finds a new one. Do I have the right to ask him not to go, or ask if I can come with? Sometimes I think if I knew the ex, I might feel better.
So, Doc, am I right to feel frustrated? More importantly, do you have any suggestions for how he and I can work through this? I really love the guy, and would like it to work.
Thanks for writing.
First, how appropriate is it?
There is no objective standard. If it bothers you it bother's you and that's all there is to it.
Then the two of you have to negotiate a mutually acceptable solution to the problem.
This is who the two you will figure out how to become true partners, by learning how
to negotiate those differences and finding true and fair compromises.
To do this you have to be very clear about what is and is not acceptable and why
and then you have to be willing and able to say, "No, that won't work for me. I can't live with that."
At this point you have not sorted out why this bothers you.
Some of this seems fair and reasonable and kind and then
at some point, there's something off about it,
and then there's something really off about it.
That's prompting you to write me. If it gets worse, it might even
prompt you to have a conversation with me or someone like me.
The goal is to help you be really clear about what's bothering you.
You seem to have a clue. It has something to do with "Sometimes I think if I knew the ex, I might feel better."
I recommend you explore that line of thought. Why is that so?
I think then you'll have some of your ideas about how he and you can work through this.
There is a chance that he also needs to be a bit more clear about what he's doing and why.
Possibly you two can discuss this. Possibly it would help if you both spoke to me, or something
with equivalent skills, experience and training.
I hope this helps. I'll be very interesting in learning what you
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Philip Alan Belove, Ed.D.