Dear Dr. NerdLove,
I was introduced to you unintentionally by my boyfriend (let’s call him “P”) that loves watching videos on dating, flirting and how to pick up women, (despite being in a relationship with me for almost 3 years), but P also watches many others videos on how to keep himself looking good too (yay!), P is 56yr old. I enjoyed reading your articles so much that I now come and visit you almost every day to see what’s new and yes! He will read this.
Why am I here? Simple! I cannot accept my partner being friends with his ex, whom he claims was just a FWB for over 3 years and things ended nicely about a year or so before we met. I get the scenario of being friends, because I have witnessed it on someone else, when my sister’s ex-husband’s partner became a good friend of my sister (I’m sure because of my niece). But you know that saying “keep your friends close and you enemies closer”? Just saying.
Ok, let’s back up on things here for a minute…. I come from a wide range of abusive and toxic relationships, ranging from physical abuse like being kicked to the point of giving birth and having an emergency C-section, to being raped while my kids slept on the other room. Not to mention being mentally abuse, controlled and cheated on time and time again.
TRUST is hard to give base on my experiences. Yet, I gave it to this man. I had reached a point in my life when we met where I had said to myself being alone is quite ok for me at this age and then I fell in love with him. Go figure!!
For two years everything was great and amazing, then one day we finally crossed paths with his ex, which I had expected due to places we frequent when going out on dates. Mind you, we were actually on a double “date night” with his friend J and J’s new lady, S. We were at a small music venue where there are various seating arrangements. We were on table for four and the stage was to our left. There was an empty high table for two to our right. I was on the left side of our table and P was to the right.
In comes the ex — call her M. I noticed her right away, my heart started racing, but I kept calm. She walked around and came back to the empty table to our right. She wasn’t alone, maybe with a date. That’s when P saw her and said “Oh! Hey there M”
He quickly introduced us; “This is my girlfriend so and so, this is S and you already know J.” Ok, cool, right! NOT! He then decided to turn himself around (his back to me) and started a catch up conversation with her.
Hello! We are here with 2 other people; you’re here with me… Even his friend J noticed how rude P was being that he made a troubling remark — “Oh he’s digging himself into a hole” — that just made my blood started to boil.
I honestly do not recall what I said to P (shocking!), but I turned myself around to him and I whispered something in his ear about what he was doing. He then stopped and turns my way, music was great and he tried to touch me and caress me after that. Then at the end of the show he turned once again to her (his back to me again) and whispered something to her, because she smiled and nodded her head to him. Grrr! And guess what? We didn’t speak for days after that.
We then had the conversation and I expressed my feelings, the whys and how disrespected I felt. He, on the other hand, didn’t think he had done anything wrong. Still, he understood where I was coming from. We patched things on and all good. We encountered her again 2 weeks later, but it was minor and due to the amount of people around us neither of them got closed enough to talk. No big deal.
A few months, something else happened with a lady coworker where I got signals of attraction between him and the coworker, so I broke into a rage. My bad! I admit I know I can have a bad temper (Puerto Rican Bi*#^$! once someone said) when put on a defensive situation.
When we talked to solve this other issue the M topic came up again. He told me he believes he shouldn’t have to stop talking to his ex, because things ended nicely — to the point where they meet every year in January for a dinner to celebrate birthdays… hers, her daughter’s (adult) and his. I clearly expressed my boundaries once more, and how I found that disrespectful when you’re in a relationship especially after what had happened. Just so you know he invited me to that dinner next year, because my birthday is in January. Honestly, at that point, I opted for letting it go, why fight about something in the future.
OK! Fast Forward to today!!!
He got a phone called later in the day last night, not typical for him due to his work scheduled. He answered and the tone of voice went down and softer, not his normal louder voice. I was in another room the door was ajar, I could hear the voice but not closed enough to hear what he was saying and I told myself “just let it be”. BUT My gut felt tight (not good). Later at night, I broke my own promise and I (for the 1st time) checked his phone (UGH! I know). I saw that this number had called more than once, either dialed or received. I called it the next day.I was praying to hear a male voice, and M answered me. I didn’t speak, I just hung up. I felt so little, so betrayed!
I asked him later that day who had called him the night before, he right away said M. I expressed my irritation and how we had talked about her. He keeps insisting that is nothing that I shouldn’t worry about her, that he would’ve not asked me to move in with him if he wanted to do something with her or any other women. He insists on how he’s not interested on her, or M in him, and that this is all innocent. M only had called him days before to ask him on how to get to a restaurant they had been before. Moreover, that he had called her a day before that night, because it was her birthday. And lastly, that M’s called to him that night was by mistake, yet they spoke for a good 10 minutes hhmm!
I was raised with strong values like respect and honesty among many others, and I feel this is breaking my boundaries and what my values on a relationship are. Yes! My personal hurts have a lot to do with it, but my parents taught me better.
I believe they are both, P and her breaking my boundaries. She clearly knows he is in a relationship and by now (I am sure) knows that I moved in with him a few months back. He is clearly choosing (fairly knowing my take on this) to continue the relationship with her despite my feelings. Listen, I’m not saying to be rude, if we encounter her. I’m not saying wishing a happy birthday is bad, but when I see the many continues contacts between them two – MY “I’m gonna get hurt” WALL comes up with a vengeance. Is a defense mechanism, right?!
I am a 48 year old at a lost and tired of fight childish crap, but do I want to accept her presence like nothing or do I take a risk on this relationship and stand up for myself and for what I believe is right for me. I give my 100% respect, honesty and more; and I sure want the same.
Hell No! I’m not perfect, then again nobody is. Please, please, please give me your insight!
Thank you for your time Sir.
Wanting My Respect
Hi Dr. NerdLove,
I could really use some insight into whether I’m justified in feeling a bit worried about my partner’s ex escalating contact with him, especially since they’ve been broken up longer than they were together at this point (about four years). And I don’t mean that I’m worried he’s cheating on me or that she presents any threat at all to our relationship. I know how he feels about her, feel secure in our connection, and he tells me when it happens. I’m more concerned she may end up escalating her behavior to a point that causes a safety concern or generates trouble among family or friends. I’m hoping you’ll tell me I’m being a bit dramatic. I had a brief experience with someone stalking me in college and have my own ex with manipulative tendencies (together seven years total), and she’s setting off the same alarm bells I felt in those situations.
Some background (from what he’s told me and my own observations): they both went to school in a major Midwestern city, she for a career as a professional that requires a doctorate degree. She was placed in a program in a Western state with a mid-size city, and he moved out here with her. I moved to the same city a year prior with my ex. They broke up after living here a year, she took all their furniture (including the shower curtain) while he was at work without telling him, and he lived with his parents until he found an apartment of his own. So, not the most amicable breakup.
Around two years ago, she started popping up on his social media, requesting to follow his private profile and liking a bunch of photos on a public one for his side business he started that year. I’m a photographer, so most of his posts were taken by me and he tagged me in all of them. She left a comment on one of them that was a simple congratulations on doing his thing, and he didn’t respond or acknowledge it.
Some months after that, she emailed his personal email, saying she was starting her own part-time weekend practice and might have some work for him (he also works in a creative field). When he didn’t respond right away, she tracked down his work email and contacted him there. He asked what kind of work she might have, and she responded that they actually already had all their creative work taken care of, but mentioned she was doing well and asked how he was. His response was basically that he was fine, but that he wasn’t interested in talking unless there was actual work. I’m not sure what his exact words were.
I proposed to him in mid-summer last year, and he posted about it a couple months later. After that, she watched several of my Instagram stories over a few months (we’re in early 2019 at this point), although she wasn’t following me and we had never communicated before. I was having an issues related to my aforementioned ex related to social media, so it felt like the right choice to go completely private. Within an hour or two of me setting my profile to private, she requested to follow me. I have no idea if she knew that I knew who she was or not, but I blocked her mostly to do her a favor. There’s not much on my feeds that would help her figure out who I am or how good our relationship is (I mostly post professional photos). But it was also for my peace of mind: I’m not incredibly interested in knowing that she or anyone else related to her or my ex or anyone that I don’t ever talk to is going through my photos and judging me in some way.
She was quiet for a few months until a couple weekends ago.
She reached out to him on Facebook, under a second profile with a partial version of her actual last name, and said something like, “it really sucks having dreams about you from time to time”. I might mention here that she’s had a baby girl since they broke up and apparently got married, although I don’t know how that relationship is going and don’t care to know. He immediately blocked her, and ask some of his family members who still chatted with her occasionally to avoid responding to her or at least not mentioning anything to do with him. I’d also note here that I’m friends with my brother’s ex-wife, and didn’t feel threatened by her having maintained contact with some of his family. It’s a hard connection to sever when you feel like you’re part of someone’s family. My partner has made it clear to me that he’s grown a lot since they broke up, it was a toxic relationship and he has no interest in incorporating her into his own life.
After that last reach from her about having dreams about him, I asked my partner if he felt worried or if he expected her to keep trying to contact him. He said he didn’t know but that he hoped not.
A couple days ago, she texted him directly and said she was hurt that he and his family blocked her, that she wasn’t trying to be disrespectful to him or his fiancé, that she was so happy he is happy, that his mom reached out about her baby a few times and she found it very nice, and “sorry if I somehow offended you or your significant other”. He asked what I thought, and I said it couldn’t hurt to outright ask her to not contact him again. So he responded that the reason she was blocked was because of the Facebook message and other attempts to reach out, he wasn’t interested in participating in his dynamic, that he had moved on and he hoped she had to, and please respect his wish for no more contact.
As far as I know, he hasn’t heard anything since then, but mentioned he got a couple of “Unknown” calls the next morning. He’s also told me he found out she had text/online relationships with other guys while he was with her, so her trying to get his attention is probably not super surprising. But the last message strikes me as being clear that she feels entitled to a response from him, at the very least. And it makes me feel squeamish and concerned, much more so than the past points of contact. Maybe it’s because it feels like she feels entitled to access? Maybe because it felt weird to me that she felt like he needed to know a boundary he set hurt her feelings? Maybe it’s because she hasn’t exactly honored implicit boundaries (i.e, blocking) at all? Maybe it’s because all that could be signs of someone who will keep pushing?
I know others have dealt with more insidious invasions from exes, and I don’t pretend this is some nuclear situation just yet, if at all. But every time I’ve asked him if she would keep trying, she has indeed kept trying. And I’m feeling a bit on guard about it. Is my (mild, at the moment) anxiety understandable? Is she exhibiting any signs she might show up on my doorstep one day soon?