Friday, May 29, 2015

Tell Me About It: Boyfriend is BFF with his former wife

Stock Photo
Stock Photo

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Question: I have been dating John for the last year. He has been divorced for two years from Heidi, his wife/partner of 30 years. They had no children and she lives a few states away, but they are "bestest buddies" and were in contact almost daily until I put my foot down.

Many of her calls came when we were together: in bed, having dinner out, etc. I told John how I saw Heidi's contact as interference in our relationship. John finally told Heidi not to contact him unless it was divorce-related.

I recently found out they are still in contact. I told him today if he wants a friendship with his ex-wife that is fine; however, I don't want to be a threesome.

Am I overreacting? Why can't they move on? He says they are just friends and he is so glad she divorced him to give him a second chance at life. I see her as a ball and chain.

Answer: Drama isn't a bestest-buddy ex-wife. Drama is seeing a bestest-buddy ex-wife as your cue to try to push her out of the scene.

Certainly it's just good manners for him to let calls - hers or anyone's - go to voice mail when you two are together, though that's about courtesy, not "Why can't they move on."

Certainly, too, friendships with exes vary, and so John and Heidi can be anything from healthy buddies to a codependent mess.

But what's not up for debate is that he has every right to this friendship. You can point out things that bother you, take offense at being lied to, and decide they're too cozy and break up with him for it, but you can't tell him whom he can or can't care about based on the way you think coupled people are supposed to behave.

So, figure out what you are and aren't comfortable with. Then talk to him about it - not in an "I expect X" way, but in an "I'm trying to figure out what I can live with" way. Ask him why they haven't moved on.

I'll get you started with a can't-live-with item: his yessing you on ending contact and then calling her anyway.

Once you figure out your limits and his, decide whether his fit well with yours. If yes, stay; if no, go. Much more constructive than a "Who's right?" debate.

Comment: Your advice wasn't what I expected.

What exactly is his right to have? A friendship with his ex-wife? For what purpose? They do not have children or assets together. So what are they doing talking to each other every day? Apparently they are communicating as if they are still married!

I think the girlfriend takes precedence over the ex-wife in this relationship and he needs to listen to her concerns. I would not want to have to plan my relationship around their so-called friendship.

Answer: Of course not. And so you would have every right and reason to break up with him. That is the solution - to know your own priorities and stay or go based on whether his priorities align with yours. The answer is not to impose your priorities on others.

 


E-mail Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com, or chat with her online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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