Dear Wendy: Haunted By Boyfriends’ Exes

A few years before I met my long-time boyfriend, he was with a woman he met in high school. They dated for about a year and got engaged, but it didn’t last very long. She had schizophrenia and the stress caused a long list of serious problems that lead to their eventual breakup. For years after, even into the first few months of our relationship, she would leave notes and threaten suicide. She dated his friend for a while and had two abortions, and after the second one she committed suicide. This was about two years ago now, and my problem is that he still has all of her letters and notes. I found them recently in our office; I even found a few referring to a pregnancy she may or may not of actually had terminated, if she was even pregnant (she was known for having hysterical pregnancies). I don’t want to be insensitive and ask him about the notes, which I probably shouldn’t have read, but we’re thinking of getting married next fall and I feel kind of strange having all of these notes from her in our home. I know it’s up to him to be ready to get rid of her letters, but is it wrong for me to ask him to get rid of them? – Haunted

First, ask yourself what is it about having the letters in your home that bugs you so much? The crazy ex-girlfriend is dead, so you know she doesn’t pose a threat to your relationship with your boyfriend. Is it that you have a hard time acknowledging that he had a life before you? You must realize that his relationship with his ex and all the experiences he had before meeting you made him the man you fell in love with. I think you’d be better off accepting and appreciating his past than wasting your time feeling threatened by it.

Look, it’s not like he has framed photos of his ex on the wall, or that he sleeps with her old letters beneath his pillow. They’re in your shared office, probably buried under paperwork or filed away in the bottom of some drawer. Maybe he doesn’t even remember he still has them. Or, maybe he holds on to them as a reminder of what he went through and how lucky he is to have made it to the other side. Don’t you have mementos of a previous life? A picture of an ex, or a card you received for Valentine’s Day one year? I know I have a few remnants of past relationships tucked away in a box somewhere and every once in a blue moon, I pull them out and take a look. These trips down memory lane don’t mean I’m not happy in my marriage or that I miss any part of my exes or my past; in fact, these feelings of nostalgia have far less to do with any ex and much more to do with my own personal growth and remembering who I used to be and how far I’ve come. If anything, they make me feel closer to my husband because he’s the one I chose. He’s the one I’m building a future with. Thinking about any exes just reminds me how lucky I am I ended with with the guy I did.

But if having old letters from your boyfriend’s ex in your home really bothers you that much, why don’t you ask him why he still has them? He may not even realize they’re still there, and he almost certainly doesn’t realize you know they’re there and that they make you uncomfortable. Having a discussion about the letters may give you two an opportunity to discuss his ex and the impact their relationship and her subsequent suicide had on your boyfriend. It’s got to be a pretty freaky thing to have an ex threaten to kill herself and then actually do it. Has he talked to you much about any lingering feelings he has surrounding her death?

Bottom line: unless you are adamant that the notes disappear and he’s adamant that they stay, this really isn’t something to get too wound up about. He may have loved someone else once, but he loves you now, shares a home with you now, and is planning a future with you now. A few letters in a bottom of a drawer isn’t going change that.

When my boyfriend and I started dating about six months ago, he had JUST gotten out of 2 1/2 year relationship. From the get-go I told him to take his time and when he was ready to give me a call and we would go out. He persisted, though, and said he was ready to be with me and start a relationship, so we did. At the beginning of October he told me he was having some mixed feelings about our relationship and he felt like he needed to reboot after his last relationship in order to really be with me. I told him to do what he needed and nothing happened, so I finally got up the nerve to bring it up again last week, when I found out he had been messaging his ex. We talked about our situation and decided to take a break so he could figure things out. I ended up finding out that the messages were not innocent at all like he had told me; he revealed intimate and personal things about our relationship and left the door open for her to come back because he and I were “figuring things out.” When we talked about the content of the messages he apologized and admitted he was very wrong, but he says it wasn’t fair that he and his ex never got a second chance and that she is still in his heart. We are still on a break and I want to move on, but he keeps telling he wants to make things work with me because we have so much worth fighting for. I just feel so betrayed and don’t know if I’ll ever be able to trust him again. I really do feel like we can make it all work; we’ve made lots of progress so far, but I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to where we were if this break continues for an extended period of time. When should I walk away? – Confused and Hurt Girlfriend.

When should you walk away? Uh, like, yesterday! Come on, what needs to happen for you to wake up? Do you need to walk in on your boyfriend and his ex in bed together? He isn’t over her. He said himself she’s still in his heart. Who says that about an ex to a woman he wants a future with? And the BS about it being unfair that he and his ex never got a second chance to work things out? Good God! Is he trying to imply it’s your fault they didn’t try again?

Here’s what I think happened — she dumped him, and he needed to get over the pain of rejection so he started dating you. A few months went by and he still missed his ex, so he thought he’d get in touch with her and see if she changed her mind, missed him too, and wanted him back. She gave some indication that could be a possibility, so he told you he needed some time to “reboot,” while she figured out if she wanted a “take two” with him or not. She decided she didn’t at which point he came crawling back to you with his tail between his legs hoping you’d just overlook his infatuation with his ex and give him the attention he so desperately craves. And that’s what you have “worth fighting for”?! Wake up! This guy doesn’t care about you. He just wants someone to help him get over his ex and right now you’re his best shot. Don’t think for a minute that if she didn’t ask him back he wouldn’t push you aside and go to her in a heartbeat. Is that really the kind of relationship you want? Surely you can find better.

*Do you have a relationship/dating question I can help with? Send me your letters at dearwendy@thefrisky.com.

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