Dear Wendy: “Should I Befriend My Ex-Boyfriend’s New Girlfriend?”
One of my first really serious adult relationships happened when I was in my early- to mid-20s. We ended things after about three years, two of which we spent living together, and although our breakup was extremely heart-wrenching and hurtful, over the years we have been able to develop a much stronger relationship as friends. When he started dating his current girlfriend last summer, I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t hear from him as much (previously we had been hanging out an average of twice a week, sometimes more) because sometimes that’s just how things go when you meet someone new. But as the six month mark passed and my conversations with him were few and far between, I began to wonder what the deal was. He confided in me that his girlfriend had trust issues — MAJOR ones. (She was checking his browsing history on his computer, she made him de-friend me on Facebook, and every time he brought up my name or made an attempt to hang out with me, an argument would ensue.) They’ve been dating a year now and I’ve still never met her. The last time I talked to him — we’ve managed to see each other a handful of times since he started dating his girlfriend — he mentioned that he is thinking of proposing. I would like for his girlfriend to get the chance to know me. Additionally, I know my ex misses our friendship and still cares about me deeply, enough so that he has always stuck up for me and made sure she understood that her jealousy and trust issues were HERS, and not caused by anything I did. Should I make an attempt to befriend his girlfriend so that she becomes more comfortable with me? — The Ex
I’m not convinced that it’s your ex’s new girlfriend who’s responsible for the distance between you and him. I know she’s the easy target and it makes sense that she’d be the one you’d want to reach out to, but you’re making an assumption here — one that seems neither explicit or implicit — that your ex has any interest in maintaining a close friendship with you anymore. While I don’t doubt your desire to keep the friendship alive, nothing in your letter indicates that your ex feels similarly. If he did, don’t you think he would have found a way by now to introduce you to his girlfriend of one year? Don’t you think he would have reached out to you and discussed how to help alleviate some of his girlfriend’s jealousy and discomfort with your friendship? But he didn’t. And that doesn’t mean he doesn’t miss you or that he’s stopped “caring about you deeply,” but it may mean that the role you filled in his life is now filled by someone else and, to put it bluntly, you aren’t needed anymore.
I know that’s a tough pill to swallow. We want to think that people who have touched our lives — people we’ve let into our hearts and have shared meaningful experiences with — will always want to be a part of our lives, but that isn’t always the case. Things change. New relationships sometimes push old ones out, and bonds that once seemed made of steel lose their strength. If I were you, before I reached out to your ex’s girlfriend, I’d ask him if that’s something he’d encourage. I’d ask him what kind of role he’d like for you to have in his — and his girlfriend’s — lives. For all you know, he’s already made a choice. He may have understood that in choosing his girlfriend, he was choosing a life that no longer included you — or at least, included you in a much, much smaller capacity. And while you’ve been struggling to accept that, it may be something he accepted fairly quickly. Because he got something in return. He got a relationship — one that is hopefully loving and fulfilling and happy. And he may understand that by fighting for a place for you in his life, he puts that relationship at risk — a risk he’s not willing to take. So, talk to him. He’s the only one who can tell you if your attempts at friendship with his girlfriend would be welcome — by her and by him.
My boyfriend and I have been dating for two and a half years. The one unresolved issue that keeps coming up is that of his best girl friend. When I first met her, I really liked her and thought we could get to be friends too. She got married about a year and a half ago and conveniently “forgot” to invite me to the wedding, sending my boyfriend an invite for just himself and no +1, telling him there wasn’t enough seating at the reception or the church for me. I was the only significant other in their group of friends who wasn’t invited. My boyfriend ended up going alone because I didn’t want to make him miss one of his best friend’s weddings, but I was hurt and confused. She and my boyfriend have always been touchy-feely, but since her wedding, it really gets my hackles up because I feel like she’s trying to come between us. Things really got out of control at a party last weekend. When I showed up, she was sitting on my BF’s lap, the two of them alone on the balcony. I didn’t think much of it, until she told me I should “get out of here or I’ll throw up on you.” A little later, she ended up in the bathroom hugging the toilet for the rest of the night. What really did it for me was the fact that my BF was the one that brought her water, was holding her hair back, and was sitting with her in the bathroom while her husband sat on the couch and played Wii games with everyone else. I’ve brought up my feelings about this friend before and my boyfriend always brushes me off by saying they’ve always been that way with each other and that she tells him how much she likes me all the time, though I have yet to see any indication that that’s the case. I don’t know what to do because I don’t want to be “that girlfriend” who makes her BF chose between her and his friends, but it’s getting very hard to watch this girl come between us. Do I try to get over all this for the sake of our relationship or do I give him the ultimatum that he needs to tell her to back off or I’ll leave? — Troubled Girlfriend
Your boyfriend would be wise to take some cues from the ex-boyfriend from our first letter today. I don’t mean he should necessarily dump his best girlfriend or cut off communication with her, but he should be putting his girlfriend’s feelings first, and from the sounds of it, your feelings come last. You have every right to be hurt and confused by your boyfriend’s relationship with his friend, the way he conducts himself in her presence, and his total disregard for your feelings. Just because he’s “always” been touchy-feely with her — and just because her husband doesn’t seem to mind — doesn’t mean that behavior should continue. It especially shouldn’t continue if you’ve expressed your disapproval and discomfort with it. And I won’t even touch the whole wedding fiasco. Clearly, your boyfriend’s friend had/has no interest whatsoever in making you feel accepted or putting you at ease with their friendship.
I’d say an ultimatum is long overdue. Like the ex-boyfriend in the letter above, your boyfriend has to make a choice. It should have been made on his own long ago to spare you the confusion and hurt feelings you’ve had to endure. But since he was too insensitive to make the choice on his own, you have to force him to make it. Either he cuts out the crap with his friend — no more inappropriate touching, lap-sitting or acting as her stand-in husband — or you’re outta there. Enough is enough.
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