Dear Wendy: “My Boyfriend Keeps Another Woman’s Underwear In His Dresser”

I’m in a long-distance relationship going on two years. We both work for an airline so we can fly back and forth a lot and we do. Every time he goes back home his attitude changes. It’s almost like it doesn’t bother him that he has to leave. And he just changes into somebody I don’t know. Each time I thought we had a good time; we always get along well. Great! Also, when I want to discuss my feelings about this, he says I just make stuff up that isn’t there. Also, he’s keeping his ex-girlfriend’s panties and bras. In his drawer. She passed away four years ago now. Is that normal? — Flight Risk

No, it’s not normal that your boyfriend of two years keeps his deceased girlfriend’s bras and panties in his drawer. But whether it’s normal or not is beside the point. The point is your boyfriend refuses to validate your concerns about his behavior so you’re left looking for signs as to why, whenever your visits together come to an end, he changes into somebody you don’t know and acts like he’s not the least bit bothered that he has to leave you. Your instinct that there may be a connection between the dead woman’s underwear and your boyfriend’s peculiar behavior is right.

A lot of us have memorabilia from relationships past, but holding on to someone’s underwear — in a dresser drawer, no less —is something else altogether. It signifies an intimacy your boyfriend is still trying to hold on to, which is, in turn, creating an emotional roadblock in your relationship with him. Tell him that you feel very uncomfortable with him keeping a dead woman’s underwear in his dresser drawer. Tell him you’re tired of him saying your feelings aren’t real or that they stem from something that doesn’t exist. Let him know you’re at a place in your life where you’re ready to really get close to someone, but if he still hasn’t gotten over the grief of getting close to someone once before only to lose her, your relationship is at a standstill. Urge him to get help, but if he won’t, you need to cut your losses and move on.

I broke up with my boyfriend four months ago. We had been together for a little over a year and he was deployed overseas for six of those months. The deployment changed both of us, and our relationship wasn’t the same when he returned. Breaking up with him was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Unfortunately, my ex and I share the same group of friends and most of them stopped talking to me after the breakup. One of the only people who continued to be my friend was a guy who I’ll call Frank. Frank and I had become good friends while my ex was deployed. At the time, we both just saw each other as good friends and nothing else. But our other friends didn’t see it that way and accused me of cheating, something I would never do. Soon after the accusations started, Frank and I fell out of touch for about five months. About two weeks after I broke up with my boyfriend, I ran into Frank, and suddenly, there were these amazing sparks between us. Not to mention, he didn’t hate me like everyone else. Although I’m certainly not ready to start dating again, I would like to explore the possibility of having a relationship with Frank down the road. The only kicker is: he lives with my ex-boyfriend.

We both deeply care about my ex and his feelings. I would never want to hurt my ex, and I also worry that if we start dating, people will think they were right about the infidelity. I don’t want my ex to think our entire relationship was a sham, and I certainly don’t want to gain that kind of reputation. So what should I do? Should I just give it more time? Will there ever be a “right time”? Or is dating your ex’s friend never okay? I’m tired of being painted as the bad guy when I’m just trying to find happiness for myself. — Bromance Wrecker

I’m assuming your ex doesn’t believe the cheating rumors about you and Frank or he wouldn’t be living with Frank right now. So, I wouldn’t let a bunch of jerks who have nothing better to do than stir up drama keep you from pursuing a relationship that could make you happy, but I would certainly stop and consider how such a relationship would affect your ex and his friendship — not to mention living situation — with Frank. You can’t help who you fall for, but you can help who you date and if you’re not ready to date yet, you’d definitely be taking the road of least resistance if you put Frank in a “friends-only” category for now. It’s not like dating a friend of someone you dated all of six months — for all intents and purposes — is the end of the world, but if it’s avoidable for the time being — at least until there’s a little more distance from the breakup, why not avoid it?

Since you aren’t even ready to date yet, continue getting to know Frank as a friend. Date other people when you feel like you’re ready to get back out there. If your ex is at all perceptive, he’ll get an inkling of something between you and Frank. If they’re friends and they live together, it won’t take long for him to figure out Frank has, at the very least, developed a friendship with you. If that’s something that bothers him — if the possibility of the two of you getting close freaks him out or pisses him off, you and Frank will hear about it sooner than you think. And if it seems like it’s going to cause more drama than it’s worth, you can stop before you get started. But if, on the other hand, you both decide that being together is worth the drama, you can do what you can to minimize hurt feelings and awkward run-ins by asking Frank to find a new living situation before you get too close to him. You may not be able to help falling for an ex’s friend, but you can do something about falling for an ex’s roommate.

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