Carolyn Hax: Ex is awkwardly intertwined in boyfriend’s life

Carolyn Hax
Columnist April 23, 2012

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

I began dating someone about three months ago. Things are going really well (we’re 30).

My problem is that his ex is very intertwined in his life. They broke up about a year and a half ago, his decision, after dating three years, and have remained friends. They have close mutual friends (some of whom are also my close friends ... that’s how we met), and his mom, brother, aunts, uncles and cousins are her Facebook friends, post on her wall, etc.

I know there’s nothing going on between them, but I also know she still has feelings for him. Needless to say, she comes up in conversations ... normally his comparing me to her. It’s always in my favor, but it annoys me. Plus, she’s always around when we go out with the mutual friends. She’s made a few comments about their intimate history — as a joke, but still. I am divorced, and I can tell you that nobody I know will compare him to my ex (or at least not aloud).


I don’t want to tell him who he can and can’t be friends with. Plus, I feel for her, since it has to be difficult to see your ex with someone else. Is this something I just need to deal with? I’m being unreasonable, aren’t I?

His Ex Is Still Around

No, your complaints seem reasonable — and your willingness to accept fault is clearly well-developed.

But you do sound impatient. This relationship is only three months old, and it was born into awkward circumstances; it’s possible all your complaints are about temporary byproducts of that awkwardness.

For example, it’s natural for someone to make comparisons with someone new after a long time with someone else. Not always out loud, but, then, you’re all in a tight circle of friends.

And, maybe she’s making jokes in a misguided attempt to save face.

If it is just about awkwardness, then time will kill the novelty pretty soon.

If instead your guy is egging things on vs. backing you up, or if you reach a point where your proximity to the ex should be old news but is still the object of snark, then feel free to point out to him that it all has gotten really old. His reaction to that will likely make any decisions for you. If things are healthy between you, though, then it won’t degrade to that point.

Re: His Ex:

Perhaps the best solution for this is to ask him his intent with saying the comparisons. Something like, “When I hear you compare me to her, I feel (sad or annoyed or whatever). Is that what you are intending?” Going from there allows him to express his reasoning, which may in his mind be complimentary, or perhaps his own therapeutic effort to work with your feelings of insecurity. Doing this might open a door to deeper conversations in understanding and respecting each other.

Anonymous

I like it, thanks, though it might also be his way of working through his feelings of insecurity.

If this takes any turn toward wanting to banish the ex, by the way, then it’s just time to break up with the guy.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/carolynhax.

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