Dear Carolyn: I have been living with my boyfriend for 10 years. He moved here from out east and has an adult son there. He has been divorced for 16 years.
I have put up with his ex-wife’s texting and calling every time the boy upset her. I tolerated it because the boy was young and I understood it was painful to be separated from him.
The boy is now 23 and she seems to be texting and calling more and more. It’s not always about their son, but instead about how lonely she is, how she hates her job or how she has no money.
We have had several very heated arguments about it. He dismisses my feelings as childish and jealous and always vehemently defends her: She is my son’s mother, it’s the only way I can find out about my son, she doesn’t have any friends, and so forth. She divorced him!
I feel she has no right to continually interfere in his life here with things that are not always about an adult son. I think it’s very selfish of her. She even calls him when she can’t get a hold of the boy. What should he do thousands of miles away?
He does have a relationship with his son, they talk and text, so she really doesn’t need to be involved.
He said he will not stop texting with her. Some of their conversations are very personal and some of the things he says to her are hurtful to me. He says he only says things to make her feel better. Is it right that she feels better at my expense?
I feel there is more going on with his feelings for her, which he denies. I am tired of this coming between us. It is the only time we ever argue. Am I being childish and unreasonable? — F.
Whether you have grounds to feel threatened and invaded by the texting ex, and hurt by your enabling boyfriend — and I suspect the majority who read this will agree with you that you do — is no longer the point. The point now is, what are you going to do about this?
You’ve tried explaining your feelings to your boyfriend. He dismisses them.
You’ve tried digging for a deeper explanation. He denies there is one.
You’ve tried, apparently, asking him to stop or reduce his contact with her. He refuses.
Any fight you have with him at this point is a failure to recognize that he’s not the one who will fix this.
He has made his choice, and it’s to change nothing about his own actions. That means it’s on you now. If you want things to change, then you’re the one who is going to have to change them. And that means the pressing question for you to answer isn’t, “Am I being unreasonable”; it’s, “Is staying in this relationship worth it to me on these terms?”
You have to decide if your boyfriend’s indulgence of the ex — and the side of him this conflict has revealed to you — have damaged your home life to the point where you’d rather live on your own. If no, then you need to figure out a way you can make peace with the ex-relationship. If yes, then that speaks for itself.
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Hi, Carolyn: I recently became fed up with a family member’s habit of making rude comments about others, generally about appearance. I decided to confront her about it via e-mail. I was very careful to stay only on that subject and not attack her (a la, “I don’t like your hair either!”). It basically said, “You were rude. This is a pattern. Maybe you should think about trying to change this.”
Her response was to become defensive and go on the attack, via e-mail. I wrote back that she was right about some things, but this was about her and the hurtful things she says to people. I haven’t heard anything since and I’m not sure how to proceed. This is a family member who I also consider a close friend. — Anonymous
Call her, apologize for hiding behind e-mail, and learn from this.
Your message and motives might have been straight from the angels, but when you chose to scold her at electronic-arm’s length, you ceded the high ground in one stroke.
And, you did attack her. How would you like to open that same e-mail from a “close friend”?
The best way to speak up was in person and right when you witnessed any rudeness. “Hey, why so rough on Auntie Em?” Next best (for next time): in person, and what’s-up? curious vs. stop-that! accusatory.
Whether to accept any peace overtures is up to her, but you need to make them, now. “I thought I was helping, but obviously wasn’t. I hope you’ll forgive me.”