Gorgeous Sherrie writes about her long-distance boyfriend who likes to bring up his "accomplished" exes (who he still maintains friendships with) in conversation. She's wondering if her feelings about this are normal or if she's overreacting.
Here's her story:
My question is about my boyfriend's two ex-girlfriends.
My boyfriend is a wonderful man. We have been in a long-distance relationship (USA and Australia) for two and a half years. We FaceTime each week and SMS or text other days. We spent three months living together a year ago when I was working on a project in the US.
We see each other every 6 months. He is coming to spend Christmas and New Years with me this year.
Early on in our relationship my boyfriend referred to two ex-girlfriends a couple of times in conversation - indicating how accomplished they are - they are both successful professionals. However, I am accomplished too (which he says), but it felt like a comparison to me. (My brother said it was really about him trying to show he has dated women like me before).
Maybe it was my insecurity?
He recently mentioned one of his ex’s, but this time called her a friend rather than an ex. He has stayed friends with these two ex’s - not close but he obviously speaks to them from time to time.
I've never been able to do this and believe people are ex’s for a reason. One of my friends told me she can stay friends after some time has passed if the breakup has been amicable.
What do you think: Am I jealously overreacting to the fact that he is still friends with these two women? Or is my reaction normal?
Oh Sherrie, I don’t think you’re jealously overreacting to your boyfriend being friends with these women at all.
I believe you’re having a very normal reaction to something you’re feeling that’s real. Now whether that’s coming from a place of your own insecurity or from something you’re picking up on that goes beyond any insecure feelings on your part, is something to look at first.
I agree with you, both from my own personal experiences and what I’ve seen from other’s experiences, there’s a reason our exes are exactly that – exes. And I've found that, except in extremely rare cases, this applies across the board.
I know there are many of us out there that have a different opinion on this topic, my belief is that unless the unspoken terms and expectations are out in the open and transparent for everyone involved to see, there’re just too many places for gray areas to become even more gray.
One of these gray areas involves unspoken expectations or needs.
When you've been intimate with someone, you have access to them emotionally or otherwise in a way that makes it so important for both people to have strong boundaries. If he isn’t seeing why this needs to be the case, or when his ex “pretends” that she’s oblivious to the stepping on toes/feelings that the new girlfriend like yourself may have, there's always a concern.
The fact that your relationship is primarily long-distance is also concerning for me.
Having been there myself and working with many women who had some of your concerns as well with their own long-distance relationships, there’s definitely some truth to the fact that not being able to see someone regularly or touch base with them regularly and often in person, does nothing to help our understandable insecurities around someone who remains in touch with two of his exes.
And while I wouldn’t say there’s nothing here, I also wouldn’t say there’s necessarily something here either.
Instead, look first at your own insecurities in as open as light as you can. We all have them. We would all likely feel something if our boyfriend tells us how accomplished his exes are – and especially if we weren’t asking about them but he was merely volunteering this type of information.
It’s totally understandable how you felt hearing that! No matter how accomplished you are as well, and no matter how practical an alternative explanation your brother gave you.
But look at whether or not the reason you reached out to me is because of your insecurities which you own, or because of his behavior, which he owns. Just that subtle difference matters to how you’re viewing this and what’s really going on beyond the surface of what he says or doesn’t say or what you say on the surface but how you actually feel.
What if you asked your intuition, your gut instinct, the same thing you’re asking me? What would it have to say?
What I’m really asking you, Sherrie, is do you trust this man? That’s what all your questions come down to.
If you trust him, then you have nothing to worry about. If you trust him, then his choice to remain friends with these two exes isn’t a big deal because they truly do mean nothing to him and he would never do anything to violate your trust or give you reason to be in any way suspicious of him.
He wouldn’t give you any reason to distrust him, and he would be compassionate and considerate of your own feelings (even if you were being insecure because of your own past history) to make sure you had no reason to doubt him and his word.
That’s my point.
I know you say he’s your boyfriend. And I know you say it’s been two and half years that you’ve been in a relationship. But relationships vary across the board and time has never been enough of an indicator on its own of what two people in that relationship actually have together.
Long distance almost always complicates things, and of course, it makes it so much easier to hide things that otherwise couldn’t remain hidden. I’ve seen and heard far too much for me to blindly say there’s nothing to worry about without knowing more about what these two and a half years have been about.
If there’s some kind of imbalance of power within your relationship, you need to know it’s one you can live with and choose him in spite of it. Power imbalances don’t change; they get worse.
This is one of those things that’s easy to hide when you’re long distance with someone, but it will be very a visible part of your relationship when the two of you actually get together – and if you’re looking towards the future with marriage and the whole package, the two of you are at some point going to have to get together beyond the holidays or vacation time.
You haven’t mentioned anything about power here, but it’s a part of every relationship whether we realize it or not.
I hope my words have resonated with you, Sherrie. I’ve tried to see beyond your own words to what I’m hearing you - and what I've heard so many others - ask as well, so hopefully this will give you some food for thought as you take a closer look at who and what you’ve got and who is owning what.
What about you? Are you seeing something here in Sherrie’s letter that you want to comment on? Share your advice with her in the comments below!