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Carolyn Hax: Girlfriend wonders if she’s controlling

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 - 12:00 am

DEAR CAROLYN: Is it controlling of me to want, but not insist, that my boyfriend of one year cease contact with his ex?

Would it make a difference if said ex once threatened me and called me unrepeatable names? She and I had no actual contact, but she saw me and my children out at the grocery store and called me the next day, middle of the night actually, ranting and threatening. He says he wants to marry me, so why would he want to be friendly with someone who treated me that way?

I am a forgiving sort, but she’s never apologized. When I ask him he denies it, but I am pretty sure they are in fairly regular, friendly contact. She’s with someone else now, but if that relationship goes pear-shaped, is she going to impress herself on my guy again for even more attention?

To me this is out of bounds. Yes, I am questioning his ability to be straight with me, but is he denying they’re in touch because I am uncomfortable with their continued friendship?

– Yes … But …

DEAR YES ... BUT: What – that would make it OK for him to lie to you? And to send his ex the tacit message that what she did was OK?

If all you’re doing is growing increasingly concerned that your boyfriend is in touch with a still-invested and possibly unstable ex and lying to you about it, then the whole control issue is a red herring.

“Why would he want to be friendly with someone who treated me that way?” – that’s the best question in your question.

And I don’t like any of the answers I’m conjuring so far: He enjoys her attention, and he doesn’t see respect for you as a reason to give it up – that’s one possibility. Another: She’s a good person and friend in his eyes, despite the twin judgment lapses of the verbal abuse and non-apology, and he lacks the courage to defend her to you and conduct the friendship openly? Still not looking good for him.

Or he’s not that attached to her but it’s easier to respond to her texts than risk her fury, and it’s easier to lie to you than to explain his decision …

Well, are you seeing an awesome stepfather to your children here? I’m not, not if you’re right about his secret contact with this ex, whatever his motives.

If instead you’re wrong and they’re not in touch – or you have zero proof they are – then I’m wondering what the source of your distrust is, and why you’re not looking inward to make sense of that. Either way, if you have fact-based suspicion, then it’s time to present it to your boyfriend calmly. Then use his answer to decide whom to trust, him or yourself. Don’t stay unless the answer is “both.”


Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com,or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.



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