DEAR KELLY: I’ve been with my boyfriend for like four months. It’s good and we don’t have any problems.
A weeks ago, his ex, who he was with for like almost two years, texted him and asked if they could meet at coffee to talk. I freaked out and said no, and he told her no. Then she texted back and told him that her mom was just diagnosed with serious breast or lung cancer and she just needs to talk him because he was like her best friend. So I agreed he could meet with her and talk. According to him, she just wanted to talk and cry about her mom.
I thought it was a onetime thing and they wouldn’t talk again, but that has not been the case. Now they keep texting. This past weekend he went to the hospital to see her mom because she had some kind of big surgery. He felt like he should go check on their whole family because he used to be so close to them.
I know it’s the nice thing to do and that he’s a nice guy, but I can’t help but feel insecure about this whole thing and that might bring them back together. I feel so scared even though he’s never given me a reason to be. I know her mom might die, but I still can’t help but feel like she should reach out to someone else besides her ex-boyfriend. Do you have any advice for me?
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DEAR COLLEEN: This is one of those life moments where you can be the supportive and understanding girlfriend who trusts her boyfriend, or you can be the uncertain and doubting girlfriend who makes the whole situation worse by her uncompassionate behavior. Think hard about how you plan to approach this because your own behavior could be the thing that breaks up the relationship.
Jealousy is poison to most relationships. It’s not flattering on you and it can make your boyfriend feel like he has to pick between you and his hurting friend. Yes, she is his ex-girlfriend, but that doesn’t mean they still can’t be friends. If you force him to pick between the two of you, you may not like his decision.
Everyone has a past. It doesn’t have to dictate the future unless you let it. Sure, he cared about her when they went out, and you’ve cared deeply about guys before him. It happens. But this doesn’t mean that just because he has you now, he no longer likes or cares for her as a friend and her family. To the contrary, it shows that he’s a kind and compassionate person who wants to be there as a friend to help her through this emotionally painful time. I would be more concerned if you saw him turn his back on her right now and not acknowledge what is happening. He stepped up showing genuine concern, and it’s a positive sign of his true character.
Stop seeing her as a threat. Her mom has a terrible illness and she reached out to him because he knows her family. It wasn’t to get back together; it was for comfort. Perhaps you offer to bake cookies or do something kind for her family to show that you care as well. A sweet gesture by you could mean a lot to your boyfriend if it is sincere and genuine. Make your boyfriend proud, not ashamed because you can’t control your emotions and your suspicions. Be trusting until he gives you a reason not to be. He has done nothing wrong so far, so don’t make him feel like the bad guy just because he has a caring and sympathetic heart.
Don’t be the time police on how often they talk. If he’s listening and concerned about her mom, you shouldn’t be putting limits on how often he checks in. That’s his business. If you start policing any time they talk, odds are he will stop telling you every time they talk and feel the need to become sneaky. If he wants to find out how her mom or the family is, be the understanding girlfriend who says, “Absolutely. Most definitely check on them. It’s why I find you so special. You care about others, and I’m so lucky you care about me too. Let me know how she is doing and what we can do to help.”
Tell him that you feel terrible about what is happening to her family. No one should have to go through this. Show compassion. Practice kindness. Treat both of them how you would want to be treated if the shoe was reversed. Don’t let your insecurities dictate the direction this relationship goes. Be confident enough in yourself that you encourage and respect him for being the thoughtful and compassionate person he is.