Q. I’m in my mid-20s and I was dating “Jackie,” who’s 26, for three years. We had a great relationship in terms of friendship, love, and communication. In the last six to seven months of our relationship, I started to really understand that my feelings for her were not what hers were for me. I loved her, but I was not in love with her. I was honest with her about my feelings and we really worked to take some space, and then we got back together after a month of taking a break. This on/off lasted for a while. I was caught up on the fact that I truly care about her, and that she is a genuinely great person . . . but I knew the right thing was to break up because I did not reciprocate her feelings. She deserves to be with someone who is madly in love with her, too.
She understood but took the breakup hard. Actually, she took it much better than I thought she would, seeing as this was her first “real” relationship (she had never really dated before) and that I was her first same-sex partner. Our relationship did not end badly — there was no fight, no name-calling, any of that. We talked about how hard it might be to stay friends, especially immediately after breaking up, however we both agreed to be honest about our feelings if it got too hard to talk/see each other as friends.
We broke up months ago. We text a couple times a week and have seen each other about once a month for a meal. Our conversations focus mostly on family, work, current events, and mutual friends. She has not talked about getting back together since we broke up and is always very respectful.
I’ve been dating “Ashley” for about four months now and have been completely honest with her about my relationship with Jackie, including why we broke up and my wanting to remain friends with her. Recently, Ashley has become more and more upset about my talking with Jackie and wanting to get together with her. Ashley says it’s not a trust issue but she just doesn’t understand why I want to remain friends with my ex. Honestly, Meredith, Jackie is such a genuinely good person and friend that I do not want to lose her from my life; I value her friendship (and to reiterate: I do not have any romantic feelings for her and Jackie has not expressed any romantic feelings toward me since the break up!). I try to explain my feelings and reasons to Ashley but she just isn’t understanding.
Ashley has said that she feels like I’m choosing to hang out with Jackie instead of her. For one hour once a month . . . it’s not like I want to see her for a one-on-one three-hour dinner every single week! I do my best to validate Ashley’s concerns and feelings; I remain honest with her about my feelings and thoughts as well. I know things like this take time, but I’m hoping that eventually we will all be able to hang out in a group settings. I don’t think it’s an issue to be able to have my relationship with Ashley while also staying friends with Jackie.
Can you and your readers give me some insight into this? Or give me any advice on how to move forward with both Ashley and Jackie?
A.You’ve told us a lot about your relationship with Jackie. I feel like I know her. But Ashley? Your current girlfriend? I know nothing. All I know is that you’ve been dating her for a while and that she feels a bit slighted. All I know is that she exists and that she’s annoyed.
I have to wonder whether Ashley’s issues are really about Jackie — or whether she’s just getting the sense that you’re not very into her. Again, you chose to tell us that Jackie is amazing. Is Ashley great? Is she your priority? If so, why?
I tend to believe that we can put up with significant others staying friends with exes if we feel confident about our place in the relationship. In your case, the relationship with Ashley is pretty new. And your breakup with Jackie is also new. Your attention is split. Do you really need to be thinking about your friendship with Jackie so much? Are the frequent texts necessary? Can you give Jackie some space and let this friendship evolve more naturally?
My advice is to tell Ashley that you’re committed to knowing Jackie in some way, but that you don’t want the friendship to ruin what’s developing with her. The random monthly lunch isn’t so important. If it doesn’t happen monthly, it’s not a big deal. Explain (to Ashley) that she’s your present and that you want her to feel like she’s the priority.
Because she is, right? If you’re not sure, maybe you just need to be single. Ashley should be the center of attention. If she isn’t, that’s telling.
Ashley is treating Jackie as a deal-breaker issue. She’s trying to force you to choose. She’s essentially given you an ultimatum. My advice: Dump Ashley. Her jealousy and insecurity is a deal-breaker for you.
Ashley doesn’t want to meet Jackie? That may be a solution. Not certain though.
Yeah, I’m with Meredith. Maybe you cut the monthly dinners to every other month and not text quite so much for a little bit. It’s great if you can maintain your friendship with Jackie, but I think you need to show Ashley you are committed to your new relationship as well.
I think Meredith’s advice is spot on. Examine your feelings about each and let them know (and show them) what your feelings are. If you don’t get all that excited about the new girlfriend, be single for a while.
Wrong again, Meredith. If Ashley can’t give the letter writer space to be friends with someone else (ex or not), then it obviously isn’t going to work long-term.
I seriously love how Meredith pointed out how much you told us about Jackie and how little you told us about Ashley. I think this might be an issue of “You’re Just Not That Into Her.”
Honestly, letter writer, I really don’t think you’re doing Jackie any favors by being friends with her. You said she was in love with you . . . just because she hasn’t said she wants to get back together doesn’t mean that she’s not seeing these monthly dinners as a glimmer of hope that you two will will together. Cut the cord.
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Correction: Because of an editing error, an earlier headline on this column implied that the advice-seeker was male. She was a woman in a same-sex relationship.