Q. I’m a middle-aged woman and met a middle-aged man on a dating site over the summer. Things have been going well, but I haven’t been feeling emotional growth. You know, nothing about his day or feelings, not much communication during the week except short messages (like “Good morning, Beautiful”). We see each other on the weekends, go places, do things, and sleep together.
He always talks about several female friends who all seem to live far away now. He mentions one every time we’re together. He talks about what they did together, what she likes, etc. I’ll admit I get a gut punch when he says her name for some reason. One day he got teary eyed after checking an email. Then he wasn’t able to perform sexually. He mentioned that his friend is having issues in her relationship. He said he talks about our relationship to her. I said I don’t know if I’m OK with that.
I asked if she approved of me and he shook his head no. He truly cares for her, that’s clear. I didn’t ask questions — until he offhandedly mentioned that they talk about issues surrounding sex (like the problem we experienced that day). That seemed odd to me. He also made some remarks to me that made me feel self-conscious. It didn’t feel good emotionally. I ruminated on it.
I sent an early-morning email telling him that if he’s talking about our intimate details it’s a yellow flag to me. He basically said they are exes and have been good friends for five-plus years, she is now out of state, she was there to chat during his lonely pandemic days, and he needs her in his life. He said he tells her everything. I said that’s a back-burner relationship and that I felt lousy about it.
He mentioned he wants me to meet his female friends now that we discussed them. I said it feels like we’re only casual now, so meeting them doesn’t feel right. It feels like our relationship is just sex. He denied that’s what it is. I expressed desire to end it with him, then he told me he “loves” me so I worked through my emotions. We do have fun. I feel I can forgive him. He didn’t ask forgiveness nor see that he did anything wrong. I think I’ve overcome feeling emotional about it, but I’m worried my bad feelings will come back again.
My question is: Am I overreacting? Is this the new normal to keep in touch with exes?
A. I don’t see anything wrong with keeping in touch with exes, as long as it feels healthy, honest, and everyone’s on the same page about it. I also think it’s great to be able to talk with friends about everything.
But you might not feel the same way — and that’s OK. If you and this man have different philosophies about friendship, you can call this a mismatch and move on.
Please know that many other people (myself included) would also feel weird about an ex who’s mentioned all the time. I’d absolutely be upset to hear that a significant other’s ex/best friend doesn’t approve of me — before she’s even met me. That’s the stuff that makes me want to throw a bunch of yellow flags. Maybe that’s at the heart of your discomfort too.
If his relationship with his ex is more of a partnership, where do you fit in? It shouldn’t feel like there’s a third person in the mix — because you haven’t asked for that.
Your feelings will come up again because the two of you didn’t resolve anything. Maybe the next step is for you to meet his friends — so you get a sense of who they are and how it feels to be around them. Maybe you’ll love them, and it’ll make you feel like the relationship is more than just outings. Perhaps the local friends will make the ex seem less important.
Or maybe it’ll be clear that you have different ways of connecting with others. Not every breakup has to involve a wrongdoing. Sometimes it just doesn’t work.
If I were you, I would dump him. He has no consideration for your feelings and doesn’t have any boundaries with his ex. You have valid concerns; don’t dismiss them. If you don’t like how he’s treating you, don’t let him do it. If you dump him, he can always cry to his ex.
I recommend a slow fadeaway. I know you really got your hopes up, because some things were very nice about your connection with him. But it’s over.
^This is the way. Make other plans for the upcoming weekend.
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