My partner and I started our relationship by cheating on our girlfriends 7 years ago (not recommended!). My relationship was only a few months in the making, while hers was a partnership of almost a decade. Since we got together, I never expected or wanted her to end her friendship with her ex, though at times it has been hard to hear her refer to her as her best friend and her "heart."
Our relationship was obviously devastating to her ex, and has been a large part of the reason they have fallen out of touch over the last few years. But recently they have reconnected. And now my girlfriend, along with her sister, and her sister's partner, want to take a group trip to visit her ex. I am not invited.
If I say I don't want my girlfriend to go, I will most certainly be told I am denying her a significant relationship and her autonomy. If I go along with it, I will feel left out, resentful, and like my feelings don't matter. Where is the middle ground? What is the appropriate ex/new partner etiquette after all this time?
-Stuck Between An Ex and A Hard Place
Ouch. I don’t need to tell you that your significant other is putting you in a terrible position; she’s not only requiring that you be cool with her having an intimate relationship with someone who threatens you, but she’s treating this ex kind of like a current.
I don’t know something about your relationship that’s important – do you travel without each other often? Is it a common thing for her to go on trips and leave you at home? Because if so, it’s not so weird that she isn't inviting you on this trip. Not so weird. If you always travel with her and this exception is being made for the ex, then I have to say an emphatic Oh-Hell-No, and I encourage you to as well!
If you always travel with her and this exception is being made for the ex, then I have to say an emphatic Oh-Hell-No, and I encourage you to as well!
It worries me that she’s alienating you. The worst part about cheating in my mind is not the sexy times and sweaty bits; it’s the lies. It’s having precious experiences that you hide from your partner. And while I in no way think your GF is cheating on you, she is essentially going on a double date vacay that you’re not invited to. How are you supposed to feel OK about that? It’s messy and inconsiderate of your feelings, as well as your place in her life. It concerns me that she seems to be protecting her ex from having to deal with the fact the she has super-hecka moved on. Like seven years on. My guess is that she feels guilty and is compensating for it by treating this woman with kid gloves. And if I’m right about that, then you’ve already discovered this unpleasant nugget of truth – when a person feels guilty and acts from that place, they are defensive in protecting their actions. It’s not because they’re necessarily doing something wrong, it’s ‘cause when we act out of guilt we’re not dealing with the root of what we did that was so ‘bad’ in the first place. We’re just trying to shake it off and fix it by being ‘good.’
I think that this problem requires more than etiquette. It calls for some vigorous honesty. You deserve to have your partner prioritize your feelings, and to hear them out with compassion. If she chooses to say screw you and your stinking feelings, then you need to be honest with yourself about what that means about your place in her eyes. The two of you need to talk about the two of you because that’s what’s important here, not what she is or isn’t doing with her ex. In the end she might want you to go, and make you feel wanted while you’re there, but still focus on her ex. Maybe you could bring a friend of your own to chill with while she catches up. The real problem here is that she is not prioritizing you, and if that can be remedied then I encourage you to suck up your jealousies and be a supportive partner, even if it stings a bit.
The Mission’s resident advisor gets booked months in advance by San Franciscans seeking help with everything from figuring out their love lives to communicating with their pets. So we asked Jessica if she’d come on board to do a weekly advice column, Truth Talk, for The Bold Italic. If you have a burning question for Truth Talk with Jessica Lanyadoo, you can post your question anonymously here or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, and check back on Wednesdays to see if she has an answer for you.
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