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Heavy Meddle: Caught Between Two Exes

By keeping an ex-boyfriend in her life, she ended up with another one. (Unsplash)
By keeping an ex-boyfriend in her life, she ended up with another one. (Unsplash)
This article is more than 5 years old.

Welcome Meddleheads, to the column where your crazy meets my crazy! Please send your questions to email. Right now. Not only will you immediately feel much better, you’ll also get some advice.

Hugs,

Steve

Dear Steve,

Four months ago I met a man who I fell head over heels for. He seemed like the person I had been waiting for after quite a lot of less-than-successful dates. He fell head over heels for me too. It seemed perfect. And then, we hit some roadblocks. We were able to work out most of these with the exception of one: one of my closest friends is a man and an ex-boyfriend.

My ex and I broke up four years ago, and he has lived in California for the past three. At the start of my romantic relationship, my friend, "Marcus" and I were talking on the phone almost every other day. As my romantic relationship progressed, this frequency was reduced to once or twice a week. My friend was okay with it and understood that it was the natural trajectory of things. My boyfriend was not. He described our contact, a phone call once or twice a week and almost daily short texts, as “constant” and said it made him very uncomfortable.

At Christmas, my friend decided to go to Paris. He mentioned to me that he had thought about getting me a ticket to join him using his miles but knew that I could not go. When I mentioned this to my boyfriend in an effort to show him how important he is (and how my friend is less important... I passed on a free trip to Paris), he flew off the handle.

This was not the first time. The first time he misread a text that he thought was "sexting" and went over the edge, nearly ending the relationship immediately. When I clarified the text, he was apologetic.

are there men out there who are willing to accept that women can have male friends without it meaning something more than friendship?

After having dinner and drinks with a happily married male colleague to discuss a potential promotion and agreeing to accept an invitation to a concert with another male friend I see, on average, three times a year, my boyfriend told me he felt that I was going on "dates" with other men and felt like he wasn’t important. He decided that we should keep an electronic calendar where I could let him know whenever I made plans with someone.

The ultimate outcome of "the Paris incident" was an announcement that my boyfriend believes I am still in love with my friend (which I am not) and an ultimatum: I had to choose between him and my friend. I chose to not accept an ultimatum, as I see it as characteristic of control and jealousy. This resulted in us breaking up.

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So here are my questions: Am I misreading the situation? Does my boyfriend have a right to be upset and make these demands, or is he just controlling and jealous? Secondly, are there men out there who are willing to accept that women can have male friends without it meaning something more than friendship? My boyfriend told me that no man would ever accept this. Is he right?

Thanks for your help.

Caught Between Two Exes

Dear Caught,

Based on what you’ve recounted, your most recent ex is in fact jealous and controlling. I am basing this on the single most disturbing sentence I have read in a while: He decided that we should keep an electronic calendar where I could let him know whenever I made plans with someone. There are many things wrong here, starting with “He decided that we…” and proceeding to the actual surveillance.

The root problem here isn’t jealousy or control, but trust. Your ex didn’t trust you. He appeared to believe that any interaction with another man was a potential affair. And he felt this way (as a reminder) in the early months of the relationship. You guys hadn’t even gotten engaged, let alone married. That’s not a red flag. It’s a burning red flag.

I can certainly understand feelings of jealousy, especially when an old lover of yours — now a friend — invites you on a jaunt to Paris, his treat. No matter how innocent this invite is, it’s going to unsettle an insecure new boyfriend. What you’re describing, though, goes well beyond that one episode. It’s a pattern of suspicion.

The root problem here isn’t jealousy or control, but trust. Your ex didn’t trust you.

I do applaud the part of him that was able to articulate his concerns. It’s a good thing that he was able to tell you that he didn’t like you spending time with other men. The bad thing is that he didn’t believe you when you assured him these relationships were platonic.

In answer to your second question: of course there are men out there who recognize that women have male friends (just as men have female friends). You simply got involved with a great guy who was unable accept this truth.

What’s saddest here, in the end, is that this man simply didn’t trust your love. My hunch is that this mistrust arises from his own inability to love himself. But whatever the reason, it’s a deal breaker. A healthy romantic relationship is predicated on loyalty and devotion. But also on the recognition that two people can’t be all things to each other. We all need the support and company of friends — yes, even friends of opposite genders.

I’m sorry it didn’t work out with this fellow. But it’s better that you stuck to your guns than gave in to his bullying. This way, you can find someone who loves you without needing to control you.

Onward, together,
Steve

Okay folks, now it's your turn. Did I get it right, or muck it up? Let me know in the comments section. And please do send your own question along, the more detailed the better. Even if I don't have a helpful response, chances are someone in the comments section will. Send your dilemmas via email.

Steve Almond is the author of the book "Against Football." He is the co-host, with Cheryl Strayed, of the WBUR podcast, Dear Sugar.

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