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Problem: my boyfriend’s ex girlfriend texts him constantly. They were in a relationship for 2 years on and off in high school. I asked him to not talk to her and he didn’t for about 4 months. But she texted him consistently and he finally gave in and started talking to her. He said she really needed him for advice. I know this because I sometimes check his phone. Bad I know on my part but I had good reason to! Now he locks his phone and I’m worried he has something to hide. I know she still loves him; am I being paranoid? I’m in a new relationship and we have told each other we love each other already. We discussed this but I’m just not comfortable with the whole thing; should I be?
PUT THE BOYFRIEND’S PHONE DOWN! I want to discuss with you the theory of cause and effect. If you invade someone’s privacy by, say, stealing his cell phone and rummaging through his texts, what effect do you foresee this having?
1. He finds your lack of trust in him endearing.
2. He decides to let you inspect every aspect of his life on a regular basis.
3. He STOPS TRUSTING YOU!
Hint: A and B have never happened in the recorded history of human civilization.
Alright, you’ve been punished. Now, take a few deep breaths and let’s hash out a battle plan.
I admire that you two have tried talking this through. A term you’ll have heard of if you ever went to a shrink or at least watched In Treatment: setting boundaries. However, be careful of being misled by the term boundaries. Setting boundaries isn’t dictating what your boyfriend can or can’t do, but what you can or can’t accept. You don’t tell someone to stop talking to their ex, you tell him you won’t accept him continuing to be involved with his ex when he should be involved with YOU.
There’s a clear emotional chain in situations like these. You don’t trust his ex. However, that really implies you don’t trust him with his ex. This indicates you don’t trust him to be faithful to you. Therefore, you have concerns or doubts about the relationship and want to make sure you don’t get hurt. Your fears lead to panicked and obsessive behavior that will cause the deterioration of your relationship. YOU’RE SPRINTING TO THE BREAK UP!
The mantra for any relationship that lasts beyond bouts of doubt and jealousy is the following: “communication is key.” You have to talk with him again. Try asking him some of the following questions: Why does he feel the need to keep indulging his ex? Is there anything left unresolved between them? What are his fears regarding your relationship? If the situation were reversed, how would he respond to it?
There are a couple of less realistic and less recommended methods of dealing with an ex. The first way entails you finding and beating the holy heck out of her. While this is a fantasy for some men (of course the “fighting” involves either a bed of pillows or a pool filled with melted chocolate) it most likely would end with scars and assault charges. Option number two is that you take a vow of silence and wait for either something or nothing to happen. This may result in you driving yourself insane and escalating your obsessive behavior (he doesn’t have a bunny does he?). Yet a third way is to wash your hands of the relationship. We all know where that road leads (a month’s supply of Ben & Jerry’s, a Chuck marathon, and your room reverts to a jungle of clothes).
So save yourself the legal fees, straightjacket, and heartbreak induced weight gain. Talk to your boy. Apologize for swiping his iPhone. Ask him what’s tying him to this ex and tell him what you can or can’t put up with before it ends the relationship. Or become the next ex that won’t go away.
Closing the Ex File,