He's Friendly with His Ex-Girlfriends

Dear Dr Love I hope you can help.

I've been seeing a man for a little over a year. We are very much in love and both agree nothing like this has ever happened to us before. We are both in our 30s and have bought a house together and plan to get married. He has two previous long term relationships (8 years and 5 years) and is on friendly terms with both women. I have one previous relationship which I ended and we have no contact.

I am having problems accepting his two ex partners. He wants us to socialise together occasionally (they have mutual friends) and keep in contact with both women. He also has lots of photos of him and these women. He is a very kind man and I think his ex girlfriends play on this.

I know they both would like to get back together with him although he repeatedly tells me that he does not want this. I do not want to socialise with them as I think they are manipulative and I find it painful (I have been out to dinner with him and one of them and I did not have an enjoyable evening). I want to get on with planning our future together without constant reminders of the past.

I have also recently found out that one of his ex partners owes him £10, 000. I confronted him over this and he said that he felt gulity when he left her and lent her the money to help her buy a house. Please help. Am I being jealous and unreasonable? Why can he not break ties with these women?

I now have problems sleeping with him as I keep imagine him with his ex- girlfriends and I won't go in the room where he keeps the photos of them. I love him very much.

Answer: 

Yes you are feeling jealous, but no one can pass judgment on your feelings and say that you are being unreasonable. Feelings are irrational, not wrong or right, unreasonable or reasonable. They simply need to be accepted for what they are. At times you may choose to not act on certain feelings because doing so would not be in your best interest, but you can't try to eliminate what you feel.

Oftentimes understanding where your feelings stem from can help to attenuate or even dissolve the troubling emotions. To figure out why you feel as you do, study whether he gives you any reason to doubt his love for you. Is he giving you any signals that he wants to return to the ex-girlfriends? Is he using the ex-girlfriends to torture you or make you feel jealous?

If your answer to these questions is no, then you can say with a good degree of certainty that the problem is yours. If so, enlist the aid of a therapist in order to understand why you are feeling so jealous and threatened. The answer will be found in your early childhood, for sure. Someone in your past made you feel insecure by either abandoning you (or threatening you with abandonment) and/or not making you feel worthy of love.

Keep in mind, also, that what you like about this man is his ability to love and connect. This explains why he hasn't 'killed off' his ex-girlfriends. Even though they aren't lovers any longer, he has chosen to remain friends. This loyalty is a lovely quality that will make him a better boyfriend to you. To ask him to cut off his friendships with his former lovers, is to ask him to stop being who he is.

You can't ask this of him. This means that you have a serious decision to make: either you accept him as he is or give him up.

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