My boyfriend and I have been dating for almost two years and are both sure we want to continue building a future together. There is one recurring issue that we do not agree on. I know you've talked about friendships with an ex and I'd like your advice on this. He and his ex (who also lives in the same city) stay in frequent contact through text. Most of it has been her initiating the texts by sending him pictures, her dance videos, and relying on him for emotional support for tough things she's going through. I've expressed to him that I feel uncomfortable with this dynamic because of the emotional intimacy, and that even though I feel it's not immediately threatening to our relationship, it's crossing boundaries for me.
I should mention their history. They dated for a little over a year and things ended between them about six years ago, long before we knew each other. It seems like they have not been able to let each other go, which is troubling for me. I try to understand his perspective because I was in a much longer term relationship, but my situation is different because my ex and I rarely contact each other. My boyfriend does not seem to see it from my perspective, and we cannot come to a compromise or agreement. I would feel more comfortable with the situation if he talked to her about setting healthy boundaries for their friendship, and encouraged her to find other supports in her network. I've given him the space to do this and he hasn't, but just continues to receive texts from her without addressing how it's affecting our relationship. I'm having trouble accepting that he is her only emotional support even though I know that she has a group of friends she can rely on. I guess I don't understand why she needs to rely on a boyfriend she hasn't dated or hung out with for six years. Can you give me some advice as to what I can do? I don't want to tell him to stop talking to her because I know that doesn't lead to anything good, but I also would like his ex to respect my comfort level and relationship with him.
– Setting healthy boundaries?
This letter has me thinking about the last time I introduced a particular ex-boyfriend as an ex. This ex gave me a weird look at the time, and I realized it because he wasn't really my ex anymore. We had become 100 percent friends. Yes, there was history, but it was no longer relevant to our present-day relationship. I think I'd introduced him as my ex because I was so proud of what we'd become and the work we'd done to get there. But his facial expression said it all (and the meaning of it was confirmed later); there was no need for my message, which, if I'm being honest was: "Look what we did!"
The problem with your situation is that your boyfriend still treats his ex like an ex. It's been six years since the breakup, but they're still only communicating by text. She hasn't been incorporated into his new life in any real way. She's not a person you know or understand. They aren't doing any work to change that.
Instead of asking him to stop communicating with her, maybe it'd be better to talk to him about who he wants her to be. If he really likes keeping her around, great. But if that's the case, it'd be better for him to bring her into his world, for real. That way it just becomes ... normal. She can be his friend who dances. Yes, there's history, but it's old news.
Of course, if he answers those texts out of obligation, and he'd rather her not become a real friend, he should think about his own boundaries. It doesn't have to be all or nothing, but it would help to know what he wants so you understand why he's investing the time.
Readers? Is it all or nothing? What's the middle ground here?