I have been dating this man for more than a year now. He was divorced twice. Has an older teen child with first wife. His second marriage lasted almost 20 years. When we started dating, he had moved out of their home and she had moved back to the country where they're from. But they have remained close friends. She even visited him a month after we started dating. Now he wants to marry me – but he made it clear that he still wants to be friends with her.
As I have started giving the relationship more serious thought, I have realized that their friendship is way too close for my comfort. They text each other almost every day sharing everyday issues. He visits his country and stays over at her place. They have no children together, and he has no contact with his first ex-wife with whom he shares a child.
When I asked him if he needs to see her every time he visits his country, he got offended and said it was his duty. I did not appreciate the way he said it. He says he loves me in his life, but he also loves his ex-wife, as she has done nothing wrong. (They had separated because of no physical intimacy for one year, and then he left her). That makes me feel like I'm being used for sex. Does he simply feel guilty for leaving her? I do not mind him being friendly with ex, but I am certainly uncomfortable with him keeping constant tabs on her and running chores for her when he goes back home. How do I figure out if what we have is love or just physical attraction?
– Feeling used
Your last question is the most important one. You're still getting to know this man and what you have with him. It sounds like you need to give this more time – and to slow things down. There is no reason to be talking about marriage right now.
Do talk to him about what he means by duty and how that will play out in the future. It makes sense that he feels a strong to connection to his ex-partner of 20 years, but how does he define his relationship with her? What does it mean for the two of you?
You can talk about setting some boundaries – and he should be open to some kind of compromise. Perhaps it makes sense for him to see her and spend time with her when he's home, but he can do less texting and daily sharing. Or maybe he can make a better effort to share everyday issues with you. You can explain that it's difficult to see yourself as his primary partner when he's still checking in with someone else.
That's where I see the problem. You want to be his first call. You want to be a team. Talk to him about that, and again, don't add the pressure of talking about forever.
Readers? Should the LW stick around if the ex remains a duty?