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Ask a Teacher: My Boyfriend Treats His Ex Better Than Me

Conventional Wisdom is a different kind of advice column. Your questions will be answered by people from all walks of life rather than by advice experts. This week, a teacher tries to help out a woman who is jealous of her boyfriend's ex. If you have a question you'd like answered on Conventional Wisdom, you can submit it here.

Today's Question:

My boyfriend buys the mother of his child really nice gifts for no reason. He recently got her a nice jacket that cost well over $100. Now for Christmas he's getting her some really cool equipment for her art studio. We've been together for eight months. She's known him for five years. The issue I'm having is he doesn't make a lot of money but finds ways to buy these expensive gifts for her. I wouldn't complain if I were receiving the same treatment, but instead I get cheap $5 gifts and such when I usually help him pay rent, gas, etc. What should I do?


To see the teacher's answer,


Dear Presentless,

When you got into a relationship with this man, you knew he would have some sort of relationship with this woman because she is the mother of his child. Naturally, jealousy issues are going to come up, but you must remember that their relationship existed before you entered the picture, so he's not choosing her over you. It's simply a fact that as the mother of his child she will be in his life for the foreseeable future.


That being said, if you're willing to tolerate your boyfriend's relationship with this woman (of course I'm not saying it's romantic or that it even has to be a close friendship), then you should find a way to make it work for you. You should talk to him about specific things that are bothering you — like the extravagant presents — and figure out if, and how he can be more sensitive about your concerns. If you guys find a balance that makes you both feel that your needs are respected, then I think you can work it out.

Good luck.

Image Source: Getty
Join The Conversation
bransugar79 bransugar79 7 years
I think that too often in situations like these women are given the "you're being too insecure" lecture. For some reason we are told that our feelings and gut instincts should just be ignored in order to foster a "better" or more "trusting" relationship. The reality is that we have gut instincts for a reason. If something hurts or annoys you, you shouldn't just ignore it to try to seem cooler or more evolved. You should in fact discuss what bothers you in a way that expresses to your partner your concerns and feelings and leaves room for them to discuss theirs in return. That being said this situation is nuts. This guy is clearly using this woman to pay his bills so that he can keep wooing his ex. It happens all the time. And while it is good for separated parents to maintain an open and honest relationship for their children's sake, extravagant gift giving is not required. Buying someone a $100 jacket when they haven't expressed an honest need for it (you know like it's 30 below and I have no coat at all need) is ridiculous. Maybe that isn't a lot of money in some opinions, but when one is begging financial assistance for necessities like rent, food, or gas, it's clearly an expenditure that cannot be afforded. Wise up and dump this guy. Find someone who is interested in you and your feelings and won't just keep sucking you dry.
Autumns_Elegy Autumns_Elegy 7 years
I also agree with medenginer. If I had a child with my partner and we split, I would not demand expensive gifts from him, all I would demand is that he maintain a healthy relationship with his kid. Personally, next time he bought her an expensive gift, I would say "So I give you money for rent and you spend it on her? Fine, get evicted, I'm not helping you out financially anymore."
janneth janneth 7 years
Honey, turn away from this relationship, and start looking for someone else. Too many issues. You are correct to feel annoyed.
MissSushi MissSushi 7 years
Totally inapropriate to be purchasing her gifts, regardless of whether he buys them for you or not. A good, strong open relationship with his ex for the sake of his child DOES NOT include buying her things. He should be providing for his child, period, but nothing further then that. A hundred dollars IS a lot of money, especially if he is having trouble making ends meet normally. Talk to him, tell him you aren't comfortable with the situation, and stop helping him get by. Truth be told, this would be a deal breaker for me. His ex absolutely does not need to have things purchased for her, she should be doing that on her own with her own income. The fact that anyone thinks this is normal and okay and that the person seeking advice should just come to terms with it TOTALLY boggles the mind. Ridiculous. These aren't even gifts on birthdays/holidays, these are random no reason gifts. No way.
kulikuli kulikuli 7 years
Stop paying him rent and gas money to help him buy these gifts. In fact if i were u i'd be gone. I agree with some other posters on here, a good relationship with her is a good thing, but buying her expensive presents, weird. Almost like he's still trying to do nice things for her to get in good with her like he has another chance still. Do you think he still has feelings for her? Seems like he puts you on the back burner and that i would not take. I think they should be allowed to have a great friendship for the child, but this is above and beyond, and just plain inappropriate. Move on chica, for your own sake.
kismekate kismekate 7 years
I would be long done with this guy already. You have reason to be insecure. His relationship with his ex is ridiculous and he obviously still has feelings for her.
kurniakasih kurniakasih 7 years
I'd stop paying his gas and rent money if I were you. What are you doing that for anyway? I'm just being practical here, if he's more than willing to shell out hundreds of bucks for the ex, he should have more money to spend on gas and rent. At least, should be able to afford them without getting help from a gal whom he just dated not too long ago. Maybe he should be asking HER for help financially too since they're still in a very good relationship and have known each other for 5 years and only known you for 8 months. Again, it's great when exes who are co-parents get along. I'm completely not bashing that. Back to the issue: If you're the one offering to help pay for his necessities, the mistake is on you, sweetie. You don't offer the guy you just met a few months before, payments on rent, gas, etc. As for price-wise, I'm not rich so yes, for me 100 something dollar worth of coat is super expensive :p Even with my exes, I always spent less than that amount LOL. So for me, ti's definitely a pricey gift, I guess it depends on people's income level too. If the bf is actually having trouble keeping up with gas and rent payment, I betcha 100 dollar is pretty big amount for him. Guys usually want to impress girls whom they like, the fact that he's only willing to spend 5 bucks on you speaks out to me that he's not willing to impress you (or is way too comfortable with you that he doesn't care to impress you), I kind of think that may be a byproduct of you 'taking care' of his basic needs (rent, etc) so he's way comfortable. Good luck to you though. I'd get me a new bf for X-mas if I were you LOL.
Muirnea Muirnea 7 years
I think your bf's relationship with his EX is inappropriate. Yes he should have a good relationship for the sake of his child, but that doesn't mean acting like he is still in a romantic relationship with the mother. They can be friendly and respectful of each other, but that's where I think it should stop. He doesn't need to be lavishing them with gifts, that's not being a good father. If he needs to pay child support fine, that's the money he should be spending on them, then if the mother needs a jacket she can buy it herself. If he is in a relationship with you, (other than his kid), YOU should be his priority. He should take care of his kid, but not the mother of his kid who he is not in a relationship with anymore. And I would def. stop paying for his rent and gas. From what you've said, it seems like he still wants to be with the mother (maybe she just doesn't want to be with him?), and he is just using you to help pay for things. I would stop paying for his stuff and see what happens then.
lizzys126 lizzys126 7 years
stop paying for his rent and gas clearly...then he won't have money to spend on these gifts for her or for you but you can buy yourself what you want with said rent and gas money.
tarabara1229 tarabara1229 7 years
Why are you helping her pay for rent and gas??
notinthemood notinthemood 7 years
Is he being blackmailed or what? The relationship with the ex and child is important, but I do think it's a little odd that he's showering her with gifts. As far as gifts go, you need to come to a consensus between the two of you (her excluded). If he only wants to pony up $5-10 on you, you should make your gifts to him approximately equal. That way there's no resentment.
jenni5 jenni5 7 years
Hmmm. I think it's nice that he is buying his ex nice things and they remain friendly for the sake of their kid. But at the same time I think this is super strange. Why is he buying these things for her for no reason? Does she not work? I would sit down and talk to him. He shouldn't need to buy her random things to remain friendly with her should he?!
chillchic chillchic 7 years
I agree with the previous 2 posters. My parents are divorced and they were very amicable when I was a child. They seemed like friends. That said, I don't recall my mom receiving any gifts from my dad. Especially expensive ones. I don't think my step-father would have tolerated that. Your boyfriend is doing too much for his ex. You should look into why he is doing this.
nicole121482 nicole121482 7 years
I agree with medenginer! The other advice on this page is crazy! Yes, he should treat his ex with respect and yes, it's WONDERFUL that they have an amicable relationship, but he should not be buying her gifts. There is something wrong there. I know many people who are divorced and have amicable relationships with their ex's, but there is no random gift giving. If the relationship is really amicable, then maybe birthday or Christmas gifts are acceptable, but not to the point that you get the $5 treatment...I think you need to have a nice long talk with him... P.S. I'm also a single Mom and if my Ex was giving me gifts, it would make me extremely uncomfortable...
medenginer medenginer 7 years
Your way overdue for discussion why he's doing the gift giving. He's under no financial obligation to help her. There's a difference between amicable and helping to support her. If he pays his child support and has a good relationship with his child that's where it should end. She should be buying herself what she wants or needs. If the situation was reversed and your ex-husband was buying things for you do you think your boyfriend would be receptive to it probably not.
mamasitamalita mamasitamalita 7 years
obviously I understand where the jealousy comes from, but I think this says a lot about this man as a person because he doesn't technically owe her anything (as long as he's taking care of the child) but is still making sure she gets things she needs, like a coat, etc. (which to me are fundamentals at some level). it seems nice too that he can have an amicable relationship with her and yet has found a committed romantic relationship with you. I think it shows some definite maturity on his part, which leads me to believe that if you do bring up the insecurity/jealousy, he will be very receptive
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