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I Was in an Emotionally Abusive Relationship, and I Didn't Even Realize It

Ask a Wise Guy: How Do I Get His Ex Out of the Picture?

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. Today, a person who likes to think of himself as a wise guy will offer some common sense advice. You can submit questions here.
Today's Question:

My boyfriend and I have been dating for about a year. Things have been going very well, except for something he can't seem to let go of. Two years ago he and an ex broke up, and ever since he and I started dating she continues to devote attention to him. It never appears to be romantic, but she's always offering to do him favors, asking him to play with her dog, texting/calling/Facebooking. As far as I know, he doesn't respond all that much.

But that's the problem. By not responding, he has not made it clear that there is no room for her in his life now. So the other day I told him that if he wanted to move forward and have a future with me, he needed to make it clear to her that the past is in the past.

He agreed, but now I'm playing a waiting game. I don't want to nag and ask him when he is planning on having this conversation, but I also want to know when it takes place. She has continued to contact him and he continues not to act.

I'm beginning to wonder if I'm fighting a losing battle. Could there be a deeper reason he's dragging his feet, or is he just being passive aggressive? Am I crossing a line by putting pressure on him? Or should I be drawing a line, and saying enough is enough?


Sick of the Ex. To hear what a wise guy has to say,

Dear Sick-of-the-Ex,

Wow, this is a tricky one —in fact, navigating exes is a complicated (but necessary) dance in any relationship. I’m also a little confused about what your boyfriend wants. If he really isn’t responding to her “all that much,” then it seems like the message is pretty clear that he’s not interested in spending time with her — and so the whole situation shouldn’t be a threat to you (and you should back off). On the other hand, if he does sometimes call/text/play with her dog, then it seems that he still wants her to be part of his life, in which case there needs to be a lot more clarity between you and him about what’s OK and what’s not.

Here’s where it gets tricky: if you prefer that he have no contact with the ex, and he wishes to maintain a friendship with her, then one or both of you will have to compromise what you want.

Reading between the lines of your letter, I’m sensing that you don’t feel as secure as you should in the relationship. If you’re feeling threatened by a few phone calls and text messages, then I think there’s something deeper going on here that needs to be addressed head on. I think you should have a heartfelt conversation with him explaining why you’re not happy with the situation (rather than telling him what to do), and then figure out together how to deal with the ex. This seems like a better way to handle the situation than “putting pressure” on him, and giving him ultimatums about your future together. If he really cares for you and respects your feelings, then I’m hopeful that you can come to a solution that works for everyone.

And if that doesn’t work, you should go her house and duke it out Jerry Springer style. Guys like it when chicks fight over them.

All the best,

A Wise Guy


Join The Conversation
mdemariah mdemariah 8 years
Oh I like the Jerry Spinger style. Lol. No, actually, I think she's overreacting.
janneth janneth 8 years
If he has so little contact with the ex, then it's not such an important friendship that he can't end it. He must be giving her some reason to make her keep up the texting, etc. The boyfriend should drop the ex and concentrate on his real girlfriend. It is a little passive aggresive at worst, inconsiderate at best.
ummyeaitsmarcie ummyeaitsmarcie 8 years
original question asker said it never seems romantic, so what's the problem? I never understand why people don't like their s.o.'s talking to certain people if there is nothing flirtatious going on. I think you're threatened by the contact and feel like she's still got a chance at your man, so why don't you just TALK TO HIM! If he has no feelings for her, there isn't a problem. If you think its her, then maybe you should talk to her (after talking to your guy, otherwise its kinda creepy)
RockAndRepublic RockAndRepublic 8 years
I doubt he's completely stopped talking to her. And playing with her dog? are you $hitting me? Boundary issues, but i don't think it's solely the ex.
staple-salad staple-salad 8 years
I don't see an issue here. My boyfriend and I are friends with our exes. I consider mine one of my best friends, and his best friends are his exes. There's no problem with still talking to your ex (as a friend). If she's stalking him or heavily flirting or being overly sexual, then there's an issue, but just wanting to talk sometimes or do stuff friends normally do, where's the problem? There's only a problem if your boyfriend doesn't want it, and from the fact that he doesn't seem to have talked to her about it yet, I'm betting he's not bothered. So, where's the issue exactly?
Chouette4u Chouette4u 8 years
"As far as I know, he doesn't respond all that much." So he does respond sometimes? I do find it hard to believe that someone would continue to call/text/Facebook someone after a year of being totally ignored. If he doesn't want to hear from her anymore, he should block her on Facebook and contact his phone carrier to block her calls and texts. If he DOES want contact with her, obviously you guys have some things to work out just, just like Wise Guy said. I don't blame you for being bothered by this. Either your guy is being deceptive about the contact he is having with his ex, or his ex is a bit of a crazy stalker who hasn't left him alone after a year.
lindsaypie lindsaypie 8 years
I agree, if your boyfriend is not responding to her attempts to get his attention then chances are that he is being truthful about not wanting her to be in his life anymore. And if that's the case then I would just drop it and let him keep ignoring her.
dm8bri dm8bri 8 years
I think Sick of the Ex is over-reacting to a problem that isn't there. Sure, his ex is annoying, but he's not really responding to her, so where's the issue? If he generally ignores her or is slow to respond that's a pretty clear signal that he knows their relationship is in the past. It's not about the boyfriend - it's about the ex. Don't make it a trust problem with the boyfriend when you approach it, just say you're annoyed that she's constantly contacting him and ask if he can tell her to back off or something. Otherwise you'll have to grin and bear it.
Pistil Pistil 8 years
Sound advice...and I agree with Tidal... what says 'stop contacting me' better than not contacting someone at all?
Autumns_Elegy Autumns_Elegy 8 years
The ex does sound like a moron and should get it through her head that he's not interested. Personally I would contact the ex and not leave my boyfriend to do it. I'd just ask her to leave us alone.
TidalWave TidalWave 8 years
I don't even see an issue here! If he's ignoring her, then I don't get why you want him to contact her! That's the last thing I would want my boyfriend to do. The ex just sounds like an idiot and not a threat.
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