Dear Dr Pam,
I’ve been with my boyfriend for nine months and he was previously with a woman for seven years. In that time they were engaged but obviously never got married. They have managed to stay on good terms as they own a house together that they haven’t been able to sell, at least he says they haven’t got a good offer. He moved out and she’s presently staying there.
I’m happy they get along because they must get their house sold but I was shocked to find out he gave her a birthday present a couple weeks ago. Am I wrong to feel angry inside and also dejected about the whole thing if I’m honest? Casey, 31
Dear “angry and dejected”,
I think you’re probably entitled to be angry and feel dejected. It’s a great thing to be friendly with your ex but quite another to keep exchanging birthday presents.
What’s key is your intuition – does it tell you that he has too much invested in this relationship still? Because if it does I’d recommend listening to it unless – and this is a BIG unless – you’ve had problems with jealousy and over-sensitivity in past relationships.
If you haven’t had such problems – and you know your judgment’s good – then you need to keep on top of this if you two are to work it out. Because being overly cosy with an ex can be a very slippery slope back into the bedroom.
An important point I must stress is that just because you’re probably entitled to these feelings it doesn’t mean you should act on them without lots of thought and being calm about it. Try these strategies to sort it out:
*Get the conversation started when you two have the time to discuss it. Never ever start such a conversation when you only have a short time before, e.g., you have to rush to work.
*A good tactic is to try to get him to empathise with you by asking him how he’d feel if the tables were turned and you were very close to an ex-partner and still exchanged birthday gifts.
*Try to paint a visual picture for him (many people respond well to details that are easily visualised) asking if he can imagine how he’d really feel if you were going over to an ex’s home – a home you two once shared – for a cosy birthday present exchange. Somehow I don’t think he would like that image.
*Now for another important point about this whole situation – how much time he should shouldn’t spend with his ex and how you feel about it depends on where you two are going in your own relationship. Are your expectations matched? Do you both talk about where your relationship’s headed? If you haven’t, I have to be completely honest with you that his expectations may not be the same as yours.
*After nine months together I hope you both know whether or not it’s a serious committed relationship. But sometimes people don’t talk about this so make sure you don’t avoid this conversation. Otherwise you’ll never really know where you stand and what you should expect of his relationship with his ex.
After having a full and frank conversation with him, if he claims you’re very important to him then he should stop spending such ‘cosy time’ with his ex. Make sure his behaviour matches what he tells you.
I hope you find out that he’s taking your relationship as seriously as you’re honestly taking it and that things work out for you, Pam x
Dr Pam’s new book The Emotional Eater’s Diet – Understand your emotions and become a healthy weight for life! Is out now.
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