Girlfriend/Ex-Boyfriend Question?


#1

Hello All,

I have a question that I would very much appreciate some feedback on. My situation is as follows: I have been courting the love of my life for well over a year now. We are seriously committed and are moving forward in the process of discerning potential marriage in the near future. My girlfriend is a wonderful woman whom I love very much and has never given me any reason to doubt her love for me. Recently, an issue came to my attention that I am having a difficult time with. My girlfriend has several ex-boyfriends that she feel it necessary to stay in contact with on an occassional basis. Communication is usually by phone (sometimes about our relationship), but there have been instances that she has socialized with them among mutual friends. These ex-boyfriends are people that she had pre-marital relations with (we are now in a chaste relationship) and are not practicing catholics (or any other type of christian). In the past I have been very sensitive to her feelings about my communications with my ex-girlfriends (meaning I do not communicate with them), and have gone out of my way to ever put myself in a compromising situation out of respect for her and her feelings. It seems though that when the shoe is on the other foot these ideals do not apply to her. When she acts out this double standard it makes me feel like she lacks some level of respect for my feelings in this regard.

I have a very hard time visualizing us in the future living in marital bliss only to have one of her former sexual partners call our home to “chat with her about old times”. My question, after all this explanation, is:

Am I being oversensitive, silly, and unrealistic, or should this be a red flag to me about the future of our relationship?

Thanks so much in advance for any feedback and objective advice you can provide.

God Bless,
Peter


#2

You need to be concerned about this. Double standards can do a great deal of damage to a relationship especially when it seems to you at least that she is less respectful of your feelings than you are of hers.

You need to work this out now. It will not get better all by it self. You really need to address this issue before your relationship moves on. I would be very concerned about your future together if you do not address this now. If you work this out everything may be just fine. If you do not work it out now the issue will likely come up again in other contexts as well.


#3

Agreed. If you don’t work this out now, it will haunt your relationship. But remember, since you’re not even engaged, she isn’t in an exclusive relationship with you yet. In other words, she’s entitled to her friends. Please tell us exactly what you have told her about this matter. What does she think about these past relationships? Does she know that she’s hurt you?


#4

When I met my DH, I had ex-boyfriends that would still call. I would take that as a sign that she is a good person who was fair and did not hurt anyone in the dating process…

BUT…and this is a big but…When I realized that my husband was “The One” I told them not to call any longer…that I was in love and it would not be appropriate…that I would never hurt him for the world and endanger our relationship…and I never got another phone call after that.

She needs to know that this is not appropriate and that it bothers you…if she doesn’t stop the calls what is that saying? Does she value your opinion and your feelings? Have you actully asked her to stop this?


#5

[quote=peteri] My girlfriend has several ex-boyfriends that she feel it necessary to stay in contact with on an occassional basis. Communication is usually by phone (sometimes about our relationship), but there have been instances that she has socialized with them among mutual friends. These ex-boyfriends are people that she had pre-marital relations with (we are now in a chaste relationship) and are not practicing catholics.
[/quote]

Just a few question to clarify the situation before I hazard an opinion or advice. First, does she initiate the contact or is she completing a phone call or caught in a social situation someone else planned? Are these men a fixture in her social circle–in other words not likely to disappear even if she doesn’t initiate contact?

[quote=]In the past I have been very sensitive to her feelings about my communications with my ex-girlfriends (meaning I do not communicate with them), and have gone out of my way to ever put myself in a compromising situation out of respect for her and her feelings. It seems though that when the shoe is on the other foot these ideals do not apply to her. When she acts out this double standard it makes me feel like she lacks some level of respect for my feelings in this regard.
[/quote]

Did your gf indicate some sensitivity about your contact w/ former partners to which you responded? Have you communicated your sensitivity to her and given her the chance to assure you and/or modify her behaviour? Has she actually established a double standard by making an assertion that she wants these men in her life -or- is she unaware of your discomfort?


#6

Thanks to you both for your feeback:

“she isn’t in an exclusive relationship with you yet. In other words, she’s entitled to her friends.”

We are in an exclusive relationship from the perspective that we are committed only to each other as of now, and are seriously considering marriage. Yes, she is absolutlely entitled to her friends but should that really need to include past partners? She has many other friends that are not her former lovers.

“Please tell us exactly what you have told her about this matter.”

I told her almost verbatim what I posted previously relating the the double standard and the fact that this bothers me greatly and why. She agreed that if the shoe were on the other foot it would bother her in much the same way that it does me. I said this to her in as compassionate and non-accusatory manner as I could.

“What does she think about these past relationships?”

She says that they are definitely over and that she has no feelings for these people. In fact she broke up with at least one of them on the basis that they were having an immoral relationship that she did not want to continue participating in. When I asked why she felt the compulsion to stay in contact with these men she said that she really did not know why except that they were friends.

Does she know that she’s hurt you?
Yes, she knows that this hurts me. She said that she would try to be more sensitive to my feelings on the issue in the future, and that she had not really even stopped to consider my feelings about this (this really scares me). There is not really a solid resolution to the issue at this point in time.

Thank you again.
Peter


#7

Just a few question to clarify the situation before I hazard an opinion or advice. First, does she initiate the contact or is she completing a phone call or caught in a social situation someone else planned? [font=Arial]I would say that is a mixture of both. She does initiate the phone calls sometimes and other times she does not. The social situation is such that contact with these people could be avoided. She has been aware that they would be present prior to attending these plans.[/font]

Are these men a fixture in her social circle–in other words not likely to disappear even if she doesn’t initiate contact? [font=Arial]No, They could easily be avoided if she chose to.
[/font]

Did your gf indicate some sensitivity about your contact w/ former partners to which you responded? [font=Arial Black]Very much so, and I responded by validating her concerns and made it very clear that I would not have these same type of interactions with my former gf’s. [/font]

Have you communicated your sensitivity to her and given her the chance to assure you and/or modify her behaviour? [font=Arial Black]I believe that I have, but I am trying to give her the benefit of the doubt on that one.[/font]

Has she actually established a double standard by making an assertion that she wants these men in her life -or- is she unaware of your discomfort? [font=Arial Black]Again, I believe that she was aware of my discomfort because we have talked about it previously but I am trying to give her the benefit of the doubt. That is why I am trying to very clearly re-address this with her in the most understanding way I can muster.[/font]

Thank You,
Peter


#8

I just noticed you were brand new to CAForums–welcome!

Without ANY intention to minimize your concerns, I would suggest you need to give this some time. I’m assuming you are both quite young and this may possibly be the first “mature” relationship you have both been in–given that you are committed to re-establishing your chastity and Catholic values–which I applaud since it is so contrary to what’s popular. That said, you have made your concerns known and your gf has acknowledged them and promised to do better. Give her a chance to do so.

If she is open and honest about any contact that may occur with these men, that’s a good step. If she’s hiding things or is secretive or defensive–watch out. If they are part of her social/friendship circle–it may not be practical or reasonable for you to expect her to avoid them entirely. However, it is possible for her to be clear that things are different now, and that she will not engage in any behaviour that would cause conflict in her relationship with you. If they are truly her friends and not still entertaining romantic interest (sometimes these lines get blurred), they should not only respect, but support this boundary and not put her, or you, in an uncomfortable position.


#9

Thanks Island,

I am not sure what you consider “quite young”, but we are both in our 30’s.
Yes, I was concerned about the secretive/defensive thing. This issue actually came up because she had called an ex-boyfriend and he called her back last night. I never would have known this if I had not been present, and it was obvious she did not feel it was necessary to tell me she had called him recently. She did get defensive at first when I brought this up to her, but then calmed down when I gave her the “shoe on the other foot analogy” and realized that she would feel exactly the same way.

I think you are correct. This is simply not a dead issue yet and some time is the only way to come up with a final outcome, one way or another.

Thanks again,
Peter


#10

I see two problematic issues here. One, the fact that she even has desire to keep in contact with men she has been INTIMATE with while “talking marriage” with you - is a huge red flag to me.
Secondly, the fact that she continues to keep in contact with these men DESPITE knowing it hurts you - is to me a signal to GET OUT now!
She is insensitive and cruel.
Sorry to be so blunt but that is how I see it.

It would be hard enough to marry this woman knowing she’s slept with other men. But to have her continue relationships with them KNOWING it hurts you - that is just unbelievable to me.

She wants to have her cake and eat it too.
She cares more about herself than about you and she is certainly not ready for marriage!

Bad, bad news.

Pray for God to give you the grace to have clarity in this.
And to have the strength to do the right thing.


#11

Gosh, what an interesting situation you’re in.

there are a couple of thoughts which come to mind:

  1. A good way to know which ex’s are really ‘friends’ and which are in the “haven’t really let go” category is to ask your girlfriend which of these men from her past she would invite over to dinner one night with you and her.

Not that I’d suggest inviting them over, but it goes along the lines of “if you wouldn’t bring your girl/boy home to hang out with your parents, then you know there’s something amiss”…

If your girlfriend would feel very uncomfortable sitting beside you, holding hands, for an afternoon visit with any of these guys, then that alone will tell her there’s something “wrong” about keeping in touch with them while being committed to you.

Or it’ll tell her she really isn’t ready to fully commit to you.

If she is comfortable with the thought of the two of you hanging out with this guy, then maybe he really is a good guy to know and have in your broader circle (not likely, but possible) and chances are she’ll invite him (them) to your wedding, future parties, life events.

Which is another question to ask…does she envision these people playing significant roles in future life events (marriage, kids, birthdays, etc.), and why? What do they have to contribute to her future life?

  1. Are you both Catholic? You didn’t say you were but it was implied. Being as you’re both in your 30s and you’ve both had previous relationship I’d highly recommend you listen to Christopher West’s talk on “Marriage and the Eucharist” together then discuss whether or not this is what you envision for your marriage. If you really have time I’d go further to listen to West’s “Naked Without Shame” talk about Theology of the Body.

I can’t imagine any Catholic listening to those and not becoming either more enthused about the sacrament of marriage and the person they are seeking to marry or becoming less certain about whether or not they are ready for such a huge committment at all, let alone with the person they were considering for marriage.

I know it certainly wouldn’t hurt either of you to get a deeper understanding for the vocation you are feeling called to enter.

Anyway, that’s the best advice I could come up with. The other advice here in the thread is good too.


#12

[quote=peteri]Thanks Island,

I am not sure what you consider “quite young”, but we are both in our 30’s…
[/quote]

As someone in their 30s, you are by definition “young,” but I didn’t mean to imply you sound naive or immature. You do not sound unreasonable, controlling or jealous. Watch this and see if the pattern of conduct improves. You don’t want to be intercepting phone calls of this sort in the future. Bottom line: real grown-ups (of all ages and religious conviction) are honest and open about their lives with their partners and make efforts to avoid activities and/or relationships that would cause a reasonable person discomfort.


#13

[quote=Island Oak]As someone in their 30s, you are by definition “young,” but I didn’t mean to imply you sound naive or immature. You do not sound unreasonable, controlling or jealous. Watch this and see if the pattern of conduct improves. You don’t want to be intercepting phone calls of this sort in the future. Bottom line: real grown-ups (of all ages and religious conviction) are honest and open about their lives with their partners and make efforts to avoid activities and/or relationships that would cause a reasonable person discomfort.
[/quote]

Thank you Island, I truly appreciate your input and advice on this. Sometimes it is so helpful to get objective advice on areas of life that I am not always able to be objective. Thanks again, Peter.


#14

Thanks YingYang, I think your hypothetical questions hit the nail on the head.

Yes, we are both practicing catholics. I will check out the links you suggested.

Peter

[quote=YinYangMom]Gosh, what an interesting situation you’re in.

there are a couple of thoughts which come to mind:

  1. A good way to know which ex’s are really ‘friends’ and which are in the “haven’t really let go” category is to ask your girlfriend which of these men from her past she would invite over to dinner one night with you and her.

Not that I’d suggest inviting them over, but it goes along the lines of “if you wouldn’t bring your girl/boy home to hang out with your parents, then you know there’s something amiss”…

If your girlfriend would feel very uncomfortable sitting beside you, holding hands, for an afternoon visit with any of these guys, then that alone will tell her there’s something “wrong” about keeping in touch with them while being committed to you.

Or it’ll tell her she really isn’t ready to fully commit to you.

If she is comfortable with the thought of the two of you hanging out with this guy, then maybe he really is a good guy to know and have in your broader circle (not likely, but possible) and chances are she’ll invite him (them) to your wedding, future parties, life events.

Which is another question to ask…does she envision these people playing significant roles in future life events (marriage, kids, birthdays, etc.), and why? What do they have to contribute to her future life?

  1. Are you both Catholic? You didn’t say you were but it was implied. Being as you’re both in your 30s and you’ve both had previous relationship I’d highly recommend you listen to Christopher West’s talk on “Marriage and the Eucharist” together then discuss whether or not this is what you envision for your marriage. If you really have time I’d go further to listen to West’s “Naked Without Shame” talk about Theology of the Body.

I can’t imagine any Catholic listening to those and not becoming either more enthused about the sacrament of marriage and the person they are seeking to marry or becoming less certain about whether or not they are ready for such a huge committment at all, let alone with the person they were considering for marriage.

I know it certainly wouldn’t hurt either of you to get a deeper understanding for the vocation you are feeling called to enter.

Anyway, that’s the best advice I could come up with. The other advice here in the thread is good too.
[/quote]


#15

From an OLD womans point of view. When you deside to make this your life companion then you should expect the former “friends” to no longer be involved.

As for friends that you both consider friends as you get closer the friends tend to slip away.

Just make sure you like the person you marry. Passion is good but LIKE is even better and lasts longer.


#16

I recommend you two together read “His Needs, Her Needs” by Harley. The premise is that every person has a love bank with accounts for all the people in the person’s life. So you and she have these love banks, and when the deposits get high enough, you feel “in love.” If they drop, you “like” someone, or “hate” someone. Pretty much it is an accumulation of credits and deposits over time. If all a person ever does is take, take, take, then you won’t like the person. The point, then, of a couple is to always be putting credits in each others accounts. A lot of things we do put credits in the others account but depletes our own.

For example: You really like rock music. Your GF HATES it and really can’t stand the stuff. She puts up with it so that you can enjoy yourself. A couple credits are deposited in her love bank account in your heart. But at the same time, a couple withdrawals are taken from your account in her heart.

What the challenge is, is to communicate enough to where you both are putting credits in the accounts. You have to both be happy with the arrangement made, and you do nothing until you are both happy.

Perhaps you might decide to fore-go rock music. But that won’t make YOU happy. So then you start brainstorming. You can listen to rock music while driving to work so she doesn’t have to hear it and listen to classical (which you both like) at home. Or you can purchase headphones. Or you can have a rock night each Tuesday when she goes swimming. Or you can listen to rock music in the garage while she will limit her opera to the bathroom. There are a million alternatives and the key is in communicating with each other to the point where you are BOTH happy with the arrangement. Little things like this can slowly nickel and dime the account to death without you ever realizing it. We traditionally think that we can keep doing the little things because there is nothing* wrong* with what we are doing, but the realization that it is hurting us and having a huge impact on our relationship is a real eye-opener.

Remaining friends (not even acquaintances) with ex-lovers is not an uncommon thing. I am of the personal mind frame that it is unwise when in a marital relationship, but my opinion is neither here nor there. The point is that she is not doing something wrong, but that she is doing something which is hurting your relationship. She most likely doesn’t see that, because she doesn’t see what she is doing as “wrong.” I really recommend the book’s method of discussion and agreement. (You will probably also like the fact that the author is VERY against keeping contact with any person you have had or could envision yourself having an intimate relationship with.)

Lastly, I know a lot of people who view dating and engagement as distinctly different from marriage. She might be of the mindset that she is free to have these friendships for now, but not in marriage. Or that since she is over them and they are friendships it is fine. There are so many different ways she could be thinking, none of which again are wrong. The key is in communicating your message to her in a way so that she can see that this is a real problem in your relationship WHILE still making her feel as if she wants to stay in the relationship. You don’t want to attack her or whine or lay a guilt trip on her and deplete your account in her love bank. And, you might be saying things in all the right ways but she will take it in a negative way. That’s why I really recommend the book because then it is a third person saying it and it gives you both the opportunity to discuss and agree together on how to act.


#17

[quote=Forest-Pine]I recommend you two together read “His Needs, Her Needs” by Harley. The premise is that every person has a love bank with accounts for all the people in the person’s life. So you and she have these love banks, and when the deposits get high enough, you feel “in love.” If they drop, you “like” someone, or “hate” someone. Pretty much it is an accumulation of credits and deposits over time. If all a person ever does is take, take, take, then you won’t like the person. The point, then, of a couple is to always be putting credits in each others accounts. A lot of things we do put credits in the others account but depletes our own.

. The key is in communicating your message to her in a way so that she can see that this is a real problem in your relationship WHILE still making her feel as if she wants to stay in the relationship. You don’t want to attack her or whine or lay a guilt trip on her and deplete your account in her love bank. And, you might be saying things in all the right ways but she will take it in a negative way. That’s why I really recommend the book because then it is a third person saying it and it gives you both the opportunity to discuss and agree together on how to act.

Thanks for the book recommendation Forest, I will check it out. It sounds like exactly the premise she and I both need to cue in on

Excellent points, and I would agree that dating, engagement, and marriage are all very different phases of relationships. It would seem wise though that since we are very seriously discussing and contemplating marriage that we must not only discuss these types of issues in our relationship, we both must work to change them prior to ever being married, or even officially engaged. Otherwise we run the risk of saying that we are going to make a change and then not actually following through once the deal is done. That could be potentially devastating in and of itself.

Thanks again for your feedback, it was very helpful.
Peter
[/quote]


#18

Thanks again to all of you for your valuable feedback. This has really helped me to put things in perspective.

God Bless,
Peter


#19

Hello All,

I ordered all of the materials that you recommended and my gf has agreed that it would be a good idea to read/review them together. She is looking for third party validation that I am not just being a jealous, controlling bf (and potential husband) and I think that these resources will help with that to some extent. We talked again yesterday and I communicated to her some of the concepts that you all mentioned in this forum. The conversation went well at first, but then she became very defensive and I just could not say anything right from that point on. The end result was that she admitted that she knows that my standing is correct on this issue, but for whatever reason she is having a hard time accepting it. We agreed to table the issue for now and return to it after we have both had time to thinkg, pray, read, and seek feedback from others.

I very much will be praying that she comes to her own conclusion about this issue, otherwise she will just resent me for it if she makes this change only because of my feelings. I have to watch myself when I talk to her though. I start to get frustrated when I think about the fact that this just seems to me such a basic concept of healthy relationships to me, but it seems that she would not have ever even considered it if I had not been vocal about it. I am trying to give her the benefit of the doubt and be patient though because I love her very much and she is a wonderful person. Ultimately I guess this something that I have to give up to God in prayer, rather than obsessing over it any further.

Thanks again for all of your support and feedback.
Peter


#20

Sounds like a great start! You might want to “butter her up” so to speak with the idea that “His Needs, Her Needs” assures her that she will not only be happy, but enthusiastically happy with whatever you two decide together on what to do. It in no way is her acquiescing to your opinion, but you pointing out a problem with your relationship and the two of you together finding a solution that you are both happy with.

I didn’t give you the author’s website before (it is a little overwhelming), but you can find it here: MarriageBuilders.com

I read a problem on there one time: in a blended family, the dad was overly harsh on the step-kids but not on his own. He saw nothing wrong with it and the Mom was about to leave him over it. The counsellor said they needed to agree on punishment for all the kids that both spouses were happy with, and until then no punishment occurred. I can only imagine how long that would go on before the two sides started seeing a need to agree together and be the joint parents over the kids! This could be something very difficult for her (for goodness knows what reason), and the book does go into how you can act solo and how to evaluate when it is working and when to just throw in the towel. I assure you, 1 month (if this is your only problem) is not even a blink in time. Thanks for keeping us up to date!

ETA: The book comes off strong in the avoiding affairs department (as you might conclude from the subtitle). Also, many people don’t have all the “needs” assigned to their gender. The point isn’t that he is saying you and she fit into these perfect little molds, but that you two can discuss these points and agree together on what YOUR relationship is like. Be sure she isn’t on the defensive from the get-go like you are shoving this opinion on her, but that you want to discuss it together and agree on what YOU (plural) want to keep and want to toss. The love bank and radical honesty premises are why I so heartily recommend the book, not the division of needs. That part is just a discussion point.


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