For the past six years I have become extremely close to a girlfriend of mine...not in a sexual sense at all, but as a 'we really GET each other' sense. We socialized all the time together...shared our most private thoughts and confidences with each other.
She's now dating my ex-husband. I haven't been with him for over seven years and yet I find this incredibly difficult to deal with. To begin with I almost encouraged it. It all started out as a joke of sorts with flirting and carrying on, both of them recently out of relationships and feeling vulnerable. I love them both and want them to be happy. Why is it that I don't seem to be able to cope with them doing that TOGETHER?
I'd always thought there was an unwritten rule that you don't hook up with your best friend's exes. Regardless of how long ago it was they were together. At first I thought I'd adjust, but as the months passed it became obvious to me that I was NOT going to adjust and that if I was really honest with myself, I'd never been happy about it at the start anyway.
Eventually I pulled away from her and said I needed more time to get used to them. She panicked and the two of them called it a day. That's not what I wanted...I just wanted to step back and let them relax and enjoy each others company without me being involved. We were all quite awkward around each other and it seemed the best solution.
So, then she comes back to me and tells me they're no longer seeing each other. I think she expected us to go back to the way it was, but I couldn't. For me the damage had been done. She continued to ring and visit and just as I was starting to get back on track and feel comfortable the 'old' way again, I found out she's actually been sneaking around seeing him and sleeping with him anyway. I only found this out because I had my suspicions with various things she'd say or do, and I waited for her to say something. She didn't so I approached my ex husband. We have a solid relationship as parents to the boys and we're good friends. I expected only honest answers from him and I got them.
I confronted her, we spoke about it rationally and in the end I closed the door on my friendship with her. I miss her terribly and I miss the different views and perspectives she used to bring to my life, but I actually don't feel I want to share any of my personal thoughts with her any longer.
Am I being selfish about this? I don't have any romantic feelings toward my ex husband any longer, so I don't believe that has something to do with it. I will say I struggled with the fact that my girlfriend deceived me. That was a HUGE trust issue for me.
Do I need to just get over myself and stop being so stubborn about this issue?
Signed, Minus One Good Friend
Dear Minus One Good Friend,
There certainly can be an "Ewww!" factor when two people with whom you are close start becoming more than just friends. This dynamic is commonly used in stories to heighten the tension around a new relationship, often with a sibling and a best friend. Think Chandler and Monica on Friends hiding their relationship from Ross, or Harry Potter seeking his friend Ron Weasley's approval for kissing Ron's sister Ginny. This also happens with ex-boyfriends, two close friends, widowed or divorced parents, or, as in your case, ex-spouses.
So why do you have that reaction? My theory is that you have existing relationships with those two people and you don't want that to change. Sure, you can still have relationships with both of them, but the budding romance means things won't be quite the same. Can you confide in your girlfriend quite as much, when you have to wonder if she'll talk to her new beau about it? You are good friends with your ex, so the same issue also applies in that direction. And what if they break up? You may be caught in an uncomfortable position in the middle. Their romance threatens your status quo.
I don't believe there are any "rules" about these types of situations. You gave up any right to influence your ex-husband's choice of dating partners when you divorced him, and girlfriends don't normally exercise that kind of control over each other. The issue here is whether they should have avoided this relationship to protect your feelings.
Well, you have two people who are alone and starting to feel an attraction for each other. They have a chance to enrich their lives with each other, to develop something special. Are the existing friendships you have with these people inherently more special or more important? On the other hand, the relationships with you came first. Should those relationships preclude the third one starting?
You also mentioned the trust issue with your girlfriend. Let's consider why she was hiding her involvement with your ex. Did she do this out of maliciousness or because she wanted to hurt you? Not at all. She could tell from the beginning you were uncomfortable, which put her in an awkward position. She didn't want to give up her chance for a romance, but neither did she want to give up her valued friendship with you, so she tried to have both. I'm not saying this excuses her dishonesty, merely that it has nothing to do with trying to hurt you and everything to do with her desire to keep you as a friend. She sensed she would lose you if the truth came out, and it turns out she was right.
One way you might gain some comfort is to put yourself in their place. Try realizing that their needs are every bit as important as your own. Imagine what it would feel like to be your girlfriend; she sees you valuing your own status quo more than her chance for happiness. How would it make you feel if the shoe were on the other foot?
There is nothing that says you must get over this and become comfortable with it. You may always feel uncomfortable with their relationship, and there are plenty of other people who would feel the same way. That is completely understandable. It is unfortunate, though, because the two people who end up losing are you and your girlfriend.
I wish you good luck as you try to sort through your feelings.
All the best,
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