My boyfriend and I have been together for about nine months and I am having an extremely hard time getting over his past sexual relationships. I think a lot to do with it is the fact that he had a lot of "flings" with close female friends who he is still currently good friends with. One of these girls in particular is one of his best friends who he hangs out with on a fairly regular basis and even says "I love you" in a friends-only manner. He keeps reassuring me that he is "in love" with me and that he simply "loves" her as a friend. I have told my boyfriend several times that this makes me uncomfortable but he insists that they will remain only friends and that I have nothing to worry about. This situation has been eating at me for some time and I was just seeking some advice on how to get over my insecurities with my relationship.
Signed, His Current Love
Dear His Current Love,
I wrote about a similar situation a couple of months ago in Jealousy Over Past Partners, in which a young man hated the fact that his girlfriend had previous sexual partners. I suggest you read that article because my advice to him forms part of my answer to you -- in your case an ex-girlfriend is just that, an ex, regardless of whether sex was part of the previous relationship. She's out, you're in. In general I support the view that we should not automatically assume old flames are threats. Unless you have evidence that he still has feelings for her or is playing both sides of the fence, the fact that he had previous sexual relationships does not necessarily represent a danger to your current relationship.
However ... and this is a big "however" ... your story involves additional factors. Hanging out on a fairly regular basis with his ex-girlfriend as one of his current best friends and exchanging the "I love you" line is a different story, especially since you have admitted this makes you insecure. That scenario would probably have the same effect on most people.
Sure, guys and girls can simply be friends who hang out. It happens. But he and the ex have been intimate in the past, which means there is more of a connection there than simply old friends. They still invest a good deal of time into each other and don't mind throwing that "love" word around. I doubt they use that word with all their friends, so they still have a special bond. My instinct is that you're right to be uncomfortable. Whether your boyfriend wants to admit it or not (even to himself perhaps), it sounds like they are playing the game called, "We'll pretend to just be friends for a while but who knows what the future will bring."
Do I know that for sure? Of course not; that's just my educated guess.
But let's suppose I'm wrong. Suppose their friendship is entirely innocent and he is completely devoted to you.
That's still not enough.
Sometimes we also have to demonstrate our devotion, especially when our partner is feeling insecure and needs a little extra support. In other words, appearances count. Your boyfriend is doing a wonderful impression of someone who still has a thing for his ex, and his actions are speaking more loudly to you than his words. If he truly cares for and values his relationship with you, he should be willing to show you that you have nothing to worry about. That means backing off a bit with the ex. Sure, be friendly, but all this "still my best friend" and "we still love each other" stuff is over the line.
How do you get over your insecurities? You need his cooperation. If he is unwilling to do that, then either (a) you have real reason to be insecure, or (b) he lacks the empathy and supportiveness to be a giving partner. Either way I would consider that to be a danger signal.
Hopefully he'll see the light and find a way to put your mind at ease. If so, leave the past where it belongs (that would be in the past) and enjoy the fact that he is with you because he wants to be.
All the best,
Not many people have suggested New Years relationship resolutions in response to this week's Question of the Week. Perhaps you can think of a really good one that someone you know should make. Whether it's you or someone else, I'd love to hear your ideas. I'll pitch in with a personal resolution of my own on Saturday.