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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Relationships » Boyfriend Maintains Friendship With His Ex

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Author Topic: Boyfriend Maintains Friendship With His Ex
pocket_mouse_531
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My boyfriend of nearly six months, Austin, is still technically friends with his ex-girlfriend Hannah, who also happens to be his first real love. They were in a long-distance relationship (separated by a few states) for about a year and a half before breaking up in early 2012. For six months after their break-up, Austin was miserable and continually tried to win Hannah back, but after that he gave up and moved on...or so I thought.

Flash forward about six or seven months after this, when he begins dating me. Literally two or three days after we started dating, Hannah called Austin up and confessed that she was still in love with him and wanted him back. He told her that he wasn't going to just stop dating me to get back together with her. However, he also didn't directly say that he wasn't going to date her ever again. This is particularly difficult for me, as I have made it perfectly clear to him that even though I dated my first love for four years and loved him very much during that time, I would never date him again because we were two very different, separate people now. He's told me multiple times that he sees me as a priority and that he's not just going to drop me so that he can be with Hannah, but I still get the feeling that he's keeping her in the wings, waiting for the day we possibly break up so that he and Hannah can get back together.

Lately I've noticed that Hannah has continually tried to get in contact with him, and he hasn't been responding very regularly. I hoped that this was because he was trying to distance himself from her, but then he told her that he just hadn't had a lot of time to check his texts and messages from her and whatnot. So now, I don't know if I can really trust him when he says that I'm his priority and not her.

Is it normal for a guy to maintain a friendship with his ex? How do I cope with this? And should I be worried about my boyfriend possibly returning to his ex?

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Heather
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You know, save my exes that were unhealthy, abusive or just jerks in some respect, I'm friends with most of my exes. And with a couple, they're like family to me: they come over for dinners, spend weekends with myself and my current partner, etc. And I've pretty much always been that way, so it's something anyone I'm with, myself, has needed to be okay with.

But.

This involves things really being over and big-time boundaries on everyone's part for it to go well for everyone. It also means anyone myself or any of my friend-exes are with feeling pretty secure.

It sounds to me like there are issues here in both those departments.

So, have you talked to your boyfriend about this asking him if this is over-over for him, and if he's able to set clear boundaries with Hannah if what she wants really isn't friendship? have you talked with Hannah, if they're still friends, met her and hung out with her in some way so you two can establish some kind of relationship, too?

How about checking in with yourself? I hear you saying you don't feel you can trust your boyfriend not to leave you for this person: do you have a sense of why that is, and what you'd need to do to build that trust together?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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pocket_mouse_531
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Hi Heather! Thanks for your help!

Yeah, I definitely feel like there are issues in both of the departments you listed. Personally, I don't really get the feeling that things are truly over between Hannah and Austin, especially on Hannah's end. I have chatted with her before (via text message) and though she's said that she just wants to be friends with Austin, she also admitted that sometimes she misses him and regrets her decision to break up with him. Hearing this did not reassure me in the slightest.

Additionally, back when Hannah called to tell Austin that she still loved him, Austin, while explaining the situation to her, suggested that possibly the two of us (Hannah and I) could be friends and that we could get along. He suggested this without my knowledge. I found out that he suggested it through Hannah when she added me as a friend on Facebook. This also made me ridiculously uncomfortable, as I felt like I was being pushed into a friendship that I did not want and certainly was not ready for.

I haven't directly asked if Austin is totally over Hannah, but I have expressed my fears about him keeping Hannah in the wings before. Do you think I should ask him straight up if any hint of a relationship with Hannah is totally over?

I also have never, and probably never will, meet Hannah because we live in separate states (she's from Kansas, I'm in California). To be honest though, I'm not sure if I'm comfortable being friends with my boyfriend's ex. I've always felt like those kinds of friendships aren't really genuine. I know that sounds harsh, but to me, when I see an ex-girlfriend trying to become friends with me, I see it as the ex-girlfriend making an effort to keep my boyfriend in her life on the off-chance that we break up soon so that she can snatch him back. I don't trust the intentions behind those kinds of friendships. Maybe that's because I was cheated on. I don't know exactly what the reason is. All I can say is that those kinds of friendships make me feel very insecure and uncomfortable.

There are a number of reasons why I don't totally trust that Austin is over Hannah and is focused on this relationship. First off, Hannah was his first real love (even though they were long distance), and even I know how hard it is to think that you can love again after you get your heart broken by that first person. I was able to get over my first love because 1) the relationship had been deteriorating anyways, and 2) I later found out after the break up that I was being cheated on. But I don't really know if Austin ever totally let Hannah, or the love that he felt for her, go. I feel this way because when I asked him what he discussed with Hannah when she called him back when we started dating, he didn't tell her that he was over her and was with me now. He told her that he "wasn't going to just throw [me] away and run back to [her] because that's not the kind of person [he is], nor is it the person that [she] fell in love with." Nowhere does he directly say that he is done with Hannah, has moved on, and cares about me now. As far as I can see, those sentiments were not expressed. This makes me think that he is not really over Hannah, nor is he really as into me as he first said that he was.

Secondly, he seems to be unsure of how he feels about me. I talk about this in my other recent posts. Basically, in the beginning of our relationship, Austin was very excited about me. He would show me off to his friends and family, he would shower me in compliments and "good morning beautiful" texts, he would tell me how much he missed me and how he didn't like being away from me. Lately, all of that has significantly lessened. I can't tell if it's because the honeymoon phase of the relationship is over, or if it's because he isn't really all that into me anymore. He says that he likes me a lot and wants to keep dating me, but he knows that as of right now, he's not in love with me. I know it's only been a little under six months, but I feel confused because he knew that he was in love with Hannah after only getting to know her for a week. This also makes me think that maybe he doesn't know what it means to love somebody who's actually, physically there with you (all of his previous relationships have been long distance. I don't count ours as long distance because we can see each other nine months out of the year during school). I don't know what to think. On the one hand, I understand him when he says that he doesn't want to be too hasty in saying "I love you." But by the same token...I feel like he should feel something a little deeper for me by now.

I don't know what to think or what to do. This whole situation has multiple layers and is very confusing. But please keep talking through this with me! It helps a lot, and I'd really like to come to a decision about what to do as soon as possible. Thanks so much for your time!

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Heather
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I think asking a partner if they feel resolves about an ex is a totally reasonable thing to ask, especially in this situation.

And if you feel like the OTHER person isn't resolved, asking if they can talk with them to get resolved before starting to create a friendship is not only also reasonable, it's what they'd need to do anyway, you know?

I do think this idea that our first big love has some kind of forever-status is based far more in romanticism and wishful thinking than reality. Even when bad things don't happen, we will usually grow as people and move forward, leaving past relationships as they were in the past, as it was. We don't stay the same people, after all. We change, as do our wants and needs.

I also hear you needing to work through some of your relationship with him right now and how you both feel about it, separate from Hannah. How about putting some time and energy into doing that together? When you do, I'd strongly suggest you not compare what's going on with the two of you to what did with them: it's just not sound to do that, even though I know it can seem like it is.

I'd also add that when relationships and romance is new people DO tend to move a lot faster and more quickly with things because they don't know how to pace, don't know the downfalls of moving too fast, are new to those feelings, so.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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pocket_mouse_531
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Ok, thanks! I will definitely talk with Austin about this when I see him next (which will be this Saturday).

I do think we need to work on our relationship separate from Hannah. We're currently taking a week-long break so that we can have time to ourselves to sort out our feelings without worrying about the other person.

Personally, I am really worried about my own feelings. I'm concerned that I am just rebounding and can't tell or refuse to see it. I began dating Austin very soon after I officially ended a long-term relationship with my first love, Marshall. Now I'm concerned that I'm just rebounding because I haven't been single in a long time. I'm wondering now if I only dated Austin because he was a really nice guy and I didn't want to be alone. I never wanted to date somebody just because it was easier than being single. But now I'm worried that that's what's really going on. Is there any way for me to be able to tell if I'm just rebounding/afraid to be single without actually caring about/loving Austin? I'm so scared that that's what I've done and I never wanted to do that to him because he's been so sweet to me and he's a really wonderful, unique guy. I never wanted to hurt somebody like that and now I'm scared that I will.

Similarly, I'm concerned that Austin has lost interest in me. He used to tell me that I was beautiful, would compliment me, etc. Now if I get dressed up or wear make-up, he'll just say that I "look good" and it makes me wonder if he was only so sweet and complimentary in the beginning because he was just happy to have a girlfriend again after being single for six months. I know that the honeymoon phase dies down eventually, but I don't want to be dating somebody that doesn't think that I'm beautiful or an amazing woman, you know?

He's said before that he really likes me a lot and wants us to keep dating, but because he's said that he's not sure just how much he likes me, I'm worried that he's only continuing to date me because HE'S afraid of being alone. I would have thought that he was okay with it because he's been single longer than I have (he was single for six months before me, while I was only single for two weeks). I guess part of my question is, how do you know when you really love somebody/are in love with them?

I also agree with you that Austin and I did move rather quickly with things in the beginning of our relationship. My question is, is it possible to fix whatever damage was done by us rushing things? What steps can we take to grow with one another?

And, for my final question...am I taking this too seriously/worrying too much? I'm only 19 years old. Should this be as big of a concern to me as it is? Am I wrong for focusing so much on a relationship? And how can I tell if I'm just using relationships as a crutch because it's easier to love others than to love myself?

Thank you Heather, so so much. Your help and support mean the world to me.

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Robin Lee
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Well, let's start here. Regardless of anyone else, or anything else that is going on, do *you* want to stay in this relationship? If so, what are the reasons? There's no judgement here, no right or wrong reasons; my intention in asking this is to bring the focus back on what you want and need.

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Robin

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pocket_mouse_531
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Hey Robin!

Well, yes, I do want to stay in this relationship. I like Austin very much and I enjoy his company. We have a lot of fun when we're together. He's fun, sweet, intelligent, and genuinely caring. But I must admit, I'd only want to stay in it much longer if I felt more secure. I need to feel like I'm wanted, cared for, and genuinely appreciated in order to stay in a relationship. I haven't been feeling that way for the past couple of weeks.

To be honest, sometimes I'm not sure if I want to stay in this relationship. When we're together and spending time with another, I have a wonderful time and I feel close and connected to him. But when we're apart, as we have been for the past couple of months, I feel disengaged.

I know that was a confusing answer. How do I work this out more for myself?

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Kaizen
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So when you're together, you're more sure you want to be in the relationship, and when you're apart, you start doubting it. Is that right?

You say that you want to feel "wanted, cared for, and genuinely appreciated" and you don't feel that way right now. What would make you feel that way?

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~Bee o( l l )-

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pocket_mouse_531
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Hi Kaizen! Yes, that's absolutely correct [Smile]

I would feel more wanted and appreciated if the effort that Austin put in at the beginning of this relationship was maintained now. He used to call and text me often, he would always ask me to hang out, he would make plans to go on dates with me...lately, a lot of that has lessened considerably. I just am so afraid that I never meant anything to him and that I was just a person that he could be in a low commitment relationship with. I made it clear to him that I wasn't looking for that, but I'm scared that he is just trying to fill a void in his life by having me hang around him.

Please help me figure out what to do. I don't know how to tell if I'm in a relationship where the person truly loves and cares about me.

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Heather
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It really sounds like this is less about this guy and his ex, and his relationship with her, than it is about him and you.

So, first things first: have you talked, very honestly, with HIM about all of this? Told him what you're worried about and how you're feeling? Asked him what his investment in this relationship is? Talked to him about what you need in order to feel wanted, cared for and genuinely appreciated?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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pocket_mouse_531
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Hi Heather!

You're probably right. I got so carried away worrying about her that I distracted myself from the fact that I was worried about us.

I haven't really sat down and had an explicit conversation about all of this. He's said to me that he cares about me a lot and wants to keep dating me. But he's also said to me that he thinks that if I feel he's unable to love me the way I need, I shouldn't stay in a relationship that makes me unhappy. I'm nervous to have this conversation right now because lately we had a serious talk about how I needed him to be able to open up to me and talk to me about his feelings.

Should I have this conversation right now? And how should I say it?

Also...how can I tell if we're in this relationship because it's growing and we love each other, or because we're both afraid of being alone? Please help me with this. I wasn't worried about this before, but lately it's really been bugging me to think that either of us could be in this relationship because it's easier to be with someone likable than to be alone and wait for someone you can love to come into your life.

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Heather
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Well, she might also be a much more comfortable distraction, if you catch my drift. It can be easier to deal with a problem or issue we can blame on someone else, or make about them, than one that's about us and involves much more tricky stuff than just, "Not nice person, make them go away!"

By all means, if you haven't yet really talked about this, it sounds to me like that is way overdue.

How should you say these things? The way you have here, I'd say: honestly, truly expressing what you're feeling.

I can't tell you how to tell if he is afraid of being alone and is in this for that reason: that's really only something he can sort out and tell you.

But for yourself, what do you think? Do you feel that's a motivation for you here? When you think about being single, for instance, even if you think single-and-happy, does that scare you in any way? Make you feel insecure, etc?

When you are by yourself and alone, are you happy in your own company? Do you enjoy that time and savor it, rather than feeling lonely or aimless?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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