Why Won’t My Boyfriend Shut Up About How Much He Loves His Ex?

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My boyfriend and I have been dating seriously for two years. He was previously married for 25 years; he and his ex-wife divorced nine years ago and have two adult kids. They have a great relationship. But I dislike his frequent posts on social media that reminisce about falling in love with her — what she was wearing the first time he saw her, for instance — and how much he loves her still. These posts often include hearts and kissing emojis. I told him they are hurtful to me, but he says he’s free to post anything he wants on social media. He also says he loves me and that’s all that matters. Thoughts?

GIRLFRIEND

You definitely have a social media problem. But it is dwarfed, I think, by more troubling issues: Your boyfriend dismisses your hurt feelings even after you tell him he’s hurt you, and he remains powerfully (and publicly) connected to his ex-wife. Does he also make lovey-dovey posts about you?

His connection to his ex is understandable. They spent decades together. His feelings for her (particularly as the mother of their children) may survive any desire to be married to her. My bigger concern here is your involvement with a man who believes his social media freedoms are more important than your reasonable feelings.

I know you’ve raised this issue with him already. It may be worth trying again, though, if the circumstances weren’t right before. Find a quiet time when you can discuss this calmly. It’s possible that the benefits to you of this relationship outweigh your boyfriend’s posts or his affection for his ex-wife. No relationship is perfect. I just want to make sure that you feel safe and loved in yours. Do you?

My 16-year-old daughter often said hello in passing to an older boy with intellectual disabilities at school. He graduated, and she hasn’t seen him for over a year. Somehow, he got her phone number and now calls her many times a day. His mother just died unexpectedly, and he is hurting. I can tell my daughter feels torn about this, but she was never more than casually acquainted with him. I told her she can talk to him briefly every few days, but I can tell this is becoming stressful for her. How should I handle this?

MOM

A couple of observations: The term “intellectual disability” describes a wide range of limitations in a person’s cognition. We know nothing about this young man; so, let’s be careful to avoid armchair diagnoses. Also, you have written “I can tell” twice when describing your daughter’s feelings. It may be more helpful to your daughter, though, to invite her to talk about her feelings than for you to guess at them.

I understand multiple calls a day from a former acquaintance may be upsetting. But I am more concerned about this young man’s distress at his mother’s death. I suggest calling his father now to express your condolences and — more important — your concern about his son’s emotional state. He may need help! You can also ask how he’d like to handle his son’s unwanted calls to your daughter.

Several houses on our block sold recently. My husband and I would like to meet our new neighbors and foster some block spirit. We are planning a dessert gathering in our backyard. Unfortunately, one of our neighbors is a mean bully. He has alienated the wonderful people who live on both sides of him in episodes that are entirely his fault. Can we invite everyone on the block except him?

NEIGHBOR

We all behave badly occasionally. Still, I am skeptical of characterizations of people as solely bad. You haven’t shared the particulars of your neighbor’s meanness and bullying, or how you judged these episodes to be “entirely his fault.”

Singling him out for exclusion from your block party doesn’t seem likely to improve matters. (It’s as if you propose to bully the bully.) Why not be generous and invite him? It’s just dessert in your backyard. Who knows? Your kind gesture may turn the tide and awaken his better self.

My friend is fostering a dog from an animal shelter where I volunteer. We’re both in our 20s and juggling several part-time gigs. So, our lives are chaotic. The problem: I never see her walking the dog or at the park nearby. I’m afraid that the dog she’s fostering (a breed that needs lots of exercise) isn’t getting enough. Can I ask about this?

GENE

Be careful not to accuse your friend of doing a poor job fostering the dog simply because you don’t see them on the street. Presumably, there are many hours every day when you are indoors or away. Ask how things are going with the dog, instead, and what their daily routine is like.

If you’re still concerned, commiserate over how much exercise healthy dogs require. You can even offer to help with walks. I know you mean well, but the evidence of neglect is skimpy. And monitoring your friend’s behavior probably isn’t your business.


For help with your awkward situation, send a question to [email protected], to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.

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