A few readers have asked what letters look like BEFORE I publish them. Here is a FULL and UNEDITED letter. My response is in BOLD. (Since newspapers limit columns to 220 words, this will not run in any paper “as is”…..
“I have recently started going out with a man (5 months ago). He has a female friend (K) who also happens to be a recent ex of his. They dated for approximately ten years with a break in between of about 3 years where he was with another woman (L). After breaking up with L he then returned to a sexual relationship with this ‘friend’ (K).
[Clearly this is a very deep connection between the man and K. Ten years, you will probably agree, is a long time to be together.]
“He had not been seeing K sexually for over a year when I started going out with him, but had continued to see her very regularly (3-4 times a week) on a friendship basis. This has continued even after I have started seeing him.
[So you knew this going into the relationship and this was something about him no one was hiding from you. Yet three of four times a week is a lot of time with a friend, even a “best” friend. Most people would suggest this is more than a friendship even if it is not a sexual connection. Be sure, if there was anyone in my life I was spending this amount of time with other than my immediate family others would expect it to have more meaning than simply a good friend.]
“Once I started going out with him I requested to meet K.
[This is a healthy and legitimate request and I commend you on making it.]
“She said that she did not see the need.
[She did not make the request. You saw the need and you made the request. You did not ask her because of what you thought she needed but based on what you need.]
“She says that as the ex she does not want to meet the present girlfriend.
[Correct. She is the ex and she doesn’t want to meet you, BUT you want to meet her and she is important to HIM and therefore meeting her is important to you. A good friend to HIM will also want to be a good friend to YOU if she knows YOU are important to HIM.]
“By chance we met her twice at two different restaurants but the meeting was very strained and uncomfortable.
[Of course it was. I trust you were friendly and gracious since they are only friends. If you see where the discomfort was coming from you will know where the issue is.]
“I do not have a problem with him continuing a friendship with her but I do not wish this to be exclusive of myself.
[So you DO have a problem if it excludes you but you do not if it somewhat includes you – this is perfectly reasonable.]
“I trust that he is not engaged in more than a friendship at the moment with K but would still like to understand more about the dynamics between them and to feel more secure in my position in his life.
[Your security in HIS – life – whatever this means, has nothing to do with their relationship. I am more interested in your security within YOUR life.]
“I feel that at the moment she has the benefits of both the anonymity of an ex and that of a friend who can see him at any time. She refuses to come to any functions when groups of our friends are going to be there. Rather she chooses to see him with her own friends or on her own. I feel excluded from a part of his life and this is creating conflict between us. We rarely fight about much else.
[You are correct. She is getting what she wants but is not concerned with its impact on her friend or on you – she says she is a friend of his but is not behaving as one.]
“To be fair to him, he has requested that she meet me and has explained that it upsets me to be excluded from their friendship. However, as she has categorically stated that she does not wish to meet me and sees no need, he feels that one should not force her to do so.
[Bingo! She sees no need! It is not her needs you are talking about or trying to fulfill. It is your need to meet her and this is the issue. If she were just a friend to him she’d willingly comply. I go out of my way to meet people my friends really like. This is normal friendship! You are trying “to be fair” to him and he is trying to be fair to HER and it seems to be at the expense of being fair to YOU.]
“He feels that his friendship with her pre-dates me by a long way and that he does should not have to sacrifice this friendship for my benefit.
[Well that is something each of you gets to decide for yourselves. You get to decide if you can be with a man who hangs onto past relationships and can’t seem to move on or include past people in his new life. He gets to decide which relationship he really wants. You get to decide if you can share him in this way. If he wants a long-term relationship with you – like marriage – believe me he is going to have to give up a lot more than friendship with a former girlfriend. When you have children the children will demand he give up a whole lot he perhaps thinks he can hold onto. Here’s the essential truth: love means making choices that help each other live more fully and he is helping an ex at the expense of helping you. You get to decide if you can live with this or nor.]
“He often reads the Natal Mercury (Independent Newspapers) South Africa, and has often commented that he thinks your advice is very sound. I wonder whether you could provide us with some of this wisdom in how to proceed with our relationship from here.”
[I am delighted he reads The Mercury and I am very grateful for all the readers in that part of the world. I trust you will share my thoughts with him and with her. I do not seek to be RIGHT – just helpful and I trust this helps you. You get to decide how you will be treated and therefore you get to decide where this relationship goes from here. It is up to you. Not him. Not her. It is up to you.]
Have a great day,
Rod Smith, MSMFT