The dilemma I have a wonderful relationship with a lovely woman. She has always been very open and honest, revealing early on that she is keeping in touch with an ex-boyfriend and that she would like him to sleep over sometimes.
I’m sure she’s platonic and I trust her. We both keep in touch with our exes in a friendly and informal way. However, the idea of having an ex sleeping makes me very uncomfortable. I voiced my concerns a couple of years ago when the issue was first raised, and we agreed to put it on the back burner.
Now, to my dismay, he is making plans to invite his ex a few days later in the year. As a compromise, I suggested that she stay in a hotel, but this idea it was not well received. Apparently, due to the easy and free arrangement they have had over the years, he worries that he will feel slighted by this change in circumstances. Can you give me any advice to solve this dilemma?
Mariella responds There is a riddle. He does not make it clear whether they live together or not (but their relationship seems to have lasted for a few years), and he does not articulate what he is afraid of. It’s ironic, isn’t it, that for many of us the most threatening presence in a current relationship often tends to be an ex when, in reality, they are much more likely to go out of business and barely be worth a drop of sweat. Isn’t it time you relaxed your vigilance? You may not have the most common or conventional answer to this, so don’t feel like my advice is binding in any way, which should probably be a usual disclaimer in this column!
Torment, unbridled passion and, in particular, possessiveness seem to me qualities synonymous with youthful romantic adventures, less mature and less worthy. That is why I am relieved that, in late middle age, my insecurity and jealousy, which was once devious, which made surrounding my boyfriends a consuming concern, have worn off. You can’t control every aspect of a relationship or keep anyone locked up to preserve a union. There is nothing more terrifying than what we perceive as unresolved burning, and the idea that a couple might have someone lurking in their past for whom they had not completely closed the door can seem like a terrifying threat. Or at least it did to me when I was younger.
My first real boyfriend was older and had already had a “serious” summer crush with a French girl who, unbelievably, still seemed to like him in October! One day, alone in his room, I found myself rummaging under his bed for secrets and … bingo! – I found just what I was looking for: a photograph of my nemesis. In totally obsessive mode, I found tangible evidence of what I feared was a dream come true and, boy, was she beautiful; frankly, as Dolly Parton would say, the complete Jolene. I lay awake for long nights ruminating on her threat level. Finally, I blurted out my confession, convinced that his crime of harboring this photo of my gala competition more than made up for my violation of his privacy. I still feel the burning shame of your answer today. My “evidence”, it turned out, was actually a file photo of Carly Simon, an irreconcilable crush for which an 18-year-old musician in the 1970s could surely be excused.
Not that he didn’t feel a hint of threat from Carly. I knew that, given the slightest chance, I would probably snatch him out of my arms, but even a fanciful like me had to admit that it was an unlikely scenario. In keeping with the object of his anger in his song You’re So Vain, I had made my presumption based entirely on my own shortcomings. And this, I feel, is where you come in.
Either insecurity or your own urges are driving you to behave irrationally here, so it is your motives, not hers, that need to be examined. The keyword here is ex. It’s been two years since you last discussed it; certainly that’s enough to set the stage for your own situation and stop feeling like the rug is about to be pulled from under your feet. In many ways, it is proof of your feelings for her. Do you love her enough to let her be herself without expecting her to adjust to your insecurity? I suggest that you consider this visitor as an old friend, return your inhibitions to Pandora’s box and enjoy the greater understanding of your partner that meeting someone with whom you have a history will bring.
In maturity, it is imperative that old habits disappear and new ones emerge. We both know that policing our relationships becomes an end in itself. It is far better to ignore those instincts and trust that the relationship you love is of equal value to your partner. The freedom to make decisions is a basic human right, and therefore anything you manage to maintain only by maintaining a vice-like control is worthless. This ex will cease to appear in your mind the moment he becomes familiar, and that is exactly what he will be after a few days of stay.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism