Editors note: This baggage claim first ran on March 1, 2006.
I’ve been dating a guy for a few months. We met through our jobs and started casually dating at first, but now it’s exclusive. It’s still really early to tell, but things are going wonderfully so far. Our attraction to each other is very strong, we’ve got a lot in common as far as what we enjoy doing, what our goals are and just how we view life in general. I honestly feel a little ashamed to be complaining already, especially when things are mostly falling into place perfectly. But here is my problem, such as it is. He’s still friends with the ex. This is a big ex too, someone he dated for several years before me. Granted, they’ve been broken up for several years, too, but have remained a big part of each other’s lives. Now, I don’t care if they still talk or hang out together or whatever. She’s a nice enough person, I guess, but I can’t help but feel like I’m being evaluated by her. The guy I’m dating passes on compliments she’s given him about me, which is nice, but there’s something about the two of them talking about me that I find unsettling. He’s even told me how he “should have listened to” this woman about some other people he’s dated in the past because “she’s such a great judge of character.” Oh, but she “really likes” me. Well, that’s fine, but I’m a little put off by how much her opinion matters to him. Am I being a bitch, or do I have a legitimate complaint here? And if I do, how should I address it?
New Girl Blues
Dear New Girl,
I think you should smile and be gracious, for now. You still are, in fact, the New Girl. As a recent addition to his life, you should be patient before asking him to make significant changes, particularly in other relationships he holds dear. I’m not a huge fan of keeping the exes close either; I think there’s usually too much water under the bridge, the breakup happened for a reason, blah blah. But it also tends to create unnecessary tension just like this. In any case, it’s his life, his choice, and you’ll have to bear it for a while.
If this relationship continues to grow and intensify, you’ll both naturally feel the awkward and stressful transition as you become the primary concern in each other’s lives. If he doesn’t naturally wean himself, let him know his preoccupation with his former girlfriend’s approval leaves you feeling like an outsider. You want his respect, and you certainly don’t want to become resentful toward either one of them. He should understand and act accordingly.
But in the meantime, politely lay the groundwork for putting the kibosh on the ex test. The next time he brings up your high marks with her, say something like, “Well, that is nice and I certainly appreciate it, but I’m much more concerned with what you think.” It’s a subtle way of shifting the focus back to the two of you, where it should be. If time goes by and he doesn’t get it, though, feel free to be more direct.