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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ask Dr. Gilda: Is He too Close to His Ex?

From Match.com, and reprinted from MSN.com

Her boyfriend still spends a lot of time with his ex-wife. Perfectly normal, or perfect cause for concern?

Dear Dr. Gilda,

I’m dating a guy who is still friends with his ex-wife. Their son is 30 and he has three kids. My boyfriend’s son and grandkids recently came to visit. My boyfriend took them to see his ex-wife, and he stayed the weekend in a hotel. Am I overreacting? I don’t know why he has to take them to see her, why he and his ex-wife have to travel together to see the grandkids or why she has to stay at his house whenever the son and grandkids come to visit. My boyfriend says his ex-wife was there for him and he won’t turn his back on her. He calls her his "friend for life." 

To what extent do I have to accept their relationship? They talk on the phone a lot. I feel like she is an ex for a reason, so why act like this? Please tell me how to handle it without sounding too jealous.

—At a Loss for Words 



Dear At a Loss,

It sounds like there are a lot of people competing for Boyfriend’s attention. He’s got his ex, their grown son and their son’s three children, who are their grandkids. All these people legitimately share a family and a history. Your complaint is that his family and history are intruding on your life with him. Yes, you already sound jealous! What is it that you really want? Would you like him to argue with his ex, storm out and never be in touch with her or his grandchildren again? Come on, get real! At the point at which someone has become a grandfather, he has already lived a life with many involvements. The fact that Boyfriend honors his commitments, even though he is no longer married to his ex, says a lot about his ethics. He obviously enjoys this family unit, and he can distinguish between a romantic involvement and a "friend for life" without blurring those boundaries. So why are you not feeling secure enough to see the glass as half full rather than half empty? Your jealousy may actually be revealing something you should work on: your own neediness in any relationship.

Do you have a career you’re passionate about? Do you have hobbies you look forward to? Do you have relatives yourself, or even exes as friends that you’d like to see on occasion? If you are feeling overly needy with Boyfriend, the best antidote would be to enrich your own life while he’s enriching his. The benefits of life enrichment would: Deepen your interests and make you a more exciting partner; create boundaries that would earn you respect; switch the focus from Boyfriend’s “faults” to your own happy experiences. You ask, "To what extent do I have to accept their relationship?” The answer is, “To the extent you want Boyfriend in your life." You are observing the family package that accompanies him wherever he goes. You can either accept it or look for someone without any ties. (But keep in mind, a guy without any ties might be much more into himself — which could also turn you off!) 



If you try to change Boyfriend, you’ll strike out. As my Gilda-Gram advises, "Accept, rather than expect." If you follow this guide, Boyfriend may elect to spend more time with you and less with his past. Or, he may invite you to join the whole clan during their family jaunts. 

Of course, there is always the possibility that Boyfriend enjoys seeing you steam over this triangle. Perhaps this is how he wants you to "prove" your commitment to him. If this is the case, you two need to have a truthful discussion. 

The future of this romance is in your hands. Unless you date someone who has just been hatched, the person you find will be encumbered by something or someone: a big mortgage, payments to an ex, elderly parents, a sick sibling or whiny kids. Would you expect a guy to dump his involvements just to be with you? Before you try to empty someone’s baggage, you must clear out your own. 



XXX
Relationship expert Dr. Gilda Carle (www.DrGilda.com) has a private practice, and is a motivational speaker and associate professor of business, psychology, and communications at New York’s Mercy College. Her best-selling books include Don’t Bet on the Prince! How to Have the Man You Want by Betting On Yourself. Her E-Books are “How to WIN When Your Mate Cheats,” immediately downloadable at http://drgilda.com/ebook/WhenYourMateCheats.htm and "99 Prescriptions for Fidelity," downloadable at http://www.drgilda.com/ebook/99PrescriptionsforFidelity/

XXX
I received hundreds of e-mails from my loyal readers regarding this topic. Below are just a few of them:
RESPONSES FROM READERS

Hello Dr. Gilda,
This is in response to "At a Loss for Words," the woman whose boyfriend had a questionable relationship with his ex-wife. I feel as though her concerns were legitimate. She did not write that she was against him having a relationship with his son and his children. The real concern was the husband taking the son and children to see his ex, which poses an interesting question: Why can't his son take his own kids to see his own mother? I don't understand why he boyfriend has to be the facilitator, being that his son is 30 years old for crying out loud. You mention that they are a "family unit." If this is so, why are they divorced? It sounds to me like the boyfriend wishes he still had a relationship with the ex-wife and is going out of his way to prove himself. I also do not understand why the boyfriend and the ex-wife travel together to see the grandchildren. What commitment is he proving by doing this? Why hasn't he invited his girlfriend on any of the trips? This man is longing for the "family unit " he no longer has and this should be acknowledged.

Perhaps there is not enough information in the letter to really make a determination, but unless the ex-wife is disabled or terminally ill, I am at a loss for words as well.
Hmmmm...

Hi, Hmmm…,
Perhaps the questions you raise are answered in the next e-mail below.
Dr. Gilda

XXX
Dear Dr. Gilda,
I just read your response to the woman who felt her boyfriend was too close to his ex-wife. I think that relationship may be becoming more common.

I had a friend a few years ago who had an unusual relationship with his ex-wife. They had married really young and had one child. Eventually they decided that the marriage was not working and called it quits. Within a few years, they had both remarried and shared custody of their son.

They lived in the same town. All four of the adults involved went on joint vacations so they could double their time with the child involved. They became best friends and took care of each other in the later part of their lives. The grandchildren called them all some version of grandma and grandpa.

My friend told me that he had been best friends with his ex-wife before they had gotten married but had felt pressured to marry. They soon discovered that they were better friends than lovers, so they went back to being best friends.

I thought it was an amazing relationship that only enriched their child’s life and his children’s lives.
Helen

XXX
Hi Dr Gilda,
I am married for 2 years and must say that my husband is a wonderful person who is very caring, loving and co-operative. However the only thing I don’t like about him and is the only cause of spats between us is his parents and brother. The parents are still back home and the engaged brother shares the apartment with us. My husband is a mama's boy and can’t make any of his decisions without asking her. She is very much of a politician type lady who would guide his moves in a way it suits her. Also, whenever there is any kind of situation where I have a different opinion from them, my husband always goes with his brother or mother and would never support me so that the family doesn’t feel hurt (even if he knows they are wrong and I am right).

I feel disgusted and unhappy about my husband’s behavior. I have told him a couple of times to do justice and go with the one whoever is right (not me or them) but he always sides with them. I feel rejected and not cared for and don’t know how to tackle and resolve this. Please help!
Cynthia

Dear Cynthia,
Clearly, there are too many people in your marriage. Let your “wonderful person” hubby know your true feelings. It’s not fair to the relationship to leave him in the dark about how you’re feeling. When he has all the information, perhaps he’ll finally grow up to be a husband instead of a “mama’s boy.” If not, I’m afraid you’ll have to continue to let him know what your expectations of a husband are. Obviously, he is currently clueless. But you’re feeding the problem by remaining silent.
Dr. Gilda

XXX
Dr. Gilda,
I read your article on, "Is He too Close to his Ex?” I got to tell you that I was not happy with your advice at all. I don't know if you are divorced or what your story is but I happen to agree with the writer of the question.

First of all, there is a reason why the divorce took place - what was it?

Second of all, why is the father taking his 30-year-old to visit the ex-wife (the mother of the son)? Isn't the 30-year-old son capable of driving himself without getting everyone involved, including the new girlfriend? If family and staying together was so important to this father, why get a divorce?

Thirdly, if the exes are so tight and are friends, why in the world are they dating other people? When other people are brought into the picture, there are opinions which are just as important as the opinions of the original family.

You told the writer to get real - why don't you get real!!!! Family dynamics change when divorce takes place and when remarriage takes place the definition of "family" changes as well. Everyone has a role to fill but that doesn't mean they should all "hang" out together as family. Someone screwed the first family up and it isn't the newcomer after the divorce. There should be consequences to divorce. You should not be allowed to divorce, have a relationship with another individual, and still hang out with the ex family. That is completely dysfunctional and abnormal. There is a reason why they are called the exes!!!

Maybe this new person shouldn't haven't got, involved but at the same time, when exes are involved in new relationships of their ex-spouse lives, hell is going to break loose eventually. This new girlfriend has a right to be jealous and worried about sparks flying between the exes with visits and phone conversations. The reason they do this is for their kids is bogus and stupid.

The new girlfriend has the right to feel insecure and maybe she should get out of the relationship because it sounds like her significant other is not finished with business regarding his ex-wife. But your advice to her was unacceptable and did not sound like someone who had any experience in this arena of life.
Michelle

Hi, Michelle,
This IS truly a different world with so many step-families interacting. The rules of the past are no longer the way things are today. It surely takes a strong mate to include her partner’s ex in their festivities. Like Helen, above, I have a friend who invites her husband’s ex and all their grown children to holiday celebrations. And my friend gives this woman advice as to how to find a second loving husband! This sure ain’t the good old days as many of us have known them!
Dr. Gilda

XXX
Dr. Gilda,
I have only one question for you. Are you nuts????!!!! This guy is absolutely too close to his ex. His grown son who is 30 does not need him to take him to visit his mother. The boyfriend does that because he wants and chooses to. If he is choosing to spend that much time with his ex, then he is still way too committed to a past relationship. Yes, they share children, but come on. This woman has every right to be wary and put off by his behavior.

She is the woman in his life now, not his ex, and he should act like it. Letting the ex stay at his home when the grandkids come to visit is way above and beyond the call of duty to an ex, and he should realize that it would make his girlfriend uncomfortable. Besides, it doesn't sound like he's asking the girlfriend to stay there so that she knows everything is above board and has no questions in her mind.

You mentioned that he should not be expected to give up his commitments and obligations for his new relationship, but other than possible alimony, he has no obligations to his ex. His present girlfriend has every right to expect less involvement with the ex and more involvement with her. If you ask me, it sounds like this man is having his cake, and eating it, too. If I were his girlfriend, I would not have had to write to you. I simply would have kicked him to the curb ages ago. Sorry, Dr. Gilda, but you got this one totally wrong.
A Strong Woman

Dear Strong Woman,
The real test of emotional strength is to let bygones be bygones. Some GF’s can and some can’t. The same goes for BF’s. Many men come to me raging that their GF’s and wives are still friendly with their exes with whom they have kids. In my mind, there’s a difference between being “friendly towards” and “friends with.” For the sake of the kids, parents who are civil to each other provide healthier role models. Of course, if there are no children, and if a current mate has reason to believe there’s more than meets the eye, a confrontation is in order! It is true that some people can’t let go of their past. If THAT is the case, it’s better to find a mate who’s living in the present.
Dr. Gilda

XXX

Dear readers, DONT FORGET ABOUT US KIDS. Dr Gilda is right i come from a family like this. My mom and dad got divorced when i was young. I am so glad that they are still friends for life. Yes I understand that they will never be together again. He has a new girl friend in his life and i know she feels this way to but we care for her as part of our family. She does not see it, she only sees my dad talking to my mom as a plot to get back together. As if they are going to get back together again LOL I don't think so. Get over it girls we too need our families to work for us and for you. I am sure you would be welcome into our families if you just stop the crap and live as part of the situation. Remember our dads had a past and we are part of it. So if you girls and i say girls for you are not women when you act like this would just STOP and step back you might find out that you are part of something that could be great. You are getting an instant family. Remember that sometimes family is not your blood but it could be thicker, bigger and better if you just hang on and trust your new partner. Remember we grow up and move on and you stay and live happily ever after with our dads. So thank you DOC for telling the women(Girls) of today to get real and think of the whole situation for we all need to work together.

17 year old Daughter of a divorced Dad

Dear 17-year-Old Daughter,
I LOVE hearing from our youth! You guys are in the front lines of fire when divorce occurs. You will appreciate your parents' civility more and more as you get older. Thank you for sharing your feelings!!
Love,
Dr. Gilda

XXX
Relationship expert Dr. Gilda Carle (www.DrGilda.com) has a private practice, and is a motivational speaker and associate professor of business, psychology, and communications at New York’s Mercy College. Her best-selling books include Don’t Bet on the Prince! How to Have the Man You Want by Betting On Yourself. Her E-Books are “How to WIN When Your Mate Cheats,” immediately downloadable at http://drgilda.com/ebook/WhenYourMateCheats.htm and "99 Prescriptions for Fidelity," downloadable at http://www.drgilda.com/ebook/99PrescriptionsforFidelity/

Monday, April 20, 2009

Economic Woes Affect Infidelity

Where do passions go during economic hardship? The University of Montreal found that 40% – 70% of mates cheat, making infidelity the NEW RELATIONSHIP NORM!! The New York Times reported that wealthy men who lost fortunes worry their wives will leave. An Australian study found that women enjoy less orgasms with poor men. And wild male chimps that don’t offer meat for sex score fewer copulations!

As you know, I counsel people in need of relationship advice, among them, the betrayed and their betrayers. Recently, I observed a correlation between the horrible economy and the number of betrayal stories I was being called to mediate. Since this is a GLOBAL economic meltdown, I was hearing the same sad stories from clients around the world, in Asia, Europe, the Americas, New Zealand, Africa, and more . . .

So I wrote 99 PRESCRIPTIONS FOR FIDELITY – Your Rx for Trust, as a CHEAT PREVENTION AND CURE REMEDY. It’s for tough times -- DURING dating, BEFORE marriage, AS romance blossoms, WHEN love becomes committed, WHILE a relationship is being rekindled, and even AFTER a betrayal. The book applies 99 of my Gilda-Grams as daily prescriptions to block and heal infidelity. With help, 65% of cheating mates remain together and actually thrive!!


CLICK HERE for information

DR. GILDA CARLE (Ph.D.) is an internationally known psychotherapist, relationship expert, media personality, and management consultant. She is Match.com’s “Ask Dr. Gilda” advice columnist, published on MSN.com, and a motivational speaker, a professor of business, psychology & communications, and the author of "Don't Bet on the Prince!" (a test question on "Jeopardy!"), "Teen Talk with Dr. Gilda," and "He's Not All That!" Her e-Books are “How to WIN When Your Mate Cheats,” (winner of a literary award from The London Book Festival): http://drgilda.com/ebook/WhenYourMateCheats.htm, and “99 Prescriptions for Fidelity: Your Rx for Trust.” DR. GILDA was the therapist in HBO's Emmy Award winner, "Telling Nicholas," featured on Oprah, where she guided a family to tell their 7-year-old that his mom died in the World Trade Center bombing. See www.DrGilda.com