Kate from Los Angeles asks:
My boyfriend of two years has two close ex-girlfriends who he continues to talk to and see on a regular basis. I’m uncomfortable with it, because he only tells me about it if I ask him directly. He says he would never lie to me, and that they’re just mutual friends. He also says I’m being too sensitive, and that he could never go back to being with them again. He says he’s “been there, done that.” At times, it feels like he’s cheating, and I don’t know if I can handle it. Can women and men be true friends, especially if there was a previous sexual relationship? Should I stay and trust that he is respecting me, or should I go?
Psychic Red ext. 9226 Responds:
There are many people who have managed to maintain a friendship in spite of their sexual history. So, yes, it’s possible for men and women to be true and platonic friends. However, not every man, or every woman, is capable of having or maintaining a strictly platonic relationship with a person of the opposite sex, whether or not there has been physical intimacy. It really does depend on the values and personalities of the individuals involved. Because of that, there really isn’t a blanket yes or no answer to that question.
Fortunately, your boyfriend is one of those personalities who is capable of having platonic friendships with women, even those he has been intimately involved with in the past. Through his eyes, even though the romantic relationship failed, these women are still important to him. Because of his romantic history with them, he feels a level of trust and closeness to them, and they are relationships he wants to continue to maintain. He really does have the “been there, done that” attitude toward each of his exes. Because he knows he doesn’t want any future sexual experiences with either of them, he wants you to have enough faith and trust in him, and your relationship with him, to continue his association with his exes.
Your boyfriend is loyal to you. He hasn’t cheated on you, nor does it look like he would. However, he really doesn’t understand where your insecurity comes from, because he sees himself as committed to you. Even though they are exes, he considers these other women to only be friends. To him, this all makes perfect sense. He doesn’t appreciate how challenging it can be to be standing in your shoes. He also doesn’t seem to understand that his choosing to exclude you from these external relationships creates a level of reasonable suspicion. He more or less seems to want you to trust him implicitly.
This is something that the two of you can work through if you want the relationship to continue. However, it isn’t going to be an easy resolution. It will take several calmly orchestrated conversations, in which you need to tell him that his external relationships are troublesome to you. Rather than accuse him directly, or indirectly, of cheating, you need to find a way to express that his need of these other female friendships causes you anxiety and pain. Express that he doesn’t need to completely understand why, but he does need to respect that you have these feelings. Try to explain to him that you’re aware of his connection to his exes, and that you understand that not volunteering information about his friendship with them may be his way of trying to be respectful to you—but that this creates pain and suspicion, rather than relief.
I wish I could tell you that I saw him willingly severing his ties with his exes, but I don’t. The best you can achieve is to be more included, which will help you to feel more certain about his sincerity and loyalty. On the other hand, if you should decide that his friendships are something you just can’t accept or come to terms with, be prepared to be one more of his exes that he will try and keep as a friend.
I hope this helps you.
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