Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I dated my ex-girlfriend for several years. We ended things on good terms. Breakups are hard but we both knew it was the right thing to do. We've stayed friends. We don't talk every day or week or even every month, but Anchorage is small, and when we run into each other it's fun to catch up.
Every now and then we meet for coffee and if we see each other out, we'll usually at least grab a drink. We work in the same industry, so I also run into her occasionally in that setting.
I've been with my new girlfriend about six months. She's awesome! We could be together a long time. We're already talking about moving in together, but we have one thing we keep fighting about: She doesn't get why I am still friends with my ex. She told me it makes her uncomfortable, and she wants me to cut off all contact.
This bothers me on a couple of levels. My ex is a good friend, and I don't want to stop being friends with her. Also, I don't like anyone telling me who I can and can't be friends with. But she's my girlfriend, and don't I need to respect her wishes? I don't know what to do.
Ex or Next?
Wayne: You see, when you have an awesome girlfriend, your most important job as a boyfriend is to keep her awesome. And it's really simple to do! Clean up after yourself. Do what you say you'll do. Try not to be a total clown. Tell them they're awesome every once in a while. Oh, and stop hanging out with your ex-girlfriends.
Remember: You've got an awesome girlfriend, and this isn't exactly an unawesome demand. She doesn't want her boyfriend hanging out with exes all the time. Sounds pretty reasonable, really.
I usually leave the syrupy lines for Wanda, but I'll say it: You can't build a future if you won't give up on your past. If you think this relationship has some long-term potential, why would you dig your heels in over this issue? Seems pretty shortsighted and stubborn.
Besides, you don't have to be a jerk or burn a bridge with your ex. You don't even have to stop talking with her; just dial back the interaction. If you see her out, yeah, say hi, maybe even chat over a drink. If you see her at a work function, catch up with her. But no more coffee meetings, hangouts or long IM sessions. Dedicate your extra time on your awesome girlfriend. If your ex truly wants you to have a happy life, she'll understand.
Or you could maintain this attitude and have a new ex-girlfriend to occasionally hang out with in your future!
Wanda: If you were spending long, frequent hours with your ex, I'd stand by Wayne's advice. But according to you, you don't (sorry, Wayne.)
You see your ex only occasionally, and your interaction is at best infrequent, but you do care about her and don't want to cut off contact entirely out of respect of that. So rather than consider scaling back on the already severely scaled-back interaction you have with her, much less ditch it entirely, I'd focus on the real issue here. Why does this bother your current girlfriend so darn much?
When connectivity is as easy as it's ever been, I completely understand maintaining ties with people who have enriched our lives. Just because something falters romantically doesn't mean there isn't a friendship to salvage. Sometimes, maintaining a friendship makes sense.
As far as I can tell, your issue isn't that you sometimes catch up with your ex-girlfriend/friend; the issue is that your girlfriend is freaked out by it. Why? She may have trust issues that are not directly due to your actions but might stem from experiences in her own past relationships. Maybe she suspects your ex is trying to get you back. Maybe she's been cheated on before.
In any case, trust is foundational to any successful union, and your girl needs to deal - and get over it. Strong relationships are about empowering each other and respecting each other's healthy relationships, connections and choices - not throwing up roadblocks, establishing senseless rules and getting all parental and paranoid.
Ultimately, yes, your priority is to your relationship. But no one wants to be with someone who gets to call the shots, especially when the shots don't make any sense. Have a heart-to-heart with your girl and find out just what the real issue is. Hopefully at day's end, you can continue your involvement in this so-far-so-good relationship while not having to dump any friends along the way.
• Wanda is a wise person who has loved, lost and believes in retail therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.