Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Hi, Carolyn: My boyfriend’s mom still maintains contact with his ex. They were extremely close and in each other’s lives for a long time.
I get the sense that his mom and I are not going to be as close and I find their contact unnecessary. Is it too much to ask that his mom leave the past behind and get to know me more instead? Whenever my boyfriend mentions them speaking, I get uncomfortable and defensive.
Leaving the Past Behind?
Wow. Since when do you get to decide whether a friendship is “necessary”?
There is no happiness at the end of the road you’re on. Back up … back … back … all the way to the last crossroads, where you decided your feelings get to control other people.
And choose a different road.
The reason they met is past, but their mutual affection is present tense. They’re entitled to it.
Yes, this complicates things for you. But putting out a contract to have their friendship whacked is not the only answer. You could also … !! … accept it. You can respect that they’ve kept in touch for their own reasons, and admire their loyalty. You can see that as a promising sign for your relationship with your boyfriend’s mother. Instead of thinking automatically, “She likes the old girlfriend better!!!,” you can let yourself think, “She’s above the drama of the moment, and sticks by her people.”
You won’t be one of “her people,” though, if you so much as think of objecting to this friendship. That mix of contempt and entitlement will become your aura, self-fulfilling your prophecy that your boyfriend’s mom won’t like you one bit.
We can quibble all day over the fairness of this, or over the sacrosanct nature of one’s private thoughts, but of this I’m quite confident: Either embrace the ex’s role in the mother’s life or expect loneliness in your resentment.
There’s agency for you here — you just need to recognize it. It’s in saying sincerely, “You know what? It says a lot for your mom that they’re still in touch. I hope I get to know her just as well — though of course my relationship with her will be different, because I’m different.”
(Cue acoustic ballad about taking life as it comes.)
(Yes that’s a joke but I am quite serious about the answer.)
Email Carolyn at email@example.com or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.