Secret friendship with ex partner
I have been with my partner for almost five years (we don't live together). We only really argue about one issue and that is his secret friendship with his most recent ex. They speak on the phone most weeks, he sees her every few weeks and does DIY jobs for her. I only know all this because I check his phone occasionally (he normally keeps his phone on silent and out of my reach) and have become an expert at noticing when he goes AWOL. I don't consider myself to be a particularly jealous person, I meet his ex wife regularly as they have four grown up daughters and numerous grandchildren and we sit and chat together and even hug and kiss each other goodbye. This other woman however has allegedly refused point blank to meet me saying it's pointless, irrelevant and we have nothing in common, yet she happily commandeers my partner whenever she wants and knowingly causes problems in our relationship. I have only spoken to her once on the phone and she was extremely rude to me then. My partner insists it's a platonic friendship and she is no rival. I think otherwise, perhaps not in a sexual sense but certainly an emotional attachment still exists. When we argue my partner makes promises (to be more open, help her out in an emergency but not see her socially etc etc) but in practice nothing changes and he never mentions her name again. He says I'm making a mountain out of a molehill. However I feel that our relationship has stagnated because of their friendship but nothing I say or do seems to make a difference and it's driving me crazy that my feelings don't seem to count. I'm 57 and my partner is 68. His ex is 63.
So he is seeing her and they are having sex. Will he leave you? Ask him. She may be filling a need and who knows what that is. I don't think you know enough to know what to do or even to demand he end it. Obviously he has not left so you are doing something right too.
I don't believe they are having sex but if it is the platonic friendship he says it is, then why the secrecy and why does the ex show so much animosity towards me? When I first asked if I could meet her my partner visibly paled. I have asked him what need she fulfils that I don't but he says our relationship is not deficient in any way. He says he cares about her, enjoys her company and that she is lonely. I say that by doing jobs for her he is keeping her dependent on him and preventing her from moving on with her life.
"then why the secrecy and why does the ex show so much animosity towards me?"
"My partner insists it's a platonic friendship and she is no rival. I think otherwise, perhaps not in a sexual sense but certainly an emotional attachment still exists. When we argue my partner makes promises (to be more open, help her out in an emergency but not see her socially etc etc) but in practice nothing changes and he never mentions her name again. He says I'm making a mountain out of a molehill. However I feel that our relationship has stagnated because of their friendship but nothing I say or do seems to make a difference and it's driving me crazy that my feelings don't seem to count. I'm 57 and my partner is 68. His ex is 63."
You're not wrong, here. Also, I should point out I'd hope you ARE capable of jealousy because - understand: you naturally carry a portion of ready jealousy inside you (the survival of the specie depends on it, think about it) and then there is the external trigger that calls it into manifest action under whatever situation-appropriate magnification. It's all part of ones sense of self and relationship protection, which is a GOOD thing. It's when there either is none or insufficient external trigger that being jealous is a bad thing. So no worries - you're normal and healthy and *not* paranoid.
HE'S the unhealthy one, for thinking it's somehow acceptable to keep your partner in a state of insecurity under real and present threat, through being seen to have one hand still gripping the cuff of ones ex. ***EX*** - it should do what it says on the damn tin.
That's what this ex is - an insurance policy come safetynet ...a way for him to keen you up that much more than you naturally would or should be at this stage of play (thus guarding against you ever being capable of dumping him) by adding to your natural strength of feelings a FALSE feeling that has no business in a romantic relationship, called COMPETITIVENESS. This sense stems from the ego, not the heart. But the game-playing partner doesn't care about that. Just as long as it falsely adds gross weight of feeling and intention, that's all he cares about... which proves he's emotionally dense and immature because it also leaves a great big heap of RESENTMENT. The minute you felt safe, threat gone, out that resentment would come - all over the relationship. So he's defeating his own object. Short-term clevereness, long-term idiocy. And long-term considerations are proof of the intelligent individual whereas being overly focused on the short-term whilst sacrificing long-term effects is the domain of the emotionally unintelligent or still post-break-up stressed.
He was not ready to brave his heart again so soon OR is the type who never quite would be, in other words, and is playing unfair as a method of self-over-protectiveness.
So he wants you but keeps her around 'just in case'.
Not acceptable. That's cheating. Because, where's YOUR disquieting ex staring HIM in the face 24/7? Nowhere. Unfair. Unfair to you especially AND - as you quite rightly state - to his ex as well. He cares about [wait for it] HIMSELF ALONE. Selfish, thick bugger.
Show him this sh*tty, underhanded, downright cruel and romance-unbefitting and -non-conducive methodology DOESN'T WORK. Dump the dud. He might go straight to his ex, but he won't be happy with that choice, meaning it won't last. Were he able to, it'd be the other way around - you'd be the ex whom he had one hand a hold of with her the main woman. So dump the dud as your (clearly) only option of communicating to him that if he wants you back (which I'm sure he will), it's her alone or you alone, he can't have his cake AND eat it.
Because what he needs that you're not providing - because you CAN'T (and nor could anyone) - is reassurance of a condition of safety to a level that just doesn't feature in a romantic pairbonding process. It's MEANT to carry risk and be scary; proper bonding is impossible without it.
Put your foot down and dump the dud in the hope that he'll come back NOT a dud. Make him LIVE that very fear he's been trying to avoid and thus cancel out his fear of heartache whilst replacing it with fear of loss that could be PERMANENT. Or as your dad used to say, 'Give him something REAL to cry about!'.
Say it with me: Nobody puts *Baby* in the corner!
They have a pretty sick "dance" going on, don't they? And the music keeps playing because it always has, with her conducting the band and him following her lead.
She sounds like a domineering person and he lacks a backbone - perfect fit!
And there YOU, strung up hanging in the wind in the middle of it all. (Yes, you are 'irrelevant'
You need to give this dude an ultimatum - but don't count on things changing, even with your threat. I've seen scenarios like this before. With his low self esteem (guilt-fueled? Mr. Milktoast?) and her overbearing personality (using the kids? Financial?), this could go on for YEARS.
Take care of yourself.
Thanks for your replies and the clarity it has given me. My partner has made it clear he will never give up this friendship which is, in his eyes, completely innocent. His ex is well aware of the conflict she is causing but has no intention of backing off or making me comfortable with the situation by extending the hand of friendship (in the way his ex wife has done). She is a head teacher, so yes, she is domineering SUSIEDQQQ. My partner says I have trust issues but no wonder given all the lies, secrecy and deceit. We had our last argument a few days ago and he left my house saying he would try and remember to be more open about his contact with his ex, but the bored tone of his voice suggested otherwise. He's now acting like we never had an argument. In the past I've done the 'either she goes or I do' but never had the courage to carry it through but now I realise there is really no other option if I want peace of mind. He will either come after me and I will take him back on my terms (I do love him)or he will let me go and probably end up back in her arms but at least I will not be in limbo for the next five years of my life.
Well said, POLLY! And don't you just love it when the issue-ridden try to blame YOU for their dysfunctional behaviours? 'Trust issues' my arse. Who in your enforced situation WOULDN'T?
I wouldn't be so sure he won't come running, though. For starters, you said yourself you only SAID 'her or me'. That you then failed to follow through with it is precisely what made him feel you never would, meaning he was safe to merrily continue as was, save for the occasional, further hot-air-zero-consequence protestation. For finishers - if, as you fear, she's secretly worth so much more to him, then, with her apparently so willing, what on earth did he ever need YOU for? Why weren't he and she a full item already? Or, again, why weren't *you* the woman on the side?
See what I'm saying? So, no, he won't end up back in her arms. He'll either accept he has to play it fully and straight down the line with you, i.e. bite the commitment bullet, or will replace you with *another* "half lover" for the purposes of only 50% potential heartache if ever it went splat, whilst you'd go on to hook up with a man who was ready, willing and *able*, leaving him and his emotional cowardice and sneakiness far behind.
How I know this? Simple! Apart from the fact I see it so often, it's because by daring to ditch him you'll be demonstrating that you're a cut above he and she..and men are ambitious, aspirational creatures, even when it comes to their romantic relationships. Plus, you'll be doing the very thing he fears - rejecting and ostracising him; his already puny ego won't be able to take that. And the pain.....Oh, yeah, he can THINK only 50% detaching won't hurt enough to worry him all that much. But, oh, yes, it will! Because his 50 here, 50 there was a mere contrivance... self-delusion...not real. I repeat: he was with you and only SOMETIMES with her. So that makes it more 80 with you, 20 with her, doesn't it. And there's too little between 100% and 80% detachment in real, emotional-pain terms. He's going to find that out. "Gimmie an O (o!), gimmie a W (w!)."
Even if his pride gets in the way of his trying to chase you back, this is NOT a win/lose situation for you anyway. It's win/win. Because if he doesn't come back, begging for your forgiveness and vowing to turn over a new leaf? - you, missus, have made a very important decision: to never again settle for less than you deserve and less than you can give. And believe you me, this decision affects your vibe *majorly*. You will suddenly become more attractive to men whom likewise want the full kit 'n caboodle, by whom, previously, you would have got overlooked. IOW, when you're finally ripe for love, it exudes out of your every pore and attracts Like. So that's your forecast: either back with new & improved him or newly with an automatic upgrade (probably better looking as well).
Trust me, your bravery will not go unrewarded.
Well done for stepping up!
Thank you, it's the thought of my partner jumping straight back into the 'ex''s bed that has made me put up with this s**t for so long. Feeling she's 'won' as it were. However you've made me realise that really there is nothing to lose. I'm not happy and he won't change, at least not without I take drastic action. I've asked him why he started dating me when clearly he and she had so much unfinished business but he won't give me a straight answer.
Er..Nothing to *win* in terms of winning him, surely, if *that's* how he treats his women?! But *exactly*, POLLY - the competition was on. He knew what he was doing alright (hooking you helplessly by the ego), hence wouldn't give you a straight answer. What was was he going to tell you? That he didn't actually give all that much of a hoot about her but she was useful for keeping you keen and constantly on the backfoot as well as him feeling like the Big I Am through having *two* women who wanted him? Think about it, his cunning little plan would have fallen flat on its face.
It's not 'drastic' action, though, it's entirely befitting. You *show* people how you expect to behave foremostly by how you treat yourself. That you call such a no-nonsense reaction as walking dignifiedly away rather than remaining a victim of his issues, 'drastic', tells me you're not used to asserting or putting yourself first to that degree. But by being cruel to be kind, you're definitely doing the other person a favour in the long-run, as well as yourself, because you're teaching them how at the end of the day it's not worth *their own* while to behave 'less than' (and you reap what you sow in this world, him included).
Say the Whitney lyric with me: "I'd rather be a-lone than un-ha-ppy". I reiterate - you *won't* remain alone because  ironically enough that's the very psyche-altering attitude that proves most attractive to your healthier, riper males out there...the ones that love the *natural* challenge called, How to win her round and make her mine, that find the thought of you and he lasting exclusively 'til death excitement and stimulation enough; and  that you found the situation such anathema *proves* you could never treat a man similarly and still sleep soundly at night, so this and your sense that walking out of the room would be 'drastic' action therefore proves what a kind lady you are. Nope, no sitting on the shelf for you!
I do know how it feels when you've yet to walk that portion of the self-improvements path, though. Without a crystal ball, all of what I'm saying has to be taken on trust. But, aside from exuding the ripe 'n healthy vibe, consider the human pairbonding urge... It's far more powerful a drive than we give it credit for, meaning, the HARD part is trying to stay single and unattached - particularly as you have Mr Right's own urges and movements to take into account. This means you need only HALF the urge to find yourself homed-in on and swept off your feet. Rrrresistance ees futile, in other words, LOL.
Right Qualities (yours) (albeit the short-shrift responses dial could go up a notch or two), Wrong Recipient (him). Is that presently wrong or permanently (i.e. he's always been a f***wit)? Well, you're about to find out, aren't you. But I'll bet you a full Tenner right now that by the time he realises what a prize he had before it was gone and begs for another chance, you'll already have been snapped up by that better bloke, meaning, your response will be, 'Um... Let me think about it for a m-NO, NO, AND THRICE NO!'. It's how it goes.
Come back and pick up this thread when that happens, won't you.
...although saying that, don't feel you can't keep posting as a way to 'wash that man right out of your hair'. Be my guest, I'm always happy to assist on that score, as are the other vets who are beyond your romantic development stage.
I tackled my partner this weekend, same subject, but with a resoluteness I have never shown before and boy has he turned nasty. He has rejected my solutions (meet her, give her up) and says he can't see a way around this impasse. I asked him straight if his friendship with the ex meant more than our relationship but his reply was that it needn't be an issue, knowing full well that it IS an issue, and a very BIG issue. He's told me once more it's all in my mind, i'm insecure, making a mountain out of molehill and have trust issues. He's even accused me of forcing the issue in order to dispense with him...no idea where that came from! No concern for my feelings, i'm just deranged! Not one concession either. I feel that he just wants to browbeat me into submission or it's over. I can assure you IT WILL BE OVER!
Good, that is what you need to do. We support you. This is not a compromise it is take it or leave it and you need to leave it.
"I tackled my partner this weekend,"
"same subject, but with a resoluteness I have never shown before and boy has he turned nasty. He has rejected my solutions (meet her, give her up) and says he can't see a way around this impasse."
Yes, well, he *would* try that, wouldn't he. You're meant to think you have no other choice but to fold (continue to put up and shut up) because he's making the mistake of judging you by his own standards, in that you wouldn't want to be single and alone. ("WRONGGGGG!"
"I asked him straight if his friendship with the ex meant more than our relationship but his reply was that it needn't be an issue,"
No, it needn't...if you were a doormat. But you're not, so it is. What's his next (stupid) question?
"knowing full well that it IS an issue, and a very BIG issue. He's told me once more it's all in my mind, i'm insecure, making a mountain out of molehill and have trust issues."
He forgot, 'and you've got PMS'. :-p
"He's even accused me of forcing the issue in order to dispense with him...no idea where that came from!"
It's called emotional blackmail. But that's great because it represents scraping the barrel on his part. Desperate Is as Desperate *Does*. Conclusion, he does not want to lose you if he can help it without in the process having to lose his cushy cake and eat it position. Again - "WRONGGG!".
"No concern for my feelings, i'm just deranged! Not one concession either. I feel that he just wants to browbeat me into submission or it's over."
There you go, you saw through it yourself (tick!).
"I can assure you IT WILL BE OVER!"
No need to assure us. We believe you. And soon, so will he. "Ha-ha and PTH!" to him, then.
There again, you could speed up the regret followed by re-chase by just dumping him right now rather than effectively standing there bothering to argue with him?