In Love with Another

I’m torn. My girlfriend of nine months has started talking to her ex-boyfriend again. They weren’t talking for the first five months of our relationship.

Debbie told me that she and Todd said they’d always be friends. They were together two years, and she broke up with Todd because he demanded a lot of her. She had to come to his house or his parents’ house every night.

The parents pressured her into marrying Todd. They would put chores on her like going out and buying their groceries. They paid for the groceries, but they expected her to do it because she was their son’s girlfriend.

Debbie and Todd got a dog at the Humane Society. Debbie’s mom was allergic to the dog, so Todd took it in. He now loves the dog, and Debbie knows it would not be fair to ask him to part with it after a year and a half.

Debbie tells me she and Todd are only friends, but I feel he is trying to get her back. They have been talking a lot. She goes out to dinner or out for drinks with him. She says nobody understands their relationship—not his friends or hers.

This is two people who used to sleep together. But she claims the feelings are gone. They are only friends.

How can I get over this? How can I build trust? I feel bad because I do love Debbie. I’m jealous a bit. It’s an ugly thing, and I’m trying to get over it.

~ Brodie

Brodie, on the surface your letter is about jealousy. But there is a difference between irrational jealousy and having a girlfriend who is dating her ex.

Most of us have seen photos of zebras on a plain, grazing on grass, a pride of lions only a short distance away. How can zebras graze so close to danger?

The answer is flight distance. Flight distance is the distance an animal allows around itself before it will flee. It is a calculation of risk. Zebras that correctly calculate flight distance are well-fed. They get the tastiest grass. Zebras which don’t get eaten.

Debbie broke up with Todd because his parents were taking advantage of her and showed their hand too early. If they waited until she was married to him, it would have been harder for her to escape.

We would normally give her kudos for standing up and balking at a guy who didn’t protect her from his parents’ abuse. But she lost all the points from us when she continued to have contact with him.

After five months, her ex let her get unmad. He let her miss him. She had a five-month break from his parents’ chores. Either Todd is like his parents—something of a taker—and that appeals to her, or he won’t stand up to his parents.

When Debbie says no one else would understand their relationship, it means she knows she is going against her better judgment. What she said was, in effect, all of you would say don’t do this, but I am going to do it anyway.

Your problem isn’t jealousy. Your problem is your girlfriend is not over her feelings for another man.

People moving on after a relationship often have unresolved feelings or lie to themselves that they are over it. Nine months ago, Debbie calculated the correct flight distance from Todd and his family. Now she is waffling. As a result, his family may devour her.

~ Wayne & Tamara

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Direct Answers – Column for the week of September 28, 2018

Direct Answers from Wayne and Tamara

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