Out With the Old (Girlfriend)!

Q: My boyfriend and I have had a close, exclusive sexual relationship for two years, but we only decided to be an "official" couple a few months ago. He and his family maintain a very close relationship with his ex, with whom he broke up 10 years ago. I understand that some couples remain friends, but this woman really seems to be part of the family.

I have not yet met his family. I don't expect to be invited for family events soon, but I'm very uncomfortable with the ex's place in their family. My boyfriend says he is not sure how his family will feel if he tells them he has a new girlfriend; they're all hoping/assuming he and the ex will find their way back together someday. However, he says he could've gotten back with her anytime, but he is seriously committed to me right now, and that I shouldn't care that his ex is always going to be in the picture.

What can I do? I can't force her out of their lives, but I feel like I might always be "that other woman," and I am hurt that my boyfriend is still not ready to tell his family I even exist for fear of disappointing them. —Laura, 32

Dr. Susan: Your boyfriend must have been with his ex for a long time, long enough for his family to bond with her quite deeply. The fact that she is almost part of the family, and seemingly always will be, is not the main issue. Your real concern ought to be your wimpy boyfriend's refusal to tell his family about you. After all, he's been with you for quite a while now, and their assumption of his reconnecting with his ex is their fantasy, not his. You're not always going to be "that other woman." Once your boyfriend lets his family know what's going on, the situation can get normalized. It's time for him to risk the possibility of disappointing them, rather than continue hurting you by keeping you a secret. Let him know that his constant lies to his family make you very uncomfortable.

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