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My boyfriend's still friends with his ex, and I want her to go away.
By Cait Robinson
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Dear Miss Information,
My boyfriend and I have been together for over a year now. We love each other very much, and I know and trust that he would never cheat on me. He's my first boyfriend, and at the age of twenty-three, I feel like a bit of a n00b in that sense. But otherwise, I think I'm okay at this whole girlfriend thing. I know the basic do's and don'ts, and I have the same expectations of him.
However, he's still good friends with his ex, and I have a problem with this. They were together for a couple of years, and they broke up at least six months before we got together (I've never asked for details about any of his relationships), but she remained a key member of their friendship circle. She is lot more extroverted than me, makes friends easily, and is very close friends with a lot of my boyfriend's friends. I am quiet in comparison, and although I get along with his circle of friends, I haven't formed a bond with them like she has.
Although she has been living overseas for the past year (she will return briefly in February) and has a new boyfriend, I know that she and my guy are still in contact. It makes me angry and frustrated. I know it's because I'm insecure and fear being compared to her, but am I completely unjustified in being jealous? If I tell him that this is a big problem for me but he doesn't see it, what then? I feel a little crazy when I see their Facebook/Instagram comments to each other. I know it's only a friendship, but there's history there! Why won't she just go away and leave us alone? I know it's impossible to date someone and completely deny their past, but I just want a chance to be a girlfriend and friend without having a constant reminder of "what was" thrown in my face.
— Forever the New Girl
Dear Forever the New Girl,
Man, your boyfriend's ex sounds fantastic. She's also a part-time model, right? And that Habitat for Humanity work she does is really inspirational — girl can wire electricity into a house like you wouldn't believe. Not to mention how funny she is! And fluent in six languages, no less! Once the United Nations gets a hold of her, it's safe to say diplomacy will change forever. Forever.
Don't worry, New Girl, I'm just helping you get it out of your system. Your boyfriend's ex probably is a cool person, but almost definitely not the amazon you've built her up to be in your head. It sounds like she's an apparition cobbled together from Instagram comments and stories among friends, and let me be the first to tell you: nobody is as cool as their internet identity. (She might even have a massive pimple right now. There. Doesn't that feel better?)
I give you credit for recognizing that this whole issue is a product of your insecurity, not some fault of your boyfriend's or his ex's. Now let's just work on that. Part of dating someone is rolling with their past. So, no, expecting her to "just go away" isn't fair. She gets to stick around, but your resentment of her shouldn't. Start here: you say she's extroverted and is a key part of your boyfriend's friend group, while you are neither. This seems like you're being needlessly hard on yourself. Remember that she had years to form those relationships. Given enough time, you'll bond with them, too. She's not somehow better because she got there before you.
You're not "crazy" for feeling intimidated by this world-traveling Ms. Congeniality; it's just important that you take the high road. If you bring it up to your boyfriend, don't couch it in terms of "this is a big problem for me." That kind of phrasing is like a two-by-four to the face, and will immediately put your boyfriend on the defensive. Instead, explain it more in terms of your own insecurities: "I'm envious that everyone seems to love her so much," or, "I wish I had a bounty-hunter license, too." That way, he can be sensitive to your stance without feeling like he has to defend himself to you. Above all, remember: there is no competition here and never was.
Perhaps most importantly, when she's back in town, suck it up and meet her. She may still be well-read and beautiful, but that lazy eye and lateral lisp of hers is super-humanizing. Who knows — you may even find you have a lot in common. Meeting her will turn her from an abstract into a concrete, and concrete things are less intimidating. Coming to terms with an ex's past is never comfortable or easy, but you can handle it with grace. You may become friends, you may not, but "hating and plotting from afar" isn't really an option.