Advice

Miss Information: My boyfriend’s ex is our new roomie – how can I deal with my jealousy?

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miss-information

Dear Miss Information,

My partner and I have been together and exclusive for over two years. Before that, he was more or less a reckless Casanova: it’s a small town, and he’s slept with most of our mutual female acquaintances in socially messy ways. He maintained extended sexual relationships with different women who were not aware of each other and remained involved with partners who were openly more emotionally invested in the relationship without communicating his own lack of reciprocity. Sometimes his past bothers me to the point where I feel physically sick — repulsed by the callousness that is now markedly absent from his behavior — but he’s matured and been wholly honorable with me.

My problem is that my landlord has invited one of these ladies to move into the house I rent. She was abrasive and catty back when my fellow began showing interest in me, though I can’t blame her: he’d simply stopped coming around rather than officially ending anything with her. She’s been cordial with me the last few times I’ve seen her, but I’m hesitant about living with someone who may still harbor hostility towards me. In my gut I have a feeling of violation, but I generally don’t dislike her and I don’t want to be an asshole! Even if she moves in and is perfectly nice to me, I’m afraid I’m going to feel sick and angry. I think part of me needs to have it acknowledged that it’s okay to be upset by his past indiscretions, but beyond that I don’t know how to deal with my emotions. — Not Just Jealous

Dear Not Just Jealous,

And I thought my landlord was a jagbag. Holy cow. I don’t suppose it’s too late to find an alternate roommate and do a hard sell? Tell your landlord they’ll pay $100 a month over what this other chick is planning to pay plus light landscaping and windows. The best way to avoid unpleasant situations is to prevent them. Have you told your landlord about the weirdness? They don’t like renter drama any more than the rest of us. Maybe she was on the fence to begin with and this will be the push she needs to reconsider her offer.

Half-cocked real-estate schemes aside, I agree with your choice of nom de plume. I’m seeing more than just the green-eyed monster: anger, resentment, and lack of regard are also coming to the fore. I printed your letter ninety-nine percent as is, with the exception of one phrase, for which I substituted the words "reckless Casanova." Why? Because it read cruel. If a boyfriend called me what you called your boyfriend, I’d want to smack him in the mouth. I realize what you say to people in person and what you write to an advice columnist are different, but I still think it’s telling. You may believe in his spiritual and ethical conversion, but do you really respect him? Are you proud to be dating him? Would you be willing to stand up and defend his many wonderful qualities to a roomful of people from your small town? While an ex moving in puts a strain on any relationship, I can’t help but wonder whether your gut reaction would be better if the base foundation were stronger.

You wanted to know whether it’s okay to be upset by his past indiscretions, and I am giving you the go-ahead. Feel free to print and frame this column. But I do think you should: a) control how those feelings are expressed talking to him about it is permissible, calling him nasty names is not; and b) ask yourself what those feelings mean. Is it symptomatic of other issues between you two or is it standard, garden-variety insecurity? If it’s the latter (which, no offense, I don’t think it is), what can you do about it?

While we’re being action-oriented, I would try talking to the woman in question. Be cagey at first. Share a little. Wait. Share some more. If living with her is inevitable, it’s to your benefit to clear the air. Ill feelings usually die off the more you get to know someone.

Readers, do you think that last sentence is true, or is that just my being Midwestern?

Dear Miss Information,

I have been seeing a girl for three months. We never argue and have a ton in common. She’s got a cool job, smart friends, and a killer apartment. I even like her dog. The problem, though, is that I’m not attracted to her. She’s not bad looking, but something’s just missing in that area. I’ve been hanging out with her, trying to see if the attraction will grow, but it’s not. She’s not my usual type — I have a history of dating good-looking women that are completely Crazytown. I feel like I might need to break it off, but I don’t want to lose her as friend. Should I wait and see? I’m tempted to give it a little longer. I don’t know why I can’t just be happy with what I have. I’m thirty-seven and want to settle down. Everyone else is married. Am I being unrealistic about my options? — Gift Horse

Dear Gift Horse,

If you’re unrealistic, then so is everyone else. It’s easy to find someone attractive or someone you like, but it’s rare to find both in the same person. A longtime dater, I’ve walked away from homely saints who rehabilitate feral kittens as well as empty-headed gents straight out of the "Exactly My Taste 1970s-Looking Men With Beards" catalog. You can try to fake it with either, but neither will last very long. A thirty-seven-year old who’s not attracted is no different than a seventeen-year old who’s not attracted is no different than an eighty-seven-year old who’s not attracted. You can’t intellectualize what’s biological.

That’s not to say it’s not important to be reflective. Think about your choices and look at them as a whole. Is there a pattern? Something that’s been preventing you from finding the right person? Are you acting like an idiot at times and sabotaging yourself? It sounds like you’re already looking for those answers. If you want to take it even further, a no-holds-barred chat with someone whose opinion you respect (or who has an office with Newsweek in the waiting room and mauve couches) can help. I would funnel my energy into this self-reflection instead of trying to manufacture an artificial spark where there is none.

Most likely you’ll lose her as a friend. That’s what you get for breaking up with somebody. I know that hurts, but trust me, she’ll be hurting far, far more. If you do stay in contact, let it be on her terms. Though if her terms mean hanging out several nights a week as "buddies" and commenting on each other’s dating profiles, you may have to put up some walls. You’re the bartender, she’s the customer. For her emotional safety, know when to cut her off.

Who here thinks I’m being unrealistic about Gift Horse’s situation? Have you ever been not attracted to someone and then decided you want to jump their bones? What prompted the turnaround?

Have a question? Email erin@nerve.com. Letters may be edited for length, content and clarity.