Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: My boyfriend of a few months seems to like going on vacations with his ex and their teenage son. It really bothers me. The first time he justified it by saying it was booked before they split up and the son really wanted both to go. He said it wasn’t going to happen again.
Now he’s talking about a vacation he says his ex and son want to take together, and he admits that if I weren’t around, he would go because he thinks it’s a good idea for his son. I think he’s trying to talk me into letting him go, even though he denies it.
Complicating all this is that he still hasn’t filed for divorce, despite promising to do so for months, nor has he told his son they’re getting a divorce (he thinks it’s a separation). Obviously I haven’t met the son, nor will I anytime soon.
While I don’t really believe my BF will get back together with his ex, it feels wrong to me. Assuming the divorce does get filed before the trip, do I really have any right to say no? I want the best for his son, but there are so many other ways to have a fun vacation that don’t require the ex to be there.
I’m sympathetic to the idea that BF may still want the stability of being with his family the way he used to, but I feel like he’s going to have to adjust to a new normal, too. But I’m trying not to be selfish.
Also, I’ve known him for years, so I trust him and want to make it work more than I might some brand-new person. I think he cares a lot about me, but I also know he has serious issues with boundaries with his ex — she gets what she wants from him even though her long-term affair is the reason they split.
She knows about me and apparently completely freaked out at the idea of him moving on. I’m stuck — do I (sadly) cut ties, or do I learn to live with something I feel isn’t right for me?
Carolyn says: Oh, goodness no. This alone — “do I learn to live with something I feel isn’t right for me” — zips you through the “noooo” express lane.
But since you took the time to type out all the other stuff:
You don’t have a small, iffy-vacation problem, you have a big, still-way-too-enmeshed-with-the-ex/not-ex problem.
So please tell this lovely man you care for him and hope to be with him someday, but cannot while so much unfinished business remains from his marriage.
When he’s divorced, when he’s telling his son the truth, when he’s honest with himself about the dynamic and his struggle with boundaries, when he’s owning his choices instead of hiding behind “a good idea for his son” rationales, when he’s able to be with you in the full light of day, then he should absolutely give you a call.
Painful, yes, but not nearly so painful as where you’re headed. Proceeding on this road is the dating equivalent of getting out of your car, moving the “road closed” sawhorse to the side and continuing on your drive. Not recommended.
E-mail Carolyn Hax at email@example.com, or chat with her at 11 a.m. Friday at washingtonpost.com.