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March 12, 2014

Help Me, Rhonda

Advice for Life's Persistent Questions

Friends With My Husband’s Ex?

My husband is still close friends with his ex-girlfriend. She lives with her husband a few states away, and they just had a baby. Unfortunately, they are planning to move back here in a year or so. I know my husband is going to suggest we spend a lot of time with them, since we also have a young child—he's hinted at it a few times, but I've changed the subject. How can I tactfully let him know that I have enough friends, and I don’t want to spend time with another woman he thought about marrying? It’s not that I’m jealous, because I am confident in our relationship, but I just don’t want to be friends with her. She just rubs me the wrong way, and I don’t think the fact that we both have children means we should have to be friends.

Exed out

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Ugh. Exes are a real problem. I have to say, EO, that I think it would be a reasonable and proportional response on your part to buy up all the available real estate in your area to prevent this move back from coming to fruition. In fact, let’s make that Plan A. We’ll explore other options in case that turns out to be prohibitively expensive, but, really, I wouldn’t want her hanging around, either.

In this situation, I think it’s wise to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. In my experience, interstate moves scheduled to happen in “a year or so” often fail to materialize. That would be the best-case scenario. 

(At this point, I cannot stop thinking of worse and worse worst-case scenarios: They move back tomorrow, need a place to stay “for a while” and all end up at your house. They move back soon, she “has trouble meeting people,” so your husband asks you to spend time with her and introduce her to your friends. They move back and buy the house next door to yours. I can’t stop!)

Worst-case scenario that is grounded in reality: They move back 18 months from now; your husband often suggests seeing them socially, and you don’t know how to articulate your reservations. Let’s figure out how to voice them.

I think you start with something like this: “You’ve mentioned socializing with them a few times now, and I’ve been thinking about it. As I’ve thought about it, I’ve realized I’m not interested in developing a relationship with this woman and her family.” Then give him a chance to respond. Don’t get pulled into a discussion of all the reasons it makes sense to spend time with them—their child and our child will be friends, you’ll really like her (probably not), I’d be friends with your ex-boyfriend and his family if they moved to town (easy to say when there’s no likelihood of that happening), etc., etc. 

Your reasons are valid, EO. She’s his friend, but that doesn’t mean she has to be your friend. She’s part of his past life, and while you know he had relationships before you his ex-girlfriend and her family do not need to become part of your family’s life now. 

When to say this is a little bit more of a balancing act. You don’t need to tell your husband all of this tomorrow, because their move may never happen, and it certainly doesn’t seem likely that it will happen this week. But you do need to give your husband some time to get used to the idea and yourself some peace of mind about the whole thing. I suggest waiting until your husband brings it up again and then initiating the conversation above.


Making Time to Make Time

I find myself to be not very good at dating. I'm not the type of person who keeps a rigid calendar or plans events in advance. I like to stay flexible and stress-free. It’s not that I'm a slacker; I work a 9-to-5, and I'm starting my own business on top of that. I'm lucky that my 9-to-5 is low stress and my work stays at the office. With my side gig, I work only when I want to work, and it’s rarely deadline-critical.

The problem is, most of the ladies I'm interested in are professionals and academics, and they have rigid schedules and stressful lives. I can empathize with the busy-ness and the stress, but it’s still hard for me to work around it to engage with them and plan dates. To compound this problem, I'm used to people using their busy schedules as a screen to blow me off. So, usually I tuck tail and run if the initial attempt to connect isn't fruitful.

Do you have any advice for me as far as how to establish and maintain a connection with someone who is so much more tightly wound than I am without wearing out my welcome?

Thanks!

Keeping it Loose

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Loose, I’ve interpreted your letter a couple different ways, and I’m not sure which it is you’re saying. Initially, I thought you were saying that you don’t want to make plans in advance, and that’s making it hard to ever get a date with the women you’re interested in. Then I reread your letter and heard something a little different. Is it that you are asking women out ahead of time, and they all seem to say that they’re too busy?

If my first impression was right, and you are reluctant to make plans in advance but you are also sensitive to being declined, pay attention to what you’re saying: You want to date women who have full lives; you don’t want to schedule these dates in advance, and you don’t want these women to turn you down—even once—due to their schedules. You can have any two of those things, Loose, but not all three. 

If you are willing to make plans, but have been turned down because of other people’s busy schedules, then you’re trying to figure out how to fit into someone else’s life and whether they truly want you to. 

Regardless of which it is, I think the solution is the same. First, the ask. If you want to date people with their own lives (and of course you do, because a full life makes someone attractive), you’re going to need to be able to plan ahead, at least for the first few dates. That’s part of dating and building a relationship. It’s part of interacting with other people, actually. If there’s a woman you’d like to get to know, pick an event—dinner, movie, drinks, concert, whatever—and ask her about a week in advance if she’d like to go with you. Give her a specific date and time. This is how you let her know you’re interested and that you value her time. Under no circumstances should you say, “There’s a thing at Terrapin next Thursday. You should go.” You are asking her to go out with you; that needs to be clear, so she can say yes or no. 

 If she says yes, great; you go on the date. If she says no, though, because she’s busy, then you want to determine if you should ask again or assume she’s not interested. Your clue here will be whether she is vaguely busy for the foreseeable future or just has a conflict on that specific night. If she says something like, “I’m really busy right now/this week/this month,” and doesn’t offer a time when the busy-ness might subside, that sounds like she’s saying she’s not interested in making time. If she says, “I have a meeting that night,” that sounds like she truly has a conflict that night. In either case, I think it’s okay to ask her out one more time. If you get the same response the second time you ask her out, she’s not interested enough to fit you in, and you can move on.

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