#1085: “My partner keeps inviting his ex-girlfriend to stay with us and by stay with us I mean ‘in our bed.'”

Hi Cap’n. 

Here is issue: My partners’ ex, and boundaries.

I have great relationships with my exes, I think it’s healthy and awesome. This is a new and different world, apparently.

My partner’s most recent ex is in our lives a LOT. There are good reasons for this that go beyond their ongoing friendship, but the upshot is that Ex has visited and stayed at our house approx. 1 week out of every month for the last four months. Ex and I get along… mostly. But we would likely not be friends in real life. She’s great in lots of ways but also incredibly different from me. To be honest I find her exhausting and sometimes horrible: a vain, high maintenance, superficial, demanding, selfish Regina George type. She calls other women “ugly”… a lot… she keeps everyone waiting for Makeup Reasons. She wants us to go to clubs and wears shoes she can’t walk in. Etc.

She also has radically different ideas about appropriateness from me: the first time I met her she walked topless past my partner, dropped trou with no warning and peed in the bathroom right next to me, etc. It’s not just her, they fall into these patterns together- he carries her purse, invites her to sleep in our bedroom (and bed!) to “be courteous to our roommate”, keeps me waiting at the house while they eat nice lunches, delays our special two day mini-break (for my birthday) for hours to do her sudden huge favors.

He knows this is shitty when I calmly (or occasionally shakingly) point it out. But he doesn’t anticipate it, and doesn’t predict the cumulative awfulness of it or why it means he should cool it on inviting her along on trips with us. He does feel terrible, and is incredibly patient and loving when I have an “I’m now an awkwardness alien who can’t fucking Person anymore” freakout. Never does annnything resembling deflection or gaslighting.

At this point I need a big, fat break from this person. And to take approximately ten thousand baths.

So tell me, how do I stop feeling like I have to constantly be the Boundaries Police, and do you think that’s even going to be possible?

(Not pictured: frequent references to their past, all their orgies and predictably boundaryless sex life. I’m all for fun group things, but I need to soberly discuss them before they happen. Again, he gets this, but has yet to demonstrate that as a practical behaviour before I find myself in a position of awful panic.)


Ps, he is otherwise a dream, best partner I’ve ever had, no question. Just, ack. This is not nothing.

Hi there:

giphy (27)

Image: Veep’s Selena Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) gestures angrily while asking “What the fuck?”

I read your letter while saying No over and over again. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, nononononononono. When we got to the part about how being a houseguest means that he invites her to sleep (or “sleep”?) in y’all’s bed “to be courteous to our roommate” I screamed NO at a volume that startled both the cat (inside my apartment) and my neighbor’s dog  (in a yard, next door).

Here’s what I know: Your partner wants things to be this way. How do I know? Because you explain that you don’t like it and “He does feel terrible, and is incredibly patient and loving when I have an “I’m now an awkwardness alien who can’t fucking Person anymore” freakout. Never does annnything resembling deflection or gaslighting.”

He doesn’t deflect or gaslight (I mean, I guess?) he just invites her back and does it all again. Like, you could say “I don’t want to hang out with Ex anymore, I’m not really a fan” or “She definitely can’t stay with us” or “Uh, I super don’t want her to sleep (or sleep?) in our bed, I’m not into that at all” or “Nope, not into it” and it sounds like he’d hear you out in that moment, make some soothing noises and then she’d still be there, one week out of every month like Satan’s own menstrual cycle, hogging your bathroom mirror while she gets ready to go out, reliving the great orgies of her past, and asking you if you want to be big spoon or little spoon later.

Oh right, he says he “feels terrible.”

giphy (28)

Image: Kristin Ritter rolling her eyes hardcore.

[Bad Advisor Hat On]If only there were a way he could stop feeling terrible about inviting his ex to hang out continuously your lives in the hopes of coaxing y’all into a “spontaneous” threeway with him at the center! But alas, these things are inevitable, and you are stuck with her forever, because he has no agency in this situation and is just a hapless victim of his ex’s wily topless-walking-around-the-house ways. What can he even do to solve this situation? It’s a mystery! Who knows. [/Bad Advisor]

He wants it to be this way. If you were to be excited about her visits and become best friends and bedfellows, that would be ideal for him, but having you off-balance and anxious and waiting on his ass to show up for your vacation (to which he invites her along?) is also fine as long as he gets what he wants – your attention and company and compliance while also getting to hang out with his #1 favorite sexy houseguest.

(Clearly this guy is charismatic as fuck, we could probably make our fortunes by bottling what he has and spraying it less charismatic and persuasive people, but “the best partner I’ve ever had” sadly doesn’t equal “a great partner” or “a great partner for me right now.”)

My friend, you have been…stealth-polyfuckeried (I keep trying to find a word for what has happened here, and this is the best I can do – suggestions????). You are not being some kind of “awkwardness alien who can’t Person anymore” if you don’t want to continually comply with this situation that you are not enjoying!

Your partner wants it to be this way. You have already said the words and then he keeps inviting her. He’s not gonna stop. And you have fallen for a classic, classic manipulation story: “I am with the perfect guy, or he would be perfect if not for his awful ex, why is she always intruding on our lives, I want her to go away but I don’t want to look jealous or crazy” when really he is the one inviting her into your lives and enabling her at every turn. He is the problem.

Setting boundaries has two parts: 1) Telling the other person what you need and then 2) Following through with what you need to do to protect yourself from the situation if the person doesn’t respect your boundaries. You’re already doing the first one. The second part is the hardest one because ultimately your behavior is the only thing you can control, and it involves setting boundaries with yourself, like, “If he keeps doing this I will really have to leave.” It hurts because you end up breaking your own heart in the process, but it’s the only way you can really count on making the bad behavior stop.

Please listen to the part of you that is done with all of this and start on the 10,000 baths. (And maybe some therapy. If this is the best partner you’ve had, I think you’ve got some stories to tell to a kind, trained soul).

Update 3/4/2018: Hello nice commenters! I think we’re closing in on the “all there is to be said” threshold, so I’m gonna turn off comments on this one. Letter Writer, good luck moving on from this awful situation, we’re rooting for you.







  1. Weyrwoman said:

    Ugh no. I’m with CA on this one – get this chick uninvited, or get this “great” guy out of your life. Nothing about this situation is okay or healthy.

    • JenniferP said:

      “get this chick uninvited AND get this ‘great’ guy out of your life”

      – Fixed it for you. ❤

      • Light37 said:

        Seconded! This is less a “BF’s jerky Ex” problem and more a “BF’s a jerk” problem.

  2. eikaron said:

    What the actual Effing Eff.
    Dear LW: Your partner might be a better partner than the ones who came before but that merely means that you must have put up with a lot of shit and I am sorry and angry on your behalf. Neither your partner nor his ex respect you at all and none of this is okay – you deserve better! You can *do* better. I guarantee it. Please please please saddle up the nopetopus and ride out of there while you still can!

    PS: I’m polyamorous and very much approve of stealth-polyfuckeried in a general sense but in a more specific sense I find it a bit of a mouthful but I can’t come up with anything better at the moment either. It’s a very apt description.

    • Fellow poly person here and I also love “stealth-polyfuckeried”. I tend to refer to the folks who do this as “Poly Dudes(tm)” often with an accompanying eyeroll. Most people know exactly what I mean.

  3. KansasKate said:

    Oh yes, Captain–you are sooo right, he DOES want it to be this way. I feel like I need a thousands baths and I just read about this guy–no no no, run run run!

    • Allison said:

      Right, he feels no motivation to change the situation because right now because he’s getting what he wants.

  4. ASJ said:

    “…invites her to sleep in our bedroom (and bed!)…”

    I legitimately did a double-take. What the actual fuck. LW, you will never be able to stop being the Boundaries Police because your partner doesn’t want boundaries. I really encourage you to consider leaving and finding someone who will listen to and respect you the way you deserve.

    • Same. I don’t know how that conversation went any other way then “What the fuck??? No she can’t sleep in my damn bed.” There is no way he is not gaslighting you, gurl.

    • Leonine said:

      I’m not generally a fan of “fixed that for ya,” but I just…this right here…:

      *your partner doesn’t want *you* to have boundaries

      He likes his boundaries just fine.

  5. Another polyamorous person here screaming NOOOOOOOO this is NOT OKAY.

  6. Bonelady said:

    I read this and kept thinking, “Run! Run like your tail is on fire!”. This guy is not over his ex. Is she really even an “ex”? Your description sounds more like things are on with them. I agree with the Captain’s advice. Good luck, however you decide.

    • Carpe Librarium said:

      Yes, run like a penguin whose arse is on fire.

  7. SZ said:

    Unless you specifically said “I want to be in a polyamorous relationship with you and your ex,” he is cheating, on an emotional level at the very least (and probably physical as well). He is prioritizing her needs, her comfort, and her happiness over yours. You are clearly not happy with this three-way relationship. Tell him to choose, or dump his cheating ass. And she’s rude and selfish.

    It’s certainly possible to have a friendly relationship with an ex. I’ve been friends with a few of mine, but I NEVER invited them into the home and bed I share with my husband, much less let them parade around my house half-naked and invade my bathroom privacy. Sorry, that’s not what friendship looks like.

    You don’t have to put up with this, and you shouldn’t. The fact that he is the best partner you ever had does NOT mean you don’t deserve better.


    • Yeah my spouse has an ex that I like just fine. She’s funny and nice. I would not like her nearly so much if she were coming over every few weeks and sleeping in our bed.

  8. Czarnoskrzydła said:

    Wow, I have no words… actually, I have some words:
    LW, imagine someone is standing on your foot. You say: ‘Excuse me good sir, can you move? You are hurting my foot’ and the person replies: ‘So sorry! I didn’t see you there.’ And then keeps standing on your foot.. so you say again: ‘Well, okay, but I really need you to move please, this is becoming really painful’ and he says ‘I’m SO sorry, I feel awful!’ and.. keeps standing on your foot.

    This is what’s happening. I think Captain’s advice is perfect; he WANTS this to happen. And you know why? Because, right now, he has two girlfriends. I don’t know if he is sleeping with her, maybe no (but.. maybe yes…) but even if he is not? In my book, this is emotional cheating.
    He is in a relationship with two women right now. He knows you hate this and I’m pretty sure he has to know how gross this is – but he doesn’t care, because he is getting what he wants out if this.

    I am so sorry! This all sounds awful and I hope your situation becomes better, but he won’t make it better because he cares about you.. he already showed that. This is going to be terribly difficult but I also think you should put some boundaries in place and not budge on them, the main being – no more ex in the house. This is seriously a hill to die on.

    Best of luck! You sound lovely and you don’t deserve this crappy treatment, which is btw (as good Captain’s tags state) emotional abuse.

    • Czarnoskrzydła said:

      Also, in that example with someone standing on your foot? This guy is kinda gaslighting you, is he not? He’s not telling you outright ‘But why do you mean your foot hurts? How bizarre, I’m not touching it!’ but by his odd reaction to a very valid complaint (comforting noises, not moving away, comforting noises again) he is sending a message that makes you question if this situation is normal, maybe you ARE the weird one here? His reaction is non consistent and odd and it makes the whole situation seem surreal.

      I think your bf is gaslighting you by the whole pattern of his reaction to your complaints.

      • BigDogLittleCat said:

        LW, Czarnoskrzydła is spot on: your bf is totally gaslighting you.
        He’s convinced you that you are an awkwardness alien who can’t fucking Person anymore and that he “doesn’t anticipate it, and doesn’t predict the cumulative awfulness of it or why it means he should cool it on inviting her along on trips with you and that he feels terrible, and is incredibly patient and loving”.
        That’s some industrial strength gaslighting.

        • Traffic_Spiral said:

          This! If he’s honestly going “well I don’t see why my ex sharing a bed with me makes you uncomfortable (after all the other times you’ve complained about our lack of boundaries) but that’s ok, my adorable little alien who has these Completely Unpredictable Moods” he is gaslighting as fuck! ANYONE could tell that this shit is going to raise eyebrows, and since you’ve already talked about it, going “hey, I totally didn’t think that [X no boundary thing] would be a problem after you’ve consistently talked about how you don’t like all the other No Boundary Things” is gaslighting AF.

          Also, “she’d still be there, one week out of every month like Satan’s own menstrual cycle” = WIN!

      • Rachel said:

        Personally, I think he could be gaslighting because he is saying he is sorry and he is not!
        The definition of gaslighting being a manipulative-lying behavior that throws another person psychologically off-base, makes them trust their partner over themselves, or to otherwise get what the manipulative partner wants (compliance, attention, a feeling of power, etc).

        • Mookie said:

          Right. Gaslighting is pernicious because, by design, its existence is not immediately obvious (to the victim, to bystanders) and its legendary camouflage takes the form of coded language, passive-aggression, and indirect emotional blackmail.

          LW’s partner does things, she is capable of recognizing some of what he does, and even after telling us all about it, she has become convinced he doesn’t know what he’s doing. He openly denies and flouts and she grants him absolution. It’s a neat and awful trick.

          • boo! said:

            Yeah, he’s not denying the facts of the matter, but his actions are making you question your own perceptions of reality, and that’s the gaslight trick.

        • Ella said:

          Agree with all of the above – plus the “be courteous to our roommate” feels all kinds of dishonest. I’m guessing they don’t treat every person who stays in their house occasionally like this. If LW brought an ex over to stay in their bed for a week and blew of dates with the BF for the ex, that would just be her being courteous?

    • Mo_Saurus said:

      Love this analogy! Very apt.

  9. Sara said:

    LW – You deserve better than a partner who is being willfully ignorant of your feelings and putting his ex before you in his priorities. Regardless of how kind he is or how much he may understand you, he is being extremely disrespectful

  10. Tea Rocket said:

    Most people will be rightly hung up on the bed sharing thing, but this is what actually caught my eye:

    …keeps me waiting at the house while they eat nice lunches, delays our special two day mini-break (for my birthday) for hours to do her sudden huge favors.

    So, basically, whenever he is given an opportunity to prioritize time with you or time with her, he opts for time with her? LW, I’m sorry to have to echo the Captain’s (and others’) diagnosis that this guy never stopped dating his ex, even if they’re not having sex anymore—and I’m not sure sure I’d bet the farm on that either, based on your letter.

    I’m sorry that this is the best boyfriend you’ve ever had. Please trust that there are millions of better ones out there, who will be happy to date you exclusively. The longer you stay with this guy, the longer it will be before you can be with one of the better ones.

    • I noticed that, too. That, for me, would be even more hurtful than the bed thing or the casual nudity. If you make plans with me, be with me.

      • Tea Rocket said:

        Same here. The casual nudity and the bed sharing are matters of boundaries—some people genuinely don’t care about nudity or being alone when using the toilet. Sharing a bed with your partner’s ex is weird, but if LW were in a healthy relationship and generally secure in it, I could see letting it go as a one-off thing. But delaying a trip so that he can do large, last-minute favors for her? No way. Calling in large, last minute favors was a power-play by the ex, and sadly for the LW, it worked.

        • BigDogLittleCat said:


        • J said:

          I thought that too. Ex seems to want to kick LW out. But problem is, BF seems to want both. The LW is stuck in the middle of this sick tug of war over BF and he’s clearly not worth her energy.

    • Yeah. Birthdays are important for me. My lover’s “ex” honing in on my birthday would deeply hurt me.

      • twomoogles said:

        TBH birthdays aren’t important to me and this would still send me completely around the bend! I have seen this dynamic before, charismatic dude is just “so helpful” and can’t say no to doing huge favours….to everyone except his actual partner who gets left in the dust while he “helps” everyone but her. Add that to the other weirdness here and this guy sounds way beyond inconsiderate.

    • espridecorps said:

      These behaviors are the ‘ex’ putting LW in her place as a secondary partner. They are meant to be hurtful. The fact that Boyfriend is encouraging the behavior shows that ‘ex’ is his primary attachment, no matter how much time he’s spending with LW.

      She’s an unwilling third to their relationship, which is beyond shitty.

      • Tea Rocket said:

        Indeed. The fact that the LW describes this other woman as her boyfriend’s ex tells me that she does not view her and her boyfriend’s relationship as open or polyamorous. If the the boyfriend and his “ex” understand their relationship that way, then you’re right that it’s beyond shitty to let someone else get involved with it without explaining—and in fact, making an effort to obscure—its true parameters.

      • vortexae said:

        These behaviors are the ‘ex’ putting LW in her place as a secondary partner.

        Yes. Textbook. An ex-friend of my husband’s pulled this shit as part of her campaign to drive wedges into our marriage. Her ultimatum was “Spend X weekend with me, or spend Y weekend with me, or get the fuck out of my life,” where X and Y were both weekends of significance to our–his and my–relationship. Basically, “Prove I’m more important to you than your wife is, or I don’t want to be your friend anymore.” My husband chose door number three and thus she became an ex-friend.

        LW’s boyfriend, on the other hand, is taking every opportunity the “ex” is offering him to prove that “ex” gets priority over LW. He needs to become an ex-boyfriend asap.

        • Angle-a said:

          It’s the old optioning vs prioritising. Ouch. 😿

      • Mookie said:

        These behaviors are the ‘ex’ putting LW in her place as a secondary partner.

        I see it as the boyfriend doing that. He has established the ex and the LW as his partners, and his behavior demonstrates which one takes priority. The ex can’t have that power without him treating her like an ex in name only.

        • Ella said:

          I don’t think we can know how intentional the ex’s behaviours are, but it doesn’t really matter. LW doesn’t have a relationship with the ex and has no interest in maintaining one. The behaviours she needs to care about are the BF’s – and he’s shown his stripes pretty clearly. Whether he’s being in any way manipulated by the ex is his problem to deal with, not LW’s. (So yeah I basically agree with you, and the general consensus to DTMFA.)

    • Rincat said:

      That part really bothered me too – I’ve had friends like that before, where they seem great and fun and wonderful, but they put me hold when someone “better” comes along. They’ve kept me waiting for hours when we made plans. They dropped plans because Special Person was having a “crisis.” When I needed support and someone to listen to me, they were nowhere to be found. But they’d come back around if they didn’t have Special Person/People around, and were bored. But the second I put up a boundary or told them I was hurt, they would turn into the victim and tell me I was the problem, that I needed to be “kinder” and “more understanding.”

    • Cherries in the Snow said:

      Yes! I tried to imagine my reaction if my husband delayed my birthday holiday to do favours for his ex wife and I just can’t even fathom it. The fact that the OP thinks this is somehow a problem that she has to play cool girl about tells me this guy is gaslighting the hell out of her, cause this ISN’T NORMAL.

    • spd said:

      +1 to all of this. It’s one thing that this girl has a lower modesty thresshold than you do-which still needs to be something she respects but isn’t something she necessarily should automatically change about a friendship when her friend got a new partner (though the bed thing.). It’s a totally different thing that she’s dominating your partner’s attention in ways that are coming at the expense of them paying attention to YOUR needs. You have a partner problem, and this girl wants you to have the partner problem.

  11. Terri said:

    “Nice” words are a perfect cover for utter shit behavior. Speaking from personal experience w/family and exes like this. They’re intended to make you think you’re the crazy one. THAT IS GASLIGHTING.

    “Doesn’t gaslight me [out loud] when I respond in badly [in a healthy way] to his shitty behavior” is BELOW the low bar.

    This guy was awesome, for you, until this happened. This, what he’s doing, is complete disrespect of you. I’m with Captain Awesome and the other commenters on this one. Step 1, it’s her or you, right now. No delays, no “circumstances,” no excuses. If he doesn’t choose, he’s choosing. Step 2, is this really a guy you want to be with–someone who has no boundaries with an ex he’s clearly still sexually attracted to? I mean, maybe this was a total fluke (what are the chances) and will never, ever happen again. Surely his willingness to ignore your wishes and stealth-poly you without asking will all be different in future situations…

    Sending you support. You deserve a great guy who would be genuinely dismayed by your distress & immediately stop the behavior EXCEPT THAT your great guy would never do this to you. He’d talk to you first and have boundaries with her that clearly show he loves you firstest and mostest. You deserve that.

    • J said:

      To ge honest the longer I think on it, why should LW even bother? BF has already shown her who he is: a gaslighting weiner who thinks it’s fun to have ex in his bed with gf over gf’s objections. It’s fun to tell her how he cares and respects her while he’s doing the hat dance on her boundaries. He’s not worth setting a boundary. She might be better off running far and fast.

  12. Cassandra said:

    Yeah, if he knows how much this bothers you—and he does, because you said so—why on earth won’t he stop?

    • It’s possible that he won’t stop if how much this bothers her is resulting in him getting something he likes getting.

      I’m watching a friend deal with a situation in which her Lovely Fellow knows how much it bothers her (a lot! it bothers her huge amounts!) that he is seeing Other Person, and yet he keeps seeing Other Person and there are boundary issue festivals at intervals. My friend, who really does love Lovely Fellow a lot, repeatedly tries to solve the whole issue by showing Lovely Fellow how much she loves him, in hopes he will stop doing the stuff that she hates.

      The more it bothers her, the more she tries to show how much she loves him. If he would only see how much she loves him, she thinks, he would stop doing this thing that’s so awful for her.

      Why would he? He’s getting an awful lot of demonstrations of love out of how much this situation he has built is hurting her. This is starting to look more like a feature than a bug, at least for him.

      If this seems to be the case in LW’s situation, there’s yet another reason to saddle up the nopetopus. Not that there was a shortage of reasons before.

      LW, I wish you strength and good friends and comfort and all the useful things that support good boundaries and their maintenance.

      • Old Aspie Lady said:

        ^^ Your friend has been sucked into what Tracy Schorn calls the “Pick-Me Dance”. She is being played, poor thing…
        Cf, https://www.chumplady.com – I lurk there, have for years, no financial or other material interest in it. But it, and CA, have helped me tremendously to understand abuse related issues. Please check it out, and search on that phrase, and if you think it will help at all, give your friend a gentle nudge in that direction. Best wishes to her, that is a truly sucky situation.

        • zardeenah said:

          I went straight to the “pick me dance” too! Chump Lady would say your friend’s dude is getting all the kibbles (narcissism food) he wants, why would he change? Another vote to send your friend a friendly nudge towards the Chump Nation.

      • boo! said:

        “It’s possible that he won’t stop if how much this bothers her is resulting in him getting something he likes getting.”

        Or if “how much this bothers her” is one of the things he likes getting. It may be a distinction without a difference, but I’ve been in a situation where one pattern was:

        (1) X does something X knows will upset me ->
        (2) I get upset ->
        (3) X berates me for my inappropriate emotional reactions ->
        (4) X magnanimously forgives me for my inappropriate emotional reactions (reserving my inappropriate emotional reaction for re-use in later beratements.)

        This Worked So Well. After a while, X could skip step 3 if they felt like it, because it was implied by then-I would do step 3 all by myself! So, when X skipped ahead to forgiving me for something I was already berating myself about, boy oh boy did they look like the greatest, most forgiving partner ever.

        I agree about the Pick Me Dance as mentioned below, but I think there may be another sinister element at work (it’s an alloy! Why does it always have to be an alloy?)

        • Ella said:

          Man. Fuck you, X.
          I’m sorry that happened to you, internet stranger, and I’m glad you’re out of there. (Past tense makes me assume you’re out of there – I hope so.)

          On the “distinction without a difference” note, I don’t think that whether the BF is *deliberately* making LW feel shit should affect her decision to leave. But the situation with X you describe above suggests a degree of psychopathy. If this is the case, LW might want to consider her escape plan, just in case the emotional abuse escalates/ becomes physical. (From the letter, it sounds more benign – he doesn’t care that she’s sad, but he’s not actively trying to make her sad. But a safety network never hurts.)

          • boo! said:

            Yes, past tense by about five years-I am no longer there. Honestly I was so well primed for that particular situation from my youth that I didn’t realize how truly f***ed it was until I was long out; I was shocked when my therapist, as you did said, “Wow, sounds like a psychopath” (and I was describing a totally different thing!) I’m digressing, but thanks for commenting. It’s something I don’t mention much, so I appreciate the internet stranger validation a lot.

            Anyway, what I meant by the distinction without a difference is, I’m not sure it’s much better if he’s enjoying the scramble for his attention, or enjoying watching her squirm-he’d still be manipulating her because he wants to reap the benefit of screwing with her emotions.

            That said, I agree that the LW’s BF’s intent shouldn’t matter too much-he’s choosing to create a situation where she feels bad, and he’s not showing any sign that he’s willing to stop.

  13. Wow LW – you really do deserve better than this. I most often come across this issue in the context of non-monogamous relationships where there are boundary issues. Lots of people have anger / distress focused on the ex/weirdly close friend/other partner, but it is nearly always closer to home. I wrote this blog post about it in the context of poly people, with a metamour being your partners other partner. While they aren’t together anymore – it seems like they might as well be. Maybe it will be helpful?

  14. Snow said:

    I…what…even…how…NO. NONONONONO. He has her SLEEP IN YOUR BED? WHAT. I CANNOT EVEN. HOW CAN THIS DUDE TREAT YOU LIKE THIS?????? I hate to say it, but the problem is not Ex. It’s your boyfriend. You deserve SO MUCH BETTER. *goes back to scraping own jaw off the floor*

  15. “Never does annnything resembling deflection or gaslighting.” LW he is gaslighting you. He is 100% gaslighting you HARD with his Comforting Noises and understanding ear and apologies. Can’t anticipate it? Like, “I didn’t know you’d be upset when I ditched our planned get-together to hang out with my ex and also invited her to sleep in our bed”? I’m sorry, LW, I don’t believe that for a second. These aren’t un-anticipatable things. If (IF) he’s truly surprised in the moment it’s because he doesn’t have an ounce of self-reflection. He’s making you think that YOU’RE bad at dealing with boundaries, or at least that it’s entirely YOUR job to set and enforce them. He, poor little lamb, can’t possibly be expected to know what’s going to set you off next. *biggest eyeroll EVER*

    Sorry if that’s harsh. I’m really mad at your boyfriend right now. Even if he really, truly, didn’t understand what was wrong with his behavior, if he was interested in your happiness he would at least start asking you about stuff ahead of time (and if he’s doing that and you’re not saying no, start saying no, and if you are saying it and he’s ignoring you or wheedling a yes out of you, fire him into the sun).

  16. Espritdecorps said:

    His behavior is the exact opposite of what either Poly or open relationships are about.

    He is fucking up both your relationship with him, and any chance that his open-minded, patient, girlfriend would consider engaging in Poly/open activities with him. What he is doing is very much Not How Things Are Done.

    What he is doing would get him kicked out of many a playgroup.
    There’s probably a good reason they are trying to force this on you, instead of them finding a third at one of these orgies they keep going on about. That reason almost certainly had to do with their appalling boundaries and lack of basic respect.

    This situation doesn’t end well. It has probably ended badly for them before.

    Also his ex is not his ex. She is his current. You’re in a polyamourous relationship.

    • I’m going to push back on your last sentence a little, because the LW is in a non-consensual multiple-partner situation (aka, This Fucking Guy is cheating on her in plain sight). She never agreed to this, she has explicitly told him she doesn’t like/want it.

      • espridecorps said:

        That’s a better way to put it

      • FairestCat said:

        I posted a reply further down before seeing this reply in which I called it non-consensual polyamory, but non-consensual multiple-partner situation is probably more accurate.

        • I started to say non-consensual polyamory but then I thought: no, polyam requires consent so how do I rephrase this. So…yeah.

          • TO_Ont said:

            We’ve got lots of old-fashioned words for it… cheating, adultery (some would argue that one’s reserved for marriage), betrayal, two-timing, being an asshole…

            It’s a deeply manipulative trick some cheaters do to try to convince you that by flaunting their betrayal and rubbing it in your face, it’s somehow no longer cheating because they’re being ‘open’ about it, but that doesn’t magically change everything.

            There is no such thing as a unilaterally decided open relationship. That’s just a weasely way of saying cheating/adultery/betrayal etc.

          • The Awe Ritual said:

            I think there’s such a thing as coerced polyamory, when the poly partner says, “I’m not going to lie about it and I didn’t or don’t agree to your rules [so not technically cheating], and I’m dating other people.” I was adjacent to it when my best friend’s wife decided she couldn’t do monogamy, and now I can’t be in the same room with one of my favorite authors/ essayists, because I just know I’d want to Say Something about the whole ruinous and vile situation. (Isn’t it amazing how when the polyamorous partner is a jerk, the metamours are always exceptionally cruel and sanctimonious? It’s almost as if people who are feeling like being kind that day take one look at the hostage-polyamory dynamic and back the heck away…) “Non-consensual multiple partner” are definitely les mots justes,

    • espridecorps said:

      The more I think about this, the less I believe that he ever stopped dating his ‘ex’. She is clearly his primary partner. My suspicion that she only has one week a month to give him for whatever reason (other partners, work, school, taking care of sick grandparent, etc.), and he wants someone for the other three.
      He lied about being single, wooed LW, then brought his primary partner in. All that boundary crossing on the ‘ex’s’ part (taking off her clothes, literally peeing next to LW, taking LW’s bed) is a primary putting a secondary in her place (which wouldn’t be cool in a consensual poly relationship, either).

      LW feels out of place in the relationship because it isn’t hers, it’s theirs with her as a third.

      • I am inclined to agree with you — and meant to indicate that I agreed with you before this.

  17. Ps, he is otherwise a dream, best partner I’ve ever had, no question. Just, ack. This is not nothing.

    The underlying truth is the LW’s last sentence: This is not nothing. LW, you know this: please please please DTFA.

    This is SO not nothing that I’m horrified for you, both that he’s the best partner you’ve had and that you’ve called him a dream. You can have better, LW. You deserve better.

    And the worst thing, to me, after this letter that is so full of nope that the nopetopus has just ridden off on a dragon made of bees, is how often LWs preemptively defend the “boundaries? What boundaries?” boy/girl they’re involved with. These people have good qualities, of course they do, because the LWs wouldn’t be involved with them in the first place. But. Well.

    This is Not Nothing. And the only dream I see, personally, in this letter is kind of a nightmare.

    • thetigerhasspoken said:

      That sentence broke my heart. It sound like the LW is hardcore minimizing something *very* hurtful and settling for the best she’s had, after what I can only assume has been a literal swarm of toxic bees?

      LW – I get when you find someone where some things work(ed) SO WELL. Maybe things you’ve never experienced before. But this? This is a (MASSIVE) deal breaker whether you are monogamous, polyamorous, or non-monogamous. Because he’s made it clear your feelings are not his priority and he is going to keep doing this as long as he wants, regardless of how it makes you feel.

      Like every other person in this comment thread has said, you will be much happier in the long run, out of this relationship. I’m sorry, it sucks.

      • Solestria said:

        This rings true for me, as someone who worked so hard to save a relationship in which I wasn’t treated as the priority he said I was, and in which I was gaslighted more than I realized until later. He’s the only pets I’ve ever wanted to marry, and I am so much happier and healthier without him.

        Sending hugs and empathy, LW, because I know those feels and how hard it is to leave (in my case, he was the one to call it because I couldn’t). You deserve better.

        • Solestria said:

          Only person, even

  18. Sockville said:

    Hi! No bueno, LW. She sounds obnoxious, but she’s also getting invited. Like, she’s being invited over. She comes because he invites her to. The invitation needs to stop, and you have already said the “stop inviting her” words, and he keeps inviting her. You don’t have a Partner’s Ex problem, you have a Partner problem. Sorry. He would be perfect for you if only he was perfect for you, but we shouldn’t fall in love with what-ifs.

  19. Check please! said:

    Trust your feelings! There is a reason this feels so shitty and horrible to you- it’s because it is! You’re not being an awkward alien at all but rather a totally reasonable human being!!

    • J said:


    • Saskia said:

      this x 1000

  20. daremichaelson said:

    “Every month like Satan’s own menstrual cycle” had me cackling, but seriously … ONE ENTIRE WEEK out of EVERY MONTH for FOUR MONTHS? That would be too much for me even if this was my own friend who I adored and had absolutely no former romantic entanglements with my spouse. I guess you must have some reason for not thinking they’re probably still fucking because you didn’t write it in your letter but … they’re probably still fucking. If you’ve repeatedly told him you don’t like this arrangement and it just keeps right on happening, this guy is not so great.

  21. None of this is normal or reasonable. Houseguests sleep on couches or air mattresses or if it’s, like, you’re elderly grandma who can’t do that, you sleep on the couch and she gets your bed. Exes don’t drop by for surprise threesomes without explicit prior consent of all parties. You can be as naked as the hell you want in your own home but in other people’s homes you keep your shirt and your pants on (applies to all genders unless swimming or doing hard labor in the sun!) and close the bathroom door to use the toilet, and only use the toilet when no one else is in the bathroom!

    Do not let this guy gaslight you into stealth polyfuckery. The Captain is right, he is fine with things the way they are, and if you are not fine, you need to get clear of this guy and his ex.

    • winter said:

      And LW, you aren’t freaking out because you’re an ‘awkwardness alien’ which suggests that a lot of other people would be fine with all of this. You are freaking out because your boundaries are being blatantly ignored and 2 out of 3 (the last being you) people in this house are acting as if what you’re experiencing was normal or okay.
      You are having an overload because this situation would be too much for any person being dragged unconsentingly into this bullshit. Your body knows.

      • Alianne said:

        Seconded! If having boundaries and being upset when other people flagrantly violate them and don’t stop is “alien”, then I am an Andalite. No, I am a WOOKIEE.

        • Better an alien than an asshole! #TeamVulcan

        • B. said:

          Loved your Animorphs reference! The boyfriend is the alien here, in my opinion. Specifically, a yeerk.

      • Czarnoskrzydła said:

        This is why I actually think he IS gaslighting her – or, at least, doing something very similar. Because he is creating a extremely bizarre situation that would be a total deal-breaker for a lot of people, and then acts as if is normal.

        I can’t even! It just.. it sounds like such a mindfuck! This situation and being in it for 4 month would mess with my head so much.

      • espridecorps said:

        So much this!
        Nothing about this situation is normal, the fact that she’s questioning it means they are gaslighting her somehow.

  22. Terri said:

    I’d commented but it didn’t show up. But everyone else is saying it anyway.

    Note: Treating you “nicely” when you react badly to HIS shitty behavior is intended to make you think you’re the problem. THIS IS GASLIGHTING.

    “Niceness” (as opposed to kindness, friendliness, honesty, empathy, etc.) has a specific function–to allow people to get away with shitty behavior. Him acting like the nice, reasonable one while you’re wigging out RIGHTEOUSLY over him being a faffing piss-crumpet is deceitful and disrespectful.

    Step 1: It’s her or you, right now. No excuses, no delays.
    Step 2: Is this the guy YOU want–the one who has exactly the boundaries he wants with his ex and with you? Is this really a fluke that will never ever happen again, him prioritizing his desires and his ex’s *everything* over you?

    Wishing you all the best and a better man than this. A good man, the kind you deserve, would be genuinely upset over your distress EXCEPT THAT HE WOULD NEVER HAVE PULLED HIS EX INTO HIS CURRENT RELATIONSHIP EVER. Hugs and support.

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      “faffing piss-crumpet” made my day.

      • SeluciaV said:

        I second that. “Faffing piss-crumpet” is fan-fucking-tastic. Tucking that one away for future use.

    • Tepid Tea said:

      100% agree with all of your points.

      Responding, however, to high-five you for noting that there is a distinction between niceness, on the one hand, and kindness, friendliness, honesty, and empathy. I wish I’d learned that lesson 10 years ago. :l

      • Anon, Goodnight said:

        Nice is different than good.

  23. Lizzy Lifting Drink said:

    I have nothing to add to the already great advice from the Captain and commenters, but come on now. You know that none of this is normal and it’s clearly not acceptable to you and you’ve expressed it which is great, but your partner is unwilling to change so he won’t. If you want the situation to be different, unfortunately you’re the one who’s going to have to make the changes. It sucks but it’s the only way.

    I can’t get over the fact that HE CARRIES HER PURSE. ‘Nuff said

    • J said:

      I know it’s like the sea lions at the floating docks in SF. Where one sea lion will jump up into a group, appear to sit quietly for a bit, then suddenly shove one sitting next to him in the water…. Ex is a mean sea lion. And BF is even worse.

  24. maryellenc said:

    I am super concerned that this LW is being coerced into threesomes with her boyfriend and his ex. SUPER concerned.

    • JenniferP said:


    • If maryellenc’s comment is true, the LW is dealing with a pack of rapists, EEEEEEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW.

    • Antonia said:

      Looks that way.i mean this level of being comffortable in intimate ways says alot.and then the ex .attempt to befriend the actual gf…into feeling her as friend and not a threat..this is grooming.

    • megs said:

      “I’m all for fun group things, but I need to soberly discuss them before they happen. Again, he gets this, but has yet to demonstrate that as a practical behaviour before I find myself in a position of awful panic”

      Maybe I’m misreading this but it sounds like the LW has told her(?) partner that she needs a sober conversation before any group sex and her partner keeps putting her in surprise/ intoxicated group sex situations?

      (IMO that’s a boundary that you shouldn’t even need to state, a conversation should be assumed unless it’s really really clear everyone is excited and on board and sober enough to consent)

      I really hope there’s another explanation here but it sounds like the partner is disregarding/ pushing LW’s sexual boundaries. That’s an immediate, do not pass go, do not collect $200 dealbreaker. People who don’t respect your ‘no’ (with their behavior, not just their words) don’t get second chances.

      • jennthemighty said:

        Yeah, I (and many on this thread) had the same read. Connect the dots between the ex being invited to sleep in their bed and whatever sexual situations are causing the LW to panic as described in her parenthetical…I think he is brining the ex into their bed and trying to start threesomes on the regular, or perhaps going ahead and starting them while the LW is asleep or something. LW, this is bad. The community here is rooting for you. Please take care.

  25. VG said:

    That is so gross and boundary-crossing and violating that my skin is crawling. I think the last straw for me would have been when she walked into the bathroom and peed (I didn’t even pee in front of my former husband, whom I had shared many other fluids and made a baby with) but sleeping in your bed with you when you don’t want her there? Noooooo. Even if your roommate couldn’t bear the sight of someone on the living-room sofa, and she *absolutely* had to sleep in your room, air mattresses and sleeping bags and folding cots are all things that exist. And your partner doesn’t feel terrible, he *is* terrible, no matter how great he may seem in contrast to previous partners. You deserve so much better than this.

    • boo! said:

      “Your partner doesn’t feel terrible, he *is* terrible” made me laugh. Spot on!

      I now have a fantasy of someone like this bemoaning a disaster of their own creation. “I feel terrible!” he wails. “Oh, honey, no,” I say, “You really ARE terrible!”

  26. Quirkyopteryx said:

    Oh heeeellllll no.

    I’m polyamorous and occasionally I have quite a lot of people in my bed, but if my actual partner doesn’t want any particular person there, or I tell my partner that I don’t want a particular person there, They Are Not Invited There.

    Like not even to a party I’m at, or my partner is at. If I’m miffed at someone that I usually like, that person isn’t invited for a while, until I get over that, or they slide off the list of regular invitees.

    I have a VERY clothes-optional household, but this is mentioned if anyone stays with us, and people check that nudity is okay with any new people.

    LW, if this guy is the nicest and best partner you’ve had so far, I am genuinely worried about you 😥

    This guy is either a total spineless doormat; or he *does not care* about your happiness, not enough to actually risk some other person’s discomfort or unhappiness. Do either of those sound like a *good* choice of partner?

    You want someone who will tell their douche of an ex to get out, because his partner wants alone time/hates her/is monogamous and is the only one who gets to sleep with him.

    I dated someone who slept in the same bed as her ex, and I found that truly *bizarre*. But they were pretty awesome to each other; they were best friends. And later on, I was the ex-girlfriend – and I slept on the *couch*. I did not want to sleep in a bed with her friend, and besides they only had a single bed. (Housing is extortionate in that place, and they were students and living with her father who was a total loner.)

    • FiercePassions said:

      I live with my ex. I slept in the bed with my hym for months. It’s a California King, and hy not-so-jokingly put a body pillow down the middle of it.
      Guess where I slept when hys lover visited?
      On the goddamn couch.

  27. SamKD said:

    The Captain is spot-on: this is happening because he wants it to happen. I am so sad and angry for you right now! You deserve -considerate- love and friendship and this most emphatically is not. Even if he’s charming, funny, great at sex, pays his share of the rent early and smells fantastic this is a total deal-breaker because you’ve said you don’t like it and it still happens. One DAY out of every month would be a lot; a week is…well…utter disrespect for you. The time has come for you to say “I don’t want her in our house any more, ever.” I predict this will be a deal-breaker for him so if it’s your house have a plan to change the locks and get a new third share and if it’s his be prepared to move out.

    Even without a poly-on-the-sneak scene, “delays our special two day mini-break (for my birthday) for hours to do her sudden huge favors” is the reddest of red flags flapping furiously in the breeze of his hot air. You are -not- the one who needs to change in any way, shape or form here…although after you deliver your ultimatum I fear there will be a whole lot of “helpful suggestions to make it all work” from him which will all boil down to “you will become more accommodating” possibly with a thin layer of “I won’t see her -with-you- quite so much” Don’t fall for it! You deserve far better and even if alone seems like it would be worse it is far better than this hurtful situation. Good luck and big internet hugs if you want them.

  28. Alianne said:

    I just…all the Jedi hugs you want, plus real hugs if we were in the same place and you were up for that. Sleeping in your bed? Being ignored for her, during days set aside specifically for you/your birthday? Living with you every month like an actual bitchy Aunt Flo? Sashaying half-naked past you and peeing in your bathroom WHILE YOU WERE IN IT? (I demand bathroom privacy, that is a shuddering horror)

    He is not great for you, he is great for HER. He is reorganizing his life for/around her, and you are one of the things he is reorganizing. And Furiosa has taught us that we are not things. Say “No, I don’t want her to come stay with us for a week. No, I don’t want you to go do her a favor. No, I don’t want her here–she’s not your girlfriend anymore, and she’s not my friend, why are you behaving like she is?”

    Your peace of mind is worth more than some nebulous Gold Star Of Being Nice To Your Boyfriend’s Ex. Put your feet down. Hell, put both feet down. Change the locks, and put one on the bathroom door while you’re at it. And if he starts complaining–ask him WHY. Why is it so important to him to keep his ex-girlfriend so intimately involved in his life? Especially when he knows how crappy it makes you feel?

    • Heed the words of our most Holy Saint Furiosa, shiny and chrome.

    • markethill said:

      As much as I love Furiosa, let us not forget that it was the Wives who taught us that we are not things. The Wives, whose names are: Toast the Knowing, The Splendid Angharad, Capable, The Dag, and Cheedo the Fragile. The Wives, with their softness, and empathy, and caring, and tremendous humanity in an inhuman world, not Furiosa with her badassery.

      • Emmers said:

        Thank you. There’s room for both Furiosa and the Wives, in the world and in our selves.

        • Alianne said:

          Excellent point, and I should have remembered them too. Part of empathy and caring is knowing what we ourselves need.

  29. “To be courteous to our roommate”


    Why is it more important to be courteous to roommate than to LW?

    Why are roommate’s (possibly only hypothetical and assumed?) boundaries about having someone sleep in common space more sacred than LW’s boundaries about sharing a bed with boyfriend’s ex?

    Why can’t ex be the courteous one and sleep in her own bed (and not inside anyone else’s personal space)?

    How on earth is “not wanting to share my own bed with this person who is 1) not my partner and 2) my partner’s ex” jealous or crazy?

    And that just barely begins to address one of the many ways this whole thing is questionable. The nope is pouring into this situation faster than you can bail it out with a five gallon bucket.

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      and when in hell did she become “roommate”?

      • totchipanda said:

        I initially thought that LW was referring to “ex”-GF as the roommate (in which case, oh hell no, unless she is on the lease and paying rent, she is a particularly unpleasant houseguest) but then after other people mentioned it, I think BF (and LW) live with another, unrelated roommate, who possibly would be offended by seeing “ex”-GF sleeping on the couch a week out of every month (understandably, because see particularly unpleasant houseguest who doesn’t know when their welcome is up and they should start paying rent if they’re gonna be in the house so damn often. Not that I have experience with this or anything…)

        Either way, situation is a giant steaming pile of NOPE.

      • Emmers said:

        I think that’s a fourth person.

        Can you IMAGINE being that fly on the wall.

  30. Mo_Saurus said:

    Hey LW, sorry to hear you are going through this. Your partner’s behavior has a lot of red flags, especially the part where he apologizes and “feels terrible” but then continues the same behavior. This is not gaslighting, but pretty darn similar: this behavior sends the message that what you want and need will not actually be heard or respected, but simultaneously that your partner is a caring and lovely guy (because he Feels Bad!). You might be tempted to conclude that he’s just a great guy with unfortunate social ties, and you need to find a way to make it work. Following that reasoning, you gradually become the one who’s responsible for anything that goes wrong, since That Wonderful Dude can’t be responsible, because he has Good Intentions and Feels Bad About The Whole Thing. Or maybe, whenever you might be tempted to make him accountbale, he’s quick to go on the offensive. Wherever this narrative is going, you do not have to buy in. You can re-evaluate and see what YOU need, want, and deserve. Sending good thoughts for you to tap into whatever resources you need here. Jedi hugs if you want them.

  31. Lizards80 said:

    The first time you met her, she walked topless in front of your partner?

    My ex said “I don’t know, that’s just how she is, I’m trying to mentor her” when I asked him why a girl we both knew had repeatedly sent him explicit photos of herself.

    I told him that that may indeed be how she is, but she (probably) isn’t like that with most people. My thought was that she is “like that” with people who have given her some sort of indicator that “this” would be welcome (As I read this, I hope this doesn’t sound like victim-blaming; he didn’t indicate discomfort with the photos or their relationship, and I only found them by accident when he forgot to log out of his email).

    Turned out he was actively soliciting these pics. And encouraging her. And sleeping with her.

    But…here is the important part … I was at a point where I needed him to agree with my perception of things. I needed him to agree this was not what we had agreed to in our marriage, and that he would stop it/make it stop. He kept (very nicely!) being ‘confused’ about why she wouldn’t stop when he had never asked her to and instead encouraged her.

    Without his agreement, I felt like I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t call BS on him. I couldn’t act on his continued BS. Even if it was delivered “nicely” in the face of his continued cruelty in refusing to take on the fact that he was lying to me and I was not consenting to the type of relationship we were having.

    It took me one day literally just realizing out of the blue that This. Is. Totally. Fucked. Up. And calling BS on him.

    And leaving.

    He never came around to following through, no matter how nice he was to me in other situations.

    How long are you willing to stay if his relationship with her doesn’t change?

  32. Covered in Yarn said:

    I’m on team Boundary AND Dump, because if you only boundary? Well, then you are the meany getting in the way of their Totally Cool and Totally Aboveboard (we only were together when SHE was around!) nonsexual friendsafterbreakingupness. And so now they will be forced to sneak.

    Ugh. No one has time for that shit. Run, run, run away.

  33. I used to tell people, “There may be such a thing as a perfect butt, but there’s no such thing as a ‘perfect, but…'”

    At the point you’re saying someone is perfect except for this one thing, they’re not perfect. Not for you. You don’t have to break up with them or drop them from your life for not being perfect, but you’ll do a lot better in figuring out what that one thing means if you stop thinking of them as perfect.

    • I love advice columns, and I’ve noticed how many letters to advice columnists are from people in “perfect, but” relationships.

      I was trying to think of pointed metaphors for this. Like: this car is perfect, but the brakes don’t work. And then I realized, that’s the thing. It’s easy to think of your relationship as a car that just needs a repair. The brakes not working makes the car undriveable, yes, but you can get them fixed and it will work fine. But relationships, and people, aren’t machines made of interchangeable parts, so often that “perfect, but” is more akin to “this cake is perfect, but it’s laced with cyanide” or “this house is perfect, but there’s a portal to hell in the basement…and also it’s on fire.”

      • Esme said:

        Yes. I get the idea it is harder to let go of the almost-a-good-fit partners. CA did a lovely response about that at some point. Plus some brains probably get unhelpfully hypnotised by the big pendulum swings of being with a Jekyl/Hyde partner.

      • There’s actually an old expression for this in the UK – “the curate’s egg”. Comes from a joke in which the vicar says to the curate “I’m so sorry – I think your egg is off” and the curate replies “No, no! Parts of it are excellent!” If even part of an egg tastes bad, you don’t eat the egg. There are situations where ‘it’s only this one thing that is wrong’ still equates to ‘THIS SITUATION IS NOT WORKING.’

        I think the Captain’s analogy was with pants (trousers) that are great apart from that one thing that means that in practice they are not something that *you* are ever gong to wear. That’s a good analogy as well.

        • Ganymede said:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curate%27s_egg shows the original 1895 cartoon.

          The term derives from a cartoon published in the humorous British magazine Punch on 9 November 1895. Drawn by George du Maurier and titled True Humility, it pictures a timid-looking curate eating breakfast in his bishop’s house.[4] The bishop says: “I’m afraid you’ve got a bad egg, Mr Jones.” The curate, desperate not to offend his eminent host and ultimate employer, replies: “Oh no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are excellent!” (This clearly cannot be true of a bad egg.)


          The final issue of Punch, published in 1992, reprinted the cartoon with the caption: Curate: This f***ing egg’s off![5] Thus Punch drew a contrast with the modern era, implying that younger people have little concern for the niceties of Victorian good manners towards those once considered their social superiors.

          LW, I suggest you imitate the 1992 version.

          • I hope that nobody would literally eat bad food just for the sake of an employer/”superior”! If someone did that for my sake, I’d feel guilty that I’d poisoned them – but also pissed off that they didn’t tell me the food was bad!

        • I’ve never heard “the curate’s egg” until now (Canada here). It’s a great analogy.

  34. Allison said:

    I’ve dealt with similar issues with exes, and at the time I really wanted to be okay with what was happening, wanted to be the cool girl who never got jealous, who never wanted my guy to question whether he was “allowed” to have female friends, and it always fell apart spectacularly. Get out, this will not end well you for you; this is a feature, not a bug. if anything he’ll eventually break up with you for being too anxious, not chill enough, or just not a good enough “fit” for him, and what’s crappy is that in like 3-5 years he probably will figure out that this is a garbage way to act in a relationship, but some other woman will get the improved version of him at that point, but by then you’ll have found someone way better, who has never and will never dream of pulling this crap with you.

    • The Awe Ritual said:

      This, precisely. I wish we could bet on relationships they way we could on sports teams: I’d lay my next paycheck on this outcome and take EVERYONE out to lunch on the winnings— if I could find someone to bet against it.

      Parenthetically, I think there’s a type of guy out there who takes “chill” as a challenge. They’ll trap other girls in the corner and drone on about how much they should like David Foster Wallace, but if your eyes light up and you ask to swap IJ fan theories or if they prefer the essays and what sort of job did they do on The Pale King and they suddenly remember they have an appointment. If you enjoy anal sex, prep and foreplay are “neo-Puritan conspiracies.” (Yes, that was a direct quote. I guess Puritans don’t like colostomy bags and the possibility of death, for some unfathomable reason.) I’m not saying this is LW’s bf, but it’s a possibility. Some people have a paraphilia for flustration.

      LW may not want to remove her s/o from her life, and that’s her choice: only she looks out from behind her eyes. However, I do think she might be happier if she walked it back from their current relationship, maybe only allowing him in her life when it’s fun and enriching. It sounds like his friend is the foofy high-heels high-sugar girlfriend and LW is the dependable-enough-to-pay-the-rent nutritious girlfriend, and who likes being with a person who treats them like food?

  35. Belle said:

    I don’t have much to add except that this guy sucks and I literally yelled “Boooooo!” out loud at my laptop screen. This is not healthy behaviour on his part and I think you might benefit from imagining reading this letter back as if a beloved friend had written it and imagining what advice you would give that friend. I bet it would be “oh my god get out of there what a shit!”.
    There is such a huge dissonance between the words you use to describe your partner, and the way you relate his actions. You say he is a good partner but I can’t see a shred of evidence that he is loving, respectful, kind or any other of the lowest bar descriptors of a good partner. He does not deserve you and you deserve much better.

  36. H.Regalis said:

    Yeah, this is happening because he wants it to happen. He’s as responsible in this as his shitty ex, if not more so, because he’s the one dating you and thus should be theoretically more invested in your wellbeing than a stranger.

    Maybe he does feel bad, but clearly not bad enough to actually change anything or stop doing things he knows are hurtful to you. An apology with no change in behavior rings hollow. Start planning your escape, because this situation is not going to improve. No one deserves to live like this.

  37. Jenny Islander said:

    LW, if this…this…this person whose behavior I am having trouble describing without descending to scatology is the best boyfriend you’ve ever had, what were the previous ones like?!

    Slightly less bad than a pie made of cow poop and maggots is still really really bad. Dump ’em both, cut ’em off, and work on your normality meter for a while before you start another relationship, because something appears to have broken it. (NOT your fault. But we do as we have been taught until we realize that our teachers were jackasses.)

  38. Don't Shoot the Messenger said:

    OH HELL NO!!!

    LW, the only choice to make is how to separate yourself from this assbag.

    He has already broken his covenant to be truthful and respectful of you.

    He has made his choice – he wants it THIS WAY more than he wants to change the dynamic.

    Leave him. Leave him now and don’t look back. Future You will be so grateful you did.

    Best of luck to you. I don’t care how charming he may be, this guy is a total dick and you can do so much better.

  39. mariceli said:

    There are so many upsetting things here, and I am angry at and creeped out by these weasels and their carelessness about you.

    If I read it right, you met her when she walked into the bathroom topless and peed in front of you and your partner. Is that how you met her, or was that on the day that you met her? One is only slightly more gross than the other but either way, it’s such an animal display of dominance, such flaunting of her place and claiming her stake. Such a middle finger.

    They are showing no consideration of you. Please don’t trust this person with your heart, your mind, your body, and your well-being. I urge you to flee this charismatic jerk, take all the baths you need, and dare to trust yourself and your alarm bells.

  40. Dear LW,

    To reiterate the Captain’s point he wants this.

    You don’t have an awful ex problem, you have a partner problem.

    If they aren’t having sex, it’s because she doesn’t want to. Let that settle in.

    She will continue to be a big part of your life because he wants her in his life. Because he does stuff for her and ignores you.

    You can give him an ultimatum (I probably would). Don’t expect change, though. Do expect a combination of explicit pushback and “sympathy” for your jealousy.

    You see, he is gaslighting you. He is telling you that what you observe (him going all out to cater to her, him ignoring you, him cheating emotionally – to name just a few awful things) isn’t happening.

    Please leave him.

    Jedi hugs if you want them.

  41. Sarah said:

    LW, my therapist believes that I have a very low bar for how I allow men to treat me. I have the barest of minimums for lots of reasons that we are addressing, but it was success when I dated a man for a little while and, upon ending things, decided that yeah, actually, if I had a time machine I would not change the decision to date him.

    I am telling you this because your partner is tripping even over my low bar. This is not okay. Your feelings are being disregarded and that is not okay. You know that’s not okay because you admit this is not nothing.

    Why does your birthday not matter? Why do the roommate’s feelings matter more than yours? Why is this dude considerate of everybody’s feelings but yours? Have you asked him these things? Have you been satisfied with the answers?

    LW, I want so much more for you. This can be the best relationship you’ve ever had and still not be a good one, which is both terrible and (hopefully) encouraging. You have not had great experiences, probably. There are significantly better experiences out there, definitely. Find Team You, tell them about this stealth-polyfuckery, and let them be there for you. You’re going to need them.

    • espridecorps said:

      Well said!

  42. so one thing I’ve noticed about relationships I’ve had with big expansive sex vibes where you don’t really define the edges of the thing is that the breakups are also often vaguely defined.

    that’s not such a problem if your/your ex’s next relationship is similarly expansive, but it causes major problems if one of you moves on to be in a relationship with more defined edges. you have to consciously go, ok, this has ended, and what that means is that we aren’t a) b) or c) to each other any more.

    it sounds like your partner hasn’t done this work.

  43. Bad Advice Badger said:

    (Please read this comment in light of my user name)

    OP, do you have any close dude friends? Maybe an ex who is very chill? I think you need to turn the tables on Douchebro here. Follow his script. Bring your dude friend (call him your Ex, even if he’s not) into your home and see how much your boyfriend likes being on the other side of it! Then when he gets mad (and he will, cause dontcha know, your vagina belongs to him!) you can give him the sweet innocent face and say “oh, but I thought this was how we work! Also, I think it’s time to go shopping for a bigger bed, don’t you?”

    • MuddieMae said:

      You really gotta one-up him. Invite, like, three people to come stay in the bed for a week. Three people with dogs that also like to sleep in the bed.

      • espridecorps said:

        I LOLed. 😀

      • And make sure all three people and all six dogs snore.

      • johann7 said:

        WET dogs. AND humans. Make sure you all shower together first.

        Also a duck, because ducks are inherently funny, and if we’re going for ansurdism, we need a duck!

      • Amtep said:

        “Of course they have to stay in the bed! What would roommate think if three people and their dogs slept in the living room?”

        • The Awe Ritual said:

          She could just start a love affair with some saltine crackers. But yeah, you do need some ducks.

    • J said:

      Then have him walk around with his trousers off and urinate while BF is in the bathroom. You know all this might not be ‘bad’ advice. It might be what LW needs to externalize this to any other human when she sees BF go off the rails at having a man pee naked next to him. Animal displays indeed…

  44. moreforthat said:

    “Because he is creating a extremely bizarre situation that would be a total deal-breaker for a lot of people, and then acts as if is normal.”

    YES, this, exactly. LW, you are not an awkwardness alien. You are a person with a partner who’s doing extremely awful, disrespectful, boundary-breaking shit while pretending that it’s all normal, and you end up feeling like YOU’RE the one with a problem. This is gaslighting. I have never commented on this site before but I felt so compelled to here. Please leave him, LW; you deserve so, so, so, so much better than this.

  45. bopper said:

    Live Your Boundaries.

    Tell him you don’t want her over anymore.
    If that doesn’t happen, then move out.

  46. H.C. said:

    On a tangent (feel free to remove if it’s not appropriate to this comment section), but bummers to find out That Bad Advice went on hiatus – though I’m thrilled that blogger is moving to a career in reproductive justice.

      • The hiatus notice was just posted, though Tumblr’s interface makes it hard to tell.

  47. Aveline said:

    You are the girlfriend appliance. She’s the shiny plaything.

    She’s his priority. You are his unpaid servant.

    He’s counting on you to be there, but doesn’t do anything to make sure you are happy or fulfilled.

    He doesn’t care about you. He cares about what you do for him.

    • Jenny Islander said:

      LW, ALL OF THE ABOVE. You know those revolting 19th century men who actually got published saying that a fully realized man had one woman for use and one for pleasure? That’s him.

      I prescribe complete physical, financial, and electronic separation, followed by a long hot shower and a pleasant evening with your media and snacks of choice in your comfortable, freshly laundered, and solitary bed. Therapy and/or support groups are a definite yes afterward, but first, treat yourself!

  48. FiercePassions said:

    Another polya person here screaming WHAT IN THE EVERLOVING FUCK??!?

    You are not an awkward alien who doesn’t no how to person. Well maybe you are, but that is completely incidental to the bs your partner is pulling. Your reaction to what he is doing is very much Personing.

    He *is* gaslighting you by acting as if their relationship is normal & common. It isn’t. Not in monogamous relationships & not in polyamourous relationships (because there would be prior discussion & consent from all parties involved).

    He doesn’t deserve you. You deserve better. If this is the best boyfriend you’ve ever had….::sigh:: I’m concerned about what you’ve put up with in past relationships. I think you would benefit tremendously from having a therapist help you figure out some things.


    • Indie said:

      “He *is* gaslighting you by acting as if their relationship is normal & common”

      Yuppity yup. It is the Milgram experiment, or the smoke filled room experiment almost to a tee. Also there are two of them, so LW knows she will be outnumbered and dismissed if she says anything. Their actions promise that she will be seen as the weird one. That’s a high stakes place to make a decision about how she is seen in the relationship; right in the moment. But when they are alone, BF removes the smoke, the warning signals and LW feels like there’s no need to act because he gets it. If he really did get it he’d stop entirely instead of just hiding the equipment between experiments on LW’s ability to say “fuck no” and “get out”.

      LW the only way to win is not to play.

  49. Osceola said:

    Are you a partner or an appliance?

    He’s treating you like a servant or appliance. He’s treating her like his priority plaything.

    You are NOT the priority in this triad. She is.

    • No. He’s the priority in this triad.

  50. MuddieMae said:

    UUUUUUUUUUUUUGH. Having a houseguest one week a month – that’s 25% of the time! – would be something needing Discussion all by itself. That’s before the part where it’s an ex girlfriend and the part where they sleep in your bed. It’s Discussion Cubed, or, Time To Go.

    (Also, you share a house so presumably your there so all three of you are in one bed at a time? Too effing crowded)

    I stayed with friends for a bit to let an ex move out of our my apartment, and he had the absolute brass ones to tell me his new girlfriend was coming to visit during that time and staying with him. In our my bed. Not ask, tell me as an aside and then be shocked (SHOCKED! and ever so dismayed) that I was not okay with it. But I think your dude has topped him.

  51. Angle-a said:

    Hey LW.


    I just want to ask you to try to value yourself as much as you do him & think about how he would feel if you behaved like he does.
    My estranged husband left me in a dire financial state with 4 kids to raise. I kept struggling & paying his bills (on top of mine) for 18 months to support him & his “getting well” process. He refused to get a job the whole time until I stopped. Then his mum called to ask me where his money went…
    All the time I was empathising about how he was a really lovely guy that just needed time to sort himself out. Because he is lovely. But he’s also a mother fucking arsehole who thinks (still) that his desires matter so much more than my & the kids needs.
    It’s hard to spot “monsters” because they look like us & often they have perfected the art of certain desirable human traits. My husband was handsome, funny as all get out & the best lover I have ever had. I miss that. But I am worth so much more than everything else he threw my way, from financial to emotional abuse.
    You are worth so much more than what you’re getting now, too, LW. You deserve not to be frightened about contracting an STD; being usurped in your own home by his “ex”. You deserve to be listened to & respected, loved & cherished & first of all you have to do all that for you.
    Good luck precious person. It’s s journey, keep travelling. ❤️

    • Lizards80 said:

      Angle-a…..his mother called you to ask where his money went???

      I can’t seem to get my jaw off the floor. I can’t even!! Many things that decrease my ability to even…this one leaves me with a complete deficit of ability to even.

    • subliminalflicker said:

      Ok, what the effing heck-monster is up with dudes like this and their mothers? I broke up with a guy and moved out. And he then proceeded to harrass me by phone for weeks. Then his mother accused me of harrassment because I told him to stop or I would file a harassment report with the cops. Like….o.o. really? Mind boggling. “Where’s his money?” …. I’m just going to go mutter about asshats and their enabling mothers for today.

  52. Nine times ten said:

    Yet another polyamorous person chiming in to say that this is completely messed-up and is the opposite of ethical nonmonogamy. No one deserves to be treated this way.

    Also, LW, I agree with others that he’s definitely cheating on you with her, but even if he weren’t, his other behavior is _way_ more than enough reason to DTFA.

  53. Clorinda said:

    How is this NOT gaslighting? BF has got her convinced, somehow, that she’s in the wrong and that her complaints are unreasonable! That’s totally gaslighting.

  54. coolernow said:

    This reminds me of the year I spent dating a man who was technically married, but his wife lived with her boyfriend, and all they seemed to share was a bank account, and ??? I should have asked a lot more questions but I didn’t. One day we ran into his wife in a bar, and she proceeded to be an astonishing bitch to me (and him, but mostly me). I acted cool, because I wanted to be the Cool Girlfriend, and as soon as we finished our beers, we’d leave, right? No. He finished his beer and immediately ordered a SECOND beer. I couldn’t believe it! But I also sat through the second beer, to be Cool. Later on I realized that this was how she acted all the time, to everyone, and her husband was so used to it he didn’t see anything wrong with it.

    I am happy to say I have redefined Being Cool as “immediately protesting and/or leaving when somebody is being a dick to me.” I used it earlier this week when a street harasser followed me into a twelve-step meeting. When my first bid to get him kicked out failed, I just got up and left, because I don’t have to act like I’m the bigger person or I’m not bothered by shitty behavior. I DO hate being harassed. I DON’T mind letting people know I’m bothered by it. I AM willing to make everyone else more uncomfortable to stop being harassed.

    LW, I submit to you that when you feel like “I’m now an awkwardness alien who can’t fucking Person anymore,” what you’re feeling is not your inability to be cool, but a clear recognition that what is going on right now is totally unacceptable. It’s just that the people around you are pretending it’s okay, in order to gaslight you into doubting your extremely correct reactions. (Yes, your boyfriend IS gaslighting you. Sorry. 😦 ) It’s like you’re sitting in a room that is slowly filling with smoke but the smoke alarm isn’t going off, so you keep sitting there, coughing when you breathe, and wondering why you’re so bad at breathing.

    You’re great at breathing. Your boyfriend (and his awful ex) are walking trash fires. You’ll feel so much better when you’re away from them!

    • Kitty said:

      “It’s like you’re sitting in a room that is slowly filling with smoke but the smoke alarm isn’t going off, so you keep sitting there, coughing when you breathe, and wondering why you’re so bad at breathing.

      You’re great at breathing. Your boyfriend (and his awful ex) are walking trash fires.”

      I love this analogy

      • there’s an experiment i watched a video of in one of my classes this week — the researchers had people take a survey, then created a fake fire. when the participants were alone in the room, they left the building quickly. the researchers then planted several actors in the room, all instructed that when the fire alarm started to go off, they were to ignore it and stay put. invariably, the participant stayed in the room long past when it would have been extremely dangerous had it been a real fire, because everyone else was seemingly fine. it seems like you, LW, are the participant stranded in an experiment where everyone is busy doing egregious boundary-crossing behavior but has been instructed to act like it is normal and You Are The Weird One. you are not the weird one. and even if this was stuff that wouldn’t bother other people? it is bothering you! you are allowed to be uncomfortable with this situation. you are allowed to leave the room when the smoke alarm goes off.

        • I feel like I may have accidentally been in this experiment. A friend and I were in a theater watching the movie, “Big Fish,” which is full of surreal goings-on, and at one very timely moment, the fire alarm went off and the projection halted and the house lights came on, all simultaneously.

          Everyone sat there and didn’t move.

          We were in the back, so I didn’t move either for a second, to give others time to dash out ahead of me.

          Nobody moved.

          I got up and dashed out, and when no one moved behind me, I said I’d see what was going on.

          I found a manager and it did turn out to be a false alarm, but still have no idea why no one else moved, including my friend.

          I’ve seen people do the same thing for tornado warnings, which is even more stupid in my opinion. I’ve read up on the science of exactly what is going on when they issue one of those, and the only non-stupid thing to do under such a warning is to GET UNDERGROUND NOW, THIS SECOND, DON’T EVEN STOP TO BREATHE, EVEN IF YOU’RE AT THE EDGE OF THE WARNING AREA. They use air raid sirens for those things for a reason — tornadoes can bomb a place back to the Stone Age in seconds.

          • johann7 said:

            What’s happening is proper Bayesian reasoning: nearly every time one has ever heard a fire alarm (maybe even every time), it’s been a false alarm. So one very reasonable concludes that the odds that there actually is a fire are lower than the odds that there is a fire when a fire alarm goes off, which is true.

            The cost-benefit analysis still favors evacuating IMO, but I can’t say that people who ignore the alarm are being unreasonable.

          • TO_Ont said:

            A half decent cost-benefit analysis always takes into account not just the probability of each possibility, but the price of error in each case, though.

            If it’s a false alarm and you leave, nothing bad happens. You go outside, five minutes later you find out it’s a false alarm and go back inside and get on with your life like nothing happened.

            If it is not a false alarm, and you do not leave, you will probably die a horrible and frightening death, today.

            The chance of it being real has to be pretty infinitesimally small before option two becomes a reasonable choice.

          • Just a passing weasel said:

            It’s a combination of (a) most people can’t think of novel reactions in a crisis and (b) it’s often socially awkward to be the first to do something.

            (a) is why we have fire drills (so that people can react by doing a thing they’ve done before) and (b) is why so many people feel the need to get drunk before they hit the dance floor 😉

          • Light37 said:

            Unfortunately, a lot of people have been trained not to take alarms seriously. Too many false alarms, and denial plays a big part of the process.

            One night in grad school the fire alarm went off four times from 11pm to 4am because students were drunk and decided it would be funny to pull it. By the last one, less than half the people in my dorm were came out. I was one of them, because a friend’s house had burned down not too long before and I took it seriously even as I cursed the name and lineage of the idiot who had triggered it yet again.

          • One time, I was on the phone with a customer when the building started to shake. Since the phone kept working, I just ignored it and kept talking to the customer. It took a co-worker and my boss yelling at me “IT’S AN EARTHQUAKE!” to get me out of the building. I had no idea that’s what it was. It was a minor earthquake and everything was fine.

  55. anninyn said:

    OK. LW, this is… far from ideal. He is trying to get you guys to have sex, definitely, and he’s being unethical and terrible about it.

    You keep expressing your boundaries and he just… strides right past them like they don’t even matter! You are not the problem!

    • Violet said:

      I’m wondering how long it’s going to be before this situation slides over from “she sleeps in our bed and walks around naked” to “I woke up in the middle of the night and one/both of them was actively groping and kissing me/they were having sex and tried to make me participate/all sorts of other horrible potential outcomes,” because I feel like it could go there at any minute. 😦

      • I’m wondering if it already *did* get there? The part where LW says “(Not pictured: frequent references to their past, all their orgies and predictably boundaryless sex life. I’m all for fun group things, but I need to soberly discuss them before they happen. Again, he gets this, but has yet to demonstrate that as a practical behaviour before I find myself in a position of awful panic.)” makes me wonder what exactly is going on. Are BF/the ex trying to pressure LW into something sexual and it’s only not happening because LW panics? Cause if so…..that makes the situation so much more Burn It With Fire than it already was.

  56. Granny Smith said:

    This is what stands out to me:

    “awkwardness alien who can’t Person anymore…”

    It sounds to me like the LW is judging her feelings and needs. LW, if you get upset and freak out, this is a signal to pay attention to your needs. It’s not a sign that you need to learn how not to freak out, so that you can ignore your needs even more skillfully. Maintaining a cool, non-awkward demeanor in order to ignore that you have emotions or needs isn’t a worthwhile goal.

    You are entitled to feel freaked out, you are entitled to be awkward. Sure, there are some kinds of awkward freakouts that might be inappropriate, such as abusive behavior, but that’s not what’s happening here.

    Imagine someone who had high self-esteem and perfect boundaries. Now imagine that person had an awkward, alien-like outburst because she got upset over something her partner did. Would that woman judge her inability to “person” or would she say to herself, “wait a minute. I am so upset I can barely function right now. This situation with my partner has to change, because I won’t put myself in situations where I get this upset all the time”? Obviously, it’s the latter.

    I am not sure your boyfriend’s motives are all that important. He might be gaslighting, he might be cheating, he might be genuinely clueless, but what’s truly important is how YOU feel. Let your own feelings, not your interpretation of his behavior, be your north star to guide you as you navigate this relationship. If you continue to have all these unhappy experiences, then something has to change, and that something is NOT that your tolerance to disrespect and bad boundaries should increase. The something is more likely that your standards for others’ behavior around you should be raised. Judging your emotions, needs, behaviors, etc. will lead you in the opposite direction.

    • Czarnoskrzydła said:

      I generally agree but I think it could still be useful to know the bf’s motives to establish whether this relationship can be salvaged. It’s true that how she feels should be her north star here and it’s absolutely enough, but the bf’s motives matter to me because:

      1. If he is just clueless (or has some weird relationships norms that were never negotiated), then putting in hard boundaries, arguing about it and not backing off can actually result in a successfully ex-less relationship.

      2. If the bf if abusive, gaslighting and cheating (which, I think, he is) there are no magical words the LW can use to make him less shitty. No scripts and no amount of assertive boundaries are going to make it better and there is really very little sense in trying to make this work.

      The LW is asking about ways to make this better and that’s why I think it’s useful to call a spade a spade: this guy is abusive and, because of this, there is no ‘making it better’.
      So I guest the bf’s motives matter to me because… it makes it clearer whether it even makes sens to try to put effort into saving this, I guess? I hope I’m making myself clear x_x

      “Maintaining a cool, non-awkward demeanor in order to ignore that you have emotions or needs isn’t a worthwhile goal.”
      Yes, this! This reminds me my fav saying that I picked up here: there is no award for being the world’s coolest girlfriend.

      • Kitty said:

        Idk, I think I have to agree with Granny Smith that his motives don’t matter here. Either:

        A) He is maliciously doing this on purpose and is abusive, therefore dump him.
        B) He’s not doing this maliciously but still on purpose, just doesn’t care at all about LW’s feelings, in which case dump him.
        C) He is genuinely so clueless that he is “unable” to understand boundaries at all. In which case, dump him. It might theoretically be possibly to drill some common sense into a person like this with repeated strong boundary enforcement, but that’s signing up for a shitload of emotional labour just to be treated like a human being, which the LW should *not* have to do.

        • Light37 said:

          Yeah, whichever way this falls out, all of those answers suck at varying degrees and the LW deserves better.

      • BigDogLittleCat said:

        LW has told him how she feels and he’s still clueless? That’s intentional cluelessness.
        bf is no more clueless than a creeper is “awkward.”

        • Brisvegan said:

          I agree.

          In fact, this is not intentional cluelessness. It’s pretended cluelessness so that he can do whatever the heck he likes and get to hurt you as a bonus.

          You have used your words. He is now making decisions that he knows hurt you.

          Once you clearly tell someone that something hurts or upsets you, if they continue to do it, they either intend to hurt and upset you (because they like power or inflicting pain) or they are so selfish that they don’t care if they hurt and upset you.

          I was married to someone who was an expert in “forgetting” or “not knowing” that he was hurting me, despite my very clear statements. Once I wised up and realised that it was actually emotional abuse and that hurting me was a feature for him, not a bug, I finally got out. Don’t be me, giving up your youth and a big chunk of your life to an a’hole who hurts you for kicks or doesn’t care if he hurts you, so long as he gets what he wants.

          LW, you deserve better than someone who is intentionally hurting you or hurts you and doesn’t care.

      • J said:

        I used to do that. Why is he doing this? Thinking if only I understood him I could fix it. Maybe for some things. But the important factor here is that LW has clearly communicated with words that she is not ok with it. And BF keeps doing it. While telling her he’s so sorry! He’s a lying liar and it doesn’t matter why. That might matter to him and his therapist but LW is being treated badly and gaslit about it. Does it really matter why? I get the impulse but I’ve even had bfs who would use that to further gaslight me. Oh I feel so terrible. I’m bossy and controlling bc ‘insert reason here’ but then they wouldn’t STOP. They’d just appear to self flagellate, essentially making themselves the victim of their pasts while excusing their behavior in the present. And for a while I bought into it. Then one day I’d realize hey I’ve got issues too but I have never not once played the ‘but I can’t help it I had a bad childhood’ excuse. There’s no excuse that will make this guys behavior ok. Though I do get where you’re coming from ice been there. And been glad to kea e that awful self denying place

        • Czarnoskrzydła said:

          I hear you! Yeah I think you nailed it. I have this strong urge to understand why someone is treating me badly and lately I have been having a not so fun time with it – explaining away behaviors of a guy who treats me poorly. It’s scary how difficult it is NOT to do that: if I just go with my gut (‘I feel terrible around him so I’m leaving’) I feel so guilty, like I’m not giving him enough chances (he’s depresses which makes it so much harder because it’s not his fault he is sick! He feels even worse than me!). It’s the worst. I guess I need to try harder but I think you are right in the end. It’s just easy to understand it and more difficult to.. kinda really absorb it I guess and live by it. I’m trying but I’m still going back to this way of thinking without even realizing it!
          I hope the LW cuts this fucker loose.

          • Aris Merquoni said:

            I think that the compassionate way to look at it–if you want to extend this compassion–is that even in the “best case” scenario where the person in question is well meaning but keeps trampling on boundaries because they have never been taught to take other people’s needs seriously when they conflict with their own desires, the answer is the same.

            People don’t change unless they have a reason to, and if “telling them this hurts” isn’t enough of a reason, and “we’re fighting about this and discussing it all the time” isn’t a reason, the only thing they’ll learn from is you leaving. And even that may not be enough.

            But it’s pretty much impossible to love someone else into being a better person. If they don’t want to change because what they’re doing works for them, it doesn’t matter how much effort you put in. Leaving makes the situation not work for them, and gives them impetus to change.

          • Tace said:

            @Czarnoskrzydła –

            I’ve been depressed, seriously depressed, and my ethical choice at that time was something like, “I cannot be in a relationship right now bc it’s too much hard work for me, I would lash out at them and that would not be okay, and also it would be unfair to a partner to expect them to do all the hard work to keep me/the relationship/our household going while I hide under the duvet for months at a time.”

            Here’s an idea for you to consider: when you write off his bad behaviour as “not his fault/he’s sick!”, that’s actually a form of ableism. (And I’m not criticising you for that! It’s a complicated concept that we don’t talk about enough.) It’s a weird thing, because holding people to a lower standard feels like you’re being kind to them, but expecting depressed people to treat others badly in interpersonal relationships is not kind and understanding, it’s patronising and discriminatory.

            Sure, making a relationship work while depressed IS hard work. There is an extra layer of effort, when you’re depressed. You’re going to have bad days and make mistakes. You may need some coping strategies, some help from other people, and you may need to make some adjustments long-term. But that’s true of any relationship. You need to put some effort in, even when you’re depressed.

            Your partner is the only one who can cope with or improve their mental healh issues. You cannot cure them for them. You are not a trained therapist; even if you were, it would be unethical as hell for you to ‘treat’ your own partner. It is literally not your job to support him through his mental health issues! And remember – if you were his paid carer or therapist, he’d be expected to treat you professionally and respectfully while you were helping him. Abusive behaviour is never okay.

            Forgiving him when he’s a jerk is easy in the moment, but unhelpful to HIM in the long term. He needs a support network to help him through this, but in order to keep that support network, he needs to treat people with basic respect and decency and not get into the habit of lashing out at whoever’s nearest, and then using his depression as an excuse. If he’s making you feel bad – that is his fault and his responsibility, and he needs to change his own bad habits. You are not his punching bag.

            Depression should never be a stick you beat your loved ones with. (And it doesn’t matter if you’re doing that deliberately and maliciously, or unintentionally and accidentally: it’s not okay!)

            tl;dr: We are all responsible for our own choices, and we cannot force other people to make the choices we want them to make. The only proper time to offer a second chance is AFTER THE FIRST OFFENCE. If you’ve had the same conversation over and over and the other person keeps doing the same kinds of things again and again, knowing that it hurts you – well, you either give up on hoping for better and learn to live with what you have, or you leave. There is no magic third option.

        • Brisvegan said:

          Were you dating my ex?

          Part of me wising up and leaving was me trying to explain to someone that my ex was really a good guy who would not hurt me and the kids, if only I could get him to understand that his insults and abusive behaviours hurt us. My kid’s psych asked me how long I had been trying. When I confessed it had been years, it hit me that ex knew perfectly well he was hurting us. My denial came crumbling down.

          He used his childhood as an excuse all the time, too.

      • I strongly disagree with you. It is not useful. The only real options here are: self-absorbed, cruel, and too incompetent to function in a relationship.

        How does it help to know which, when all of them scream run?

    • Sandrilene Fa Toren said:

      Speaking of the awkward alien thing, Partner is not some kind of saint for being kind when a Too Much People freakout occurs. That’s the bare minimum. It’s Human Decency 101, not a special bonus.

      Especially because I highly, highly suspect that the freakouts are indeed being exacerbated by Partner’s bad behavior here.

  57. If the OP is supposed to be in a monogamous relationship, I think the word the Captain is looking for is “cheating.”

  58. FairestCat said:

    LW, I think bf (and his ex) have manipulated you into what I can only describe as non-consensual polyamory.

    They want to have a polyamorous relationship. No, they are IN a polyamorous relationship. It’s just that one of the people in that relationship (you) did not consent.

    As a polyam person this makes me SO FUCKING ANGRY. Consent and boundaries are essential aspects of ethical nonmonogamy. BF is refusing to accept your lack of consent and consistently ignoring your very reasonable boundaries. (If he thinks your boundaries are unreasonable then HE should have broken up with you months ago, not spent months attempting to systematically destroy them.)

    Add me to the list of people encouraging you to RUN as far away from this guy as you can get as quickly as you can. It sounds like you guys live together, so depending on finances “as quickly as you can,” might not be as quickly as you’d like, so stay safe and do what needs to be done to protect your access to housing and your belongings, but definitely GO.

    • Granny Smith said:

      If it’s non-consensual, which it clearly is, is the word polyamory even appropriate here? Isn’t it more like plain sexual abuse?

      • eikaron said:

        In this particular case I agree: we shouldn’t call it polyamory (stealth polyfuckery is just fine). That said, it can make sense to call a relationship polyamorous even if there is no or only ‘technical’ consent on one side. Otherwise what you get is “there are never any issues with coercion in polyamorous relationships because if there are then it’s obviously not real polyamory”. Presumably we still classify a relationship as ‘monogamous’ even if someone is cheating so let’s extend the same courtesy to polyamory. Anyway, this is going too much into semantics – shitty dude is shitty, full stop. Dump his ass LW, you sound like a wonderful person and you can do so much better!

        (I suppose we could go with ‘non-consensual “‘polyamory” ‘ – said with air quotes and in the most condescending tone known to humankind)

        • Vasha said:

          I think that ordinary cheating is when the cheater’s partner isn’t supposed to know about the cheating, whereas stealth-polyfuckery is when the cheater is carrying on more or less openly and trying to convince their partner either that the second relationship isn’t a relationship or that they ought to be okay with it.

        • Vicki said:

          If one of my partners got involved with someone else and lied to me about it, that might be cheating in a polyamorous context. (When a friend of mine’s partner in what was supposed to be a closed triad took a new lover and lied to both of his triad partners about it, that was definitely cheating, and the cheater lost both his partners.)

          I might call it polyamory if one person was pressured into accepting an open relationship even though they wanted monogamy. But there’s a difference between “someone was pressured into this in order to be Chill, or to keep their partner, or…” and “this guy has two partners, one of whom thinks they’re in a monogamous relationship.”

          But the semantics here don’t much matter. It might matter to the letter writer whether her boyfriend is actually having sex with his not-so-previous girlfriend, if only in terms of safer sex precautions. But even if they aren’t having sex (by LW and/or boyfriend’s definition of “sex”), he is clearly prioritizing this other person over her. This isn’t even “I’m sorry, I can’t spend your birthday with you, my mother/grandfather/boss/ex-girlfriend insists I see them on the 23rd” level of someone else getting priority; it’s cancelling an existing two-day plan for something other than a serious emergency, and presenting her with that as a fait accompli. I can think of reasons other than my or the other person’s illness that would, for me, justify changing plans that way, but they’d be “Vicki, I know we have a trip planned, but Close Friend is having X emergency, is that okay?” and discussions of rescheduling/otherwise making up for it.

          There’s a pattern here: the cancelled birthday trip and the Ex being there one week every month and the letting her delay things to get her makeup right and the insisting that she gets to share their bed and…

  59. I can guarantee that the boyfriend is fucking the houseguest.

  60. Diane said:

    I think the word we’re looking for here might be “polyjacked.”

    • JenniferP said:

      I like it!

    • I approve of this word but not the action. 😉

  61. Freya said:

    LW, this girl already sleeps in your bed, what it would take for you to put your foot down?

    I too once had a relationship with a dude who was perfect except for this ONE thing where girls would always be flirting with him and he wouldn’t discourage it until, inevitably, they would do something that stepped over the line (try to kiss him, call him to come over at 2am, declare their feelings for him…and those are only the things he told me about or I witnessed). He would act SO surprised. Every. Single. Time. Finally, he broke my heart beyond fixing and the rose colored glasses fell the fuck off. In retrospect, I realized it wasn’t that he was just SO attractive that women couldn’t help themselves- there was a whole boatload of subtle things he was doing to signal to women that he considered himself romantically available, even if he explicitly told me the opposite. Talk is cheap, actions don’t lie. When someone repeatedly demonstrates to you that they are unwilling to change hurtful behavior, believe it.

    Also, I’m sure your boyfriend has a lot of good qualities, and I know what it’s like to give the benefit of the doubt to someone you care for….but from my outsider perspective, I think it speaks volumes about him that he wants a girl like his ex in his life. There may come a day when you look back and think he’s not so shiny. Just as an experiment, watch the way he behaves without the benefit of the doubt, and see if his actions suddenly make perfect sense.

  62. Andrea said:

    LW, it sounds like you are thinking of this as the single issue standing between you and complete content-ness with this dude – and I don’t buy it. Best case scenario, your take on the situation is 100% accurate, and he genuinely wants to prioritize your needs and comfort but is absolutely clueless as to what those are unless you are telling him so in the moment (this is still bad! it’s an important quality in a life partner that they… actually know things about what would make you upset? Even if he’s trying 100%, such consistent failure means that he’s not a good partner for *you*)
    Other scenarios I think have been covered, or at least strongly hinted at.
    I’ve also got some practical advice – you think you’re not being gaslit, and that he’s genuine. The problem is that he doesn’t know how to not hurt you with his behavior re:his ex. So tell him. Very clearly, with timelines and explicit rules. Say “I don’t want ex over here [ever again] [for at least three months] [pick some time frame that seems reasonable to you]”. Say “I don’t want to interact with ex. I’m fine if you [hang out, play shuffleboard, ””play”’ ””shuffleboard””] with her, but I want to basically never see her face”. Say “Don’t be late to dates with me because your doing things for ex.”. Present these as very simple, very explicit ways that he actually act on how much he recognizes this as an issue. If he pushes back, or says he’ll do the things but then doesn’t…. well, then you’ve got a Very Clear signal to work off.

    • OMJ said:

      I sense a case of Relationship Advice Gone Toxic here. LW is hearing things like “Use your words!” and “No partner is a mind-reader!” and “Relationships take compromise!” and stretching them to a horrible, unhealthy extreme. Because, like, your words have to be backed up with actions, and a good partner can make reasonable inferences (especially if they’ve been told something similar in the past), and you should never compromise so far that you’re consistently unhappy. This relationship is like the bizarro-world version of a healthy relationship, and in bizarro-world your common-sense advice no longer applies.

      But yeah, I agree that if LW really feels the need to give it another shot, then stating very explicit *actions* they want tied to their feelings is the best way to go. It would give them a bright line they can keep an eye on so they don’t feel so lost.

      • The Awe Ritual said:

        Quite so.

    • Yeah, no.

      That takes the LW into “But you never said that [X] is off limits. How could I know?” territory. (Where X is absolutely anything. Use your imagination.)

      Not a job LW wants.

      • Have I ever told the story of That Fucking Guy and the Monogamish Relationship?

        Some years after I dated a TFG, he met and began a relationship with a wonderful woman who also was absolutely not interested in any way in polyamory. TFG agreed to be monogamous (who knows why? he clearly didn’t intend to actually do it) and it lasted no time at all. Long Suffering Girlfriend (LSG) soon discovered that he had gone to a festival and hooked up with a non-local woman. When she confronted TFG, he insisted that they hadn’t had PIV sex so he didn’t know he’d done anything wrong. She said “So I’m not okay with you having non-PIV sex either” and he said “oh, I’m sorry, I had no idea, this is my first monogamous relationship” and she was like “okay cool, problem solved, I forgive, don’t do it again”. So the next time TFG and NLW met up, they just did oral. Of course, TFG had no conception of discretion, and NLW was, I suspect, really trying to break them up so she could go on fucking TFG, so LSG finds out. She says “I can’t believe I have to say this, but oral is also sex. Please stop.”

        Well, I’m sure you can infer the progression, but it wound up with LSG finding out that TFG and NLW had been meeting up at a local motel and sitting across the room from each other masturbating together, and when she said “what the hell” TFG said “I didn’t break your rules so you can’t be mad” and she dumped him.

        Somewhat pleasingly, NLW later married a guy who proceeded to do pretty much the same thing to her, with his affair partner being someone equally terrible, so I could shamelessly eat popcorn while watching the slow-motion explosion.

        • Those people! Jeeze Louise.

          And that story is priceless. Thank you. 😁

        • Angle-a said:


  63. Kitty said:

    “Never does annnything resembling deflection or gaslighting.”

    I dunno, I’d say that acting like you guys never had that conversation and continuing to do the thing then act surprised when you’re upset again, leading to you feeling crazy… *is* gaslighting?

    I mean, noone is truly *that* clueless that he” doesn’t anticipate” that he should not do those things anymore, especially when you’ve told him pretty explicitly the things you do not want to happen anymore.

    I’m sorry LW, I think the Captain’s right – he wants it this way. Whether he is intentionally trying to put you off balance, or hoping you will eventually give in to sexytimes with this woman, or just likes the ego stroking of having her around, he is doing this because he likes it. And he is putting his desires above your feelings and comfort. That’s not a sustainable way to do a relationship.

    ❤ to you, hope you get this woman out of your life either way.

  64. so why can’t he meet up with his ex on his own time without subjecting his current girlfriend to this toxic person?

    • JenniferP said:

      Good question.

    • Willow said:

      Because it’s more fun to have the LW see all this crap, because he’s an asshat.

  65. Nopetopus Cowgirl said:

    Like Satan’s own menstrual cycle! Laughing loud enough to startle my children (in the apartment). And I haven’t laughed at all this week. Thank you CA. Really trying so hard to think of ways I can casually work that into future conversations. It will no doubt keep me up tonight. Sorry if someone else has already said this or something very like it. Haven’t read all the comments yet.

    • I’d be using that as her name “Somc” for short.
      It would be in past tense though because I wouldn’t spend a second trying to sort this mess out.
      Neither the dude or the ex are worth the effort.

    • xms967 said:

      That was the most perfect turn of phrase I’ve heard in a minute.

  66. boskage said:

    Here, I have a quick solution for his continued inability to be “sensitive” to your feelings: he tells the ex that they can be friendly, but they can no longer be friends—no more regular lunches, no more sleepovers, no more generic hanging out. Whatever secondary reasons might be keeping them together, he doesn’t know how to behave appropriately, so he needs to quit it with the bff bullshit. They own a business together? Weekly conference calls, no lunches. She lives out of town but works around you periodically? Hotels, Airbnb, crash on sofas belonging to other people.

    “Downgrading this friendship” is a monumentally obvious solution to his claims of never anticipating that an action with her will hurt you. If he was actually prioritizing you as his primary relationship, then he’d have downgraded after the first three or four fuckups. Emphasis on “if.”

    His relationship with you is not his top priority. You are not his top priority or this very, very solvable big problem would have been solved already.

    I get the sense that you feel obligated to be the “cool girlfriend”; that being a modern woman means having chill relationships with your former flames, being totally unjealous, and keeping an open mind about non-monogamy. I think you’re getting sucked into a trap, tho’, because you don’t sound like any of those things are making you feel comfortable, happy, or fulfilled. Everyone has different relationship needs and being a cool modern woman just means respecting the boundaries on other people’s personal relationship choices. You sound like someone who needs her primary romantic relationship to be her partner’s top priority. That is a completely valid need. Can’t or won’t, this guy ain’t meeting it.

    It took me dating a couple of deeply incompatible charmers for me to realize that romantic relationships are different from friendships—it’s not being intolerant to decide that something is a deal breaker. It doesn’t make you a bad person to say “this is what I need from a partner and you don’t meet the requirements. Sorry and best of luck in your future endeavors.” More precisely, I think you are allowed to be uncool and stereotypical when it comes down to romantic/sexual relationships so long as you aren’t forcing your [whatever] on your partner(s).

    I’m sorry that the “best guy you’ve ever dated” isn’t actually meeting your relationship needs. Nothing we can say will make him do that. If he wanted to meet your need to be his top priority, he would have figured out how to meet them! He’d be writing in, “oh Captain Awkward, I keep making my girlfriend cry because I act like my ex is more important.” And we’d all eye-roll and say “hey dickweed, maybe try acting like your ex is LESS important.”

    DTMFA. Not having your needs met is making you break. *You* sound like someone who cares about other people’s feelings and opinions, who wants to make an effort to meet someone halfway in a disagreement. *You* sound like a cool and thoughtful HUMAN BEING who has perfectly reasonable wants and desires, if also a few neuroses. Those elements make you a great candidate for other relationships with other guys who have the same relationship needs. You should free yourself up to go find the next one.

    • Jen said:

      I second the “cool girl” pressure thing. Sometimes I think, in trying to be accepting or open to a wide variety of relationship configurations, we can overcompensate and think we, ourselves, are “s’posed to” be open to any relationship configuration. The configuration of sharing your bed one week a month with a woman you don’t like isn’t making you happy. It’s not “not humaning”, LW, to know that about yourself or want it to stop. You could want to spend your birthday with your partner very vehemently, even if it were strange to want it. (I think the commentariat makes it clear that this is a pretty typical want, tho.). It’s awful when you have two choices, neither of which you want (tear apart your life and living situation or play third wheel in your own home), but life is pretty awful sometimes. People can be tough, too, especially when they get some help. You can do this.

    • AllanV said:

      romantic relationships are different from friendships—it’s not being intolerant to decide that something is a deal breaker.

      …this is also true of friendships, though. We get to decide what we need from a friend just as much as we get to decide what we need from a romantic partner.

      • neverjaunty said:

        This. It’s true of ALL human relationships.

      • Nanani said:

        So much this. “Accepting” and “tolerant” goes both ways. Sometimes people just aren’t compatible, and that’s OK. It’s never ok to use “tolerance” to force one person’s preference on another.

        • boskage said:

          I dunno. I would feel intolerant for ending a friendship over something like polyamory or religious differences, but I think those are perfectly valid reasons for ending a romantic relationship. Different life choices intrude differently into a friendship, a sexual relationship, or a romantic relationship, with some choices that are “personal decisions” for a friend suddenly affecting you as well if you start dating/hooking-up.

          I guess I’m really just saying that it’s not intolerant to object to decisions that directly affect you! You don’t have to apply the same standards of behavior in a friendship to a sexual/romantic relationship, and vice versa. It’s totally ok to say “a boyfriend of mine needs to do X” without requiring the same of a friend.

          I don’t think there’s any uncool reasons to stop being sexually/romantically involved with someone; there’s just uncool ways of ending things. I’m not sure the same is true of ending a friendship.

          • TO_Ont said:

            I wouldn’t feel intolerant about ending a friendship over ‘I can’t really have a meaningful conversation with them about the most important things in my life’, which is what your examples can amount to.

            The biggest difference I can think of is that with friendships there’s also the option of downgrading or limiting a friendship. For example you can have your friend you have fun playing board games with once a month, but don’t really have conversations with much.

          • Those examples can amount to not being able to that if one person thinks the other’s lifestyle is evil and immoral, but that won’t always be the case. I’m quite happy for my polyamorous friends and love hearing about their polyamorous adventures. If a boyfriend decided he wanted to see other people, on the other hand, it would affect me directly. I wouldn’t think he was wrong, necessarily, but we might need to change our relationship status to friendship.

          • If my friend joined a religion and tried to convert me to it more than once, that friendship would be over.

  67. Yolanda B. Cool said:

    LW, the birthday incident? That was grounds for a burn-it-to-the-ground-and-salt-the-earth confrontation. Sharing a bed with ex? Also a burn-it-to-the-ground-and-salt-the-earth confrontation-worthy event.

    Your partner is regularly pulling extinction-level shenanigans in your relationship and then acting suuuuuuper surprised and sympathetic when you reasonably try to explain that these things bother you. This is gas-lighting.

    He will not stop, because as the Captain and numerous other commenters have pointed out, he is getting what he wants from this. And he doesn’t care what you want if what you want is going to wobble his status quo in any way.
    He’s just too clever to say so. Because right now, he gets everything he wants for the low, low price of occaisionally acting mildly concerned.

    He is not going to stop.

    LW, I strongly urge you to break it off, because right now, you’re putting in a lot of time and effort and emotional labor for a guy who treats you like toilet paper on a regular basis.

    Also, if (when) you do dump this guy, expect him to magically reappear in your life after a long period of radio silence and want you back at coincidentally the very same time his ex has started dating someone new.

    • “extinction-level shenanigans” is so spot-on.

  68. boskage said:

    If it helps, think of this as a variant on the immortal “my perfect partner wants children and I don’t” conundrum; he wants a Regina George, and you don’t. What’s that line again about how a partner doesn’t have to be bad to be incompatible?

  69. Cyberwulf said:

    LW, he’s fucking her. And she gets off on parading around in front of you, imagining you don’t know about it. He’s using the fact that you’ve admitted being friendly with your exes to set up this little arrangement so that the pair of them can chortle about how much of a chump you are. Dump him, dump her, and make an exception for this ex – don’t be friends with him once it’s done.

  70. Guava said:

    OMG, LW.

    This is not normal. THIS IS NOT NORMAL OR OK. Whatever self-serving logic he’s using to twist you into a pretzel, get you to judge your own feelings and doubt your own perceptions is nothing but a bag of garbage. You will not be able to dump her without dumping him too. Get rid of them both and start over. I promise you that there is something better for you in this world.

  71. Do anyone else think he sounds like a pimp who is recruiting his next girl? something deeply suspicious about this dude

    • Karyn said:

      No, that never occurred to me.

    • How in the world did you get to that? Why do you think the ex is a sex worker?

      • Both the boyfriend and the ex are being deliberately cruel to LW. Trying to break down her boundaries both emotionally and sexually. A lot of boundary testing. Wrecking her self -esteem and making out she is not a “cool” girl for playing along.

        What is their motive? Is it just a horrible game to them or are they motivated by something else? That is all I am wondering.
        We all know these “charming” types can turn on a dime.

        Unfortunately, there have been many a good hearted girl being taken on a ride by “boyfriends” into a damaging territory.
        I wonder if an introduction to addictive drugs will be the next thing.

        • Aris Merquoni said:

          Wow. Um. Wow.

          You’re just kind of openly speculating on horrible things that might happen to the LW in a way that’s really inappropriate.

          We all know that weird things happen all the time, but you sound like you’re writing for an exploitative tabloid warning about the dangerous things that can happen to Nice Girls. LW is an adult and she doesn’t need this 1950s scare film nonsense.

          And to answer your question, their motivation is getting the kind of relationship they want. That’s how abusive people–intentionally or not–work in a relationship. We don’t need the “horrors” of sex (work), drugs, and rock and roll to explain it.

          • B. said:

            What you said. These speculations are not helpful to the LW in any way, not to mention that KO’s tone is incredibly paternalistic.

        • Um, no, KO. They would not be taking so long to groom her into something illegal if that were the case. Businesses (legal or illegal) want to “on-board” employees and put them to work ASAP.

        • B. said:

          The assumption that sex work is something Nice Girls only do when coerced into it by Bad Guys and Bad Drugs because They Didn’t Know Any Better, Since Sex Work Is Obviously An Inhuman Activity Reserved For Lowly Whores is incredibly demeaning and disrespectful to women and sex workers. And it hasn’t even anything to do with the letter.

    • Sarah said:

      Wow no stop. This is not how sex work works. AT ALL. No one has this much time to put into recruiting an unwilling participant. Plain old assholeishness explains LW’s Boyfriend just fine.

    • JenniferP said:

      He is fishy as hell but I don’t think this is a likely scenario.

  72. Morgana said:

    Lots of people have given great advice on losing this guy; strongly agree that he is gaslighting her, behaving extremely coercively, and deeply violating her boundaries.

    One thing I did notice and want to discuss a little: lumping legitimately terrible personality qualities together with markers of femininity (taking time to put on makeup, wearing high heels, caring about her appearance) suggests some subtle underlying misogyny/femphobia to me. Which is understandable, given our culture, but which I think is a) an instinct to be recognized and avoided, and 2) conveniently makes it all the more difficult to see the truth of what is going on. In my experience, it leads to a dynamic where the focus becomes the woman you’re supposedly “in competition” with, rather than who is setting up the competition in the first place: this fucking dude. Her femininity is totally irrelevant here; he is a selfish, unethical asshole and has gotta go.

    • Karyn said:

      I’m going to push back on this a little. If they’ve made plans to leave for dinner at 7, and she’s still doing her stuff at 7:25, that’s rude. Same if she’s monopolizing the bathroom while she does so. If she’s wearing shoes she can’t walk in, how are they getting anywhere? Does she have to take boyfriend’s arm to navigate the curb? Are they taking forever to get two blocks? The ex’s enactment of a certain type of femininity *is* negatively affecting LW.

      • Monica said:

        Ditto. I read this as more “she fucks up time management and I feel pressured to wear shoes that *literally* hobble me”

    • Totally agreed with this. Judge her for ignoring your boundaries; even go ahead and judge for for judging other women as “ugly,” out loud, on a regular basis. But please don’t judge her for her taste in shoes and makeup. Don’t we all get enough of that already (whatever direction it’s coming from)?

    • ShannyL said:

      I noticed that as well. Really, LW, would you be cool with this whole situation if Ex didn’t wear make-up and, I don’t know, spent her spare time selling kombucha in a pair of Birkenstocks at a Farmers Market? I know the temptation to try to blame anyone but your boyfriend, but whether she’s a “Regin George” or not doesn’t change the the fact that this is definitely a case of “you have a partner problem.”

      • adgisga said:

        great job using a stereotype of butches! like we don’t already face overwhelming amounts of violence based on – get this: our failure to perform femininity.

        • ShannyL said:

          What? That was definitely not stereotyping “butches,” or at least it certainly wasn’t meant to! I apologise if it came across that way. I was thinking of a few of my friends who definitely don’t fit the “makeup for hours” stereotype but are still very much beautiful, sexual women that I can’t imagine would be any less threatening in this type of situation.

          • Emmers said:

            I thought kombucha and birks was a hippie stereotype? Like that meme of the white girl in dreads and a big lumpy hat.

          • TO_Ont said:

            Yeah, I have never associated kombucha and farmer’s markets with being ‘butch’. It’s a feminine stereotype as well, just a slightly different one. The superficial stereotype that comes to mind is of a woman who does yoga and breastfeeds into preschool and possibly is vegan.

            Which actually describes some people I know and love, LOL, but is just as much an ultra-feminine stereotype (in this case the stereotype of the empathetic earth mother woman).

    • I don’t see any femphobia in LW’s letter. She didn’t judge “Regina” for taking time to put on makeup.
      It’s delaying other people so she can put on makeup that’s the problem here (along with all the rest of the buttwipery).

      • markethill said:

        This plays directly into a femmephobic stereotype about wasting time on frivolous vanity. Being annoyed that you’re waiting for her is not femmephobic, but there’s a distinct whiff when we start talking about “Makeup Reasons” because it implies that it’s not reasonable for her to want to groom herself to her own standards before going out. For some femme folx, “Makeup Reasons” is basically on a level with “I Need To Put Pants On Reasons”.

        It’s ridiculously common for femmephobes to underestimate the amount of heads-up the femmes in their lives need before doing a thing, give them short notice for an outing, and then harrumph loudly about all the time the femme is ‘wasting’ getting ready. (This is a shitty abusive thing to do to femmes, btw, and super normalized. Ask me how I know!)

        This is not to say that OP is being terrible, or that you are for not seeing the femmephobia, but I did want to elaborate a bit on why that’s a hair that can’t really be split.

        • adgisga said:

          all women are socialized into this.

          • markethill said:

            Agreed! Which is why I think it’s helpful to note the undercurrent of femmephobia here — not to beat up on the LW, but because internalized femmephobia is a thing many cis women have and can really sap your happiness.

        • Thank you for the explanation and the correction. I assumed that “Regina” had gotten advance notice and was just making the OP wait around on purpose for outings.

          I am a cisgender woman. If I need to shower and wash my hair before going out, it can take one and a half to two hours before I’m ready. Only about 5-10 minutes of that is devoted to makeup, and I wear foundation, eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara, and lipstick.

          • markethill said:

            She may be, I don’t know. This is iust a very common pattern that informa the context.

            I’m curious to know who’s doing the communication about leaving timelines. TBH it wouldn’t surprise me at all if boyfriend was the vector of communication here and was doing a crap job. If the ex is delaying as a dominance tactic, the grooming is a smokescreen — if she weren’t doing that delaying activity, it’d be another annoying thing.

        • neverjaunty said:

          Yes, femmephobia is a thing, and no, that’s not what the LW is doing here. Ex isn’t taking time and making everyone wait while she sells kombucha or lifts kettlebells, the particular activity she’s actually doing is grooming.

          • markethill said:

            I’m going to hard disagree with any assertion that there’s no femmephobia in the way LW describes the ex. The LW’s expressed (probably internalized) femmephobia doesn’t mean that ex isn’t being a jerk, or that LW’s feelings are invalid or wrong.

            My mom doesn’t like the smell of strongly-spiced food. (I think it’s cumin that sets her off.) There’s nothing wrong with that preference, but sometimes the way she expresses it comes out a little (or a lot) racist, because she’s a white person in a racist society. This is kind of like that.

    • Dane Irish said:

      I totally get where you’d get that impression, but I saw it more as an extension of her rudeness/ the weird showy-off sexual vibe that’s going on. It’s not that she wears makeup, it’s that other people have to wait on her while she does it. It’s not that she wears high heels, it’s that she wears shoes she ‘can’t walk in’ – which says to me something like, we thought we were going out for a nice walk or good time around town for a few hours, and it ended up being 20 minutes before we went home in defeat because she was slow and then complaining her feet hurt. Her physical appearance is more important than LW’s time or plans.

      • Guava said:

        Totally. I think the LW included those details not because she’s being femmephobic, but because she is picking up on the Very Real vibes that the ex is trying to seduce (and has already seduced) her boyfriend.

    • Elektra said:

      Eh. I read those parts of LW’s letter as the LW explaining why they felt they had very little in common with the ex, rather than ragging on behaviours that are coded as feminine. I also read it as the LW venting frustration about being inconvenienced by the ex’s habits (which is pretty understandable given this woman moves into LW’s house and screws up her routines approximately one week a month).

      I agree with your fundamental point though that focussing on what is objectionable about the ex takes the focus off the person most in the wrong here, the atrocious boyfriend.

    • J said:

      To be honest I saw that differently. Yes on your views of femphobia that’s never good. But u saw those as red herrings maybe the LW was putting up unconsciously bc the very real and terrible things are just too scary to say out loud. I used to do that when I first started therapy in trying to deal with my marriage (which is thankfully over). I would say these things that were little, and I know now that I just couldn’t admit, even to myself, that I was being very seriously abused. It felt like if I admitted that, I was admitting g I was a person who was stupid and worthless bc I chose to endure it. I didn’t want to be the emotionally battered cliche wife. I’m ok now. For yrs. but I saw her statements in that light. I think LW is just very resistant to the idea of being emotionally abused gf. She defends this guy. She takes trouble to point out his good attributes. She needs this to be true. For me, that need was bc I didn’t want my marriage to be what it was. Not sure if that’s true for LW but is how I saw those comments on the ex. Bc LW didn’t criticize ex for the big honkin reasons. LW you should feel zero shame. It’s not wrong to give your heart or to trust. It means you are an empathetic lovely loving person. I hope one day you find someone worthy of your love.

    • Ice and Indigo said:

      The LW said this:

      “To be honest I find her exhausting and sometimes horrible: a vain, high maintenance, superficial, demanding, selfish Regina George type.”

      All of these are bad personality traits, whether they’re in a man or a woman. Yes, sometimes misogynists paint them as stereotypically female, but that doesn’t mean they can’t piss you off if you encounter a woman who happens to have them. They’re human traits, and people of all genders can have them, and they’re unpleasant regardless of gender. Disliking them is not internalized misogyny.

      “She calls other women “ugly”… a lot”

      So she’s not just preoccupied with looks, she’s competitive and spiteful, and quite possibly is making LW wonder what Regina says about her to Boyfriend when LW isn’t there. Disliking this is not internalized misogyny.

      “she keeps everyone waiting for Makeup Reasons.”

      So she’s self-centred and inconsiderate, and inconveniences other people in ways that she could avoid with better planning. Disliking this is not internalized misogyny.

      “She wants us to go to clubs and wears shoes she can’t walk in.”

      This one sounds to me like Regina pressures LW and her boyfriend to go places LW doesn’t much want to go, and when they go, Regina is wearing such incapacitating shoes that LW and Boyfriend have to deal with all her complaints or stumbles getting there. Ie, she drags LW to clubs and then makes even getting there a massive headache. Disliking this not internalized misogyny.

      I’m all in favour of letting people be as girly or ungirly as they like, but right now, LW is in a messed-up situation where over-judging Regina would be perfectly understandable even if there were less-than-perfect attitudes to femininity mixed in there. By now, probably EVERYTHING about Regina annoys her; to pick up on a comment below, I think it’s perfectly possible that if she was selling kombucha at a farmer’s market, LW would be complaining that Regina clutters up the place with her fermenting jars and makes them all stand out at her stall in the freezing wind. Given how Regina’s being forced on her, I don’t think you can assume anything about LW’s attitude towards femininity just based on how she describes Regina. Regina is a ‘feminine’ woman LW has excellent apolitical reasons for disliking the very sight of. And honestly, I think it’s inappropriate, unhelpful and unkind to treat this as an opportunity to put LW through a moral and political audit just because she reached out for help. There are times and places, and I don’t think this is one of them.

      • Morticia said:

        This, right here. I don’t see any indication that if Ex’s modelling of femininity wasn’t inconveniencing the crap out of the LW, and resulting in extremely annoying behaviours, it would be an issue.

  73. PrairieChick said:

    Arr, matey! Your dignity and home have been scuppered by the PolywannaThreesome boyfriend and His First mate! Follow the Captain’s advice, and hoist up the Jolly Roger flag and heave-ho both of ’em over the rails!

    Then sail on into calm, sunny waters. Courage, lass, and yo-ho-ho!!

    • Muffin said:

      I laughed so much. Thanks, this is my favorite pithy comment on this thread.

  74. BB said:

    Yes, you need to do a flat out no to future visits. And a convo about if you’re ever going to be into threesomes becasue obvs he has that on the brain. If he doesn’t take the no as a no, he’s beyond redemption.

  75. Raptor said:

    I have the perspective of being good friends with an ex, and having boundaries with that ex that some people would sideeye. (Not sex, I don’t see him that way anymore, but toplessness and casual touching kinds of things.)

    And you know what? We stopped doing weirdo things that bothered my current SO. And then he got a girlfriend, and I’m guessing they have had some sort of conversation because the casual touching that my husband didn’t mind has pretty much stopped. And I’m fine with that. It’s not a problem for me. I want to be happy with my hubs, and I want him to be happy with his lady friend, and unless they literally say “Hey, you can’t hang out together at all,” (and there’s been 0 sign of that) I don’t think we’re going to have any problems.

    Because reasonable people.

  76. EssEll said:

    ” It hurts because you end up breaking your own heart in the process,”

    This is the best (and sadly, truest) line I’ve read in a long time. Thank you so much for your empathy.

  77. Lynn said:

    So just in case LW hasn’t been around someone who is friendly with their ex before – here’s what my relationship with my boyfriend of nine years’ other significant ex looks like.
    – She catsits for us when we go on vacation.
    -Sometimes she’ll ask my boyfriend (who is a computer guy) to look at some computer issue.
    -Her husband is a chef and she invited us to eat at his restaurant.
    -We sometimes attend each other’s birthday and holiday parties.
    -She asked my advice once when she was considering looking for a job in a new industry, because I had recently changed careers.
    -She and I sometimes joke with each other about some of boyfriend’s well known quirks.

    I do actually like her, we probably wouldn’t be friends without the connective tissue of my boyfriend but it’s a relationship where we can chat on our own without boyfriend around and not run out of things to say. In the early days of our relationship it was a little awkward because I knew she was his other major relationship and I also knew she had treated him pretty badly at the end of it, which caused some issues for us early on (she basically trained him that it was better to ignore a text than tell her no, which was the exact opposite of what I needed). And if I had seen any evidence she was still treating him or others like that I would have refused to be her friend but I haven’t (I really think she was just unhappy but afraid to be the one to end things).

    LW, it isn’t that my relationship is the only way these things can be handled – but do you notice that nowhere in this list are any of the ways you interact with your boyfriend’s ex? This is not how these things have to go.

  78. Even if you take away the issue that she’s his “ex,” this would still be a huuuuge problem. Imagine if he had a bro friend who was unexpectedly a house-guest for a WEEK out of every month, who felt entitled to walk around naked and pee in front of you, whose company you didn’t enjoy and couldn’t even escape WHILE SLEEPING. Anyone would see that as a huge trampling of boundaries if your boyfriend let it continue after you’d said you weren’t ok with it AND after giving the impression it would stop. LW, I noticed many of your complaints focused on the “bad house-guest” aspect, but I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that when you bring it up with your boyfriend, the focus will be on sexual openness. Are you sexually open-minded and relaxed enough? With the (intended) consequence that you’ll feel the need to prove it.

    Even if he were some hapless, innocent guy with a pure-as-the-driven-snow friendship with his ex AS HE CLAIMS, it’s mind boggling that he can’t keep an unwanted creep out of the house for a week. Like, even his highly suspicious good-guy story is itself a red flag; all it has going for it is that it’s slightly less skeezy than trying to coerce an unwanted three-way. Demonstrating total disregard for what you agreed to, sure doesn’t bode well for ‘soberly discussing fun group things before they happen.’

    I also wonder if the question is not of gaslighting (though that’s certainly possible) but of sneakily testing and pushing your boundaries. Like, hey if I regale my Girlfriend with tales of orgies involving my recent ex whom I depict as free-er with boundaries than she is, and my Girlfriend is tolerant of this, I bet I can get her to be open/tolerant to my ex still being around. If my Girlfriend accepts that I have a friendship with my Ex, surely she’ll accept my Ex as a house-guest. If Girlfriend accepts Ex as a house-guest, surely she’ll accept her sharing a bed… surely she can come on trips uninvited… surely [more and more invasive]. Manipulative people usually wait to up the ante after the manipulatee feels stuck (such as living together) or they’ve invested so much time and emotion already into the relationship that they stick around hoping to mend things for quite a while. It could be that Boyfriend was testing how much he could push you right from the beginning in super sneaky ways. “Cumulative awfulness” indeed! You so deserve a person who is thrilled at your openness as part of your great personality (as many reasonable people would be!) instead of taking it as an invitation to push you into something you don’t want, effectively punishing you for displaying a great part of yourself. The more I think about it the madder I get at this guy.

  79. Angelique said:

    …’and then she’d still be there, one week out of every month like Satan’s own menstrual cycle’

    I love this line, so hard. BEAUTIFUL and apt.


  80. OMJ said:

    People often say that communication is the most important thing, but it really isn’t worth much on its own. Communication is a means to an end.

    In this case, LW, you’re communicating, and those communications are going well in the moment (he is nice and apologetic), but nothing actually happens afterward. And, well, him saying nice and apologetic things wasn’t actually what you wanted from the conversation, was it? So it’s not actually a useful communication, is it?

    And, OK, let’s take you at your word that he has good intentions. That means, in the BEST POSSIBLE SCENARIO, you are with a person who will need to have each and every boundary, no matter how common sense, painstakingly spelled out for him and agreed to in specific terms. You will be hurt, over and over again, because this person is incapable of anticipating (very predictable!!!) feelings, and thus has to wait until after he causes damage to course-correct. That’s your best possible partner, here. Is that the relationship you want to be in?

    And if I can stop being charitable for a moment, I think this dude is gaslighting and manipulating you. Gaslighting wouldn’t work if it was obvious. This thing where he acts bewildered and hurt as if he could never possibly have imagined that anything might be a problem for you? That’s him asserting a baseline reality that doesn’t comport with your actual reality. And based on the way you’ve decided you must be the crazy one here, I’m willing to bet he keeps asserting it even while acting just oh so sympathetic. Right? Like, he acts like he’s making some kind of special adjustment to the way he naturally operates, just in order to accommodate you? Yeah, that’s gaslighting. Whether he’s doing it consciously or not doesn’t really matter – he does it because it gets him what he wants. And as the Captain said, this situation is what he wants. It hasn’t changed because he doesn’t want to change it.

    • boskage said:

      This. All this.

  81. Christi said:

    This is the first time I couldn’t finish reading a letter. And I didn’t even finish reading the Captain’s response. Just fuck no. All around. Get away from this guy. That is all.

  82. Aria said:

    OMG ..Wow!!!! I feel sad for you. I am old fashioned meaning one women and one man..I was shocked to read all you said about your relationship sounds more than a ex to me….you definately need to get rid of your unwanted house guest not only in your home but in your lives. What do you tell yourself to make all this seem right to you? You need to both talk and set appropriate boundaries and if he can’t follow them or you catch him sneaking around you need to let him go and get a man who values you for you. A man who truly loves a women would consider how he can add to your relationship in a healthy way. If you want your relationship to work for a lifetime you need to trust and fully know the man you are with …i tell u what if my boyfriend’s ex was even in our lives in the way you described he’d be history …I don’t and would never put up with a seducing spirit walking around in my house topless let alone laying in my bed or in my life period!!! …take a poll girl you’ll find most women wouldn’t put up with that!!! If you’re open in your relationship which to me sounds as if you only allow this to happen because you feel you’d be in agony if you broke up. Rest assure, you’ll get over it in time. Your health and value as a person comes first ..I guess getting therapy and finding Christ together would salvage your relationship. Ive seen lots of relationships restored from doing that but from what u say, I would be extremely cautious of a man who treated me that way to begin with…I hope you find a solution soon I wish you so much luck you sound like a nice person.

    • I hope you’re not so old fashioned that you really think every relationship needs a woman and a man! ❤

      • Aria said:

        No, what I meant was not a third party ..there should only be 2 in a relationship that’ what I meant when I said old fashion ..I Didn’t mean to offend anyone here I apologize if I did<3

    • Also, what does finding Christ have to do with this mess that LW is in? If someone is a jerk pre-Christ, they’ll be a jerk afterwards, too.

      • Aria said:

        Perhaps you’re right in this case and maybe it’s true for lots of others. But I have seen couples get help in the ways I mentioned and their lives turn out well and there is a drastic & complete change for the better. After I wrote that statement, I wanted to edit it out but it was to late after i submitted it. I wouldn’t advise it in this case ..there are too many red flags of disaster :/

      • Scarlet said:

        Yes, Jesus won’t help and neither will therapy. You know why? Because this guy obviously doesn’t want this situation to change. He gets exactly what he wants all the time. And I second what everyone else said about avoiding religious proselytizing and heterocentric comments.

    • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

      He doesn’t need to find Christ, he needs a come-to-Jesus moment. Preferably without the letter writer. She deserves so much better.

    • Nanani said:

      Please do not recommend a specific religion as a solution. You may want to spend a lot of time reading the site’s archives, without commenting, and learning the audience here.

      • J said:

        Yeah and we don’t know anything about LW and bf’s religion. Maybe they have one or more, maybe not. But ‘finding’ religion of any kind isn’t going to magically transform anyone from an abusive gaslighting asshat into a keeper. People make their own choices, whether they believe in a higher power or not. I grew up in the south with many a wife beating Christian so the notion of having Christ clearly can’t solve everything.

    • You know, when people haven’t brought up Jesus, you just probably shouldn’t. It is not appropriate to suggest people find Christ.

      Also, this space is full of queer people. You should learn to think through how exclusive your sentences sound before typing them. This letter never says OP’s pronouns, and it never says that OP is a woman or a girl. It’s rude to gender people without consent.

    • Being “old-fashioned”/monogamous in your own relationship is fine. You do you. However, the problem here isn’t that the boyfriend wants a polyamourous relationship, or that the couple has a “third”, or any of that. It’s that one person is behaving in ways that make the LW unhappy, and the person who should be shutting that down on the LW’s behalf is enabling it instead, possibly as a way of manipulating the LW into a relationship she doesn’t want. That’s the issue, not the number of people involved.
      Also, I’m going to side-eye the term “seducing spirit” here. It’s not nice to make passes at people in monogamous relationships, but it’s not like she’s twisting his arm here. He’s taking this all on voluntarily.

  83. BigDogLittleCat said:

    LW, a number of people have said they are certain your bf and the ex are having sex.
    Thing is, it doesn’t matter, because he’s treating you like shit. Even if they never do anything other than what you’ve described here: he’s treating you like shit.

    Of course he’s charming and wonderful, and otherwise perfect. If he weren’t you wouldn’t put up with this shit.

    Any more time you spend with this guy is wasted time. He has shown that he has no respect for you and doesn’t care about your feelings.
    This is not a bad habit that drives you crazy that if he’d only realize how crazy it makes you and stop, everything would be fine. He has already treated you with such disrespect and cruelty (see: gaslighting you into thinking you’re wrong) that he’s proven he is not safe for you. If you laid down the law and he cut ex out of your lives, sooner or later, as soon as he feels you’re comfortable again, he’ll start some other bullshit.
    Although frankly, the chances of his actually cutting off ex are nano to none: if you make an ultimatum that he cut her off or you leave, all he’ll do is take their relationship behind your back.

    You can never trust this guy to ever prioritize your feelings or to treat you with the respect a partner deserves. He’s already shown you what he thinks of you. DTMFA.

    • Angle-a said:

      Yep. It’s all about respect & he’s got none.
      I’m sorry. 😔

  84. Tepid Tea said:

    “Satan’s own menstrual cycle” though.

    Which got me thinking. Is “Satan’s own endometriosis” also present? Have little bits of gaslighting and polyjackery broken off SOMC and attached themselves to other relationship organs?

    When I’ve looked back on partners (not many, thank goodness) who created bizarre situations and behave as though I was perfectly normal, I’ve realized from almost the very beginning, they tested my boundaries in tiny ways. Like, saying they would do one small task, then not doing it, then apologizing profusely and super-sweetly. And I’d be like, “Oh, not a big deal! I’m totally okay with that!”

    This set up a dynamic in which I played the role of the forgiving, understanding, non-nagging girlfriend of the super-sweet guy who was great with small romantic gestures but a little disorganized about, say, remembering to pick me up from a minor invasive procedure. And over time, everything I wanted and needed turned into “not a big deal” that I was “totally okay” with not getting.

    • WE HAVE GOT TO REMEMBER ‘SATAN’S OWN ENDOMETRIOSIS’. This needs to join the ranks of classic CA phrases right alongside ‘House Of Evil Bees’ and ‘Darth Vader Boyfriend’.

    • Not remembering to pick you up from the hospital???? Unless he got suddenly, severely ill, or somebody died, not remembering that automatically makes him a walking trashfire.

  85. Rhoda said:

    “But he doesn’t anticipate it, and doesn’t predict the cumulative awfulness of it or why it means he should cool it on inviting her along on trips with us.”
    Oh yes, he does. He’s using her as a weapon to control you, perhaps trying to make you jealous. I really think he’s enjoying your discomfort.

  86. Elektra said:

    A lot of responses are suggesting that the LW should DTMFA.

    I get it, but I also get that it’s hard to break up with someone you love, even when that someone is treating you as badly as this guy is.

    If it’s financially possible for LW, why not consider taking a break from cohabiting? Even if it’s just for a little while, like a house sitting arrangement or short-term lease. I think LW has been been manipulated and violated so subtly and consistently that it’s hard for her to really understand how bad things are. Domestic arrangements are weird like that, you can unconsciously work so hard to preserve a peaceful household, that all sorts of toxicity and abuse become ‘how things are’ instead of ‘unacceptable behaviour that needs to stop now’.

    I’d really like LW to find out what it’s like to live without her boundaries being regularly violated in literally almost every way by this guy and this woman. What it’s like to breathe safe in LW’s own home, knowing that no one is going to try to sleep in their bed, pee next to them, or bombard them with sexual information (or coerce them into participating in or observing sex acts, from the sounds of things). What it’s like for LW to be able to put themself first, instead of last.

    I really think that would give the LW some perspective on just how intolerable and poisonous this situation is, and just how cavalier the boyfriend has been about their boundaries and their wellbeing.

  87. LW, there’s one other point that I think your boyfriend uses against you.

    You get along with some of your exes. (Although, if they were worse than the current fellow, maybe reconsider that.)

    Anyway, where I was going with that, is that your boyfriend may be comparing your exes with his. That is, he’s saying that if you are friendly with former boyfriends It’s not faaaairrrrr if he can’t still be the bestest of friends with his ex.

    But unless your exes have moved in and pee on him, with your happy collusion, there’s no comparison. And I see no evidence that you’re campaigning for that.

    So, false equivalence.

    I’m sure that your boyfriend has good – even glorious – traits. But he doesn’t have kindness. And really, that’s a biggie.

  88. If you’re really serious about staying with this guy, it may be worth having the next discussion about your relationship with the “ex” in the room. He’s been making things awkward with his behaviour (and through facilitating his ex’s behaviour) for the past four months. Return all the awkward to sender by having a blunt discussion about the actual nature of your relationship (do it while all three of you are sharing the same bed – you may as well use the situation he’s set up) in a way which makes your position on things completely unable to be misinterpreted by either of them. Start by being up-front about the fact you didn’t sign up for polyamory in any way, shape or form, and that you thought you were in a monogamous relationship with him. Mention the complete lack of a polyamory discussion between the two of you. Point out you’re deeply uncomfortable with sharing your bed with his ex; state you’re going to be spending the night on the couch for the rest of her visit; and be up-front you’d prefer she found somewhere else to sleep when she’s visiting in future. Mention you’d prefer a less frequent visiting schedule on her part as well.

    Yes, it’s an awkward bunch of things to have to say in front of her, but you’re saying it in front of her in order to make sure he’s accountable. I strongly suspect this guy has one story about your relationship for you, and a different one for her. Having your side of the story out in the open like that (and possibly hearing what she thinks is happening as well) makes it a lot harder for him to lie to both sides. One of the core things about deceit is it’s habit-forming.

    Failing all of that, get rid of the guy. Replace him with a back scratcher (to reach that awkward bit between the shoulder blades), a body pillow (to cuddle), an electric blanket (to keep you warm at night) and a vibrator. Enjoy all of these in the comfort of a bed you don’t have to share with anyone you didn’t invite there.

    • boskage said:

      I disagree; I think that any discussion involving both BF and Ex is going to wind up with LW getting “outvoted.” It’s also going to feed the narrative that Ex has a rightful place in LW’s relationship with BF. Everything about this letter indicates that Ex is regularly making power plays and gets off on displays of social dominance. You can’t shame someone like that without serious backup & there’s every indication that BF isn’t on the LW’s side.

      • Scarlet said:

        Exactly, they’ll gang up on her and make her feel like she’s the unreasonable one. She’s *already* buying into the idea that she’s somehow “an alien” because she has issues with that situation. The ex certainly won’t help make BF feel more accountable because I can’t see how she would be unaware of the situation’s utter weirdness and LW’s misgivings about it. Partner is by far the worst offender here, but Ex is hardly an innocent who’s been pushed into this.

  89. Guildenstern said:

    As children we are all taught the golden rule of “treat others the way you would like to be treated.” I’m wondering if it’s time to add a corollary: “don’t put up with other people treating you worse than you treat them.”

    I’m not even going to address all the ways BF’s specific actions (and non-actions) made me shudder because the particular grossness of these is well-documented up-thread.

    But I will say this: LW, I’m pretty sure that if you did something that caused an SO to have a freak-out “I don’t feel like a person” moment, you would examine your actions, and work to make it right and not repeat them. Your BF is not doing this. He’s not doing any of it. He’s making soothing noises and not changing his actions at all. Ask yourself: is that the a standard of behavior you would set for yourself in any sort of relationship, much less a romantic one? I bet any number of cookies that you absolutely in your heart of hearts know that this is way below your own standard of behavior.

    Forget all the “that’s just what he’s like” and “that’s just what she’s like” and “I should be chill enough to put up with this” and whatever other “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” you’re telling yourself about your own behavior and whatever other justifications you’re making for his behavior. When it comes right down to it, you wouldn’t treat someone else like this, and you don’t have to accept this sort of treatment from someone else.

    Please, please realize that you can hold the people who you let into your life to the same standard in their actions towards you as you have in your actions towards them. And please, please listen to what everyone up-thread has said and realize that there is zero overlap in the Venn diagram of “good partners” and “people who make me doubt that I deserve respect.”

    (apologies if double-posted. I think my last attempt was swallowed.)

  90. Mandy said:

    Sounds like you are the third wheel, and they are still in a relationship tbh…

  91. EllenS said:

    Oh, no.
    Oh, wow, no.
    In your bed? Oh, no.
    These are bees. Topless, enabling bees.

    • “topless bees” immediately made me imagine a swarm of bees in tiny t-shirts. Or if their black and yellow stripes were removable marinière sweaters and underneath they just had chest hair and nipples like people.

  92. Lisa said:

    Gir, let that clown go!! I know you’ve got more going for yourself than to stay with someome that obviously doesn’t care anything about your feelings! This situation is so no good! Get a grip and get gone!!!

  93. This is some sort of creepy, sneaky, “let’s be poly” without the honest conversation and consent required kinda bullshit. This dude wants two girlfriends and he’s getting it at your expense.

    The bees are so loud in this house I can’t hear myself think.

    Also – jealousy is NOT a bad emotion! It is a natural response to unmet needs, neglect, and poor communication. If you weren’t feeling jealous about his prioritisation of “ex” over you, I’d suspect you’re not that into him. Be jealous. Tell him why you’re jealous and that he needs to clean up his act. And when he doesn’t (cause he won’t) – please go and don’t look back.

  94. S said:

    You say he’s not gaslighting you. And, there is some argument there. I think sometimes we as humans assume that in order for what someone is doing to be bad, they have to intend to be bad. Like, in order for it to be wrong that your partner is inviting his ex to stay in your bed and ??? with you, and choosing herover you in urgent situations, it would have to be his intent to make you feel bad.

    But that’s not true. The fact that he INTENDS not to hurt you doesn’t mean anything.

    He’s still making a choice. On one hand there are you feelings and your stated boundaries and your relationship with him. On the other hand there is the status quo, which is lower conflict with his ex, and presumably very high on his boner’s priority list.

    Now I’m sure he feels very conflicted, he feels bad that you feel bad, he has feelings about wanting to help his ex out and feelings about you and feelings about his boner.

    But at the end of the day he’s doing what is easiest for him, not what is best for you and your partnership. We don’t need a fancy term for how he’s treating you to see that it is shitty.

    • Madb said:

      Oh, Lord, how I *hate* the “I didn’t intend…” excuse. Shitty actions are shitty actions.

      Agreeing with you, by the way. I just have a knee jerk reaction to variations of that phrase due to an ex who used it as a Get Out of Jail Free card.

      • Scarlet said:

        100% agree. Also, you lose every right to play the “I didn’t intend…” card when someone has already told you that a specific action or behaviour is hurtful to them. He probably doesn’t INTEND to hurt LW, but he certainly intends to do as he pleases, LW’s feelings be damned.

  95. ctruex said:

    I think that one consequence of become a more open culture in terms of varying tastes in dating/relationships (poly, open relationships, etc) is that it sometimes feel like you have to be ok with something because it’s not progressive to not want it, or whatever. Look, here’s the deal. What you want is what you want, and what he wants is what he wants (and what he wants is a poly/open relationship/threesome at the minimum). If those don’t match up, then there’s a problem. He’s not wrong to want a poly relationship, or (if that’s not exactly correct) that sort of relationship with his ex in general. What’s wrong is that he is forcing YOU to be part of it, and not listening to (or giving a crap about) your discomfort. She is not his ex. She is a third part of this relationship. If you don’t want it (and you clearly loathe it) that’s that. You’ve brought it up explicitly, and he’s done NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING to make it better. He is perfectly aware of the norms of the culture, and that she is transgressing them. He heard you, and does not care. You are being groomed, by one or both. Get out. Get out now. This will not end happily. DTFA

  96. ArchaicPen said:

    You definitely need to dump this guy.

    And you need to tell yourself loud and clear every day: “my feelings, wants and needs are legitimate and I’m done apologizing for them”

    You’re not an “awkwardness alien who can’t Person” (my heart breaks to hear you say that about yourself). You’re a Person who deserves to be heard and respected.

    Leave this awful guy to his awful ex and start living life on your own terms. As a recovering “people pleaser”, I can tell you that it’s a lot more fun on the other side.

    Hugs if you want them

  97. Decca said:

    Oh LW. Gentle Jedi hugs.

    It sounds like my terrible ex and his terrible ex have found you. So much of this awfulness is horribly familiar, up to and including bed-sharing, Satan’s Own Menstrual Cycle and the pressure to ‘be cool’ about a raft of things I was allowed to not be cool about.

    My awful ex passed his driving test and then insisted on taking his awful ex for a drive because he had promised her this when they were together. At an overnight house party I felt I had to share a bed with them or my boyfriend would just share a bed with her anyway. An afternoon sucking vodka out of her navel (him and me, why oh why) Blowing off or delaying things with me to ‘be there’ for her.

    LW, you and I are worth more than this. Dump him and all your her problems magically disappear. Free yourself!

  98. lalouve said:

    If he is still sleeping with her, and he might be, please check for STI. If they both have boundary issues (and it would indeed seem they do), those issues might well involve not doing safer sex.

    • Ella said:

      Good point :[

    • Thank you! Also, what if the shitty ex gets pregnant? Would they expect the LW to raise the kid, too?

  99. Angel said:

    Hi, actual polyamorous person here. This is definitely some polyfuckery that you should probably nope on out of. Honestly, your situation sounds a little like mine, with some drastic differences:

    A) my girlfriend and I agreed to be polyamorous! We said the words out loud! And talk about it and stuff! You seem to have an assumed monogamous relationship that is turning out to be not so monogamous, but without him actually telling you so. Hard nope!
    2) I am actually hooking up with my ex. Girlfriend knows. Ex and I are good friends, ex and girlfriend do like each other, and if girlfriend did not approve then I would not be doing it. Your dude may or may not be sleeping with his ex, but he’s definitely doing whatever he’s doing without your approval and okay. That is not cool of him!
    Thirdly, If and when ex decides to man up and ask out the girl he’s been casually seeing, the sex will stop. I respect his monogamous preference (hence why we don’t date anymore!) and although I will miss the hell out of sex with him, his new girlfriend will take precedence over me. Your dude’s ex is still the priority in his life, hon, and he’s not being subtle about that preference. He needs to put you first if you’re his girlfriend and not his ex girlfriend.

  100. Onomatopoeia said:

    If this is the best relationship LW has ever had, then I’m genuinely concerned about the fact that they’re still friends with their exes. Sounds a lot like they’re surrounded by so many trashfire relationships they have trouble calibrating their expectations of anyone. :/

    • Phir Bi Dil said:

      That concerned me too. LW, there seem to be multiple data points from commenters showing that this “Perfect, but for” paramour is so many standard deviations off “healthy relationship” that he deserves his own bell curve. And if this is the best you have experienced, it may be worth considering what other factors or patterns may be encumbering you. I wish you good luck in your journey and please take it from a virtual stranger that you (anyone!) deserves better than this. Even if that means you end up alone forever, I personally can’t help but feel that it is better than this.

    • Oooh, I forgot that! Poor LW!

  101. Erin McJ said:

    So tell me, how do I stop feeling like I have to constantly be the Boundaries Police, and do you think that’s even going to be possible?

    It is definitely possible to stop feeling violated constantly, but you will have to break up with him to get there. I’m sorry.

    It sounds like you feel like there might be something wrong with you for being upset by this situation. I hope the multifarious WTF from the peanut gallery here has shown you otherwise. I’ve been reading this site for years and your boyfriend is one of the more memorable asshats we’ve come across. Who does what he’s doing? Nobody worth your time and love, that’s for sure.

    • johann7 said:

      Yeah, this is Broken Glass Guy level, re: both the inappropriateness and manipulation, maybe beyond.

  102. Kacienna said:

    I am in a polyamorous relationship and I still wouldn’t be okay with my husband having his girlfriend over 25% of the time, having her sleeping in a bed with me and/or kicking me out of my bed, and always prioritizing her over me.

  103. Susie said:

    This is not an ex girlfriend. She is naked in front of him, going on dates with him (lunches) and sleeping in you bed currently. If you want to share your boyfriend and be in a relationship with the 2 of them then that is what you are allowing to happen. If not, set boundaries and let him go if he refuses to abide by your boundarie.

  104. neverjaunty said:

    Dear LW, it really doesn’t matter how wonderful this dude is when Sexy Ex is not around, or how much you love him. You cannot fix or change his behavior. He has all the information he needs to understand that you don’t like her around and his behavior is Not Okay. He is choosing to prioritize her presence and needs anyway.

    There is not a magic word or a sudden Not Awkward Thing you can say to him to make him care about your feelings here. He is making an informed choice.

  105. Amy said:

    Wow. This is a lot.

    OP, I am a person who does not distinguish a whole lot between friendly and romantic interactions, and often doesn’t understand why X activity is considered inappropriate to do platonically with an ex. Even from that perspective, this is so, so far over so many lines.


    Everyone’s advice to ditch this guy is definitely the easiest way out of this unbelievable nonsense. If you don’t want to do that, though, it’s time for a serious conversation with your boyfriend where several very, very stringent boundaries get set–as in, far more stringent than you would set with any other friend of his, not necessarily because she’s his ex but because he’s already demonstrated a total inability/unwillingness to set his own appropriate boundaries with this person. Some suggestions (I think you should implement all of these and also potentially add more on top of them):
    – She never, ever sets foot in your home again.
    – She never, ever joins you on vacations, dates, etc. again
    – If he wants to continue being friends with her, he does so on his own time, and it never again interferes with your plans or time as a couple (meaning he’s never late because he was hanging out with her, he never cancels on you to spend time with her, doesn’t leave you feeling neglected in order to make time to see her, etc.)
    – He never sees her anything less than fully dressed, never sleeps in a bed with her, never shares a bathroom with her, etc. If she tries to do those things, he leaves immediately.

    If your dude is unwilling to commit to these things, walk away. He’s saying he’s not willing to prioritize you.

    If your dude commits to these things and then fails to live up to them, walk away. Even if his words are nice, his actions are saying that he’s not willing to prioritize you. He knows what he would need to do, because you explicitly told him, and he chose not to do it.

    If he whines that you’re ruining his friendship….these aren’t ridiculous boundaries for friendships, and I’m betting he knows that, because he’s not doing these things with his other friends. He’s trying to guilt you into de-prioritizing yourself and your needs. Walk away.

    Only outcome where your relationship actually works: He hears this, goes “That makes sense, I’ll do those things effective immediately,” and then actually does them. That’s it.

  106. I agree, she’s not his ex. She’s his girlfriend, his main relationship. LW is his “bit on the side”.

    LW, it sounds to me like you’re caught in a situation where at least two people are running an, “I’m just SOOOOOO attractive,” fantasy. I think I told the story of my own run-in with that on a previous Captain Awkward comment section.

    OW, the other woman, gets her “I’m just SOOOOOO attractive,” high off of storming into this guy’s life and watching him drop everything and treat his supposed girlfriend like forgotten trash for her sake. Her beauty and attractiveness is just that powerful, you see. To someone in that mode of thinking, this is sweeter than heroin.

    The guy is getting the same high. He’s just so overwhelmingly powerful in his attractiveness that OW keeps coming back to him and even sleeps in his bed with him and his new “girlfriend” just to be near him. And the new one just takes it, over and over and over again, just to be near him. “I’m just SOOOOOO attractive,” he thinks, on his dizzying high from watching all this happen.

    When he tells you he feels terrible about it, that’s part of the drama and part of the high. A crucial piece of the sweet juicy pleasure that “I’m just SOOOOOO attractive” people get is the raw pleasure they feel flouncing around in a sea of drama about how utterly horrible they feel that they are just so overwhelmingly attractive that these terrible, terrible things keep happening. Oh the sorrow! Oh the sweet, sweet, juicy drama! “I’m just SOOOOOO attractive!”

    Anyhow, as I talked about when I spoke of this before, you can’t do anything with people chasing an “I’m just SOOOOOO attractive,” high, because just like druggies, they will destroy their entire lives and the lives of those around them to chase their chosen high. All you can do it get far away from it and let them ruin their own lives without you.

    • neverjaunty said:

      This is depressingly insightful.

  107. J said:

    This letter made me sad. The gaslighting is real. LW says ‘he’s so wonderful except for inviting the ex who walks around naked and lives with us in our bed 25% of the time’. Over your objections he insists on doing this. Sure he’s all lovey bc ge is getting exactly what he wants. I wonder how thus would change, how fab and sweet hell be, if you set a hard boundary around ‘ex can no longer have sleepovers she can go hang with someone else’s boyfriend.’ You might also try saying this to her. My guess is she is a callous manipulator bc who does that?!?!? This guy isn’t great he’s stepping all over your feelings in lots of sad ways and you are defending him. I don’t care how terrible her life is, or what her needs are, she doesn’t face the right to hijack your life and that’s exactly what’s happening and he’s all for it. I’m sorry. I think you may already know that he won’t be Mr understanding if you set a hard boundary and maybe that’s why you’re finding it tough. Please get a ‘team you’ together before setting the boundary you are going to need the support. I’m sorry. You deserve better.

  108. Indie said:

    The best partner you’ve ever had?

    Gosh your future self is in for a treat. P.S. He’s super definitely having sex with the ex so take care of your health whatever you decide.

  109. goddessoftransitory said:

    Best partner???

    That’s like saying a filthy, rundown, moldy shack with no windows and giant holes in the walls filled with rabid rats and partying hobos is better than the field you were sleeping in. Like, maybe? BUT NOT BY A LOT.

    • Actually, I’d take the field in that case!

  110. Morticia said:

    LW, I am so sorry you are going through this. I have to agree with the others that the ex is not the problem here. She does these things because he lets her.

    I won’t tell you what to do, but I would hope that if I was in your situation, I would DTMFA.

  111. LW, in your letter I feel like your biggest barrier is not being sure whether to trust your reactions to your partner’s ex – especially of the “am I just jealous?” variety.

    So, let’s take sex out of the equation. Instead of the ex – pretend that he was behaving like this[minus the sexual connotations] with a close platonic friend or relative.

    You have your partner’s shirtless friend/relative crashing with you 1/4 of the time. Your partner routinely prioritizes spending time with friend/relative them over you. When confronted that you are hurt by their behavior with friend/relative, you partner seems SO apologetic [to the point where you feel bad for them], but nothing changes. Time after time.

    In the friend/relative scenario, there is ample evidence that the bees-are-a-buzzing and the red flags-are-a-waving. In your current situation, I think it’s more like trying to ignore that a beehive is located in the walls of your house, and the house itself is tented in red for extermination.

  112. LucySnowe24 said:

    Criticising this one aspect of this situation is like pointing out one speck of dust on the asteroid heading towards earth, but – a fourth person staying in a flat with two bedrooms and three people already living there one week out of every four would be unsustainable even if everyone involved got on really well and had great boundaries (presumably your roommate didn’t sign up to have the ex-girlfriend constantly hogging all the apartment’s resources). But in this particular situation, it’s completely fucked up and awful. LW, you’re doing nothing wrong, but there’s no way to become happy with this situation because your boyfriend and his ex-girlfriend are having a great time trampling over your boundaries together and you are very understandably not happy. I really want you to tell your boyfriend that you’re not putting up with this anymore, and if he won’t agree to it (he won’t), strongly consider leaving. A person who loves you and is worth staying with would not constantly force you to share a bed with his ex who you don’t like and feel uncomfortable around and, when you speak up, make a few soothing noises but do nothing to change it.

  113. stellanor said:

    Okay you know what though?

    “Your ex never stays in our home, literally never, if her house burns down we’ll put her in an airbnb but she is never sleeping in the same house as me again as long as I live” is a totally valid and reasonable boundary. It would be a reasonable boundary even if he and his ex weren’t both ridiculous and no-boundaries about her staying, and it goes triple for this weird-ass situation they’re putting you in where he invites you to sleep in your bed and she randomly gets naked.

  114. Karak said:

    A-hem. Storytime.

    I was once in a similar situation, only it wasn’t an ex, and I didn’t have a problem with her being around or even crashing in our bed. Years of poverty and being into cosplay meant I had extremely flexible boundaries.

    I brought up a few times she was around *too* much, soothed, and was blown off.

    They were sleeping together and he had some weird logic that if we were bestest of friends by cramming her down my throat I’d be ok within some kind of retroactive polyamory?? I don’t know.

    We broke up.

    Break up. He’s either sleeping with her or planning to.

  115. johann7 said:

    Until I read fcjaugusta’s comment, I had interpreted the “roommate” part to be refering to Ex, but now I think it makes more sense if it’s referring to a third (fourth?) party – LW and BF already have a roommate, who isn’t Ex. That just makes the imposition even less appropriate – Boyfriend is already being a jerk to Roommate by inviting a freeloading rando to live in a shared dwelling a quarter of the time. GET OUT NOW.

  116. Sarah said:

    LW, I was in a relationship with a guy who was just so incredibly charismatic and horny, he probably would have had sex with a toaster if he could have figured out how to not electrocute himself in the process. It was polyamourus (discussed beforehand, I was brought into an existing relationship) and also open. Everyone had outside casual sex partners.

    We had a problem early on, where I realized that I was not having a great time during the casual partner 3 ways. There was some substance use mixed up in this too, and I was just trying SO HARD to be cool. But finally I spoke up. And I told him “Hey I’m really not OK with the fugue state 3 ways, they’re not fun for me. So when Casual People come over, I’m gonna go watch netflix or something.”

    And then, do you know what happened?

    The fugue state 3 ways STOPPED. Because Partner decided my enjoyment and comfort were more important than casual 3 ways.

    These things can be done ethically, but only by people who actually want to behave ethically.

  117. jennthemighty said:

    As everyone is saying, she is not his “ex.” My theory: the boyf and the “ex” are long distance or something. She is accustomed to staying with him one week out of every month because that’s how their relationship has run for a long time. She walks around the house semi-naked because it is a home-space for her 25% of the time. She expects to spend a week out of every month there and sleep in the boyfriend’s bed because it is -literally- her bed and her home for part of the month, under an arrangement of some duration that she and the boyf have explicitly made together. The LW has been brought into this situation under false pretenses. The boyf is not going to ask for any changes because that would blow the lid off the whole thing. He’s lying about the nature of the relationship with the “ex”, lying about his concern for LW’s feelings, probably lying to the “ex” too about the nature of his relationship with the LW. To borrow some language from the Carolyn Hax chats, this guy needs to go for a swim in shark infested waters wearing a pair of bacon pants.

  118. CommanderBanana said:

    Late to the party, LW, but yeah, no, get rid of this guy. I dated a guy for a few months who did the same kind of crap with his ex and it was because they’d never really broken up. Sure, they’d “broken up,” but every time she sailed back into town, they were essentially together again.

    Oh, and, after I dumped him, they got back together again, surprising absolutely no one.

  119. Healy said:

    It’s your bed too. You get 100% control over who sleeps in it.

  120. Mispix said:

    I didn’t see this point mentioned anywhere, maybe it’s already been stated, but to me it seems the gaslighting is happening at an even deeper level, because the LW starts off saying “There are good reasons for this” horrible situation where LW has to share LW’s bed with a person LW doesn’t want to for 25% of the time (among all the other things LW mentions). LW, unless your bed _cures cancer_ and the Ex is at death’s door, there is no reason good enough that she needs to stay with you that much. NOTHING. Seriously. If Ex primarily lives in another city/state/country from you and needs to be in your city that often, she needs to figure out somewhere else to stay that doesn’t inconvenience/disrespect you. If she can’t, well, them’s the breaks, maybe don’t come to your city so much, because it’s probably not the one place on earth with a magic life-giving bed. Seriously, there are no reasons good enough for this situation to be existing in the first place. The gaslighting is going on well before the situation you describe in your letter, make no mistake.

  121. Charolette Martin said:

    Your boyfriend is very selfish and has extreme baggage…which is his ex and plans to keep it that. Even if he is great in other ways this is a deal breaker. Be true to yourself. Stand up for yourself. I would not even set a boundary..the boundary has already been crossed. I would move on. There are great men out there that would never put u through such a thing. Please take your own beauty and dignity and move on.It will hurt at first but what he is putting you through is much worse. Good luck to you. I’m shocked that anyone would put up with this. But its not too late to start over.

  122. Tons of commenters have argued that the boyfriend is gaslighting LW, that he’s happy with the current arrangement, that he’s sleeping with so-called ex on the side. Maybe he is. It wouldn’t shock me. But let’s assume a best-case scenario where he’s just a doormat who finds it hard to say no to his ex.

    The chances of things changing on their own still don’t look great.

    You’ve already told him you don’t like what he’s doing. I think the only way you can get him to change his behavior—IF it’s possible—is to tell him you’re done with it. He CAN’T let her stay over anymore, and he CAN’T bail on your plans.

    If he keeps doing what he’s doing after you’ve stated boundaries rather than preferences, you’ll need to decide whether the relationship is worth it to you as-is. What I wouldn’t recommend is hoping things will be different if you only find the right way to make him understand why it should be.

  123. Convallaria majalis said:

    Oh, dear LW, I completely understand why you feel the way you feel, that this is a superior specimen of manhood and a truly great guy ™. I have been there, too. I was in an absolutely terrible place in my life, trying to endure the pain of simultaneously losing my whole childhood family and going through a divorce when this great guy ™ showed up. He would offer me support when I needed it and he seemed oh-so-patient and gentle and I fell in love with him (or at least, back then I thought I did). It lasted for a few mere months, it was the shortest experience of infatuation I have ever had because quite soon I realized what a completely despicable excuse of pathetic existence he was. Yes, he was charming – but also utterly selfish and a serial abuser – and I hate to say it, but I see so many similarities between him and your boyfriend. The Captain and other commenters have already given so many good observations that I will not add to that. Instead, I will focus on practical issues, because dear gentle LW, you need to get out of this situation as fast as possible – and in order to do that, you need to come up with a plan. It is time to gather Team You around you and contact your friends and family members and trusted ones. You will need support in this.

    1. What are your living arrangements like? From your letter I understood that you and your boyfriend live together – have lived for four months? Do you own the apartement you live in or do you rent it? What is the lease agreement like? Can you find a new place soon – or can you get him to move out?

    2. Security: do you know if your boyfriend (or his ex) have a background of violence? I hate it that you have to think of this, but it is unfortunately a real issue. The right thing here, defending your own boundaries, is not going to be what your boyfriend likes and he is likely to lash back somehow so you need to think of the possible ways beforehand. How well are you connected in social media? Is he friends with your friends? If he is, you might need to begin some kind of damage control. You might also need someone to physically stay with you, a friend, a family member when you break the news to him.

    3. How you break the news. In my opinion, safety is the most important thing here. Take whatever precautiouns you need – and don’t underestimate the possible threat – and do not listen to him. He will probably call you unkind, uptight, unfair… Yeah, whatever. Whatever he thinks of you does not matter because he does not matter, not a person who has treated you this abominably.

    4. Team you, a therapist, a support group… This should have been the first one, probably. To me it sounds like you need help to exit this toxic relationship. It might be best to first find the help and then exit – and remember, you do not have to tell about this help to your boyfriend. First and foremost, protect yourself and think of your own interests.

    After the exit, I would advice to cut all connections to this person. If you move, do not leave him any information of where he can find you and no way to contact you. It will probably take a while but you will get through this – and you will find someone who is truly a good human being.

    Take care of yourself!

  124. Saskia said:

    Dear LW,

    You are not the person who is behaving abnormally or who is treating others with disrespect and cruelty. You are in this situation through no fault of your own. But what you can control is your response to this situation and to the evidence that you are being abused.

    It’s hard to admit that a person we love is treating us like garbage on purpose. But it’s clear, and your gut instinct is telling you this situation is Deeply Not Okay.

    If you aren’t already seeing a therapist to support you, please find one. There’s a guest post here at CA with low cost or free resources along these lines.

    Take care of Future You and do the second part of setting boundaries. Follow through, get out of this relationship while you have some emotional resources left.

    I strongly advise you to muster Team You and either move out or get BF out of your shared dwelling.
    The immediate financial cost of getting out of the shared home (or getting BF his other partner out of your safe zone) is TOTALLY worth your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.

    I am really worried that you are at risk of physical harm. You are already accustomed to coercion and complete disregard of your stated boundaries.
    BF has shown he has zero regard for your wellbeing.

    Do you trust him to do the ethical thing and look after your health, including your mental health? I certainly don’t trust him based on what you wrote.

    BF is repeatedly demonstrating that he values himself and his other partner more than you. He won’t end this relationship because he’s getting his needs met!!

    You need to do the breaking up but it’s vital for your wellbeing and safety that you get out of this situation as fast as you can.

    Run, don’t walk. Seek help from a women’s shelter if you need to do so.

    Sending lots of Jedi hugs. You can do this!

  125. Hans Meyer-Brunel said:

    Yeah, (cis-white-straight-make here), I have had a hard time with similar situations, not as obvious and brutal, but, well, let me explain.

    When my EX (THE ex) and I broke up and couldn’t keep our hands off each other, I explained that it was hard, but to end our self-destructive bone-show, I just wanted to be friends, and that basically meant I would not be able to see her for some unknown amount of time. She became upset and accused me of ‘putting people into boxes’, and I did try to explain how I felt, but used her now-bohemian logic to make me feel old-fashioned and shamed for not adapting to enlightened ways of being. Now, everybody has great arguments when they want something, or they get hurt and want something back, but my issue, in this and other relationships is that I trust my partners more than myself. Big mistake, huge. I have been with intelligent people, but I must learn to trust my instincts, and follow through on the long shorty walks out of people’s lives if that’s what it takes. I don’t know if this resonates, but I thank the Captain for the forum, writing has helped it coalesce. Wish me luck, as I do you. Fugue Stater.

    • Hans Meyer-Brunel said:

      How do I edit??!! So many mistakes!!

      That’s ‘neo-bohemian’ and ‘shitty walks away’!

      -Bill the Cat

  126. GlowGirl said:

    the first time I met her she walked topless past my partner, dropped trou with no warning and peed in the bathroom right next to me

    Wow. She could not be clearer here: this is a dominance play. She is the primary partner and lost no time in letting you know. This just short of peeing on your bf to establish territory. Oh, LW, I hope you find a way out of this relationship sooner rather than later.

    • Purps said:

      Yeah this is some movie character stuff. I didn’t know people did this irl.

  127. mimsy said:

    LW, I haven’t seen this yet on the comments, so forgive me if I’m repeating something already on here. I want to ask the question that you dismissed in your last sentance. I wonder if your current boyfriend isn’t working really hard to reinforce this idea that he’s the best partner you’ve ever had. When you talked about your exes, did he always go for their throats and tear them apart as awful (and maybe even imply that you were awfully naive to date them)? I don’t think he’s a safe person for you to trust (your letter and the captain’s response outline why) and that may go as far as examining why you’re saying he’s the best. Your exes very well may be the absolute worst exes ever, but they are your exes and that means you are no longer with them. Maybe they didn’t seem awful at the time. but something happened and you are no longer together. It hurts. It really does. But you have survived it before, and you will again.

    Please take care of yourself, dear LW, you are worth it.

  128. flrpwll said:

    Good grief. This entire thing reminds me of the movie *Mother*. OK, that’s a bit dramatic … but still.

    LW, your guy is enjoying the hell out of this. And I don’t think the ex is an ex at all. I’d be interested to know how and when that relationship “ended”, and who instigated that.

    I can speak for no-one else, but I would much rather be single than tangled up in that messed up, emotionally abusive, gaslighty bullshit.

  129. Christina said:

    Hi LW, I don’t know whether your partner is having sex with his ex or not (as many other posters have speculated) and even if he isn’t I don’t think it makes his behavior any less cruel and wildly inappropriate and I am very much on team “dump them both and commence with the first of those 10000 baths immediately”, but obviously this is something you need to figure out in your own time. I haven’t thoroughly read all of the excellent comments in this thread so this may be repetitive but there are two things I want to highlight.

    Firstly, even if this particular woman were to exit your life through some kind of event other than your partner completely and consistently redefining his boundaries with her (she moves to another continent, she finds a new partner of her own and is no longer interested in sexy power-play time with your partner, decides to become a nun, whatever) this completely manipulative behavior on his part is not going to go away. This man is clearly charismatic and attractive and clearly thrives on using that charisma to move outside of your relationship in ways that are designed to push your boundaries and keep you on edge. I would not be surprised that if this particular ex were to go away that pretty soon another “just a friend” woman would be brought on to take her place (a coworker who isn’t “in” to him but just happens to text him sexy pictures of herself at 2 am because platonic blah blah blah, an old family friend who needs to be his date to his brother’s wedding instead of you for totally legitimate reasons, etc.). Like CA pointed out, this didn’t just happen. This happened because he makes it happen. Over and over. Despite your valid and repeatedly expressed objections.

    The second thing I want to bring up relates directly to the possibility of them having a sexual relationship. This may or may not be something that is happening or that you want to consider as a possibility, but if it were happening, would this change the type of sex you are having with him, including whether or not that sex involves barrier protection such as condoms or dental dams? Using barriers may be something y’all do anyways, but if it isn’t I really think it is important to consider how his involvement with her not only effects your emotional well-being but also puts your physical safety at risk if he is potentially exposing you to STIs and denying your right to make your own informed health decisions.

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