Carolyn Hax

Carolyn Hax: Three makes a crowd in budding relationship


Dear Carolyn: I’m a 45-year-old divorced male, and I’ve been dating a divorced woman for three months. We really have trust, love and respect for each other. Over a year ago she broke up with a guy she dated for 2 1/2 years.

The ex-boyfriend never had kids, and he bonded with her boys, 12 and 15. He attends their football and baseball games. He comes over to play catch and hang out at her house. I’ve never felt she was doing something behind my back.

Last Sunday I was going to her son’s football game for the first time. She said, "You might even meet ‘Tom’ today." She could tell this really bothered me because I’ve expressed in the past that this isn’t normal. Halfway through the game I noticed she kept looking to her right, and realized he was sitting in that direction. The next day I did voice that this has bothered me and that I didn’t find it normal. Her reply was that I was being unreasonable and they are just friends.

Am I being unreasonable with expecting a chance to build our relationship without the ex-boyfriend in the picture?


She already made it clear the ex-boyfriend is staying in the picture, so, yes, it is unreasonable.

I do agree somewhat, and sympathize; starting a relationship with two exes asking you to pass the salt is not for the faint of self.

But I don’t agree much beyond that. For one, I don’t care about "normal," I care about healthy. I can’t say from here whether Tom’s relationship with this woman or her kids is healthy, but if close observation gave me cause for alarm, I’d speak up. As for her game-day glances? Maybe some embers still glow. Or maybe your being freaked out freaked her out.

To find out which it is, you don’t keep expecting her to live by your rules (and seeking outside validation when she doesn’t). Instead, you observe what her rules involve. Then, you decide whether your and her rules can coexist. If you can’t, then you say so on your way to the door.

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