I discovered my boyfriend hanging out with an ex-lover - what shall I do? | Agony Aunt

Dear Fiona: My boyfriend and I have been living together for the last nine months.

By Fiona Caine
Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 2:17 pm
Updated Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 2:17 pm

We’ve been seeing each other for about two years, and I’ve grown to love him very much. We had our ups and downs to begin with, but we’ve worked our way through them and we’re now very close.

However, I’ve always been an anxious person and there is something that really bothers me, in spite of his reassurances.

The thing is that he has several female friends, some of whom are ex-girlfriends. What’s more, he sees them regularly and without me.

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My boyfriend keeps on seeing his so-called friends who also happen to be his ex girlfriends.

I’ve told him that I am worried about this, but he has assured me they’re only friends and that it’s me he cares about.

He’s also said he’s happy for me to mix with any of my friends, male or female, if that’s what I want to do. I find it hard to believe that he sees these girls so often, yet nothing is going on between them.

If he was attracted to them once, surely he can’t just have a friendship with them now.

I really want this relationship to work and am ready to settle down, but it seems he’s not ready. Am I wasting my time?

H. R.

Fiona says: Are you on the same page?

Your boyfriend has made it clear that he wants the freedom to see his friends and is perfectly willing for you to do the same.

While that’s honest, I think it suggests that he’s not quite ready to settle down yet, and perhaps wants much more freedom in your relationship. Having said that, there’s every indication that he genuinely cares for you and, as such, I don’t think you’re wasting your time either.

There’s no reason why, in time, this can’t grow into a meaningful, committed relationship.

There is an element of uncertainty in this arrangement currently though, and I can understand why you might be concerned.

If you pressure him now to settle, this might simply force him away, so perhaps your best approach might be to test his friendships.

If they’re as innocent as he claims, he should have no objection to you, as his girlfriend, going with him when he meets these friends. It is, after all, the normal way a relationship develops – you get to know his friends, he gets to know yours.

If he resists the idea, then perhaps there is some basis for your doubts, and you’ll have to decide whether you’re prepared to live with these.

If he knows and accepts that you’re a nervous person then he should be prepared to find better ways to reassure you than he is presently.

The fact he’s not doing so doesn’t make him a bad person, just one that’s not fully considered you and your feelings just yet.

I would encourage you to take him up on the suggestion that you continue to meet with your old friends though.

Just in case things do go wrong and you need to fall back on them for support.

Dear Fiona: Will I ever be happy?

I’ve been unhappy for so long, that I think I’ve forgotten how to be happy.

I have a serious lung condition that means I need to do physiotherapy on myself every day. I’ve been pretty much isolated for the past two years because of it too, as I’m told contracting Covid would be really serious for me.

Because of all the medication I’m on, I’m fat, I’m unattractive, and I find it hard to mix and talk with people. I’ve tried dieting – in fact I’m always on a diet, but this makes me miserable too.

I have a part-time job working from home, but the pay is rubbish – because I take so long in the mornings, I can’t get a full-time job so this one is all I can find.

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That means I can’t afford to do any of the things that might cheer me up. Although I’ve tried to find other jobs, once they find out how limited I am because of my condition, these never get further than the interview.

I’m 25 now and can’t ever see anyone wanting to be with me, although I have had two boyfriends.

The first ended when I was 20 and the second – who I was with for nearly two years – finished just before Christmas, when I found out that he had been seeing someone.

I can’t blame him – it can’t be much fun hanging around with someone like me – even when he was able to!

Other people manage to be happy, why can’t I?

E. L.

Fiona says: Start with small steps

Your self-esteem has hit rock bottom and it’s clear you are very depressed.

Like many people, the pandemic has taken a huge toll on your mental as well as your physical health, and as long as it continues to dominate our lives, it is going to be hard for people to feel upbeat.

You can start to change your mindset though. You can stop seeing yourself as fat, unattractive and boring!

OK, your relationship with your boyfriend didn’t work out, but the fact you were together must mean he saw something in you – so others might too.

Meeting potential partners whilst this the pandemic is going on might be difficult though, so perhaps for the moment you could concentrate on meeting people virtually?

Social media has lots of groups for all kinds of purposes and places. You could find one that’s local to you – and you might feel safe enough to meet people outside for a coffee, perhaps.

You might have one for people with the same lung condition as you – and you could arrange virtual meet-ups using one of the various phone apps.

You might even find a support group that helps you to manage your diet, if you feel you need to do that.

While you think of yourself negatively, that’s the image you’re likely to present to others – who will, inevitably, be affected by it.

Worry less about your appearance and concentrate more on being friendly and generous with people, and I think things really could improve for you.

When I say generous, I don’t mean with money though – I mean with your time, with your support, and your smile.

Even small changes to the way you relate to people can have a positive impact on your life.

Yes, I know it’s hard – changing the way you think and feel is never easy, but it can be done. Just take small steps, one at a time, and you will get there. When the weather improves you could perhaps go out for a short walk each day – just getting some sunshine could help your mood.

You’ve already taken the first step by acknowledging your problems and writing to me – now take the next step!

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron