Feels 2nd Place
Q: I am a 38 year old dating a man more than 25 years my senior. I have serious problems with his "previous female companions." A woman he fathered a child with attended a Father's Day gathering at a restaurant. I also attended, though I didn't walk into the restaurant with him, and when I went to the place where everyone was sitting, she positioned herself next to him as if she was with him. The situation made me very uncomfortable. I greeted everyone and told him that the store he sent me to no longer carried his product, bid farewell to everyone and left quietly. He had requested me to sit on the other side of him, and I refused. He says I'm acting "childish" when I told him that he should have NEVER sat next to her, nor allowed her to sit next to him. I asked why he didn't save me a seat.
What's more, he has other past girlfriends calling. There's also a so-called set of "friends"--a husband and wife--and the wife was calling every day (one day she called 10 times). I had to remedy those scenarios by having him finally speak up and tell them to taper the calls. He says I overreact with the women who come to his store. I don't care if they don't come back, they aren't there to flirt, and he isn't there to patronize them in that manner. He has NO BOUNDARIES. I feel that because there are none, these "loose gooses" feel that they can say and do anything, disrespecting me and this relationship. I'm exhausted from trying to get this point across, but he doesn't get it. I don't want to appear arrogant, and I care for him enough that I look past previous mistakes, but when I feel that I am being placed second to these women who do not possess half my education nor intellect, I'm not going to stay in this. -- Dee, 38
Dr. Susan: The man you're seeing is old enough to have a long complicated past. Do you think it's big of you to let his "mistakes" go, so long as they don't ask for any of his attention? Your hyper-sensitive attitude isn't going to do either of you any good. From the top: you hated that the mother of his child sat on one side of him at a Father's Day get-together. Sure, it would be briefly uncomfortable if you weren't told she'd be there, but it would have been most gracious of you to simply sit on his other side. For the sake of the innocent child, at least. Perhaps you've never had a child, but a mother and a father share an interest in their children forever. They may loathe one another, but rather than distress the kid, behaving civilly is the adult thing to do. You needn't be jealous of her. They're obviously not together anymore.
Nor is he putting the other past women ahead of you. They seem to have turned into friends. If they really are pests to you, you have a right to let him know, as you did. Truth is, your boyfriend's lack of boundaries is not going to change dramatically. He's just one of those super-friendly salesmen who has found that his customers keep returning if he's mildly flirty with them. It would probably drive me crazy too, but see it in the context of who he is. Pick out specific behaviors that actually impinge on you and talk about them. You needn't compete with everyone to prove you're special. And it's got nothing to do with education or intellect. Quit exhausting yourself and get used to his outgoing nature, so long as most of your needs are met. Or leave.
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Advice for Her
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.