She's Threatened by His Ex

Q: I'm 19 and have been dating this guy and living with him for a year. A few nights ago his ex-girlfriend called him to ask how he was doing. I was a little worried because she has been known to interfere with his relationships before. She told him she missed him, and he told her he was really happy being with me (which upset her). Then she called last night and was asking him things, getting mad at him in the process. When he told me I got really mad. I talk to my ex-boyfriend sometimes, and he says he still loves me, but it doesn't seem to bother my boyfriend. This ex-girlfriend cheated on my boyfriend, basically scaring him for life or so he says. It's because of her that it took him so long to open up to me and he finally has and now she is back in the picture. He tells me not to worry about it because he loves me and hates her and if she tries anything he will never speak to her again. He said he would never cheat on me, that he would break up with me first. That doesn't help. I'm afraid I'll lose him. What should I do? -- Janice

Dr. Susan: What a lot of drama for such a young couple! You have contact with your ex who still loves you and your boyfriend talks to his ex who still wants him. What you've described is a great example of what social psychologists call the self-serving bias. You rationalize your own actions, which make sense to you, but you don't get why he does what he does. When he does it, it's suspicious and worrisome. He sounds more secure than you, that's for sure. Of course, if he's a sensitive guy and doesn't want you to worry, why does he have to talk to an old girlfriend whom he says he hates anyway? But you have to let him work it out. You can't start demanding he talk only to approved people. That's a sure route to making him feel controlled. You can tell him you'd be much happier if he cut off from her completely, but it's up to him. Will you lose him? Someday you might. You're pretty young to have decided on a life partner, and I suspect he is too. I know that's an unbearable thought right now, but there are never any guarantees in love. Be loving, honest, open, and understanding, and he's likely to keep confiding in you, which is the best you can ask for.

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