Living in a Shadow

I dithered for a while on what to call this blog because, really, I want this to be an opportunity for people to share their experiences and advice but shadowed is how I feel and sums up the ultimate issue – so, subtitle…

What to do when your boyfriend’s friends aren’t over the ex?

The number one rule in every relationship, never mention the ex. Yes, they come up in the beginning; the typical ‘magic number’ questions and just general back story that helps you get to know each other, but usually it ends there. So, what do you do when they just keep coming up, like the British Inflation Rate or the price of housing. Annoying right? And what if it’s not your boyfriend doing it but his friends?

Welcome to my current situation and theme of this super personal blog (snaps to my BF for letting me publish this).

As much as I am trying to be okay with the idea of them still seeing her there is a very clear line which should not be crossed, back to the ‘number one rule’, and I’m struggling to find a way to cope with it.

markus spiske             photo credit to Markus Spiske

Part of my struggle is that I know my friends would never sit and discuss exs in front of my current boyfriend, it’s disrespectful both to me, to my boyfriend and to our relationship. I don’t want my exs bought up, I mean I left them for a reason, and he certainly doesn’t want to know about them (human nature makes us territorial and insecure) and our relationship doesn’t need the shadows of previous relationships hanging around. The past is the past. I also know I would never do this, to my friends or to my boyfriend. There’s just no need IMO.

So, I was quite taken a back the first time my boyfriend’s ex fiancé was brought up in front of me by his friends. Particularly when the way it was brought up was with the words

“it’s just awkward you’re not her.”

Needless to say, I was devastated. I think as the new person in a group and as a new partner you worry you’re being judged anyway, and there is a small fear of being compared, but to hear people not only confirm you are being compared but that you are losing this strange competition, it casts a very big shadow over the relationship, over your self-esteem and over your confidence in being around these people.

I have confidence in my boyfriend that his ex is his ex and so our relationship has stayed mostly solid throughout. And, from what I do know, they are different people and are both seeing other people too, so I have no doubts about the security of my relationship. But, it doesn’t make their comments any less upsetting. Particularly when comments such as this were:

  1. The first time anyone had really spoken to me that night
  2. said on my birthday, there’s no better way to celebrate your birth than to be made to feel like your existence is uncomfortable for people. Happy birthday to me…

After the ‘awkward’ comments my boyfriend did speak to them about their behaviour and how I felt, and I have had a few conversations as well. We both assumed the air had been cleared and that things were going to change and after one very good night out with a few of them I really believed things were better and it was just a misunderstanding, the over-consumption of alcohol, or just a case of all finding our footing with each other. I like to believe that, for the most part, people never mean to do bad things.

So, when I was invited to a party with them all yes, I was a bit nervous, but no more so than when you meet anyone new that you want to like you. The first part of the day went well, we all seemed to be getting on and I started to relax, I was happy and felt relieved.

But a few hours in and it started. The ex was mentioned three times within the space of an hour and I began to feel a bit disheartened. I tried my best to shrug it off. She was going to come up, I couldn’t avoid that, and although I felt there were a few times she didn’t need to be mentioned I decided to try and not let it bother me.

Half an hour later we were all sat on the sofa watching TV when two of his friends began talking. That’s when things turned. One of the girls turned to the other and asked how the ex was doing – my heart sank. Not again. Not when I’m sat right here.

Honestly, I think part of the problem is that I don’t understand. I tried to understand when she came up in stories or general conversation, I wasn’t happy with it but I tried to be. But to outright sit there and want to talk about her in front of me? No one should be forced to sit and listen to conversations like that. It’s unnecessary. Save it for private messaging, save it for a time you’re not in my company, or just leave the room and talk properly, away from me.

But, then came the real kicker “I should be careful what I say” says the other girl, a glance at me, a readjustment of seating, moving closer to each other… for my benefit, I’m sure. The acknowledgment that the conversation was awkward and inappropriate hurt me more than anything, they knew what they were doing was wrong but they chose to continue regardless. Ouch.

I didn’t know what to do but I knew I couldn’t just sit there, so I left. I wish I hadn’t. I don’t feel I should be driven away but I challenge anyone to sit there, already feeling how I did, after we had both spoken to them about their behaviour before and with the two girls being some of those that made the infamous ‘awkward’ statement that made me feel like I should be ashamed of not being someone else.

At times I feel stupid, I’m secure in my relationship. Anyone that sees us together has commented how perfect we are for each other and we both agree. I have no doubt we are meant to be together. I also know that she’s been around for a long time and consequently formed bonds with his friends, I can’t change that and nor do I think I wish to. But, to me there is an imbalance. I was already made to feel excluded before and outright told as much. She’s still in whatsapp groups with them all, groups I know I cannot be a part of because of her (something that feels like decisive favouritism). Some of them are going away on holiday with her. Yet, I see one of them every week when my boyfriend plays football and he still doesn’t even say hello to me – harsh, dude. There is a distinct and consistent effort to keep her involved and yet a clear avoidance of me. This is my issue and one I can’t figure out how to handle.

People keep telling me that things will get better in time as they get to know me and spend more time with me. But I ask anyone reading this, how I can spend time with people that make me feel uncomfortable, unwanted and not good enough? I like to think I am a strong person, I have faced far worse in my life than this and come through, but I wouldn’t let anyone make me feel how they do and keep coming back for more. It’s masochistic to say the least, and it chips away at my dignity.

Part of me wishes I had said something at the time. Told them that their conversation was unnecessary and slightly hurtful, made a comment that no one else was discussing anyone else’s exs so perhaps best left that way, or messaged them once I left to explain what they had done, but I’ve never been faced with a situation like this and confrontation has never been my strong suit.

So, this is where you all come in. What would you do in my situation? How would you respond? Have you been in this situation and come through it? Or even, have you been on his friends’ side of things? Help wanted. Pay non-existent but appreciation huge. TY!

To end on an empowering note, the almighty Whitney singing something quite apt.
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