Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Ask Polly: I Am Obsessed With My Boyfriend's Evil Ex-Girlfriend—And Her Blog! (And Their Dogs!)

Dear Polly,

I'm a 26-year-old female living in NYC who has been in a serious monogamous relationship with my boyfriend for over a year and a half now. He's a supportive partner who fulfills all of my needs and I love him tremendously.

The only problem I have with our relationship is that he was previously married. I met him shortly after he left his ex, and was with him through the divorce. His marriage was an abusive one; she inflicted years of mental and emotional torment that he's still recovering from. He also still lives in the same neighborhood as his ex (I've seen her on more than one occasion while out and about), and they still communicate because they share joint custody of their three dogs.

My main problem with her, aside from the fact that she's a terrible human, is that I'm obsessed with her—with hating her, specifically—and am resentful, on behalf of my boyfriend who has made peace with their toxic relationship, that she hurt my partner and continues to be involved in his life.

She leads a very public life online (she's one of those "lifestyle bloggers") and it's easy, and so much fun, to watch her make mistakes after their separation and subsequent divorce. She's also older (by 5 years) and seemingly "has it together," living alone and working in her dream field, while I'm quite the opposite. She's contacted me online before, in a manner I found threatening, so she knows I exist and was devastated (and blogged about it extensively) when she learned her ex-husband was in a committed relationship with me. This brought me great joy, and I realize that that's a very sick thing to feel.

But within the past few months my infatuation with her emotional shitshow (which has subsided over the past few months, unfortunately) has completely consumed me, and it's beginning to affect my relationship. I logged into my boyfriend's emails and read conversations between the two (I confessed and he was angry, but forgave me), and one night I drunkenly confessed to him every detail of my obsession with her. He was patient and understanding.

Most importantly, I feel like I can't pursue a more serious relationship with my boyfriend because he's already done all of "those things" (marriage, trying to have a family, etc.) with someone else and I haven't. I hate being second.

I feel like there are so many things I want to say to her, and if I just said them, I would feel better. But I know it's a bad idea for me to contact her. It would upset my boyfriend (he doesn't want to have to deal with her any more than he has to) and part of their divorce agreement is that she cannot communicate with me.

What should I do?

Dwelling On His Past

Dear DOHP,

So you're living in someone else's past, and you feel unresolved about it. And why wouldn't you? You feel angry at someone you don't know and never had a relationship with. You want to say things to her about the way she treated your boyfriend. You are feeling feelings on his behalf, and you want to express them as if they're YOUR feelings. BUT YOU DON'T ACTUALLY KNOW HER.

You currently believe that you could get closure by telling her how you feel. You're wrong about that. It would be utterly dissatisfying to tell her how you feel, because you don't know her, and because your feelings about her are all wrapped up in your protective feelings for him, your doubts about him, your desire to be The First, and your hopes and dreams with him. She can't possibly address her role as a symbol of intrigue and drama and trauma in your life.

Before we go deeper into that stuff, though, we need to talk about SHARING CUSTODY OF A DOG. Here's a public service announcement to future divorcees of the world: Never, ever set up joint custody of a fucking dog, ever.

Yes, dogs are members of the family. Yes, they matter, and losing a dog (or three) to a divorce is sure to be painful. I am a dog person. That's an understatement. My dog Potus is arguably more in touch with my feelings than my husband is. If my eyes so much as water slightly, Potus notices immediately and nudges me with her cold nose and stares at me with her big saucer eyes that say, ARE YOU OKAY? She doesn't do this to comfort me so much as to say, "Please stop this, so I don't have to worry about you." (Echoes of my childhood there).

Yes, I would battle in a court of law over Potus.

That said, driving dogs back and forth between households, and seeing your ex-wife every fucking week when you don't need to, is pretty deranged. You have no kids—you dodged a bullet—but you're still going to get on the phone and talk about doggie medications a few times a month?

JUST DON'T DO IT. Either push for custody of your dogs or give your dogs up (if you trust your ex not to ruin their lives), but do not share them. AND NEWSFLASH: MOST DOGS DON'T LIKE TO BE SHARED. Dogs are not fond of being relocated every few days or weeks. Dogs like to sleep in the same bed every night.

I lived with a guy who shared custody of his dog with his ex-wife, and let me tell you what, it was totally fucked up. I loved that dog, too. I understood why they would want to share custody. But then it became increasingly obvious that the dog was their little way of keeping tabs on each other. She left him for another man. He got a lot of information about the new guy just from picking up the dog from her place. He would come home with the dog and talk about the guy, or talk about her new apartment, or her new furniture. She would come to our house and he wouldn't want to see her face, so he'd hide in the back while she dropped the dog off. Hiding felt fucking stupid to me, so I started answering the door. That also felt stupid, and very awkward. It was ALL stupid and awkward.

Meanwhile, was the dog happy? Maybe, maybe not. Sometimes I thought the dog really felt happier at the ex-wife's house. She moped a lot when she was with us. Maybe she was just a mopey dog.

But even if the dog LOVED visiting both houses, was the whole carnival worth it? Were the dog's preferences adequate justification for constant fucking contact, despite bad feelings on both sides, despite a breakup that involved infidelity (on her part), despite massive amounts of rage and sadness (on his part) and a strange reluctance to move forward (on both of their parts)?

Because, like you, I became semi-obsessed with this woman who had already claimed my boyfriend, who had done the whole white-dress-big-wedding thing with him, and who was clearly still HIS WIFE in his mind, no matter how he felt about me. How could I not be obsessed? SHE HAD A KEY TO MY FUCKING HOUSE. She appeared in my living room once a week! When I was planting flowers on the front patio or washing the floor, I would think of her seeing it—because she WOULD see it. It was as if our relationship had this hostile third party witness, one who also happened to know a lot about my boyfriend. She knew all of his flaws and shortcomings, and she'd REJECTED him. In spite of my best efforts to rise above the whole thing, I found myself wanting to demonstrate to her that he had changed, that we were totally happy and in love, that we had something she'd never had with him. LIKE A CRAZY PERSON.

And you know what was really tough? I understood why someone would leave him. He was a really lovable, well-intentioned guy, but (at the time) he was really angry and troubled and really fucking hard to live with. And he was DEFINITELY not over his ex.

I always assumed his ex-wife was completely over him. But then we took the dog on a driving trip across the country, and she called every morning, sometimes at five in the fucking morning, to see if THE DOG HAD ARRIVED SAFELY AT OUR DESTINATION. And even though he supposedly thought this was crazy and controlling of her, he kept answering her calls. Even when she forgot about the time change and woke us up way too early before a long day of driving, he wouldn't tell her to cut it the fuck out.

That's when I realized: They were in this together. They were still working something out. I felt like a third wheel because I WAS a third wheel. I broke up with him a few weeks later.

That situation taught me a lot about sinking deep into a pre-existing drama that really had nothing to do with me. And look, if the ex-wife had kept a blog? And I could read all about her feelings about him, and me? If she'd ever contacted me directly? I would've fallen right into that wormhole, and it would've been irresistible and satisfying and terrible and awesome and then, she would have moved on and gotten over it and I WOULD'VE STILL BEEN OBSESSED. Why? Because it was all still a mystery to me. I never knew her and she never knew me and it was all conjecture. That's what obsession is: wild, uncontrolled THINKING about things that are mysterious and unreal. Obsession is not about feeling, it's about invention. And the more you obsess, the more it becomes about the act of creative overthinking, about circular thought patterns, about neuroticism, about trying desperately to control something that's completely out of your control. In this kind of ex situation, it's about filling in the gaps, trying to solve the mystery of someone else's shitty relationship. I wanted the problems in my life to come from the ex-wife—her callousness, her control freak tendencies, her infidelity—but underneath that I knew that my boyfriend was incapable of meeting someone halfway. He talked a big game about compromise, about collaborating, but he was always dictating the terms of everything we did, every step of the way. If he wasn't completely in charge, he was furious, or fearful.

Instead of trying to tackle the frustrations and disappointments of our relationship, I focused on the mystery of her, of them. I got caught up in feeling sorry for myself for not getting the fairy tale I deserved. I don't think I ever cared about wedding dresses until I saw their wedding photos for the first time. She wasn't the most beautiful woman alive, but she looked beautiful on their wedding day. All of a sudden, their little fairy tale felt like MY tragedy. They got to have something I would never have. I was lonely and powerless in that relationship, so I told an elaborate story about WHY I was lonely and powerless. It was ALL HER FAULT.

If you have a big, imaginative brain and you naturally think think think in circles anyway, obsession is like coming home to mama. Only mama is more like a vengeful, unforgiving god. Mama is the fucking Heat Miser.

So you're in that crucible, due to circumstances beyond your control. I'm not going to blame you for your obsession, and tell you to grow the fuck up and get over it. Honestly, having been where you are now, I'd be more concerned if you WEREN'T remotely affected by the fucking joint dog custody and the lifestyle blog and the rest of it. I would be worried that you were a fucking robot if those things didn't bore deep, deep, deep under your skin.

So I just want to tell you this, loud and clear: A lot of your current troubles are circumstantial. Anyone with a functioning heart and a functioning brain would land where you've landed.

But I also believe that you may have displaced your frustration and your anger, and made her a target for feelings that don't have anything to do with her. He might have reasons to hate her, and maybe you dislike her on his behalf. But no matter how much you've read her words or heard about their life together, you don't fucking know her. You can't work this out with her because she's not your lover or your friend or even your loose acquaintance. You have no relationship with her.

So it's not really about her. It's also not about the fact that he was married before. My husband was married for 12 years to someone else. When I met him, he'd only been single for about 9 months. We share custody of a child with his ex. Not a dog, a human being! But his ex-wife doesn't loom large in my life; she's just a person I hardly know. I understand his feelings about his marriage and his divorce, but I don't feel emotionally invested in that story, nor do I see her as some kind of an intruder or hostile witness in our lives. When we were planning our wedding, it often slipped my mind that he'd done it all before. He never acted like ours was a second marriage. He said he felt like it was his first "REAL" marriage, however you want to interpret that.

So honestly, I think there's something in the mix here that's bothering you, and blaming it on being "second" makes little sense and frankly obscures the source of your troubles. Maybe you're a little bit haunted by your boyfriend's ex because her perspective on him bugs you. Maybe she disrespected him and you're worried that you will, too, eventually. Maybe you have doubts about him that you don't want to address with him or anyone else. Maybe you think he'll never want to marry you or have kids with you, even though he wanted those things with her. Or maybe you're worried that you don't REALLY want to marry HIM.

I don't get the sense that last one is true, I only mention it for the readers out there who are obsessed with someone and they think it means they want to be with that person forever, when in fact it could mean that they're hung up on the person because he/she makes them feel confused and conflicted, because he/she is intriguing but WRONG SOMEHOW. Obsession often indicates ambivalence.

Your case is a little different, though. My guess is that your boyfriend's ex looms large because she has an engaging career and you don't. She makes a living doing something she loves and you want that for yourself. You're also insecure because you're young and you're not entirely sure what you want from your life yet. You wonder if your boyfriend could ever love you as much as he loved her, because you're not that much like his ex. Even though she's a fucking nightmare, you wonder if you'll ever capture his heart and imagination and passion the way she did.

You're not feeling fragile about this because she's somehow better than you. You're feeling fragile because, instead of believing in your own dreams and working towards what you want from your life, you're distracting yourself with her. You're all wrapped up in their past, their drama, their weirdness, long after they themselves (officially) left it behind. You are procrastinating. You are distracting yourself from something you don't want to deal with. You've found a distraction big and colorful enough to provide an extended escape from the hard work you still have to do on yourself.

You need a therapist if you don’t have one already. You also need to work on talking to your boyfriend—regularly, openly, honestly—about what you want from this relationship, and from him. Do you sometimes feel that he's a pushover with other people? Do you feel that he's honest with you, or do you suspect that he placates you when you're upset? What will the next few years of your lives look like? What happens when one of the dogs gets old and sick? Would he consider giving her the dogs, or splitting them up? Does he have a problem cutting off all contact with her?

Again, your situation is TOTALLY understandable. Your feelings are understandable. Even your OBSESSION is understandable. Honestly. But it's a sign that things aren't quite right in your life. Obsession only goes in the warm, moist Petri dish of confusion. You are looking for a distraction from your own challenges.

You need to have another long, heartfelt talk about this woman, about what she SYMBOLIZES in your life—with both your therapist and your boyfriend. After that, though, you need to forget that she exists. Don't talk about her, don't think about her, don't write about her, don't picture her. When you're tempted to think about her, you need to say these words. I DON'T KNOW HER. SHE IS NOT IN MY LIFE. SHE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ME.

Then you need to take a long, hard look at your life, and figure out what you really want, and you need to GO OUT AND GET IT. Because, look, do you want to spend the next five years thinking about someone who you don't even know? Do you want to destroy the love you have with these obsessions and fixations and this illusory desire for "closure"?

What started as a funny little gossipy thing has turned into something dangerous to you. The stakes are very high now. You have to stop concerning yourself with her, because it's hurting you. You have to do the very hard work of concerning yourself with yourself instead. You will find your passion, and your confidence, and you'll never worry about her again once you do that. But can't skip that step. You have to find yourself. Don't hide behind your relationship. Spend some time on your own, and with friends, nurturing your independence, and figuring out exactly what you want your life to look like. You are avoiding this right now. But you can't let someone else decide what you want. You have to decide for yourself. If you aren't careful, you will end up with a life you don't want at all. Don't allow yourself to get distracted like this. Don't follow the path of least resistance. Don't tell stories that belong to other people. It's time for YOUR story to begin now.


Are you stalling? Write to Polly and find out!

Heather Havrilesky (aka Polly Esther) is The Awl's existential advice columnist. She's also a regular contributor to The New York Times Magazine, and is the author of the memoir Disaster Preparedness (Riverhead 2011). She blogs here about scratchy pants, personality disorders, and aged cheeses. Dog photo by Timothy J Carroll.

47 Comments / Post A Comment

Oh man I totally want to read this ex woman's blog now just because. I'm awful.

@TheCheeseStandsAlone: I am awful enough to think the writer purposely sprinkled certain info about the ex (their relative ages, location, etc) throughout the letter so people would figure out who she is.

alicesherman (#237,158)

@brilliantmistake this is all I want from this column. A NAME. Oh shit, and I also just realized that my username is also my ex's dog's name. P.S. I don't see my sweet baby Alice anymore, so I got my own dog.

I am now googling 'Divorced Brooklyn Lifestyle Blogger' because what else am I gonna do at work.

clipse (#258,551)

@TheCheeseStandsAlone FYI if you google that phrase now, your comment is the first result.

greenwind08 (#258,616)

@TheCheeseStandsAlone That't the awful :)

juliannasays (#11,930)

@TheCheeseStandsAlone I have used so many different combinations and permutations of google-able words to find this blog (wasting time that should be spent doing other, waaaayyy more important things), but I still can't find it. I wonder if some details were specifically changed by Heather??

Eccles (#193,071)

Fwiw, I've found it's a lot easier to replace obsessions than just shut them down. Whenever I'm tempted to revisit old patterns, having the plan to go for a run or take ten minutes to meditate (or just otherwise doing something I can feel smug about) has been very helpful.

sinyet (#258,454)

Kudos on an excellent answer!

FloffMe (#258,456)

Great answer, except for the comments about joint custody of a "fucking dog," especially coming from someone who chose to get into a relationship with someone who has a lot more baggage than joint custody of a dog! Seems like there's a lot of magical thinking going on in your own life when you can willingly sign on for joint custody of a HUMAN BEING someone else made with someone else, then glibly say "his ex-wife doesn't loom large in my life; she's just a person I hardly know." Really? Aren't you raising her kid? I presume she shows up regularly on your doorstep to collect her child and does all the things this woman's BF's ex does with respect to collecting the dogs. Do you put your fingers in yours ears, close your eyes and hum when she shows up every week to get little Kayleee or Krandall? Or when said child talks about their mommy all the time, because kids (unlike dogs) just F-ing love being shuttled from house to house. Maybe you could share your magical abilities for for compartmentalizing and denial (I'm not bothered by being second cause I just pretend I'm not second! Besides, he says I'm his first REAL marriage so I'll just forget that other lady existed.) instead of passing such harsh judgment on whatever arrangement this woman's ex has set up re: his dogs.

@FloffMe dogs != children. No seriously. Children need and want different things than dogs. I swear it's true.

Also, some exes really are in the past, and that's okay.

Liz81 (#243,375)

@FloffMe I didn't really understand this, either. It seems to me like Polly had a tumultuous, troubled relationship with someone who had joint custody of a dog, and has a good, solid relationship with someone who has joint custody of his kid. Then she extrapolated from this: dog joint custody bad, kid joint custody good.

I think it depends far more on the individuals involved.

I have my own bias: I share custody of my dogs with my ex, have been for about seven months. We get along, we both love the dogs, and neither of us would be willing to give them up. The dogs seem happy at both our places. My ex and I have to schedule things with each other (I know I'm taking them while he recovers from LASIK surgery, he knows he's taking them when I am on vacation, stuff like that), but we're mature and not trying to stalk each other or get back together, and it's been fine. I'm dating someone else, he's been dating someone else, no drama, and no fighting about two dogs we both love. Although I didn't want to be with my ex anymore, he's a good guy and I wouldn't want to take the dogs from him. He feels the same about me.

It's about the individuals. I don't think blanket statements work.

This situation the letter writer describes sounds messy, but still, no blanket statements.

Regina Small (#2,468)

@Liz81 My sense of it was more "well, you could never reasonably insist on NOT having joint custody of a child so suck it up but dogs AREN'T kids, so if it's one more thing tying you to a toxic ex, sever the joint custody." Which sounds reasonable to me.

Liz81 (#243,375)

@Regina Small I agree, that does sound more reasonable. I wish the heading of this article wasn't "Never, Ever Split Custody of a Dog", though.

Kate Baum@facebook (#194,044)

@Liz81 Ok, I take back my never split custody of the dog comment below. Maybe sometimes split custody if you guys are normal human beings who can figure it out without getting all up in each other's shit type of people.

Liz81 (#243,375)

@Kate Baum@facebook Thanks Kate! Appreciated! :)

HeatherH (#241,099)

@FloffMe Let me put it this way instead: If you're going through a tough break up and there's a lot of contempt in the mix, it's probably best not to set up joint custody of a pet. But, as I admitted at the very start, I know how tough it can be. I've seen people suffer a lot over joint pet custody, and many of them regret setting their lives up that way. Obviously if you're making it work then more power to you.

not a professional (#244,325)

@FloffMe I think it's possible to share joint custody of a kid and maintain a great deal of distance with the other parental units for the sake of sanity and avoiding drama. I also think it's unnecessary to keep those ties over a pet so if someone is doing that, perhaps there is another motivating factor.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

"When we were planning our wedding, it often slipped my mind that he'd done it all before."

Heh. Never mind he had a child with another woman, it's that this one time they dressed in fancy clothes and drank champagne and ate cake in front of a bunch of people!

Seriously, people… grow the fuck up.

Kate Baum@facebook (#194,044)

@Niko Bellic Or, he stood in front of all of his friends and family and committed himself to one woman, and that failed? And now if I stand up there and commit to him, is it going to fail again? Is it all a farce? Seriously, grow the fuck up. It's not just about wearing a pretty dress and drinking champagne.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

@Kate Baum@facebook She specifically talked about "planning our wedding", which is all about who is going to wear what and eat what and such things. The part where you actually get *married* doesn't require much "planning". Even with that part, being married is something you have to keep doing every day. That one-time ceremony where you stand up in front of everyone and "commit" isn't worth shit, as we know all too well, and it's lack of actual value is not something specific to this particular man as he is not the first one to divorce.

So, yes: grow the fuck up.

Kate Baum@facebook (#194,044)

@Niko Bellic No, as someone who is dating a divorced guy, I can tell you that planning my wedding sucks for that exact reason. Planning a wedding is inviting everyone you love and care about to celebrate starting a life together, a life that you hope, pray and dream will last until you die. It is shitty to have someone that you love standing in front of you at the altar who you are committing to, you are taking that huge freaking risk with, knowing that it could fail, in fact, it has failed before, and you don't know if it's because the person you're marrying is really the issue (who knows who's to blame?) or if everyone around you thinks that it's a big joke. I'm not saying that everyone deserves to blow a bunch of money they don't have or be a princess that everyone bows down to, but there is something inherently, if not important then understandable about wanting to start your life together figuring things out for the first time. It's a loss. It's the same way marrying somebody with children can feel like a loss, you didn't get a chance to see your partner fall in love with their child, you didn't get to see them learn what it was like to be a father, you didn't get to experience any of that with them. It sucks. It's okay, and and going into the relationship one can't dwell on it, but don't you dare claim that because someone is disappointed about this that it's because they haven't "grown up."

Kate Baum@facebook (#194,044)

@Kate Baum@facebook And frankly, I think that trying to whittle down "plan my wedding" to mean something as simple as what color napkins to buy is insulting to both the letter writer and the Polly, who are clearly emotionally invested, thoughtful and interesting people who are trying their damnndest to make things work in an imperfect and difficult world, taking ownership of their own faults and shortcomings, and are just trying to figure things out so they can have some kind of happiness.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

@Kate Baum@facebook "No, as someone who is dating a divorced guy, I can tell you that planning my wedding sucks"

As someone who is into his second marriage with a woman who has a child (in shared custody) from her previous one, I can tell you this: planning our wedding didn't suck at all, and our marriage sucks even less. That said, I'll be the first one to tell you that taking on responsibilities as these is not for just anyone, but that's my point: (both of) you need to be grown up, and if you can't even enjoy planning your wedding, then how are you going to enjoy the rest of your days together (most of which will be a lot less fun, and a good number of which will require a lot more thought and effort)?

Kate Baum@facebook (#194,044)

@Niko Bellic Can't something be both sucky and good at the same time? Why does it have to be one or the other? It's just like anybody else's stupid baggage. You can still love somebody completely and still be disappointed that pieces are missing. You're right, I said that planning it sucks, and that was wrong – some parts of it suck, most of it is great. I think that your comment to the letter writer and Polly about needing to grow up shuts down their ability to see both sides of the situation – "shut up, don't complain, deal with it."

A friend of mine's dad used to be a divorce lawyer and when he found out my folks were divorced, he and I had conversations about it – he has moved onto other cases because he couldn't stand dealing with divorcing people because it was too depressing. He shared with me an interesting insight – that so many parents feel guilty about splitting up that they spit out shit to their kids like, "You get TWO houses and TWO Christmases! More parents to love you! You could have a dog at your moms house AND your dads house if you wanted!" and the kids are just inundated with these ideas that divorce is a good thing – this happened in my childhood, this could be different now – and the kid thinks that they must be the crazy one, they must be the one not getting it because to them, they just want their family back together, their world has just fallen apart.

What I mean to say about that is – can't you just relent and say that yeah, we all have to grow up and put aside each other's baggage and deal with what's in front of you, and sometimes part of what's in front of you kind of sucks. ANd it sucks that this letter writer or Polly (I forget who said it) feel that way, and it's normal, instead of saying that they just need to grow the fuck up.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

@Kate Baum@facebook OK, I admit I was a bit flip. Sorry. It's just that I've found that in my second marriage the very fact that my wife and I have already put the first one behind us is what has helped: we have learned from our mistakes, we "know better" now. To me, this situation is not matter of concern, and in fact, it's the marriages between two young and inexperienced people that are more worthy of concern and examination. Us two old farts will be just fine.

Kate Baum@facebook (#194,044)

@Niko Bellic Thanks for your perspective and sharing your side, too.

Kate Baum@facebook (#194,044)

That said – never have custody of a dog. If you are in a couple and you want a dog, one person gets the dog. One person pays for the dog. One person raises the dog. One person walks the dog more often than not in the bitter bitter cold. That's the person who gets to keep the dog if you break up. The other person just gets all the benefits of having a dog, like the house covered in blonde hair, water drops on the floor from the food dishes, etc.

City_Dater (#2,500)

I have an ex who maintained a toxic, backbiting, competitive "friendship" with his ex-wife. People who want to continue to make each other miserable will find a way to do so, even without shared custody of dogs, kids, or appliances, and the only thing to do is run away and let them be "all right with each other, really."

Once, a long time ago, a friend of mine got obsessed with the blog of the new wife of a (long-gone) ex-boyfriend of mine. I was basically not interested, but my friend would read the new wife's blog and email me quotes from it, complete with links. The time the new wife mentioned, very minimally, that she found her husband's ex (easily identified as me) intimidating was just bizarre. I somehow didn't want to take away my friend's source of entertainment, but didn't really want to read any of it, either.

Tuna Surprise (#573)

@Better to Eat You With

I have friends who actively try to keep tabs on my ex husband and then give me periodic updates. It drives me crazy. If I wanted to know, I would know!

Olivia2.0 (#1,716)

I had an ex who – after I was blindsided by his cheating (that he refused to admit to) and our break-up – moved out of our shared apartment and AROUND THE CORNER FROM ME. He then proceeded to purchase all of the EXACT SAME kitchen and household items from Ikea b/c he'd "already picked them out once". He then came over to "walk the dog" once a day for 3 months.

My mother also carried out a similar scenario after getting divorced from my step-father -she went out to the old house to "feed the dog" every night for several months. My sister and I are probably the only people in the world who use the phrase "feeding the dog" as a euphemism for sex.

Long story long – sharing custody of the dog: it probably means you are using the dog as a crutch to "work out your issues" and/or keep tabs on each other.

barnhouse (#1,326)

There's a crazy ex in my husband's past, too. Their whole drama will fade; don't help keep it alive. Your new life can be about your new life, if you let it.

KarenUhOh (#19)

The whole answer to this predicament is cats. You develop a healthy obsession with a couple lumps of furry furniture who pee in the house, make ghoulish faces when they smell poop molecules on the carpet, and whose idea of a laugh riot is digging their claws in your leg at 3:00 a.m., your SO's Ex won't want to have a fucking thing to do with you OR him/her.

not a professional (#244,325)

My instictual answer to this, only reading the question so far, is leave and get a life of your own. This relationship is triangulated from the start and rife with drama. GET OUT!! If the ex is a crazy bitch and he still has contact with her, he has his own issues and he might even be using his ex as a power play with you. RUN!

not a professional (#244,325)

I also want to politely suggest that the letter writer is hiding in this drama from what is possible in her own life, hiding from her true self. She needs to go out and live a meaningful life.

not a professional (#244,325)

And, my comments are redundant. I should have read the answer before commenting. That said, I still think she should leave this guy.

heineznx (#258,584)

Dog joint custody. You know, I had never even considered that that was a thing before…

nyc121212 (#238,441)

WHEN DID PEOPLE START REFERRING TO THEMSELVES AS "FEMALES" INSTEAD OF WOMEN!!?? This is so, so weird and sexist. You're not a sexual organ, you're a person. Misogynist shock jocks refer to women as "females"; please don't make their jobs easier by doing the same…

Anarcissie (#3,748)

@nyc121212 — 'Female' is a bit clinical but to me it doesn't really seem to carry the frightful weight of moral opprobrium you're trying to load on it.

You Know What? (#258,220)

Giving up the dogs is well worth it IMHO. NOT giving up the dogs means you are not strong enough to move on. I had two wonderful cats that my ex wife kept and as much as I loved them giving them up was part and parcel of ending that (very unhealthy) part of my life and moving on to one that is so wonderful that I am in a constant state of gratitude and bliss. Letting the ex go means also letting the dogs (cats, whatever) go too.
When I began dating my current girlfriend I told her up front, before any issues could come up, that we both had lives before we met and that we shouldn't pretend otherwise. What matters is who we are and are with now.
Anything other than actual children should be let go of. Polly stating that having no kids was "dodging a bullet" is exactly right but LW's BF goes ahead and takes the doggie bullet and all that that entails? LW should be concerned about that fact WAY more than she is about the ex.
There are plenty of great pets (and hobby cars, and motorcycles, and hi fis, and guitars, and furniture, etc…) waiting for you on the other side, I promise!

threecents (#258,940)

Woah, strange parallels, I had a similar circumstance at the same age as the letter writer. Early on in our relationship, my former bf and his 5-year ex-gf had this arrangement with their beloved basset hound, a "first real pet" for both of them. She then moved out of state for school (to pursue something she was passionate about, while I floundered), and though he kept the dog, within a year it developed a rapidly growing cancer. He then flew her back at his expense, letting her stay at his/our place, so she could see "their" dog one last time. At the time, I was fairly livid about this, and left to stay with a friend, even though he ever-so-generously offered to put her up at a hotel so I wouldn't be uncomfortable. He was of course, quite upset about the dog's imminent death, but also baffled about why I was so unhappy when he "was clearly in love with me". I already had an *obsession* with her and their past life together though, so this situation was great fertilizer for that plant!

The crazy thing, was reading the last paragraph of Polly's response:

"You have to find yourself. Don't hide behind your relationship. Spend some time on your own, and with friends, nurturing your independence, and figuring out exactly what you want your life to look like. You are avoiding this right now. But you can't let someone else decide what you want. You have to decide for yourself. *If you aren't careful, you will end up with a life you don't want at all.* Don't allow yourself to get distracted like this. Don't follow the path of least resistance."

In the end, after a lot of tears, and a lot of talking, we got through all this drama, she finally stopped calling, and he ended up not speaking to her anymore. But it didn't matter, because I had completely lost myself and my goals in all these (and other) efforts with him I imagined were "growth" and "progress". Two years later I woke up one day realizing this was a life I didn't want at all. It took me another year to cut my losses and walk away.

I look back on this as a really strange time in my life. I think there's something to be said for realizing that there are some people who, for whatever reason, you're just unable to be your 'best self' with, whether that's circumstance or something deeper. Sometimes the glorious end goal of all the time and mental energy spent on these things, just ends up being something not very impressive or fulfilling anyway. The difference in being with someone who encourages real personal growth and gives you the motivation to better yourself is enormous. The rest really is a distraction.

AbigailHolt29 (#260,473)

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Datdamwuf (#242,925)

Old letter, but…sharing custody of dogs with a person who abused you does not make sense. When I got away from my abuser there is no way in hell I would let him have one of the cats or see them. Nor would I see my ex. There is something seriously wrong if the BF is sharing custody of their dogs with his abuser. is great community when trying to get over your ex or your significants ex. Truly a lifesaver.

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