Should I Get Involved with Him? Or Will He be Thinking of Her?

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Reader’s Question

There’s a man I like very much. I have cared about him a lot for a long time, and I’m considering a relationship with him. However, there’s an ex-girlfriend who broke up with him because of the distance but she is still, in his words, “More than welcome.” She’s in a relationship with someone else at the moment, but sends to my potential partner kisses (we can easily guess what sort of kisses) and hugs in messages. Her general behavior implies that she’d grab him as soon as possible if she could, and that she will, given the chance.

My potential partner describes her as one of his closest “friends” and he returns kisses and hugs, often expressing great enthusiasm and attraction in his communication with her. I think he will always like her in that way and there will always be ‘that something’ between them, even if I were with him someday, and even if he likes me. This trouble burdens me and grieves me constantly.

What do you think about this? Friends or “friends?”

Psychologist’s Reply

There definitely seem to be some issues here that bear further consideration. One of the problems with breakups that occur because of external circumstances (like distance) is that there will always be that ‘what if’ factor. The couple didn’t part because of personality differences or poor behavior, but because of things beyond their control; so if things changed, it’s possible their relationship could work. This makes it that much harder to let go and move on.

From your description, it doesn’t sound like either ex-partner has truly put the other in the rearview mirror. It appears as though the sexual element is still there, and that the hope of a future together hasn’t completely left their thoughts. Consequently, I would be extremely cautious about becoming involved with this man, because there is a possibility that his heart still belongs to the ex, and that would not be fair to you.

However, although you didn’t say, I get the feeling that you haven’t really talked over your concerns about the ex with your potential partner. Communication is one of the top five essential issues in a relationship, so if you’re planning to give this a shot, you should talk with him. He needs to know about your high level of discomfort about his behavior toward his ex, and the reasons behind your reluctance to enter into a relationship with him.

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Open and honest communication with this man could bring some surprises. For example, it could be that since he is not currently involved in a relationship, he believes his behavior toward the ex is harmless and all in good fun. It also could be that since he has no one else to concentrate his affection on, he sends it in her direction. Your feelings of hesitation could come as a complete surprise to him and, once knowing them, he could drastically change his behavior.

I am a big believer in communication but it does come with some risk. There is the possibility that he is still in love with the ex and hopes that they will get back together someday. However, that is information that any potential girlfriend would need to know, so you’d lose nothing by talking with him about it. Whatever his answer, I believe that it’s important for every person to feel valued and respected within a loving relationship. So if you feel that he’s not telling you the truth, or think that he would never prioritize your relationship with him over his relationship with her, then you may want to keep looking for someone who will.

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