I am currently involved with this guy who was my serious boyfriend for three years. We officially broke up about seven years ago. We have always been friends, sometimes intimate, sometimes not. We have been there for each other through good and bad times. A year ago, the relationship that he was in ended. I was single, helped him through his break-up, and after a while we got serious again. Things were OK until a few months ago he advised me that he was still sexually involved with his ex, and now she wants him back. He tells me that he would not choose to go back to her and leave me, but at the same time he cannot walk away from her. He wants me to accept him being involved with his ex, which I cannot do. I, however, don't know how to walk away from him. This is somebody whom I've loved for over 10 years and it's not easy to walk away. I know that he loves me, but I just cannot know that he is still involved with his ex and be comfortable with it.
This situation is killing me and I don't know what to do.
I invite you to take a moment and do an 'outside looking in' assessment of what is happening here. Here is your ex, whom you have reunited with after a seven-year break-up, asking you to accept a love triangle involving you, his ex whom he has reunited with, and himself. What he is in fact requesting you to do is to engage in a form of open relationship where you would be in the know and accepting of his sexual involvement with the other girl. So technically you could not accuse him of cheating.
There are some relationships that exist in this fashion but don't truly survive very long as invariably, there are instances of unmanaged conflicts between and among the parties involved.
The open relationship apart, the other interesting observation in your letter is the fact that both yourself and your ex claim that you both don't know how to and cannot walk away from the other person. The more appropriate response should have been that you both chose not to walk away from your respective situations.
People use this supposed 'inability to act' argument simply because they believe they have more to gain than lose if they remain in their current situation. Let's be brutally blunt. In your ex's case, he would not want to walk away from the sexual favours he would receive from his ex. And in your case, you are obviously still in love with your ex and would want to cement a 10-year friendship.
So now that you have taken the 'outside looking in' view of the situation, are you a little more convinced that you now have to take decisive action? You have to decide if you want to work with the programme or leave.
If it's the former, then the idea your ex is wishing for is that you all will be a big happy family where everyone gets along.
If after you have made a full assessment of the situation and you arrive at the conclusion that you stand to lose more than you would gain if you were to agree to this "special" arrangement, then regardless of the many years invested in the relationship, difficult as it will be, you have to muster the mental capacity to do what is in your best interest.
Maintaining an on-and-off intimate relationship with your ex will not help if you do decide to reject his offer and move on with your life. In order to send him a clear message that you will have no part of his three-play, you have to back up your words with action.
Sit with him and share with him your discomfort with his suggestion and ask him to make a decision one way or the other. If he insists that three can play then you must do what you must do without delay.
Wayne Powell is a relationship counsellor. Write to email@example.com