The latest Female First Reader question – View Original Article Here
My boyfriend is 45 and never married. He was single for four years before he met me. He has a lot of female friends both personal and work. I haven’t many friends of the opposite sex because I’m a bit older and never really formed that many close male friends. I’ve recently found out he messages a particular female workmate during the day (not sure about the evening) and sends her songs he likes. He even sent her songs that he’d also sent to me and recommended a CD to her he’d bought me for my birthday. He never mentions me to her. The woman in question was someone I met briefly when I went to his workplace about two years ago. She came up to say hello to my boyfriend and didn’t take any notice of me. I know that’s not grounds to split up but I feel upset and hurt about this as this is how we met! Plus, he hardly messages me during the day and has stopped sending me songs he likes. He always talks about the men and women in his work but never this woman. He seems a genuine guy and I know his sister who says he’s solid, but I can’t get this idea of him sharing something with another woman that he used to do with me. Do you think this is something to be worried about? I also was told this information privately, so I can’t bring it up with him without incriminating the other person.
Our Resident Real Fairy Godmother Michelle Zelli says:
Oh Pippa, no wonder you’re feeling upset and hurt! Your situation isn’t as straightforward as it might at first appear and it would be very easy to find yourself going around in circles, feeling confused and even questioning your sanity. There are several factors playing out here and it would be very easy to get confused by the mixed messages you’re receiving.
At 45 someone who’s never been married, who’s been single for 4 years, is likely to be an Avoidant. Which is psyche speak for someone who avoids intimacy due to internal wounding, usually from childhood.
There is also a distinct possibility that he’s running an old pattern, the same pattern as when he met you. Humans are habitual and the saying ‘a leopard doesn’t change its spots’ is pretty on point! Your boyfriend wooed you, as you now describe his behaviour with his female work colleague. Perhaps you even met him through work too?
You don’t mention how long you have had these concerns and the current sense of uneasiness. However, you do recall an incident from two years ago, suggesting you’ve been worried for a while. How is this impacting the way you feel about yourself? Your self-esteem? It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of focusing on how the other person behaves or feels, when actually your greatest priority should be taking care of yourself at this stressful time.
His behaviour is incongruent, what he says and what he does aren’t matching. When you went into his office he ignored you. And yet his family are solid. This all feels a little too close to gaslighting to be healthy. ‘Gaslighting’ is the practice of being dishonest whilst making the other person feel they are confused or slightly nuts. (Totally lunatic on some occasions!) The most common type of this behaviour is for a man to come home with lipstick and perfume on his shirt and to call his partner ‘mad’ or ‘neurotic’ when she accuses him of wrongdoing.
It’s time to own your power and courage, however difficult this is, it won’t be as tough as doing nothing and feeling at the mercy of his wall of words.
Let him know how you’re feeling. There are other areas of your relationship which will be suffering and off kilter. Don’t focus on the areas you can’t share with him because of the source of information, look for the areas you can and will.
Avoid blaming him but instead reclaim your sense of self, along with your personal power, and speak respectfully but also honestly about the things that are hurting you and bringing up your insecurities. He is likely to be a master of slipping through the net when you want to discuss something he isn’t comfortable with. Don’t allow him to derail your efforts to communicate and make changes in your relationship which are in line with the best version of yourself. What would she do?
When you speak with him you will be able to gauge the quality and state of your relationship. If he is loving and supportive, hears you and cares, you have a relationship worth working on. If he is angry, critical, shut down and punitive, think hard about spending more time together.
However hard it feels to be honest now, it will feel a whole lot worse if you do nothing and allow the behaviour to continue, and more likely, escalate.
On the other hand, of course, he could be totally innocent. In which case you know this is how it’s going to be for a very long time to come. Don’t expect people to change just because their behaviour doesn’t fit into your wish list. Now you have the unenviable but life affirming job of deciding which of these choices helps you feel like the woman you’re proud to be.
Not perfect, just the best you are in any given moment, be assured it’s enough.