Issues of trust and double standards put them at stalemate
Q: Long story short — my boyfriend of two-plus years and I keep having the same circular, chicken-or-egg discussion.
He thinks our relationship is too unstable to commit to moving in, although he says he wants to live together; I believe that if we lived together, most of our issues (which are related to our living in two separate households) would naturally resolve, allowing us enough stability to see if we have the legs for long-term. How to break a stalemate?
Carolyn: What are "our issues"?
WA again: The most significant is that he believes it is inappropriate for me to have platonic relationships with ex-boyfriends; he feels it's emotional infidelity. I don't agree with that, but did agree, for his sake, not to see or e-mail any of my ex-boyfriends.
However, his ex-wife, the mother of their 20-year-old daughter (who lives with him), calls him on a regular basis — nothing to do with the daughter, just to chat — and feels free to drop in to his house to see the daughter whenever she wishes. She has a key and sometimes cooks dinner, ostensibly for the daughter, although I know he eats with them, too, and she even sleeps over on occasion when he is not home.
I find his acceptance of this extremely hypocritical, and we argue about it frequently; if we were in the same house this simply would not happen.
Carolyn: Shacking up cures hypocrisy?
Magical thinking is the worst possible thing to bring into a shared home — worse even than differing beliefs or entitled exes or plaid recliners.
Yes, the ex-wife's visits might change if you move in together — but your boyfriend won't change, his beliefs won't change, and your tendency to rationalize big problems into small ones won't change.
And their friendliness isn't even a problem; it's actually admirable. The problem — a serious one — is your boyfriend's comfort with imposing rules on you while doing as he pleases. Your appeasing him is also alarming.
He's fine with his ex-wife because, presumably, he knows his romantic relationship is over. You, too, presumably know your romantic feelings for your exes are gone. But that's not good enough for him, because he won't risk taking your word for it. He needs to be sure, and since he can't get inside your brain to acquire this certainty, he has to obtain the next best thing by pressuring you to sever all ties with anyone he sees as a threat.
Let's say your relationships with these exes are, in fact, sketchy. Wouldn't the healthy person just dump you?
You two actually have a lot in common. He thinks that if he banishes your exes, you'll be faithful, and you think if his ex-wife stops cooking him dinner, he'll have integrity.
This is about control. Your boyfriend wants it, and he's going to dangle your relationship on a string till he gets it. In spite of the sensible voice that's telling you he's a hypocrite, you're searching for ways to justify giving him that control.
Don't do it. He doesn't trust you, or himself, and you don't trust yourself to be better for saying, "No, actually, I won't live by double standards for you or anyone else."
Trust or bust. You know which one this guy is.