DEAR AMY: I am gay and have been dating a great guy for a year and a half. We have a hefty age difference — he is 45; I am 33. It is an amazing relationship, except for one thing. He was in a 24-year relationship that was ending when we met. His ex is 60 years old. They stay in touch and reside in the same city. My boyfriend has bought a new condo, and we have been committed fully for about nine months. The problem is that he consistently tells me of events he wants to attend out of state, which this ex will also be attending. Recently, he mentioned he would be traveling to attend a gay pride event, and would be staying with a mutual friend. His ex would also be there. I am always uncomfortable with this, and instantly go on the defensive. It ends up pushing me far away because I speculate about them. It affects our trust. We never fight, except when this recurring theme emerges every few months. I can’t control how I feel, and he seems reluctant to stay away from these events, even though he knows how much it bothers me. Is it wrong for me to ask him to not do these things, or to at least include me in the events, rather than feel as if I have been shoved into the back closet, while his ex still lingers around in his life?
DEAR WONDERING: When it comes to the relationship with exes, the burden is on the common partner (your guy) to create healthy boundaries and reassure the newer partner (you) that all is well.
One way to do this would be to include you in events where the ex will be present. If you two are partners, you should include each other openly in social events, and introduce each other to your friends and family members. Getting to know his ex would probably help you to come to terms with this long-standing relationship.
It’s a delicate balance. You should not use your feelings to hurt or manipulate your partner, but he should be respectful of a very natural sensitivity on your part.
DEAR AMY: I had a guy best friend in high school. We tried to date and after graduation we lived together, but things just never worked out romantically, and I couldn’t understand why. I moved out and tried to rekindle our friendship. This did not last long, as I started to date a new man. We had a big falling out over it. I haven’t spoken to said friend in almost five years, and I am no longer with the other guy, but I find myself thinking about my old friend constantly. I’m at a point now where I am not too sure whether or not to contact him. Should I act? Do I leave it to fate?
DEAR LONGING: Fate is not a matchmaker. Don’t passively wait for fate to do the work you could be doing. Relationships take different forms and assume different sizes and shapes over the years. Now that you seem to have some clarity on what you want, you should contact your former friend and see if he is interested.
DEAR AMY: Recently you responded to a query from “In-law Ethics,” whose sister-in-law had been engaged in black and/or gray market activities and what appeared to be widespread tax avoidance. You suggested that if the sister-in-law were not applying for and fraudulently receiving subsidies, your reader should butt out, implying it’s private business and none of hers. Not so. What difference, really, is there between receiving a fraudulently obtained subsidy and fraudulently failing to pay one’s fair share of taxes? In both instances, perpetrators are enriching themselves at the expense of those who do pay their taxes. So while your suggestion that the reader’s brother and his wife may not appreciate being admonished is almost undoubtedly true, it’s not because it’s their private business. It’s everyone’s business. That’s why tax evasion is a crime.
George, in Port Townsend, Washington
DEAR GEORGE: From the situation as described by “In-law Ethics,” I took this to be a situation where someone was making ends meet by taking “odd jobs” and being paid cash. You are correct that everything should be reported, and I urged the writer to speak to the in-law, but I did not urge this person to report the family member to the IRS.
Thank you for offering your perspective; other readers agree with you.