Amy Dickinson: Girlfriend is creeped out by photos of boyfriend’s ex
Dear Amy: What do you think about former in-laws continuing to display photos of ex-spouses?
I’m a divorced mother of one child, and my boyfriend of four years is a divorced father of two. We are both in our 40s.
My grandparents kept a photo of me, my ex-husband and our child in their living room after we divorced. While my ex and I get along well, I felt the photo was a little disrespectful to my boyfriend and uncomfortable for me, so I asked Grandma to take it down, and she did.
My boyfriend has been divorced for five years, after his wife left him. It was a very toxic situation and continues to be so.
His mother continues to keep dozens of photos of his ex all over her house — some with the ex-wife by herself, and some with my boyfriend when they were married.
The one and only time I spent the night at his mom’s house over a holiday, my boyfriend told me that he was embarrassed and sorry for all the pictures. We slept in the spare room under a giant photo of him and his ex, holding hands and running across the finish line of a race.
My boyfriend was quite embarrassed. His mom has absolutely no relationship with the ex. I assumed he would speak to his mother, but he hasn’t. The photos are all still there, and he doesn’t invite me to visit her home as often.
He and I have been together for four years, and my relationship with his mom is lovely, if not particularly close.
I’m guessing this kind of thing just doesn’t register as a big deal to many, but I find it kind of thoughtless.
What’s your perspective? — Confused
Dear Confused: My perspective is that a grandparent might display a photo of her child and an ex-spouse if the grandparents or grandchildren are also in the photo. A giant picture of ex-spouses holding hands and crossing the finish line of a race is something that should be put away.
I have been in situations where photos of exes cause a surprising amount of distress, namely to children recovering from a toxic divorce. When their parents don’t communicate with each other or with former in-laws in real life, kids don’t want to see an estranged parent completely erased, but they aren’t always comforted by these reminders of how things were — once upon a time.
The only issue here is why you haven’t communicated with your guy about this, and why he hasn’t communicated with his mother. You should convey to him, “Honey, I know it is not my mom and not my house, but I’m wondering if you’ve spoken to your mother about the photos of your ex she has on display? She may not realize that these pictures make us uncomfortable.”
After that, you should work hard to let this go. It is her home.
Dear Amy: My boyfriend and I have been together for nine months.
I waited several months before I told him about my past, which is horrible.
He is still struggling with the fact that I “lied” to him for so long. He is also uncomfortable with some of the details of my past.
What should I do? — Survivor
Dear Survivor: Unless you were withholding details that would affect your boyfriend’s health, such as an STD, his reaction to you waiting to disclose the truth about your life seems unkind. Of course, there are degrees of “horrible.” Have you committed a crime? Have you harmed others? If so, then your silence about these things would feel like a betrayal to him.
Depending on where you fall on the “horrible” spectrum, you weren’t necessarily lying to your boyfriend by not disclosing details about your past — you were waiting judiciously to tell your story to someone you could trust with this deep and intimate knowledge.
Your boyfriend may not be equipped to love you through this. But no one who loves you and who learns the truth about your life should then punish you for it.
Dear Amy: You advised “Cheated Upon” to notify the wife of a cheating husband about the affair. I completely disagree. What two other consenting adults do is no one else’s business. — Disappointed
Dear Disappointed: “Cheated Upon” said he had wished someone had informed him of his wife’s infidelity. For him, this was an ethical issue. He had no stake in the outcome, other than the strength of his own experience.