I've been seeing a new guy for about a year now, and we're ready to move in together. There's just one sticking point that's making me feel weird. I have a lot of family photos up, including a few that feature my ex-husband (one from the day our daughter was born, one from our son's graduation, etc.) My boyfriend wants me to take these photos down, but I feel like they're an important part of my history. What do you think? What to do? — Keeping My Ex Hanging
Rock on you that you not only found love in the time of Covid, but you survived a divorce, a quarantine with kids, and a graduation!
No big spoiler alert here: We ALL come with baggage.
No matter whether our baggage can fit in a carry-on or an oversized duffle, it has to be checked. The “fun” about every new relationship–whether it’s a month old or a year–is getting honest about each other’s quirks, pet peeves and truths.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Set up time to have an honest conversation (not an ambush). Tell him he’s not in trouble (make sure that’s true) and that you want to fully resolve this and take care of his feelings, as well as yours.
- Don’t invite the kids, the screens, or the Daniels (Jack).
- Have the convo. Your job during this heart to heart is to understand his world––and this is key––without defending yours. P.S. Listening to someone fully has nothing to do with agreeing with them. Another person’s truth is not THE truth. It’s simply what’s true for them.
- Read #3 again.
- Repeat back what he said, i.e., “So, when you look at the photos of me with my ex and my daughter, you feel like ‘an outsider,’ like you ‘don’t belong,’ like you ‘missed out and are coming in at the second half’ of an incredibly important event”, etc.
- Ask him if you missed anything. (You know how when you vomit, if you’re left with even a smidgeon in your stomach, you still feel like crap. Same thing goes for this moment.) You want him left with nothing he didn’t say, especially the deeper, darker stuff, i.e., is he jealous, did your ex say or do (or not do) anything that hurt him, does he still talk to his ex, etc.
- If you’re still not over it, you can ask him if he’s ready to hear what it was like for you to have someone you love not wanting photos that are important to you around.
Truth be told, when the truth is told, what you may find is that you might not even give a shit anymore about what either of you once thought you did. You might now be just fine with the photos staying in your kids' respective rooms (if they want them) or in an album or twelve. Or maybe, your new man just wants a photoshoot and to hang with you (literally), too.
And that’s the point. We don’t know. Intimacy is about the ask, hearing each other out, understanding each other’s world, unpacking our baggage, and holding each other’s hair as we puke whatever we probably shouldn’t have swallowed in the first place.
Let me know how it goes.
Marnie Nir is formerly an Expert Life Coach, and Chief Creative Officer of a decade at coaching firm Handel Group, ghostwriter of the book “Maybe It’s You” and writer of the online courses: Inner.U Life, Love, Student, and Career.