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Dr. Norman Brown
Dr. Norman Brown, Marriage Therapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 1207
Experience:  Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples
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I have been with my bf 4 years, we bought a house and have a

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Hi there, i have been with my bf 4 years, we bought a house and have a 1 1/2 y.o. baby together. Since i met him he had a female friend that he had briefly dated (3 months) a few years earlier. I always felt slightly uneasy when she was around as they were reminiscing quite a lot about when they were dating and seemed very compatible. I thought it was no problem as we were rarely seeing her and she had a bf and just had a baby. The more time passed the more i started to mind her as she wanted to come with us to buy baby stuff or i would find out she would know why my bf was upset with me when he wouldnt even tell me. I made the big mistake of letting her into our relationship as she wanted to help when we were arguing suggesting she would talk to him and every time she would get him to understand the same thing i had told him and that we had argued about. It seemed that she could turn him around and change his mind. Since i had my son i was no longer available on the phone during the day so my OH would call her instead (before the bb he would call her but not as much as me) plus she was having issues with her bf so she was constantly in touch with my bf. Things got too much for me when i once found her wearing my bf clothes,her clothes being washed in the washing machine(excuse being my son threw up on her) and her opening my front door when i came home on a day i knew she was coming to visit with her kids and that i made sure i wasnt around coz i already couldn't stand her intrusive ways (come to the house and stay all day, her feeding my bf food or touching his hair coz she braids) and when she was calling or texting my bf at all sorts of hours with her problems. I told my bf their relationship was too much and he reacted badly like im controlling and he went and told her (turns out he tells her everything,most things i dont even kno) so at our bbq she pretended to be nice to me and instead went to all our friends playing the victim of how i had a problem with her. From then i have cut all contact with her but my bf is refusing to do the same. He thinks she did nothing wrong and even when it came out she is a stirrer he found excuses for her. I know if i was to say its me or her he would pick not losing her. He is adamant she is a friend and victim in all this. Recently they went out for dinner the 2 of them and a couple though i said it felt wrong like a double date and in another occasion they were seeing saying good bye in an inappropriate way (like standing sex position). I think she loves him and im starting to thibk he does too as he refuses to let her go or understand that it is inappropriate. Please help
Submitted: 3 months ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 3 months ago.

You have a really difficult problem if you can't get your boyfriend to accept that his using his ex as intimate friend is an emotional threat to your relationship. You've already tried to get family and friends to help him to see the truth of what his closeness with her does to you. Are most of his friends and family agreeing with you that what he's doing is bound to be painful to you? And that no woman who's raising his baby should have to suffer this way? Or is there some guy-friends' support for his using his exGF in this way? Or some group or cultural support for being cool and seductive with more than one woman?

You've made very good moves to convince him not to entrust her with closeness and intimate stories that undermine your faith in his loyalty to you. If he insists that he wouldn't be bothered if you shared intimate secrets about him with another man that you have been intimate with--than you can tell him that it's NOT NORMAL that both people in a couple would feel the same way about everything. Especially when they are feelings about losing your beloved to another person he is very close to. What IS normal as a RULE that helps couples survive in difficult times (and having a toddler is a difficult time) is for each partner to be willing to do what it takes to help the other person get free of a very disturbing feeling, even if that same situation might not disturb that partner if the tables were turned. It's not unusual for a man to be incapable of empathy for a woman's situation--especially if he's determined not to "give in" to what the woman feels, AND he's getting good advice and understanding as well as some sexual excitement with his other woman.

I look forward to brainstorming with you for how you can convince him to cut off communication with his exGF so you can have the peace of mind you need. You could make a list of all the things you do to make his life happy and successful. Then we could discuss which one of these ways you contribute to his physical, social and emotional well-being and satisfaction you could STOP doing for a while to make him aware that if you refused to do something he needed you to do he would feel awful and unsupported and unloved by you. It's a risky move, so we should discuss possible situations and outcomes from such a strategy beofre trying it. I'll await your answer.

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Dear Dr Brown, thank you for your reply. My family were clear that they share my views, his family told him that friends shouldnt come before his family and common friends did say in front of me that his friendship with her should take a step back but they might be saying something else behind the scenes. When my bf told her i had a prob with their closeness (last summer) she still messaged me while we were on holiday to ask me to get my bf to call her coz she was in deep trouble at home and recently she told a common friend that she will always be my bf friend and that all was fine with me until i was 'using' her for advise on my relationship so she has no intention of stepping back, she has no closeness with her own bf, they do nothing together and he cheats on her (even got someone else pregnant), her own bf has always had a prob with her relationship with my bf and yet she continues even now i have a problem with it myself (the reason why she split up with my bf was that his ex was still in the picture calling him and upsetting him, spoiling their days and yet she does a similar thing to me now).My bf seems to genuinely see nothing wrong and when asked if my only straight friend was acting like that he said go ahead and do it so that type of convo doesnt seem to register with him, i asked him to go to couple counselling and he said no way but that i should go as according to him i am the problem and i cant distinguish between my fantasy and reality and he is getting tired of it. This was because i said i found it inappropriate for him and his female friend to go out with a just married couple (my bf female friend is also friend with the guy of the married couple who decided to bring his wife, i was away with our son). When it comes to what i do for him i would say nothing that i can take away as you suggest. We rarely have sex if ever so i could increase that. He has always had a weird sex attitude it looks like he prefers solo rather than intercourse so it feels like he doesnt really need a woman in his life, he can ejaculate when he watches porn and masturbates but when he has intercourse he goes on for hours and rarely comes which puts me off sex, i asked him various times to stop the masturbation coz his hand grip being very tight means i can never give him the same feeling when we have sex, he had reduced it and things were getting normalish but then when i fell pregnant we had to stop due to bleedings and after the ceasarean was 6 weeks wait, then we were arguing a lot and the worse period was about this matter between july and november last year, now we are trying for a baby but i am feeling resentful towards him so im not actively looking for sex and he has been resenting me for his friend matter since it happened though he was looking for sex a little more recently. He gets his ego brushed and emotional stuff from her so i dont think i do anything that makes me essential.
Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Sorry just to add that she no longer calls when we have family time but every time i have had a chance to use my bf phone there is a message from her or she is the last person he has sent a picture to even when we are on holiday, so my bf thinks he solved the problem and doesnt understand why i still have a problem. She is no longer invited around the house and my bf decided not to invite any of our group of friends (originaly his boys and gfs) to our son 1st bday coz he didnt want to make her feel excluded (she was dating my bf but then she made sure she became friends with his boys so that she would stay in the circle). He sees her as the victim in all this and he cares not to hurt her but when i say i mind stuff i get told that i am controlling and i am the problem. Even her telling all his friends at our bbq about me having a problem with her, he didnt think she was inappropriate or trying to stir, she made him believe i was the one who told ppl and even when the friends said how they knew he to this day hasnt changed his mind that i am the one spreading it. I told him i had an issue with her as my bf and he should have solved it without her even knowing instead since he cant keep anything from her he told her and the drama started. Til now he doesnt take responsibility for his wrong doing in discussing a private matter between us with her and her going to everyone else to try and make me look bad in my own house.
Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 3 months ago.

His porn habit is a serious barrier to a satisfying marriage. I'm curious about how your household is financially supported and who does how much domestic work, both inside and outside the house.

The idea behind evaluating the services you provide to him is to find a way to show him that you do many things that make his life good, and you don't have to do them if you don't want to. (This is why I'm asking about who does the domestic labor and who pays the bills.) So even though his exGF has good reasons to keep pursuing him, he could have good reasons for not wanting you to be miserable--and after all, his relationship with her didn't work out or they wouldn't have broken up. I'm not sure it's true (as you think) that he would choose to keep her close as #2 GF even if it meant you'd leave him for good. But then you'd have to be in a position legally and psychologically to make him pay child support for his insistence on keeping closeness with 2 women at once. Men who don't want to face their grownup responsibilities need to learn from experience that life is not as easy as they want it to be. Money and work contributions are the strongest incentives to live up to your responsibilities to care for each other's well-being, and your feelings are very normal and as important as all other factors in a healthy partnership. But you might have to be brave enough to hurt him financially (through legal means) if you wish to assert your right to exclude his exGF from the intimacy of your couple.

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Dear Dr Brown, thank you for your message. We share mortgage and bills equally, when it comes to the house, since my mum has been here to look after our son, my mum and i were doing most of the housework but i recently established a rota with my bf so that we are both equally responsible of the household duties and the care of our son. My bf is at his best when he is needed and consulted for everything so my mum being here and us making decisions and running the household could have been counterproductive in making him feel less needed or an excuse for him to slag off. My mum is leaving at the end of the month. I find it irritating that i have to tell him to do stuff around the house or to spend time with his son as he is always tired from work and demands having a nap when he gets home, so whatever he doesnt do lands on my shoulders. When things were really bad re.his female friend i told him i was able to buy his share of the house and separate, he was shocked and told me he never thought we would be over and me saying those things hurt is feelings. So i dont think threats, even meant, work well for him if i intend on continuing the relationship. Thus i would like to find a way of speaking to him both about sharing duties and the problem of his female friend in a way that works for him and allows us to be united and happy. Regarding the sex i think i have found out what works for him hopefully and that is quite a bit of foreplay, whereas before it was short lived if at all and i guess he didnt know it himself and that works for me too. I wait to read you soon.
Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 3 months ago.

The way you can get around his unwillingness to go to couples therapy is this: Tell him you need HIM to go with you to a therapy session, so he can explain to the therapist what's bothering him about you and how you are stuck on a silly jealousy problem. You could go to one therapy session by yourself, saying that you want to explore your own problems, and talk to the MALE therapist about how to get your BF to come in on the second session. We therapists know how to do that, by asking for the partner to come in so we can get a better picture of the problem through his eyes. You need a Male therapist because your BF is likely to assume a male professional will agree with him, while a female might agree with you. Then you bet on the therapist to get through to your BF "man-to-man;" at this point I think your best chance of getting him to change his perspective is to get him into a good male therapist who can present a "man's perspective on outside intimacy." He might also be ashamed of his porn habit, which could be behind his insistence that you have all the problems and he has none. If you can get him to come to your second session, then you can get your BF to understand the situation with the therapist's help.

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Dear Dr Brown, thank you for your response. On Thursday my bf saw on my phone that i had received an old photo of me with my ex husband in a hug. He immediately stopped talking to me, when i tried to communicate he shut me down like he normally does rather than discussing whatever is bothering him. The next morning he called me to say i should cancel our upcoming city break for my birthday (we were leaving the day after), he expects me to talk to him calmly before making assumptions but clearly he doesnt. I explained that my ex husband had sent me the pic on our anniversary and i blocked him from whatsapp. At that point he said that he also saw me cancel the pic of a hotel booking (it was a flight receipt for my dad) and that he thought that i was doing some dirt with my ex as a consequence of his relationship with his female friend and the recent info i was given that they had hugged inappropriately ( i did cheat on my ex husband various times as a revenge and i left him for my bf; my bf believes the inappropriate hug with his female friend never happened and that the people who told me clearly dont have our best interest at heart.)
In the end we agreed we would go on the trip.
The trip has been the first time together alone since my son was born and we got to speak about everything. I went through his phone with him (this was my request on the spot so he couldnt have cancelled stuff) and realised that he doesnt talk to his female friend every day like before and nowhere close to how much he speaks to me so i was very relieved as in my head i thought they still were, i was also able to see their chats and her messages were sometimes out of order like she would say 'i miss u so much that i dream of u every night' or if my bf said he was in bed she would say 'i wish I was there' and he replied 'that would be nice'. I felt like throwing up but i read all of them and she looks like the pursuer, i do believe my bf to be naive but i was very happy that reading the messages together he realised how they sounded off and that he wouldn't like me to receive them. So it looks like the whole pic with my ex made him see that he wouldn't like certain things and he said he is going to send her a message showing it to me first. He still thinks she is just a friend and not in love with him so there seems to be no chance he will cut her out. We have been having lots of sex and have laid out a plan re.chores,family time and how to deal with upset. He proposed that if one is angry at a level over 5 out of 10 he discusses it right there (So for the first time he realised his silence or shouting are to change) and of below 5 they let is slide. His main problem is the frequency of the fighting and i guess that since he has clearly reduced his contact with the female friend after we had the issue a year ago, he thought i shouldnt have a problem but then i guess he is so used to her being inappropriate that he doesnt realise it and hopefully he will open his eyes more as to what she does/say from now. He also proposed to step back from the group of friends and focus on spending time the 3 of us, or 2 of us where possible. In view of all this do you still think therapist is a good idea or do you think it will be enough to work through this plan? He basically would like to keep his friend but keep things appropriate with her and to me if she was acting like the guys i would have no prob but it is her going overboard that i cant tolerate. Do you think that her being around will always be a problem? Thank you
Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 3 months ago.

Hooray for you! What a difference a single picture makes! I'm going hiking with my new cradlerobbed girlfriend today (she's only 72), so I want to think about the therapist idea and return to it after she goes home to her house tonight (and I have to stay at my rented bedrooms to take care of my 29 yr old disabled by chronic pain daughter). My FIRST response to every NORMAL person's hope of keeping a friendship with their exGF or exBF alive is that "friendship" is a catchall category that allows the ghost of the former love relationship to stay alive "as needed" and thus ultimately prolongs the agony of the increasing separation from someone who was once central in the meaning of your life. "As needed" is clearly much more needed by her than by him--esp with your sex life resurgent, esp if you can get him to adjust his sexual satisfaction to fit more nicely with your sexual satisfaction. (For which an appointment with a sex-specialist therapist could be a neat way to get the exGF issue handled as a sideline to restimulating your sex life--which could be much more attractive to him than any other therapy approach, while helping him to sideline his porn habit.)

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Dear Dr Brown, glad you had a good weekend. Thank you for your message. Can you please clarify if the phrase '
Customer: replied 3 months ago.
39;prolongs the agony of the increasing separation from someone who was once central in the meaning of your life' refers to the separation from the female friend or myself? As the female friend was with my bf for only 3 months so she was never that central as a gf but they have been friends much longer than that around 10 years i guess. The good plan and propositions my bf had on Fri about telling her the messages were inappropriate and the agreement to let me know when he passes by her house (he has appointments all over and at times passes by to say hi if he is in the area, he says there are always her kids and mum) as well as a general surprise 're.the messages and a recognition of my feelings, has 2 days later changed. He today very much said that the messages were not addressed to me, that clearly the spirit in which she sent them was not flirty and finally that it is basically my fault that i got hurt as i asked to see the messages without knowing or being part of their relationship and therefore getting the wrong idea. Of course i replied to all that saying that in a serious relationship if u see your partner's phone you shouldnt find anything as the person wouldn't entertain inappropriate communications with others etc etc. Earlier i had seen a pic of my bf with her kids at her house and i immediately felt a knot in the stomach thinking that he comes home always tired and wanting to sleep so my son gets little if any play time and yet he has the time to entertain her kids and stop by...he of course said he was there for 10 min and wasnt stealing any time from us and then agreed to let me know in the future when he sees her but later on when the argument continued he said im not his keeper and he will not tell me so of course I re-estated that a normal friendship wouldn't have secret meetings nor those type of messages. So all plans and propositions even about how to handle our upset are out of the window and back to not talking and his thinking that i am the one who has a problem with her for no reason (he says he had already agreed to tell her about the messages fri and so because I got upset about the kids pics it is clear i have a problem with anything related to her). I cant help but feel that he already forgot about how he felt about the pic and how he was putting himself in my shoes on Fri (again i guess cos of the pic he had just seen) and now 2 days later having seen there is no dodgyness my side he has gone back to square 1. I feel kind of hopeless and it seems like when it comes to this woman he always justifies her and if not for the pic he would have even dismissed my feelings on the messages back on Fri. I wait to read from you. Thank you Dr Brown
Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Sorry I forgot to add that i didn't get the last part of your email. Do you suggest a sex therapist instead of a counsellor? Do you think that the female friend shpuld stay around to keep our sex life alive? Thank you
Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 3 months ago.

sorry but I'm too tired to deal well with this setback tonight. Tomorrow evening I will not be tired. I will just clarify that the "friendship" comments were meant to be about her as his friend, not you. You're not his "friend" but his relationship partner--except that the loosening of marriage bonds makes clearcut definitions of responsibilities and commitments less conventional and less certain. And that seems to give him room to value a friendship that has outlasted your cohabitation more priority than feels safe for you (which would be easier to assert about if you were married).

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Dear Dr Brown i wait for your input, situation here is still no talking and rest of details i have above. I have spoken to his mom and she is willing to talk to him and if thats not enough talk to the girl as she knows her as well. My mom in law is clearly shocked that he didnt get rid of her back when issue started. I think this will not solve anything and not sure what else to do since he is in denial and turns the truth around to keep this friendship. Thank you
Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 3 months ago.

I just wrote quite a bit, giving you 2 ways to move forward, and the website wiped everything out in an instant, and now I don't have time to do it all over again. I won't short-circuit what I wrote, but will come back later tonight. Just ask you a few questions:

1. How old are you and is your BF? In their 20s women are usually about 5 years more mature regarding family and love than men.

2. Which of you are adult children whose parents divorced or were never married? I did my second doctorate research dissertation on the love lives of adult children of divorce. And unmarried childrearing is far more common in UK than in USA. Adult children of divorce or never-married parents are unconsciously afraid of lifetime commitment, so they'll try to believe that what they're doing is something different that will work out better.

It looks to me like trying to avoid the supposed pitfalls of marriage means you're supposedly doing it all YOUR OWN WAY, and therefore learning many things well known in traditional cultural habits THE HARD WAY, by trial and error. So instead of having a ministerial person tell you what being parents and married means, you'll need to consult a couples' therapist to learn what's up for you to learn each time a problem arises.

Also your esGF problem arose at around 3 years together, which is the normal time for romantic passion to subside so you can be raising your child instead of just passionate about each other. But I have to go to the doctor for my poison oak, and then my girlfriend's house for other work and then building our 5month old relationship 1 year after my therapist wife of 31 years died of metastatic cancer. I was her sole caregiver right up to the end--so I know what marriage can demand of a person, and what almost all wives and way fewer husbands will give to that commitment.

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Dear Dr Brown, i am so sorry to hear about your wife and daughter, i hope your relationship with your new girlfriend brings you joy and distraction.
I am 39 and my bf is 35 though our problems would have made you think we were young as they truly are juvenile. I am the child of a divorced couple, he lost his dad when he was 2 and he has a stepfather to whom his mom got married when he was around 5. We intend on getting married after having kids so that house and kids would come first and then save for the big day. My bf is keener on the marriage part whereas to me it is not that important as i have been married already and saw that it makes no difference in a relationship except for legal complications if you split up. I saw my bf mum today and she has already given him a earful, she is appalled. She wants to see if things get solved by talking to him and if they are not she will speak to the female friend. Should that fail too i could try and tell him that i cannot tolerate their relationship and therefore I have to remove myself from this triangle. Should that fail too i guess he would have made his decision as to what matters the most to him so we would go our separate ways. Is this the right way to go about it? Thank you
Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Dear Dr Brown, I have not heard from you. Thank you