“What do I do about the joint custody issues with his ex girlfriend?”
Question submitted by J, Alberta, Canada
So I have been dating this guy for about 6 months, I am vary much in love with him however there is an issue that for some reason I can’t get out of my head!
He shares joint custody of a dog with his ex.
This wouldn’t be so bad but it is a source of constant fighting for them, and I fear that he is clinging to this dog because he cant let go of their 7 odd year relationship. I have told him of my concerns, and he seemed hurt that I wouldn’t trust him. However, he has a group picture on his wall of her and him, and more of her in his drawer.
I knew him for years before we dated, and it seems every time he talks about her, or mentions the “we did this with the dog” which is on a regular basis, I feel more like a friend than a girlfriend.
Ugh, I do like the dog and do trust him, but this is driving me crazy! Help!
What about your needs?
Obviously, this is a tricky situation. This guy obviously loves his dog. Dogs can be loved as much (if not more) as children in the minds of the right people. He’s so caught up in his love for his dog, he might not be aware that continuing to hang out with his ex is causing turmoil in his emotional life as well as really getting to you.
Unfortunately, you can’t tell him to stop hanging out with his dog. It would be like asking him to stop contacting his children. So what do you do? Let’s start with your feelings.
Worst case scenario is that nothing changes. Your boyfriend and his ex-girlfriend continue doing this “joint custody of the dog” scene and keep fighting about it. How does that make you feel? Can you stand it now? Will you be able to stand it a year or more from now?
What about his feelings?
Do you think this is all just a ploy to spend more time with his ex girlfriend? Is he over her? Sure, he says he’s done with her, but only you know deep down where his heart really lies. If you know he’s totally in love with you, then you have options. If you don’t know with certainty, this problem is bound to haunt you for a long while.
What options do you have?
If he really loves you, then it’s time to start new memories of your own. Do you think he’ll really put this much effort into the hassle of spending time with the ex’s dog if he had a puppy of his own? Is there any upcoming holidays that might warrant such a gift?
WARNING: a puppy is not leverage! It is a living, barking, chewing, pooping, living creature. If he doesn’t have the time or place or wherewithal to raise a puppy on his own, don’t even think about it! In this situation, he sounds like a pretty decent dog father and his own puppy might just be the ticket to get him back into your world and away from the joint custody thing.
Never let him know that this is a gift specifically so he’ll leave his ex girlfriend alone! And if you can, save a pooch from the animal shelter to spread the goodness around.
If this isn’t an option, it sounds like you are at your wit’s end. You are going to have to talk to him about this. The key here is to not get upset. Let him know that all this fighting with his ex stresses him out and makes you sad. Be careful to not let in any kind of jealousy You are simply concerned with his happiness. Essentially, you’re happy when he’s happy.
Let him know this has nothing to do with trust. Constantly fighting with his ex girlfriend is a crummy situation for whatever reason. If he can’t see how much that hurts you, he’s not being fair to your relationship. Imagine if we were talking about child custody here… Eventually that would wreck your relationship.
As far as the pictures and stories, see if you can get a great picture with both of you and his dog. Get it enlarged and frame it. If that doesn’t replace the one of the ex, then you know where you stand…
Whether it’s joint custody of pets or children, you will always have that small sore spot about what the ex means to him. The trick here is to never lie to yourself and make it more than it is (or less!). If you know, deep down, that he’s a trustworthy guy, then do yourself a favor and trust him!