Ask the Therapist: My boyfriend and his female co-worker text each other constantly

My boyfriend of 6 months has a female friend who texts him on a daily basis.  He is a very sweet guy who I trust and I know loves me. We have been dating now for 6 months. Our relationship started about 3 months after he separated from his wife of 10 yrs after she cheated on him on 2 occasions. They are currently in the process of getting divorced. They have 2 kids who spends half of the time with their father. Since he has recently separated from his wife and not even finalized his divorce plus we have only dated for 6 months I have not met his kids and so I only spend time with him when he is not with his kids or not working or hanging out with his friends. I am really ok with this and think it’s in the best interest of his children. Now you would think the person I would have problems with is the wife he is separated from. Think again.

He has a female co-worker who is also his friend. Initially when we started dating, I did not get the impression that they were all that close but now I am starting to think otherwise. One point he mentioned when we had just started dating is that this female friend was a point of tension in his marriage. At first I thought his then wife was just transmitting her own infidelity onto him but now I can see why. 

I don’t have any problems with him having female friends but the constant daily communication between him and her is annoying. I don’t know what their conversations are about but it occurs during the week, in the morning, in the night and on a weekend in the form of text messages. He does not not frequently hang out with her besides at work but the texting is non-stop and I don’t like it. Sometimes when I am talking to him over the phone she is texting him late at night. I have not told him how I feel about his friend because initially I was accepting of his relationship and did not have any problem with her. However, I am abit annoyed now since I think she needs to know her boundaries. 

When I first started dating him, she had a boyfriend. However, she broke up with this guy 2 months ago because of commitment issues she felt like she was not receiving. Lucky me, my boyfriend happen to be at her place right after the break up and I guess was a shoulder to lean on. Since then I was told she has started going on dates but no potential suitor found as yet. One day while I was at his place and we were about to sleep she texts him telling him about some stomachache she has and talking about how old she is getting. He has guy friends who do not text him as often as she does. I think what make me most annoyed when it comes to her is that she sees him 5 days a week at work. I only spend time with him about 2-5 times a week depending on when his kids are over. Plus he sometimes have to travel for work so my time with him is cut short then and when his kid’s mother travels, he takes care of them and so even then my time is cut shorter. I also like to give him his space when he does not have his kids since I know that is the time when he can do stuff that he really wants to do. So with the little time he has for me, her texting him during that time and distracting his attention bothers me. When I am with him, I am all about him and feel like I don’t get that in return and this female friend does not make things better with her distracting texts. Part of the problem I am aware of is that my time with him is limited but that I do not have much control over. 

My first question is should I address him concerning his communication with this girl? I have spoken to him about his frequent texting other people when I am suppose to be spending quality time with him. He has since then minimized his texting when I am directly talking to him but now does it when I am distracted or when he is away from me. My second question is am I being abeit controlling or jealous? I have no problem with him texting her now and again but the constant daily texting is just abeit too much.

Lisa’s thoughts:

I don’t think it odd that the frequent communication between your boyfriend and his female co-worker is bothersome.  It sounds like it’s not that he has female friends per se but you expect respect and boundaries when it comes to your relationship.   This is not unreasonable.

There’s a great book by John Gottman called, “What Makes Love Last?  How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal.”  It explores the many things that can go in in a relationship to undermine the security in a relationship.  Betrayal is more than infidelity, it’s anything that unnecessarily digs into the scope of the relationship.  Things like time spent watching tv, on an iPhone being distracted or emotionally close friendships with the opposite sex (or same sex if you are gay/lesbian) all can be considered minor betrayals.  Often times couples have no idea they are behaving in ways to undermine the dynamic but it’s important that if it’s discovered, the behavior is altered to protect the relationship.  If not, you could be looking at problems down the line.

I do think you should address him directly on this.  Tell him how it feels to have your time interrupted by her.  Ask him if he could set boundaries around their texting time and for this, he will likely need to have a discussion with her.  If it’s all on the up and up and they are truly just good friends, one would hope that there would be some respect for your request.  It’s not like you’re being outrageous in your demands.  But the behavior is slowly hurting the relationship and raises questions for you.  A secure relationship is ideally free of such questions and couples communicate openly when feeling are hurt or there is growing discomfort about something.

He’s already responded well when you asked him to put down the phone when you are together so perhaps this will lead to the same result?  You are not being controlling by telling your partner how you feel.  It sounds like the texting is not only excessive but most importantly, takes time from your relationship.  You are valid in your feelings and because your boyfriend has experienced the pain of infidelity in his past marriage, one would hope he might understand and take steps to create more safety in your dynamic.

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