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Dear Mary: I've found a very special man, but his ex still depends on him

I am 23 and I have been seeing a guy who is 29 for just two months. The problem is his ex is very dependent on him. We were instantly attracted to each other the first time we met. It was for work purposes, but it was very special, and without realising it, five hours had passed and we were still talking.

We dated after that, he went to a lot of effort cooking for me, we went on walks, visited galleries and parks, and discussed and shared cinema and art that we both loved. Everything was easy and happy and we connected intellectually and emotionally.

We took things as slowly as we could, although we got close very quickly due to the intensity of working together as a team on a project. Ever since we finished this project, we see each other twice a week, and sometimes stay up until three just chatting and laughing together. It was never about the sex, we took our time -- it was a month before it happened -- and then it was very much making love both passionate and deeply intimate.

He has had much more sexual experience than me, and he said he felt it was an emotional awakening having sex with someone he deeply cared for. It is so intimate with him.

We made many plans for the future together, and are discussing starting our own company. I have met his family and I really get on with them, especially his mother. Recently he said he really loved me and in a way he has never experienced before.

Everything is going well, except he is constantly in touch with an ex. He told me he had been single for two years. She frequently comments affectionately on his Facebook, and then one day when he was at my apartment I noticed (it came up on my screen) that he wrote 'Sexy Secretary' on a picture of her wearing glasses. I felt this was disrespectful to me, not to mind in very bad taste for such an educated man. I thought about this for three days then I told him I felt this disrespected me. He said he would be more sensitive in the future and that he would never cheat on me, but I insisted it was not about that -- it was just about respecting me and the fact he was obviously thinking about an ex while in my company. There were also times when he came over that he had to message her, and she would tell him that she didn't like me and that she felt hurt. He says he is in an awkward position and that she is madly in love with him.

She tried dating other people but came to the conclusion that he is the one, so he wants to do the honourable thing and explain in person that it is over, but she now lives abroad. He said that she was someone who he shared many emotional times with, so that he owes it to her to go and have a conversation with her. He also says that they would never have had any future -- she is unemployed for years, lives with her parents, has no qualifications, she watches day-time TV and is into pub and club culture. I, on the other hand, am very independent and confident, and successful in my career and I don't really rely on him for emotional support. I was really not seeking a relationship as I am happy with my lifestyle and I like my independence, but it just happened and I really like seeing him.

He took all the control in many ways, as it was always him initiating the conversations and planning meeting up. He says he wants me, and loves me, and wants me as the one in his future.

Perhaps I would be a fool to stay by his side, when he gives so much attention to his ex and keeps her in his life. It is affecting our relationship and I deserve a man who is loyal and I should not have to be dealing with her. He continues to defend his decision that he needs to wait until he sees her in person to talk. In the meantime, they are in touch regularly.

If I break up I might be giving up on someone special, but something really wonderful is being infiltrated with negativity caused by his ex. Or should I be understanding of his situation with her, and stay with him despite the fact I don't like him having in ongoing communication with her?

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I don't want to appear insensitive or needy. Advice please!

Mary replies:

A huge amount has happened in your relationship in a very short time -- after all you are only with him for two months and already you are planning a future together. So you don't really know him all that well, although you have spent a lot of time together. I wonder if this is the reason why you don't appear to trust him in his relationship with his ex.

As far as I can see, everything is above board. He has been honest with you in telling you all about his ex and he has told her about you. He says he has been single for two years so he doesn't count his ex as a relationship, merely as a friend. She, on the other hand, is clinging on to the relationship with him although it seems to be primarily an internet relationship, from what you describe.

If you hadn't come into his life he would probably be quite happy continuing on in this way with her -- they have shared a lot in the past and he has feelings for her.

I don't think you have the right to tell him to cut all ties with her immediately, and I don't see how he is being disrespectful to you by simply having a laugh with her on Facebook. I also think he is being very caring and thoughtful by wanting to explain things to her, face to face, and I honestly don't think you have anything to fear.

You have the reality, she has the memories. As you describe your life, it seems to be a far better one than she is experiencing. Your boyfriend is no doubt aware of all that and is possibly trying to be humane in easing gently out of her life.

I think you should let him do that -- he sounds like a very kind and sensitive person and they are not very easily found, so treasure him.

Submit your letters to Mary anonymously at dearmary.ie.

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