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Ask Chelsea: “Dear Nancy”

"Chelsea"

Chelsea Rinnig is one of Borderstan writers. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Looking for advice on how to accomplish your goals and make changes in 2013? Email Chelsea at askchelsea[AT]borderstan.com.

Dear Chelsea, 

I am currently in a very loving and compassionate relationship with a boyfriend of 6 months. Everything is great, except that I seem to have trouble connecting with one of his friends (let’s call her Margaret), with whom he is closest.  She and I tend to compete for his time and affection. Further Margaret and my boyfriend used to have an intimate relationship which makes me feel really uncomfortable that they are so close. When I am unable to attend an event or party with my boyfriend, he brings Margaret and I feel like she is his replacement girlfriend. My boyfriend says there is nothing to worry about, but I don’t trust Margaret and have a hard time being my normal self when we hang out with her or see her out.  

It’s not that I don’t trust my boyfriend and I don’t want to force him to change a relationship or friendship.  I just can’t shake the idea of their past relationship out of my head.  Thoughts on how to proceed?  Thanks!

– Nervous Nancy

Dear Nancy,

First off, relax! Your nerves about this and in these situations involving “Margaret” are what are causing you to not act yourself. The first step is to take a deep breath and remind yourself that your boyfriend is currently with you and has already tried things with Margaret. If he wanted to be with her, then he would not be with you.

Second, I completely sympathize with the difficulty in feeling like an outsider, perhaps when Margaret and your boyfriend share inside jokes or reminisce on a past that you have yet to share. It is easy to feel excluded in this kind of situation—watching from the sidelines while the two of them have a great conversation might lead you to doubt your own connection to your boyfriend and feel left out.

So jump right in! You must allow your confidence to lead you through this trying social situation, and not your doubts. Instead of shrinking in her presence, engage her directly and with a smile on your face. When she brings up a story from the past, inquire about it and laugh along. If she refuses to include you when you approach her with acceptance and kindness, then this will only reveal her true character to all of those present.

You already recognize that you cannot control the company your boyfriend chooses to keep — and the more you emphasize your dislike of Margaret to him, the more he will seek ways to hang out with her without you. My advice would be to suggest group events where it’s not only the three of you, but also a larger group of friends that can help you relax and remove some of the pressure and tension. Both you and Margaret will want to be on your best behavior if other friends are involved.

The key is to be open and accepting to all parties involved. Perhaps you will find that you and Margaret have more in common than you originally thought — I mean, you have both dated the same person. Continue to trust your boyfriend and try to gain Margaret’s trust too, as she is probably just as protective of him as you are. She does not have to be your best friend, but your boyfriend does.

Always, Chelsea

Note to readers: Under DC Law, Chelsea Rinnig is not licensed to practice, and does not represent that she practices: psychiatry, psychology, social work or professional counseling of any kind. This column is written for entertainment purposes only.

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- who has written 45 posts on Borderstan.

Rinnig moved to Borderstan in Fall 2011 from Baltimore and hails originally from Los Angeles. Her dedication to the local food movement and commitment to eating simply and nutritiously have led her to both develop her culinary skills and write about her tasting new dishes both in her new city as well as her own kitchen. You can find Rinnig working downtown on weekdays, selling stone fruits and berries at the Dupont Farmers market on Sundays and splurging at fine restaurants here and there in-between. Email her at chelsea[AT]borderstan.com.

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