(The Root) —
"My ex is still in my life even though we've been apart since 2009; we dated for a few months. We haven't seen each other in four years and talk every day, even though I'm taken (and unhappy) and he's single. We never had sex during the time we dated. There are still feelings there. Our jobs are placing us both in Hawaii and I think it's a sign. Should I explore it?"—P.A.
I'm so unclear on how you are in a relationship and your partner is fine with you talking to your ex every day. One of my best friends — other than my partner — is a man, and even when he was single and I was single, we didn't talk every day. We've been friends for almost 15 years and have a great camaraderie, and yet I just can't think of a reason that we would need to speak daily (and he feels the same). Even with my super-close lady friends, we don't talk every day.
Now that I think about it, the only man I've ever consistently spoken to daily for years at a time is my father — and that's because he calls me every single day. I moved away from home 12 years ago, and bless his heart, he misses me as if it's the first day I'm gone. And even with him, as close as we are, and all that is going on in our worlds, there is just nothing to talk about sometimes.
What do you and your ex — your alleged "friend" — have to talk about that's so pressing that it must be done daily? And, a better question, does your man know? Or is this a secret?
Sorry, I've become distracted. The answer to your query is so obvious that I must have pretended it was rhetorical or sarcastic.
Ma'am, you are in a relationship — one that doesn't quite make sense to me. You seem to spend a hefty chunk of your downtime on the phone with another guy — notably a guy whom you clearly don't think of as just a friend, since you think that being in the same state he's in is a "sign" that you should explore your feelings for him. It's not apparent how long you've been with your current boyfriend, but however long it is, you've been emotionally cheating on him by carrying on a phone relationship with another man.
Maybe your partner knows, or maybe he just pretends that he's OK with it, or maybe he's just doing his own thing and is too busy to care. But the fact is, you refer to yourself as "taken," which means that you're acknowledging being committed, even if you're contemplating acting as if you're not. Either way, it still means that you should honor the commitment you've made or else you should leave the relationship.
You dated your ex for a few months and haven't seen him in years, so really, you've gotten to know him over the phone. That's less tricky than online, where people can be anyone they create, but it's still entirely possible to be "catfished."
Even if he is straight up with you, you don't get to see him day to day to know if his habits and quirks and lifestyle are actually what you're looking for. And because you're unhappy in your relationship, you may be projecting all the things you're missing at home onto this distant "friend" as a sort of escapism from your reality. Be careful not to go rushing into the arms of your ex, hoping that he'll immediately pick up where you've left off with your partner.
If you honestly believe that your both being in Hawaii is a sign and you really want to explore this situation, do it the right way — again, by breaking up with your current partner. And really, you shouldn't have entered into a relationship, given your strong feelings for your phone buddy. But no matter what you decide about Hawaii, you need to give some deeper thought to what you want to do about your current relationship.
If you're unhappy, you — and your partner — need to work on repairing the relationship, and that doesn't happen when you're on the phone with your ex, whom you have feelings for and are fantasizing about having sex with on the Big Island. In order for your relationship to have a shot, the ex has got to go. And if you don't want to work on it, then you need to go. You're wasting your pretty and his time just to be with someone when your heart and mind are no longer in it.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.