He wants to go backpacking with his ex

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Almost a year and a half ago, I started dating my boyfriend. Having just started dating, the pandemic hit, so the only places we’ve been are to see his family in Syracuse about four hours away to house-sit and to visit his parents in New York. There has been some talk of going to Europe, but no plans have been made.

In the meantime, his live-in ex-girlfriend of six years has asked him to go hiking with her next month (eight hours away, in another state), despite the fact that we have no travel plans and haven’t left our home state since the pandemic began. Not only because of her position as an adventure partner whereas I am more of a domestic partner, I am completely devastated because the very first thing he wants to do when we leave lockdown is to travel with her rather than make plans with me. It was no big deal, he told me when I confronted him about it, just like he would do if he were traveling with someone he knew. In spite of this, he can’t break the attachment he has to her, and he insists that she should remain in his life as his hiking buddy even though she lived with him for close to six years and shared so much with him.

I have back pain and I am limited to day hikes that are low impact and weights of up to 15 pounds because I have limitations with outdoor activities. However, he’s never tried to work within my limits in terms of outdoor activities, and just keeps going back to believing that she’s the one he looks up to for outdoor adventures. It hurts me so much and I feel as if I could never be his equal. I even asked him if he could give me a little bit of time to get used to light day hikes or perhaps try an overnight camping trip before he discards me as a travel companion for outdoor adventures. But he insists that I would hate camping and hate hiking (despite the fact that he has never gone camping or hiking with me or even tried to work with my challenges). He isn’t even appreciative of any of these compromises that I’m trying to make, and instead insists that I am being spiteful and taking an opportunity to go on an outdoor trip away from someone who would really enjoy it (that someone being his ex-girlfriend), but I think this whole business just shows that he has some unnatural attachment to her and is always going to think of her as the person in his life with whom he shares adventures while I am supposed to hold down the home front. I don’t know if I can go on with someone who thinks that way about me, since that was never how I would see myself. Can this situation be improved?

Is it possible for an ex to go backpacking with them without disrupting their relationship? That’s fine with me. In an ideal world where the non-backpacking partner has veto power over the trip and neither backpacker harbors any lingering feelings, backpacking trips can probably work for two people. What are the pros and cons? Ahem. It is true that people do indiscretions every day, and delicate situations should be treated as such, delicately.

What’s happening here isn’t like that.

Your boyfriend is (1) planning his first out-of-state trip without you, his partner, who has supported him through the pandemic while (2) consistently prioritizing his ex’s feelings over yours and (3) making it seem like the problem is your body and (4) lying to you about what you do and don’t like while discouraging you from trying something you might enjoy and (5) accusing you of being unreasonable for wanting to have fun yourself.

The most frustrating thing is how your boyfriend has twisted the narrative to blame everything on your physical capacity (as if your back pain is preventing him from backpacking with any of his friends) instead of adjusting to what you can do, which is a lot! A short hike and light pack are sufficient for most outdoor trips, including multi-day ones. You have extremely normal limitations, and they are completely workable, in contrast to his, which are accompanied by an embarrassing lack of empathy and self-awareness.

Would it be possible to also discuss the notion that he called your camping desire “spiteful” and said you were “taking away something that would be enjoyed by someone else”?Would you mind if I excused myself? The purpose of your presence is not to make your boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend happy. You are not responsible for sacrificing your own fun so that she can have it with your boyfriend instead. Combined. It wouldn’t be the same without you. Although there are a lot of red flags here, even just this comment would be enough. (I am not blaming the ex-girlfriend for this situation, but still. I mean, come on.)

Since I don’t know the full story, I usually refrain from making assumptions. However, when I hear him harping about his ex, and the possibility even of reuniting, I’d put money on him keeping you around as insurance. That could just be well-intentioned obliviousness, but his desperate and cruel actions slowed you from coming along, not because he floated the idea of backpacking with her. That kind of cruelty-manipulating you out of trying something you might enjoy (camping and hiking), because he’s afraid you would love it and he wouldn’t be able to keep you out-isn’t a mistake. Introspection and emotional work are both necessary to overcome it, though it usually does not happen overnight. The things I’ve seen don’t support his argument that he deserves your support.

If this situation is hopeless, you asked. You’ll find it-for you. The most important thing you can take away from this engagement (and this relationship) is a better understanding of what’s negotiable and a commitment to treating yourself with the same kindness, openness, and understanding that your soon-to-be ex can’t seem to find.

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