My girlfriend and I are at an impasse. Before we were together she had a yearlong relationship with a married man. She says she regrets it, but insists on defending him whenever the topic comes up. If anything, she seems bothered that I don't appreciate he was/is a good person.
I have made many mistakes myself . . . but have to say I am always very bothered to hear her defend this guy. She no longer talks to him but still refers to his having been a good friend. Last we heard from him, he'd called her drunk, looking to hook up. He's still married.
It seems to me he's not such a wonderful guy. It seems to her that one flaw doesn't discount what a good person he is. Hoping to not sound holier-than-thou, I question what that says about her. Should I just let it go?
Answer: You certainly have grounds for concern; a yearlong affair with a married man is a huge, sustained lapse in judgment, and it's important that you figure out whether it's an example of her values or a rare departure from them.
However, she might also have grounds for concern about you. It's a bad sign when a current partner asks you (openly or by implication) to trash ex-partners as a compulsory dance of loyalty/purity/shame.
While an adulterous spouse is hard to defend, it's easy to defend the complexity of people and our emotional attachments to them. Maybe the two of them shared a genuine friendship before they drove it into a wall; it might actually be to her credit that she's not bad-mouthing him just to satisfy you. Even if your girlfriend just sees her ex as having good points as well as bad, then she's right to refuse to disavow him entirely. You may see it as defending a bad man or a bad choice, but she might see it as standing up for herself.
And, she's not trying to hide him or his booty call(s). As long as she's not using him to push your buttons, her honesty is a plus.
That's not to say you should "let it go." There's something important to glean here, and it could go either way: Are you backing her into a corner by insisting that she improve upon the regrets she already expressed? Or is she corrupt?
One easy path to the answer is to make sure you're never the reason "the topic comes up." If that's the end of the discussion, then you'll have a good indication that her defenses are directly tied to your pressure. If instead she keeps talking about him, then that's just as reliable a sign that you're right to have doubts about her.