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Being friends with friends of my partner's ex?
September 8, 2008 7:55 PM   Subscribe

Posted a question here about my situation as it stood about 9 months ago and got some good feedback. My question now relates in some way to my previous question and how the situation has evolved.

Quick recap: I was experiencing discomfort around my boyfriend and an ex of his who I suspected still had feelings for him (based mainly on the fact that she had told him just before we started dating that she was still in love with him). However, I had not actually had much direct interaction with her, until about a month after I posted this question, when my boyfriend and I ran into her while out for dinner and she approached our table and proceeded to spend over 5 minutes talking ONLY to my boyfriend while barely acknowledging my presence at all. This sort of escalated all of my previous irritation about the situation, because my boyfriend had been telling me for months how much she wanted to meet me, how much he was sure she'd like me, etc. When push came to shove, it really seemed as though all she was interested in was her friendship/connection with him, not me. So, my boyfriend had a talk with her through emails, and basically since then has had very limited contact with her.

About a month ago, we found out that some very good friends of hers (who he had spent a lot of time with while in that relationship) had moved into our neighborhood. He expressed an interest in hanging out with them, and I told him I would be okay with that as long as it didn't have to involve his ex at all and as long as they didn't perceive me as the jerk who doesn't like their friend. The female of the couple actually addressed this with my boyfriend directly, telling him she hoped we could all form a friendship together, regardless of the original connection (the ex).

So, we've hung out with them as a couple a few times. They are wonderful people, and a lot of fun. The female and I also have a lot in common and happen to also go to the same yoga studio, so we've started talking a bit outside of our "couple time," and that's nice as I don't always find female friendships to be the easiest to come by.

But.....I feel a little awkward about the connection to the ex. I feel like it's inevitable that we're going to run into her while with them and it's going to be uncomfortable for everyone. I feel strange sort of becoming friends with this woman who is friends with the ex. Odd as it might sound, I actually don't want to cause her pain, even though I also don't want to know anything about her. I feel like I should bring this up with the female I am becoming friends with, but am not really sure how.

Anyone have any nuggets? Is it ok for my boyfriend and I to spend time and develop a friendship with people he used to hang out with when dating his ex? Is it ok for me to have a friendship with a woman who is still friends with his ex? How do I initiate some kind of discussion about this with her (do I?)
posted by DuckGirl to Human Relations (12 answers total)
 
But.....I feel a little awkward about the connection to the ex. I feel like it's inevitable that we're going to run into her while with them and it's going to be uncomfortable for everyone. I feel strange sort of becoming friends with this woman who is friends with the ex. Odd as it might sound, I actually don't want to cause her pain, even though I also don't want to know anything about her. I feel like I should bring this up with the female I am becoming friends with, but am not really sure how.

So far the only awkard person is the ex. That's on her, not you. You've handled it in a mature and commendable fashion. What happens from here on out is up to her, and give your developing friendship with this new group of people, I expect that if she continues to be a bitch to you she will quickly find herself on the outs.

Is it ok for my boyfriend and I to spend time and develop a friendship with people he used to hang out with when dating his ex?

That wasn't a divorce. She doesn't get awarded the friends. She can be a big girl and share or go to time out.

Is it ok for me to have a friendship with a woman who is still friends with his ex?

Absolutely. Given that it wouldn't be an ethical problem to be friends with the ex herself, you should feel totally fine about this.

How do I initiate some kind of discussion about this with her (do I?)

Don't bother. If it needs to come up, it will. The less concerned you are, and the less concerned you act, the better. Concentrate on enjoying your new friends and time spent with them and your boyfriend and continue to be cordial to the ex. Either she'll grow up or she'll have a falling out with the group.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:05 PM on September 8, 2008


However, I had not actually had much direct interaction with her, until about a month after I posted this question, when my boyfriend and I ran into her while out for dinner and she approached our table and proceeded to spend over 5 minutes talking ONLY to my boyfriend while barely acknowledging my presence at all.
Next time this happens, engage her yourself -- don't wait for her to make the first move. Whether she's anxious or insecure about you, or is deliberately ignoring you, it will work in your favor either way.
posted by qvtqht at 8:22 PM on September 8, 2008


Don't discuss this with her.

Go ahead and be friends with whomever you wish to befriend.

If you're invited to a party, feel free to bow out or avoid it if you know she's going to be there, but don't make a big dramatic scene about it. Or go to the party, if it's big enough for you to avoid each other.

If you see her, be cordial, say hello, and then generally ignore her or cut the conversation short. If people start to talk about her, zone out, get a drink, be minimally responsive.

Avoid people who prod your sore spots about her, or talk smack about her. These people are up to no good and will make the situation much worse.

I survived my partner's ex dating my ex for ten months. All of us had several mutual friends. The trick is to be cordial and yet incredibly distant.
posted by sondrialiac at 8:27 PM on September 8, 2008


If it's over - it's over. Contact should be severed if only so you feel reassured of his commitment to you. It would weird any woman out to have her man still in a relationship even if platonic with his ex. It's just weird and inappropriate. Ultimatum time.
posted by watercarrier at 8:39 PM on September 8, 2008


You survived running into the ex once. You will survive running into her again. Next time you see her, engage her- talk to her about something your boyfriend told you about her, it will emphasize the strength of your relationship ("So, Bob told me you're going back to school- how's that going?"). You shouldn't run around telling other people you don't want to hang out with the ex, it just makes you look petty. You already have the guy. Stop worrying so much. Let it go.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:15 PM on September 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


You're gonna have to chill on the Ex situation. Some of this is trusting that things are gonna be ok. The world is positively FILLED with exes. This is just a part of the game. Since literally hundreds of millions have already dealt with this problem, you can trust you have onboard programming to deal with this situation. Trust that you and he will make this work.

This means you have to engage in Emotional Management (TM). That consists of realizing that some feelings of sexual possessiveness and protection are going to arise and that you will have to take measures to manage your reaction to those feelings without repressing them in a way that could hurt you.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:28 PM on September 8, 2008


The situation may not be as bad as you think. Are you judging the ex based on that single five minute incident? It's a bit rude, but I'd imagine that the majority of people running into an ex like that would spend most of their time talking to the person they already know, not the new stranger that they happen to be dating. Give it time, and maybe she'll warm to you.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:43 PM on September 8, 2008


(ps - meeting an ex with their new flame is always a bit awkward for all concerned. she was probably as uncomfortable as you in that encounter, and maybe just blah-blah-blahing to seem as casual & nonchalant as possible...?)
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:47 PM on September 8, 2008


Unless people are keeping things from me, commercial space travel has not yet reached the point where you can avoid the X factor.

Take the high road. You can be polite, you don't have to cuddle up and paint each other's toenails.

For most of human history, people lived in small societies with all kinds of Peyton Place stuff beneath the surface and, usually, they didn't hack each other bits.

If you need a mental exercise to prep for meetings, feel sorry for her.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:48 PM on September 8, 2008


It would weird any woman out to have her man still in a relationship even if platonic with his ex. It's just weird and inappropriate. Ultimatum time.

Completely disagree. Bad advice. Some people expect an ex to become persona non grata, some don't.
I know which kind of people I prefer to be around. Life isn't high-school.

Y'know those older social circles where pretty much everyone has dated everyone else at one time or another, and yet everyone gets along with each other fine?With the exception of that everyone-has-dated-everyone-else part, they're a good demonstration of how things should be among grown-ups.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:18 AM on September 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


Some people expect an ex to become persona non grata, some don't.
Some people have never had a breakup that didn't involve screaming, destruction of property, and legal threats. Ever. This tends to discolor their view of the ordinary sort of amicable breakup, which basically involves: (1) a realization that you're not really all that interested in X any more; (2) a realization that, well, X isn't all that interested in you any more, either; (3) deciding that you should break up; (4) saying so; (5) amicably sorting out joint property etc, and telling friends you've broken up; (6) dating other people; (7) catching up once in a while.

Of the two types of breakup, the second is very much to be preferred. Drama is very rarely worth it in any way. Your BF may just not be attracted to his ex-GF any more; if he was, you can assume that, given she wants to be with him, he would still be with her. That he's not, doesn't oblige him to think of her as a horrible person.

The same may well happen when you and he break up; unless you have a lifelong marriage with this guy, you will break up. It's never going to be a good experience, but you do get some control over how bad it has to be.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:00 AM on September 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


This sort of escalated all of my previous irritation about the situation, because my boyfriend had been telling me for months how much she wanted to meet me, how much he was sure she'd like me, etc. When push came to shove, it really seemed as though all she was interested in was her friendship/connection with him, not me.

She already knows him, she doesn't know you. She's obviously going to have a ton to talk about with him, and very little to talk about with you. She can't be all "I've heard so much about you!" because I bet she hasn't. She might not know the first thing about you. Your dude seems to be severely limiting his contact with her because it makes you uncomfortable. Whether she wants to get to know you better or not, dinner is not the best time to get that ball rolling.

I dunno, I think in situations like that, where an ex is meeting an old boyfriend's current attraction, it's not the responsibility of the ex to make sure the current attraction is attended to conversationally. The boyfriend should be jumping in to bridge the conversational gap between the two people who don't know each other.

As to the current situation, it seems tied to the fact that you're uncomfortable even being around your boyfriend's ex. If you want to limit contact because you think she's trifling and trying to steal your man away, that's one thing. But other than that, you should try and let go of this pre-drama that may not even be anything. If you run into the ex again, talk to her. Break the tension that may be forming between you by establishing SOME kind of a relationship with her: you know some things about her, you can talk to her if you're alone with her for a few minutes, etc. Then the whole "can I be friends with her friends" thing just disappears.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:26 AM on September 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


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