Is My New BF a Sleazeball?
March 9, 2010 11:09 AM   Subscribe

Older Single Parents Dating Filter: Staying Friends with Exes???

I'm a single mom of three kids, have been dating (now considered serious and committed) to a single dad (his kid is 11 and has high-functioning autism---this matters). This guy is great but he really struggles with being a single dad of a disabled kid. He needs all the help he can get and he has no family support where he lives.

Geographical note: We live about 3 hours apart: me in a small suburb, he lives in NYC.

A few months into dating, both being glowy and happy with where things were going, we had the "let's agree to be exclusive" talk. I also asked if he had recently been involved with anyone and there were some sticky unfinished issues. He said no.

However, every few weeks his daughter (her mom isn't in the picture) would mention another woman's name in a manner that sure as hell sounded like she was a recent ex-gf . In fact, once when I was at their house, this other woman called and new BF told her that I was hanging out there. I got a little thoughtful, asked again, what's the deal with her, he says they're just friends.

This past weekend he told me that actually, they had dated before he met me (for about 6 months...he knew from the get-go he didn't feel intimate or too connected with her and it took him 3 months to break it off) and that he had broken up with her about a month before he and I connected.

However, she occasionally babysits his daughter and he does consider her to be a friend. He doesn't go out with her.

He then went on to explain that he's friends with quite a few of his exes, some are now married and he's friends with their husbands as well, and some are single.

For some reason, this sits fine with me and I totally get it. I trust him and I get that he needs some positive women around his daughter and a free babysitter. I definitely think this ex-gf is babysitting, though, as part of a plan to keep her foot in the door. But it's her free time.

But I was telling my best friend about this whole thing, and she said to post it all out here and see what you all thought.

So what do we think?

Is this guy, to use my friend's terminology, "a total freakin' sleazeball who is searching for a new mommy for his messed up kid" or is it possible that I'm right and he's a struggling single father who is kind enough to stay friends with exes who are willing to help him out sometimes by babysitting?

What am I not seeing?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (33 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
What am I not seeing?

That your friend is an asshole?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:11 AM on March 9, 2010 [37 favorites]


One one hand, it seems he was less than honest initially about this issue.

One the other hand, since there are kids involved, it's a great model for them that people can date, and then not date, but still be involved in the kids' lives.

I grew up with stable parents, but I think it would have been jarring if my mom or dad would have dated someone, and I had gotten to know them, and then have that person totally drop off the radar.

I would give him the benefit of the doubt on this one but also walk carefully.
posted by Danf at 11:14 AM on March 9, 2010


Geez, that's a pretty harsh assessment from your friend and a really jerky thing to say about his daughter.

I think you have to let people make a mistake before you blame them for making it. Be cautious, as you should with all budding relationships, be realistic, but have fun.

I mean, honestly, it's not hard to understand that a man had made his daughter his main priority, so much so that his relationships to women suffer, but they understand why she had to come first, so they don't hold a grudge and they remain close because he is a good guy.

But tell your friend to mind her own business.
posted by inturnaround at 11:18 AM on March 9, 2010


I agree with TPS. It's perfectly possible for adults who have broken off relationships to remain on friendly terms. Because they're, you know, ADULTS. I think your friend may be injecting some of her own baggage into your situation.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:19 AM on March 9, 2010


What am I not seeing?

That your friend is an asshole?


OMG...thanks for the laugh. Seriously!!!
posted by dzaz at 11:19 AM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


What are you not seeing? You're not seeing that your friend is a trouble-maker. I don't see that he was less than honest about the ex-girlfriend. The question was whether there was unfinished sticky business. He says not. The guy has a lot on his plate. If he has someone around who is good with his daughter, that's a plus. Your girl friend is more questionable than your boyfriend.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 11:20 AM on March 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


That your friend is an asshole?

Why? No, really, I'm not seeing it and this is a strong statement so there must be some reasoning behind the assertion.

I also asked if he had recently been involved with anyone and there were some sticky unfinished issues. He said no.

He broke up with her a month before he started dating you and was totally certain it was over, that doesn't sound like sticky unfinished business to me. Particularly given that he often stays friends with his exes without it becoming an issue. So I think no was a reasonable answer there, although for many people a month was probably recent enough to warrant a mention. You're the one that knows the guy so I assume you're not getting any skeezy vibes off him otherwise and personally I see no reason to be worried just because he has female friends (I realise that many people also feel differently about this). My boyfriend lived with his most recent ex a year into our relationship, they were friends after all and it was fine.

So yeah you could probably keep a closer eye on him or have it in the back of your mind to see if there's anything else overall feeling off but just this as it stands? Definitely not worth the overreaction you're getting from your friend.
posted by shelleycat at 11:22 AM on March 9, 2010


Oh wait, I just realised that TPS said friend and not boyfriend, so ignore that first part sorry!
posted by shelleycat at 11:23 AM on March 9, 2010


Nothing about this raises red flags to me. I guess he could have been a little more honest about it with you, but it isn't like he tried to hide her from you.

Your friend may be looking out for your best interests, but they sound really harsh and bitter. Go with your own intuition on this one. If you see nothing wrong with it then there isn't anything wrong with it. You're dating the guy, not your friend.
posted by TooFewShoes at 11:26 AM on March 9, 2010


Benefit of the doubt, and it doesn't seem to me he lied. It would have been weirder to me if he made a point of mentioning it.

Stick the knowledge in your pocket in case further information develops, but I'm not seeing what your friend is seeing.

All that said - ask your friend why she says that. She's heard more about him than we have. Is she usually a little overprotective?
posted by KAS at 11:29 AM on March 9, 2010


All that said - ask your friend why she says that. She's heard more about him than we have. Is she usually a little overprotective?


My BF has never married, nor has she had a date in over 15 years.


Oh. I get it.
posted by dzaz at 11:34 AM on March 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


I actually think it's a big plus for this guy to still be friends with exes. To me, it shows that he really is a good guy, and these women value his friendship after the relationships end. My best friend has been single for many years, and many of her exes have remained close friends, and her circle of friends include their new partners. To me, this is very telling of her character that they maintain contact with her.
posted by raisingsand at 11:35 AM on March 9, 2010


Here's the timeline, as I see it:

Dude has a kid.
About 11 or so years later, Dude dates a woman for 6 months, then breaks it off. Dude and Ex stay friends.
About a month later, Dude and you get together.
A few months later, you have "the talk".

That's so mind-blowingly normal. I'm not seeing the sleazeball angle at all.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:42 AM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


For what it's worth, my husband remained friendly with nearly all of his exes while we were dating and early in our marriage. Eventually he just sort of seemed to outgrow them or something because he doesn't talk to any of them now, and hasn't for years and years. It's not that I got in the way; I had no problem whatsoever with him being friends with them. I think he just realized that he broke it off with them for a reason and once he had other people to fill his life, he didn't feel the need to keep the connections.
posted by cooker girl at 12:10 PM on March 9, 2010


I'd just like to mention that having kids involved can complicate the break-up process. For example, at one point in my childhood, I became close friends with the children of my father's then-girlfriend. After they broke up, they probably wouldn't have chosen to remain in regular contact, but because their children's friendship persisted, they continued to talk and occasionally see each other for another decade, until well after they'd both remarried. If your BF's daughter became attached to his ex, it seems like an act of kindness on his part to let them continue being part of each other's lives. There's a good chance that if not for the kid, their friendship wouldn't be quite as active as it is, even though they parted on good terms.
posted by unsub at 12:36 PM on March 9, 2010


While I tend to think your friend is overreacting, to be fair to your friend, I think it's worth giving some thought as to why she would word things so strongly, presuming she loves you and just wants you to be happy. I wonder if this is what concerns her (bolded words for emphasis are mine):

they had dated before he met me (for about 6 months...he knew from the get-go he didn't feel intimate or too connected with her and it took him 3 months to break it off)

So, from the beginning he knew he wasn't super interested in this woman, yet dated her for 6 months, and wanted to break up with her halfway through that time? That's a long time for an adult to want to end things, but continue on with a relationship. Is your friend concerned that he didn't sack up and end things because he was using this woman as a built-in babysitter for his daughter? Maybe she's afraid that if he does decide you don't have a future, he will string you along. Maybe she thinks its obvious this woman is still interested in him and he is aware of this, but taking advantage of the situation, which obviously would reflect poorly on his character.

While I think it is best to give your current boyfriend the benefit of the doubt, your friend could be detecting a pattern of behavior, that may or may not exist in reality, and is afraid you will be sucked into a cycle of being taken advantage of or used. So, I'd give your friend the benefit of the doubt as well, and just file this in the back of your mind, in case you see similar behavior emerging in the future. Best of luck!
posted by katemcd at 12:39 PM on March 9, 2010


Friends with exes can be a red flag sometimes (I had one boyfriend who collected exes in a sort of harem of validation - 'sure, I dumped her horribly, but look look look she's not mad at me for it!' - and in retrospect that should've set off alarm bells), but usually it's just a sign of being a fairly well-balanced adult. They dated, they broke up, they stayed on good terms, and now she helps out with babysitting his daughter? That doesn't spell out 'sleazeball' to me.

However, that's assuming he has been totally honest with you about the situation, and there's some things in your post that could be read two ways. You said:

I got a little thoughtful, asked again, what's the deal with her, he says they're just friends.

If by 'asked again', you mean that you asked 'Hey, who's So-and-so?', having already asked that before, and he said 'Oh, she's a friend of mine who babysits [kid] sometimes', that doesn't sound dishonest on his part. On the other hand, if you said 'Hey, [kid] seems to be talking about So-and-so like she's a recent ex-gf, and I've been thinking - what's the deal with that?', and he said 'Oh, she's just a friend,' then you may have a problem.
posted by Catseye at 12:46 PM on March 9, 2010


Maybe your friend is speaking from past bad experience. But this all sounds fine.
posted by theora55 at 1:09 PM on March 9, 2010


I'm guessing that his relationship with the ex lasted so long, despite their lack of spark, because his daughter liked her. That's also probably why she continues on as her baby-sitter and his friend. As you said, he needs support and has found some in this woman. I personally would be grateful to her rather than jealous of her, she sounds like a good friend. As for your guy, the capacity to make and keep a good friend is a good sign.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:26 PM on March 9, 2010


I'd think this didn't sound like a major big deal, except for this sentence:

A few months into dating, both being glowy and happy with where things were going, we had the "let's agree to be exclusive" talk. I also asked if he had recently been involved with anyone and there were some sticky unfinished issues. He said no.

Um...did you mean "I asked if he had been involved and were there some issues" rather than what you typed? Or was his answer to the question along the lines of, "There were some sticky unfinished issues, but...no"?

Because if the answer, as given by him, was indicating sticky issues, that does raise a flag for me, if HE considers the situation with friend/ex to be "sticky." But if it was just a typo and the conversation went like, "So, was there anyone else and were there other issues?" "Nope," then I have a lot less worry.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:27 PM on March 9, 2010


I'm essentially that guy without the autistic child. I dated quite a few people between my divorce and my current girlfriend (who is moving in in a couple of months). There's a number of them that are still in my life in various non-sleeping together ways. This should cause no issue with an adult, and my GF has become frighteningly good friends with some of them.

Either your BF is a good guy who's able to maintain viable relationship with people post-intimacy, or he's a snake and there will be way more clues that something is wrong than one or two ex's hanging about. I'm in the "your friend is a meddling twit" camp.
posted by kjs3 at 1:37 PM on March 9, 2010


I have no problem with him maintaining friendships with his exes. I do have a problem with him lying.
posted by serazin at 1:56 PM on March 9, 2010


My BF has never married, nor has she had a date in over 15 years.

"BF" is not the least confusing way to refer to your "best friend" in this context, especially when you used it to mean "boyfriend" in the question.
posted by nicwolff at 2:37 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


In fact, once when I was at their house, this other woman called and new BF told her that I was hanging out there.

Do you mean he made it sound as if you were just a casual visitor and not his girlfriend?
posted by y6t5r4e3w2q1 at 3:26 PM on March 9, 2010


He's a single guy with a child with special needs. He doesn't have to be looking for a mommy to bring his child's needs to the discussion. To be fair to you, he needed to let you know what the situation is. Otherwise, it's a huge waste of everyone's time. Imagine if you'd have responded by saying "I don't want to be the new mommy for a messed up kid." He'd have known that a relationship with you was a dead-end.

Single parenting is tough. Single parenting a special needs kid has additional challenges. If an ex-girlfriend is good with his son and willing to be a consistent part of the child's life, then why should he refuse that offer? He probably doesn't get many reliable offers of help.

Unless there's a whole lot we don't know your best friend is out of line.
posted by 26.2 at 3:47 PM on March 9, 2010


On second thoughts, after re-reading your question, something seems a bit off here. You're asking us if there's something sleazy about staying friends with their exes, to which the answer is 'no, and your friend is wrong/nuts if she thinks so'. But you're also asking whether there's something sleazy about this particular man having this particular friendship with this particular ex, to which the answer seems... less clear.

Things that suggest that this particular situation is worth wondering about:

- he (possibly? it's unclear) lied to you about his previous relationship with her. Of course, we don't know what you asked him about her, or how you phrased that question about whether he'd been in a relationship 'recently'. But you're talking here as if his admission of a previous relationship with her was exactly that, an admission, of something you'd suspected and he'd denied - and if that's so, it's justifiably cause for some concern on your part.

- there's something potentially hinky going on with the way he describes his last relationship. He knew 'from the get-go' it wasn't going anywhere, decided after three months to break up with her, but then took another three months to do it? That's a little odd.

- you think the ex is hanging around to keep her foot in the door. Do you think that's as clear to him as it is to you? Because struggling single father or not, nobody's reaction to a pining ex should be 'bonus, free babysitter!'

I'm not suggesting you DTMFA, or anything so drastic. But what jumps out at me from your question is that you think something about this situation's not quite right. Maybe you're totally happy with your boyfriend's situation, but wondering whether something's wrong with you for not sharing your friend's worldview on friendships-with-exes as a philosophical question. Maybe you've been suspecting for a while that your friend's a histrionic lunatic, but you feel guilty admitting that without an AskMe chorus backing you up. Maybe you trust your boyfriend just fine, but you're still getting a bad vibe from this situation, and you're not sure what to do with that. Whatever your instincts are telling you, though? That's worth listening to.
posted by Catseye at 4:08 PM on March 9, 2010


Since you don't tell us exactly what you said to either your boyfriend or your friend it's hard to tell.

Asking if he has any "sticky, unfinished business" a few months into your relationship and he says no -- well, at that point, he didn't. He has an ex who is now his kid's sometime-babysitter. From the sounds of it, they were never very serious, he broke things off well before he met you, and to his mind there was probably nothing unfinished about it. Did you specifically ask, "do you have any recent ex-girlfriends?" Or was your question more along the lines of, "have you been seeing other women at the same time as me, and now that we're exclusive, do you need to break any of those off?"

He no longer hangs out with this woman, but sometimes she watches his kid. You seem to have inferred that this is a way for her to keep her foot in the door, but why did you do that? Is there something more going on, or is this jealousy (or perhaps your friend's influence)? Just watching an ex's kid when she's on friendly terms with the ex does not necessarily mean she still want to be with him.

So, unless you framed all of this very suspiciously to your friend, I fail to see how she could have gotten "total freakin' sleazeball" from it. He has an ex who still watches his child. You're suspicious of the ex, but completely trust your boyfriend. How did you set this up to your friend that she could have gotten to the sleazeball conclusion?

Also: "...a new mommy for his messed up kid" points to your friend just generally being hugely insensitive. Looking for a mommy to fit into his family or not (and what is so wrong with that, really?), called the girl "messed up" gets your friend negative points from the get-go.
posted by asciident at 6:19 PM on March 9, 2010


Thanks, everyone. In response:

It's odd: I had very specifically asked him if there was anyone else, or if there was any recent somebody else and they were still working things out...anybody at all in the picture or in the wings. I asked was he clear to date. Were there any unresolved "I had a girlfriend but we're on hold or taking a break or whatever" types of issues.

To this he said no. Upon recent clarification, he said in hindsight he should have been more open that yes, there had been a woman he had been dating for 6 months. He didn't feel they had any unresolved issues or messiness; in his eyes, it was over so he apologized for a somewhat accurate but not entirely truthful response at that time.

The call when I was there was him was his answering a "What are you guys doing" question with, "I'm watching ballet on the TV with dzaz." We were in the same room and it was clear there was no follow-up on her part of "Who's that?" which led me to think she probably knows that I'm a woman who comes to his house. Make of that what you will.

I think the reason I don't have a problem with this is first of all, f*ck it; if he's going to concoct an elaborate charade to have a local gal and a driving distance gal, it'll crash and burn eventually and I can't be worrying about things like that. And this guy has enough stress dealing with everything else, I can't imagine he has the energy to try to pull this off, especially because we're spending every weekend together. Also, his daughter would undoubtedly rat him out to one of us: "Dzaz, Dad's ex-gf slept over," or "we slept at ex-gf's house," or "ex-gf, dzaz spent the weekend with us." That center couldn't hold.

I also get that he stayed friendly with her because she's someone who's willing to take his kid sometimes. And this kid is a very stressful little handful.

But that's the part that bugs me a little, on HER part. Why the heck would she be a free babysitter unless she wants him back and is just hanging around?

But that's not in any way my problem and I assume that the longer we're together, the less he'll need to have her help him out, and that'll be that.
posted by dzaz at 6:30 PM on March 9, 2010


But that's the part that bugs me a little, on HER part. Why the heck would she be a free babysitter unless she wants him back and is just hanging around?

Maybe she genuinely loves his daughter? Maybe it's not about him at all.
posted by crankylex at 7:14 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


dzaz: "But that's the part that bugs me a little, on HER part. Why the heck would she be a free babysitter unless she wants him back and is just hanging around? "

I free babysit for people I don't like all that much, because I am really attached to the kids, it's interesting, and they let me eat out of their fridge.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:41 PM on March 9, 2010


I am with TPS on this, although perhaps I would perhaps frame your friend as naive, but she is probably right. Anyway, it's not a crime, or odd, to be friends with the exes, and it's not even a sign that he won't be faithful etc. Now, if it was just one ex and he couldn't ever get over her, that might be different, might.
posted by caddis at 10:40 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


perhaps, there were too many perhapses. aggghhhhh.
posted by caddis at 10:45 PM on March 9, 2010


I also get that he stayed friendly with her because she's someone who's willing to take his kid sometimes.

Or, he stayed friendly with her because they get on well as friends and enjoy each other's company?

Now you've said a bit more about the situation, I really don't think it sounds like you have much to worry about, here.
posted by Catseye at 5:26 AM on March 10, 2010


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