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Boyfriend reconnecting with an ex, good or bad idea?
October 4, 2011 6:32 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend is catching up with an old girlfriend and I want to be okay with it.

They broke up like ten years ago (he was the other man in a very messy situation). They were friends before, but after they cut ties. Now she's emailed him to apologize for being such a bitch back then, and they're "catching up". I want to be okay with this, but past apologizing, I can't see the point. Do they want to be friends again? And why? After so long they're different people leading different lives. Why reach out after all this time? It seems disrespectful to her husband and to me, the girlfriend, to try to rekindle a relationship with a foremer flame. Once I've broken up with someone I generally want to move on and see no reason to try to relive the past. Maybe they're different? I just don't want to come off as jealous or controlling, so should I ignore it and let them reconnect?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (37 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
What do you mean other man?

I wouldnt be ok with it. She obviously has been around and realized that he was not such a bad catch after all. Discourage it, but frankly there isnt much you can do. Also wondering how long you have been together and why arent you married?
posted by pakora1 at 6:34 PM on October 4, 2011


Suggest that the reconnection happen with the four of you having dinner together. Serves any legit purpose; discourages all non-legit ones. (Don't couch it like that, just say "I'd love to meet them!")
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:39 PM on October 4, 2011 [17 favorites]


Is she just making amends? A lot of people do that for a number of reasons, and it may be a good way of getting "closure" for both of them.
posted by xingcat at 6:39 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


There've been questions about this -- some people want to be friends with their exes, some don't. It's a pretty big split, and the two groups just don't see eye to eye. So, it's possible that this is perfectly innocent and you just won't get it because that's not how you are in your own life.

And they're just catching up, they're not even friends yet. Nostalgic curiosity is a powerful force. I don't think there's enough here to say you should be worried.

But, have you talked with your boyfriend about this? Ask him what he's thinking.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:41 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Once I've broken up with someone I generally want to move on and see no reason to try to relive the past.

One way of assessing if I want to be in a relationship with someone is if they have a good relationship with any of their exes. Yeah, we all have those crazy psycho-exes. But they are not all duds. Having a good relationship with a former lover signals that they don't hold grudges, that they can be civil with people they have differences with, that they are mature. I generally find that the ones who are unable to maintain a good relationship with at least one ex fit into the crazy psych-ex category.

Your boyfriend is keeping you in the loop. I would be concerned if you stumbled upon this information that he kept secret from you. But since he is keeping you informed of his private correspondences that is a good sign that he isn't going to dump you to break up an exes marriage.

But, by all means talk to him about your feelings. Your post suggests that you are to a degree jealous and controlling. Work that out and have a better relationship for it.

On preview, fingersandtoes makes a good suggestion that will get everyone connected but assuage any misgivings.
posted by munchingzombie at 6:42 PM on October 4, 2011 [19 favorites]


I think you may be overreacting to a potentially innocuous situation. Unless you have reason to believe that there is cheating going on, you should let them reconnect and see what happens. Everyone can use more friends.
posted by tau_ceti at 6:42 PM on October 4, 2011


This one is less about jealousy and more about communication.

If you have a relationship where you can tell him all your fears about him hanging out with this woman, and he is willing to talk and make compromises so that he will act in a way that leaves you comfortable you have little to worry about.

If you can't have this sort of conversation without him making you feel bad for bringing up the conversation, him hanging out with an old ex is the least of your problems.
posted by JimmyJames at 6:43 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


You know, I don't know what your relationship with your boyfriend is like, what works, what doesn't work, do you want to stay with him forever or not. But here's what I think:

You got to trust your boyfriend on this one. I would definitely tell your boyfriend that your feelings are hurt and that you're scared. Admit your fear. Be vulnerable. Communicate. Talk about it. Give him a chance to talk about it. Listen to his motives. And give yourself a change to look at it from his perspective. This is what relationships are really about anyway.

But you can't control situations like this, and you shouldn't try to.
posted by phaedon at 6:45 PM on October 4, 2011


Why do you want to be okay with this? I'd be hopping mad. Tell him to tell her thanks, but no thanks. That was in the past and if he in any way wants to give an ex-girlfriend attention, especially some ex-girlfriend from 10 years ago, I'd be all like, WHAT? Then I'd get out my rolling pin or my cast iron pan and be thumpin' it on the palm of my hand.

But that's just me.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:46 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


J. Wilson is totally correct that questions about ex's reconnecting have been asked here before and you'll get a wide range of answers on that.

Your question is about cheaters reconnecting.

It's different.
posted by jbenben at 6:52 PM on October 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


[Less snark, more helpful answers please.]
posted by jessamyn at 6:55 PM on October 4, 2011


i think the OP should read older AskMe's on similar topics, and once she's done that, re-ask her question in a way that gets at aspects of this situation that haven't been covered in other questions already.
posted by cupcake1337 at 6:57 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are they just catching up through e-mail? Or are they planning on meeting up, too? If it's just e-mail, don't worry about it -- I've "caught up" with old friends (even exes) and usually after a week or two we go back to being out of tough.

If he wants to re-establish a friendship, that seems odd and if I were you I would have a discussion about why he wants to do that with him.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:00 PM on October 4, 2011


I just don't want to come off as jealous or controlling, so should I ignore it and let them reconnect?"

Consider this: it's not in your power to allow or deny their reconnection. You can only control whether they do it openly or surreptitiously. Which is better?

Not knowing any of the parties involved, it seems more likely than not that the ex wants to reconnect for innocuous reasons. Even if she has dishonorable intentions, it still takes two to tango, and if your boyfriend isn't receptive, then nothing's going to happen. If your boyfriend is receptive, then your relationship would have been in trouble without the ex appearing anyhow.

It's fine to let him know you're apprehensive about him reconnecting, but "disallowing" it isn't going to do your relationship any good.
posted by adamrice at 7:12 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Does the husband know and is he cool with this? If he is that's a pretty different situation than past cheater looking to meet up with guy she cheated on behind her husband's back.

Then I' d get out my rolling pin or my cast iron pan and be thumpin' it on the palm of my hand.

Implied domestic violence is not cool, even if the comment was intended as hyperbole.

posted by 6550 at 7:21 PM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Do they want to be friends again? And why? After so long they're different people leading different lives. Why reach out after all this time?

Touching base like this is something that can feel good. It could be closure. After so long, they're not different - they're the same people, but they diverged. They are more mature, and have the benefit of hindsight - and hopefully, they're both in comfortable and secure places in their lives where it's not a rekindling, but a reconnection.

My husband and I are both friendly with exes - though in come cases, merely polite to them. But we were whole, real people before we got together, then married. We can't deny the people we were before, and those people helped shape us. We cared about them and their families. We had mutual friends, experiences and adventures with them, and my exes are the only people that share certain memories with me. Still, we weren't perfect, we both had cheats, and we're both better now. Reminiscing about the non-romantic parts of our past lives with the people involved with them does nothing to diminish what we have with each other. I think that this is a sign of a healthy person - being able to balance the past and present and future. If it's unbalanced, then you worry.
posted by peagood at 7:34 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Always appear cooler than the opposition, regardless of how you actually feel.
posted by fraac at 7:36 PM on October 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


anonymous: “I just don't want to come off as jealous or controlling, so should I ignore it and let them reconnect?”

This is your partner we're talking about, someone with whom you're building intimacy. It matters very little how you come off. What matters is communicating how you feel.

I used to be part of a marriage where, when I had a feeling sharing my feelings would be harmful to the relationship, I kept it bottled up. It took a long time, but over a few years those bottled-up feelings hurt me badly; more to the point, they were very, very bad for the relationship, because I became angry and withdrawn. I was basically left in a relationship where I couldn't share my feelings at all, because I had a long habit of filtering everything.

Communicating your feelings doesn't necessarily mean telling him what to do, or trying to control him. Yes, it seems easy to bring this up in a manipulative or spiteful way; but what you have to do is avoid that to break through the wall and actually share what you're feeling with him. You have to try to do that honestly and directly, in the hope of resolving your feelings.

Something like this, I think: "$BOYFRIEND – can we talk? I keep thinking about this situation with $EXGIRLFRIEND, and it's really been bothering me. Do you know why she wants to reconnect? I'm worried because, while I know it's ancient history, all I know about her is that she's been part of cheating before, and that she didn't treat you very well. Are you sure her intentions are pure?"

These are good questions, anonymous. Be confident; there's nothing wrong with feeling a little worried by this. Tell him how you feel, and talk about it with him. As with almost all relationship problems, talking about it is really the only way to sort it out.
posted by koeselitz at 7:57 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


seems disrespectful to her husband and to me, the girlfriend, to try to rekindle a relationship with a foremer flame.

I think this is where you're going of course. Unless there's a specific connection between you and this woman, (you used to be friends and had a falling out or something), then it's not disrespectful to you.

It would be disrespectful to that woman's husband if he was the one she cheated on.

Your question is about cheaters reconnecting.

Your plural is unwarranted- according to the question he was not cheating. And we know very little about the situations, so there's no reason to cast aspersions on the boyfriend's character.

I'd be hopping mad. Tell him to tell her thanks, but no thanks. That was in the past and if he in any way wants to give an ex-girlfriend attention, especially some ex-girlfriend from 10 years ago, I'd be all like, WHAT? Then I'd get out my rolling pin or my cast iron pan and be thumpin' it on the palm of my hand.

A reaction like this would confirm that the OP is everything she is worried about being- controlling, jealous, etc. It would also arguably worse than cheating anyways. The superiority, unwillingness to have a dialoge, and the threatening tone displayed here could very well end the relationship.

OP, you are in no position to "allow" or "disallow". You can't frame a relationship of equals that way. You're supposed to be a team- which means you need to talk to your boyfriend about how you feel. If he listens and seeks to understand and help- even if he ultimately still feels he needs to reconnect- is a good sign. If he doesn't care, your relationship has bigger problems than some woman from a decade ago.
posted by spaltavian at 7:57 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I got a bad feeling about this one. Been there, done that.
posted by nogero at 8:52 PM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's unclear what their prior relationship was, but if he was the other man in the sense that she cheated on a serious partner with him, there's reason to doubt both their characters. Dishonesty taints everyone who helps make it happen.

If their relationship was on the up-and-up and they're just reconnecting now, I'd be less worried. The most important thing is that he is honest with you about what is going on. You can only control your reactions, though. Be very careful if he had an affair with her before and isn't completely understanding of why that might make you nervous. Be extra careful if her husband is never available to socialize.
posted by SakuraK at 9:58 PM on October 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


It seems disrespectful to her husband and to me, the girlfriend, to try to rekindle a relationship with a foremer flame.

I don't see what it has to do with respect for you or her husband. Would you feel betrayed by him catching up with any platonic old friends from that time period with which he's lost touch? Neither of them is the same person they were then; I don't see how sex must trump every other aspect of their former relationship...it's not as if sexual desire is preserved intact over time.
posted by desuetude at 10:57 PM on October 4, 2011


Now she's emailed him to apologize for being such a bitch back then, and they're "catching up".

Oh really? Just, completely out-of-the-blue, just decided, Hey, haven't talked to them in a decade or so… I wonder how that person-I-completely-cut-out-of-my-life is doing?"

Twenty bucks says she broke up with someone or someone broke up with her, and now she's sniffing for familiar blood. Keep on your guard and stay vigilant.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:04 AM on October 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think you should let them go for it. If you don't have trust in a relationship, what do you have? You can tell him your concerns and maybe arrange a double-date to make you more comfortable, but its been TEN YEARS. I can totally imagine wanting to meet up with an ex in ten years time, and it would entirely about nostalgia, curiosity, and checking up on someone I used to care deeply about. It would not be about romantic feelings or with any intention of starting something, because like you said people move on and change.

It seems unlikely that she's looking for a relationship after that length of time. Sometimes it's nice to see what people from your past are up to. How about trying to give both of them the benefit of the doubt, and then if anything hinky seems to be going on) (like it turns out her husband doesn't know) - then you talk to your boyfriend and tell him you are not ok with it and why.
posted by stillnocturnal at 2:20 AM on October 5, 2011


Be cool with it and let it evolve over time. The truth will be in his communication when he returns. If he is open and tells you what happened and it makes sense, no harm, no foul. If anything is a miss, perhaps you need to have A Frank Discussion About Your Relationship.

But do not prevent him from going. Be honest about how this make you feel, tell him it's his decision, and then proceed as above. She does not have any magic powers of seduction or secret juju that will make your man go from a prince to dog. If he makes that move, that's all on him. And if he makes that move with her, he's waiting to do it anyway.

So, be open and honest. Let him make his own decisions. Take a read afterward. Decide if there is a problem.

By all means, do not turn this into a power struggle of "if you loved me, you wouldn't want to see her." THAT can turn a prince into a dog.
posted by nickrussell at 3:16 AM on October 5, 2011


If by "catching up" you simply mean that they are just meeting for a coffee, what do you have to be afraid of? By all means mention that it makes you uncomfortable, in a calm manner, but I think the best thing you could do here is trust your boyfriend.
posted by kramer1975 at 3:45 AM on October 5, 2011


I caught up with my college boyfriend a few years ago. He'd gone through a fair share of heartbreak since we'd dated, and he wanted to make amends. Recently, he went through a terrible experience where he and his girlfriend lost their baby a week before the due date, and I am glad that I have been able to do what little I can to support him at this difficult time -- which is not much, just an email every few weeks asking him how he's doing.

Also, another ex-boyfriend has been a tremendous, tremendous friend over the years. I cry on his shoulder about my dating life gets sad. (And it's always, always platonic between us)

So, it's really possible to be friends with exes.
posted by angrycat at 4:51 AM on October 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Smells fishy. I don't have any good advice, but just wanted to come in on the side of, "You shouldn't feel obligated to feel ok with it"
posted by Kwine at 5:12 AM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Your feelings are not "wrong." They're your feelings, and they're as legit as his desire to reconnect with his ex. Sometimes we have uneasy feelings because our gut is trying to tell us something that we intellectually don't want to believe.

No one -- including you -- should tell you how to feel about something. At best, you'll end up entering a halfhearted state of denial, telling yourself you feel fine about something you don't feel fine about. That is not a recipe for emotional health.

I am monogamous, and I would only want to be with someone monogamous. YMMV, obviously. But someone who was the "other man" in a "messy" situation reconnecting with his old flame would make me very uneasy. And I wouldn't feel obliged to be okay with a situation that makes me uneasy, no matter how "irrational" my feelings are. Aren't his feelings "irrational" too? Feelings are irrational. That's why they're called feelings. Why are you supposed to ignore your own feelings while he indulges his?

How you negotiate your boundaries is up to you and your boyfriend. But don't feel you're in the wrong for having boundaries in the first place. You're entitled to your needs just as he's entitled to his.
posted by ROTFL at 5:22 AM on October 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


"They broke up like ten years ago (he was the other man in a very messy situation). They were friends before, but after they cut ties. "

This tells me she is bad news and either he doesn't realize it or doesn't care.

Take the high road - let them catch up. If he's he over having supporting roles in the great drama of her most special snowflakeness, great. If she has truly realized that she has problems and wants to be a good person, great. If she's still all about messy drama and he's up for messy drama, it's best that you know now because if he's available for drama, he doesn't need this ex for that. There are plenty of nasty women out there.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 5:43 AM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've been friends with exes (am still friends with some of my exes) and have caught up with exes while in a relationship. I don't think there is anything wrong with that. Not trusting your bf is the problem here, whether it's that you're not trusting enough, or he's not trustworthy enough, i can't say, based on your question.
posted by empath at 5:48 AM on October 5, 2011


I don't know the particulars of the situation beyond what is in the original question, of course, but it seems to me if Boyfriend was aiming to cheat on Anonymous with The Ex, he would be unlikely to announce, "Okay, I am off to dinner with The Ex. See ya later, Anon!" Actual cheating tends to be a bit more clandestine, no?

In any event, I am firmly in the exes-can-still-be-friends camp. My parents have been divorced since the seventies, and are in the same room together maybe once a year, but they get along well and still can offer each other assistance in difficult times. They were my role model, and to this day I am on quite good terms with most of my exes.

The original question is couched in a lot of assumptions: "Do they want to be friends again? And why? After so long they're different people leading different lives." Why does anyone want to be friends with anyone else in the first place. Two people who have a shared history at least have something in common -- shared jokes, do-you-remember-the-time-when moments and so on, while when you meet someone for the first time, you don't even have that: they are even more different people leading different lives.

By all means, invite the other couple round to dinner: I am guessing from the phrasing of the question that Anonymous has never met The Ex, and possibly that the Ex's Husband is equally in the dark about The Boyfriend (and Anonymous). This is both bad and easy to fix. It is always easier to imagine the worst about people you have never met.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:26 AM on October 5, 2011


ricochet biscuit: “Actual cheating tends to be a bit more clandestine, no?”

A small point, although I try not to respond to comments on Ask – I don't think this is true. In my experience, the vast majority of cheating isn't premeditated. Human beings just happen to be weak, and find themselves in situations they didn't expect. That's not to excuse anything, but it's understandable to be concerned about a partner reconnecting with someone he technically cheated with (even if it was without his knowledge; the question isn't quite clear) some years ago.

This is not to argue. I agree that, if the boyfriend in this equation was an accomplished cheater or was planning definitely on cheating, it would be more clandestine than this. But cheating usually isn't planned, at least not by both parties. I think the poster is worried about the ex-girlfriend's intentions more than the boyfriend's intentions.
posted by koeselitz at 7:57 AM on October 5, 2011


I think I am in the minority here, but I don't think you should be okay with it.

It seems disrespectful to her husband and to me, the girlfriend, to try to rekindle a relationship with a foremer flame.

It is disrespectful, and if you're not okay with it, it shouldn't happen. Again, I'm in the minority, but I truly believe that exes cannot ever "just be friends." There will always be that connection that they once had, and revisiting the relationship is playing with fire.
posted by jbickers at 8:46 AM on October 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


My ex friend was an accomplished cheater who frequently announced his social plans to his now ex- wife. Except for the sex part, obviously.

So "no" to the thought the bf might be more secretive if he were already bad intentioned. Actually, keeping it "out in the open" helps the cheater facilitate the cheating part.


Dear OP,

We have no idea what the nature of this reconnecting is all about. Amongst those of us with direct experience with cheaters, or as cheaters ourselves, the consensus is that this turn of events in your relationship is probably not a good thing.

I hope your bf quickly regrets opening the door back up for this person and moves on from the interaction soon. And on his own.

If their "catching up" makes you nash your teeth daily, see red flags, lose sleep, or other crazy making, feel free to DTMFA. You don't need a better reason or proof or whatever. If this reconnecting makes you uncomfortable and requires you twist yourself up to make what they are doing OK - then drop the whole thing from your life. They did bad things to each other, and a third party, back in the day. If your BF wants to nourish your trust towards him, he shouldn't be consorting either online or irl with his cheater ex GF. That's just where it is.

If he's grown up emotionally since the poor choices he made during that episode, he shouldn't want or need to go back there again. Maybe for a peek at the past to see how far he's come, but that's about it.

I hope he has a quick change of heart and closes the door on this past without causing you too much worry or damaging what you have built together.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 10:41 AM on October 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Amongst those of us with direct experience with cheaters, or as cheaters ourselves, the consensus is that this turn of events in your relationship is probably not a good thing.

I don't see how you could possibly know whether such a consensus exists. Many responses on either side of the fence did not indicate whether experience with cheaters/cheating was involved in their opinion.
posted by desuetude at 1:52 PM on October 5, 2011


It's his choice. You don't 'own' anyone. Let him be what he is; do what he does. His only responsibility to you is to be honest. If you think loving someone gives you the right to control them, prepare to join the vast majority of unhappy people. Good Luck.
posted by nickji at 10:07 AM on October 10, 2011


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