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How do I talk to gf about her past, secrecy and daddy issues?
November 28, 2011 4:29 AM   Subscribe

She doesn't want to talk about her past; I feel it's relevant to our relationship. Most of her close friends are ex-FWBs and flirt incessantly/proposition her for sex, she's secretive about things. I don't know what to do or what to say.

I've been dating my girlfriend for 6 months now, and it's been more or less great. However, there's one big issue that I feel I need to talk to her about and I simply don't know how to go about it.

A bit of background: my girlfriend had a fairly traumatic upbringing and her father abandoned her at a young age. Both of these led her to go off the rails in her adolescence -- she slept with random guys, flirted with everybody, had FWBs with almost all of her male friends, sent nudes around the internet and generally was not OK.
Once she got out of high school, she started to get back on the right track and now seems to be in a better place. Recently she said to me that she finally feels like she's in a the place she wants to be and has her life on track.

Now, I've tried to bring up her past a couple times, but only ever gently. She's ashamed of the stuff she did and doesn't like talking about it.

Here's where the problems are:
Firstly, I don't know what to do about such a big shroud of secrecy lying over events that were clearly so important in her development. She really won't talk about things more than about three years ago. This normally wouldn't be an issue -- people have pasts, and the past is the past; it's not a big deal if it has no relevance to the present, and people need time to get over things. Cool.

However, this is a bit of a weird situation, because many of the people she slept with, specifically the FWBs, and people she used to flirt with / send nude pictures to are still great friends of hers. This normally wouldn't be an issue, but they flirt with her endlessly, and not in a playful, friendly way, but in an intensely sexual and (I would say) inappropriate way. Just the other night, after visiting friends, one of these guys started texting her, telling her he wished she was in his bed and so on (it kept going for about 20 minutes until she told him to stop because we were trying to sleep).
Another close friend of hers frequently shares sexual links with her and talks about how he misses her / how adorable/sexy she is and so on. And this isn't just a few guys, it's a pretty huge chunk of her friend circle.
Annoyingly, she'll often text these people back while they're flirting with her, ostensibly telling them to go away in a "nice" way (she doesn't want to hurt anyone, apparently).

When I brought up that I'd like to know in advance if a close friend was a former FWB (especially if we were going to meet him together, since it puts me in an awkward spot if I don't know, imo), she got defensive and told me she just didn't understand why I had to know, which seems to be her attitude to her past in general.

She gets male attention all the time, which is to be expected as she's very attractive.
I don't have a problem with this per se, but she has quite a few acquaintances (a cop, for example, who used to grab food with her as she works in a dive bar in a dangerous area); she's told me nothing happened with this guy, but he frequently propositions her for sex, straight-up. I told her I didn't want her to hang around with the guy any more and she agreed, but just last week she got a text from him again after a month or so of nothing; she admitted she'd gone to see him to ask him about something or other going down near her work (it's something only a cop would know, but still) and he'd (apparently, judging by the text) misinterpreted her casual, platonic questions as an advance.

Although I don't think she's cheating on me or putting the wheels in motion (when she tells me she loves me, I believe it; she seems very sincere in most of her actions and is going out of her way to support me at the moment), something about the situation makes me really uneasy and I feel like there's this secrecy that's becoming the elephant in the room. I don't know if she just surrounds herself with creepers, or if she's actively flirting in order to get attention from other guys (this is my guess).

I should not that my last relationship ended after being cheated on, so I'm perhaps a little more sensitive than I might usually be to all of this; I haven't had a chance to really hang out with a lot of these people just yet and see how they interact, but from the small glimpses I've seen of online conversations and text messages (she occasionally shares these with me; sometimes I inadvertently see) it looks pretty blatant.

These guys really don't have her best interests in mind. I'm worried that when we fall out, she's gonna run to one of her male friends for support and he's going to use the situation against us, since he doesn't give two shits about her relationship or about me.

Additionally, although I'm not sure if it's reasonable for me to feel this way, it's pretty upsetting to me that she keeps these guys around, as I feel both disrespected and also that she's putting our relationship in unnecessarily risky territory. I also feel that, really, my attention should be enough for her.
Before you think I'm the archetypal jealous boyfriend for saying that, I don't mind her being flirted with / hit on; I just don't think it's acceptable for her to be going out specifically to garner such attention, especially when it becomes so serious so quickly, to say nothing of the drama -- we've had a fair bit already with a couple of guys becoming pretty upset that she chose me over them, despite the offer never being on the table.

Bottom line is, I love her, but it's an issue. I don't really know how to bring it up.

She's told me multiple times that I have absolutely nothing to worry about and I don't want to come across as jealous / psycho and end up having her become MORE secretive about her behaviour to avoid conflict, but I'm not sure how long I can put up with it.

For those of you who say "just talk about it", it's one of those things that's sort of hard to drop into every day conversation -- and I want to do this as diplomatically as possible, which is why I need a bit of advice as to what I should do and what I should say to make things as drama-less as possible.

So, MeFi, What do I do? What do I say?
posted by the milky bar kid to Human Relations (59 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
If she doesn't want to share it, she won't. If you can't handle her not sharing it, then end the relationship.

People don't become the people you want them to be just because you love them.
posted by xingcat at 4:37 AM on November 28, 2011 [35 favorites]


Sorry, man, she sounds like trouble. You are absolutely reasonable to expect her to terminate friendships with people who proposition her for sex, and in fact, she should do it without you asking her to.

Her countenancing it and then, for example, only asking him to stop "because she's trying to sleep"? That's crazy. She's got some major boundary issues and it would drive me crazy.

And --as you see from the cop thing--you can't trust her.

She loves inappropriate attention and lies to you so she can continue enjoying it. She's too damaged and not mature enough for a real relationship. I think you should move on. This girl is only going to bring you heartache.
posted by jayder at 4:45 AM on November 28, 2011 [32 favorites]


Stop. Stop. You are making a pretty clearcut situation so needlessly complex here. Stop.

they flirt with her endlessly, and not in a playful, friendly way, but in an intensely sexual and (I would say) inappropriate way... ostensibly telling them to go away in a "nice" way (she doesn't want to hurt anyone, apparently).

The provenance of these people is irrelevant. Their presence in your current life doesn't give you license to dig through a past your girlfriend doesn't want to rehash with you. This issue is completely and totally about what is going on now: your girlfriend is being hit on by other people and is failing to draw strong and appropriate boundaries. This probably does have a lot to do with her past, but whatever: you are not her therapist, it is not your job to unpack that, and it doesn't change the urgent need for her to stop sucking at this.

In other words, deal with what is right in front of you, right now. Tell her that this kind of shit is not okay with you, it should not be okay with her, and that she needs to learn to say "no, and pack that shit in" to these people and then turn off the phone or walk away or close the door or whatever the situation calls for that will terminate it immediately.

It is hard for a lot of people, particularly women, to do this because of the way we're socialised. I am in no way dismissing that. But it's a skill that will stand her in good stead and it sounds like a skill she really needs. In addition to your discomfort with this, I can only imagine that this probably makes her feel pretty crappy, too. If not, there may be an element where being wanted like this feeds her ego and a pile of self-esteem issues, but if that's the case, you have way bigger issues than the ability to draw boundaries here.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:46 AM on November 28, 2011 [61 favorites]


Trust. It is more fundamental to a relationship than 'love', and it can take time to establish (and a word to destroy).

If you can build trust in her and her commitment to you, then you are on your way.

On the other hand, if you can't trust her, I feel for you and the dilemma you face. Xingcat's last sentance should be kept in the forefront of your mind.

Good luck.
posted by GeeEmm at 4:47 AM on November 28, 2011


I don't think the issue is her not "sharing" information about her past. The issue is her behavior today and how it is affecting your relationship now. If she is unwilling to talk about or negotiate what is happening now, then your relationship has no future.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 4:51 AM on November 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


You can be totally in love with and attracted to someone and they might not be for you.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:51 AM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Lots of adults have casual FWB situations with lots of people, and then have relationships and it doesn't become an issue like it is here. You can figure that either all of these guys orbiting her are wierd, tone-deaf jerks... or that it's her. She went to see the cop because she needed to find out something that only he would know? C'mon.

It's not at all necessary for you to try to armchair psychologist about her parental issues here. I would be more concerned about the present, and in the present, I think there is zero chance that this girl is not sleeping with other people. She's getting something that she wants from you but I personally don't think you should get too invested, here.
posted by ftm at 4:55 AM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Your girlfriend doesn't seem to have healthy boundaries. You can't force her to share anything with you or to behave differently. She'll behave differently when SHE wants to change her "friendships" with her male friends and acquaintances. If you don't feel your needs for trust and fidelity are met then move on and date a woman who doesn't have male friends constantly asking her for sex and getting upset that she chose you over them.

here's a possible way you can bring up the topic. [describe very objectively what's happening] + ["it makes me feel ____]. don't start with "you this" and "you that". such as: "when you invite me out with a friend and neglect to mention you slept with him before and he openly hits on you, it makes me feel disrespected, like my attention isn't enough for you." you can follow that up with, "although i love you and i want things to work out between us, i don't want to be in a relationship with someone who can't establish good boundaries between their current partner and previous partners/FWBs."

emphasize that you don't have a problem with her having a past, because everyone does; but that you do have a problem with the way she's been dealing with it going forward, by keeping things from you and allowing her friends to continue to proposition her. it's not that you need her to tell you everything but you do need her to behave in a reasonable way around these guys, ie, stop leading them on.
posted by zdravo at 4:57 AM on November 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


to me, this sounds like a hopeless situation. she doesn't sound like she's anywhere near ready to be in a relationship. i don't mean to sound cold, but i wouldn't hesitate to bet a paycheck against this working out.
posted by facetious at 5:05 AM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think the sharing is a red herring.

The real issue is that your girlfriend isn't setting boundaries. All these guys expect she'll sleep with them because she hasn't made it clear enough that she's off the market. Her behaviour is not only causing drama, it's incredibly disrespectful to you. Twenty minute flirting sessions that include the guy saying he wants her in his bed? She should be shutting that crap down cold.

You can bring this up without talking about her past. I would lead with something like, "I'd like to talk with you about establishing some boundaries with the guys in your life," and take it from there. Make it clear that you don't care what she did in the past (she probably fears your judgement, if she's ashamed of her behaviour herself) but she needs to take steps to respect your relationship now.

Good luck. It's going to be a tough road, I expect.
posted by Georgina at 5:07 AM on November 28, 2011 [31 favorites]


As much as she thinks she is in a better place and on the right track, I am not sure she is able to distinguish where the tracks and the wheels are supposed to meet.

If she really wanted to move on from that past, she would change her number or ignore all of those texts. She would no longer communicate with these men. It leads one to believe that she does not want to move from these people or leave some aspects of the past behind.

Sure, women like a little attention and flirting once in a while, but there are boundaries. She hasn't set them. You don't feel good about the fact that she doesn't set the boundaries.

You have to decide on whether or not you have the patience to wait until she sees how this will eventually destroy the relationship with you. You can only reiterate that it bothers you. She can put any label she wants on it, but the texting and the propositions are inappropriate. I am not usually sure when something is inappropriate but propositioning sex is DEFINITELY inappropriate.

If you think that you want to sit and wait it out, then you can just keep telling her how uncomfortable it is for you and how unfair it is for her to continue the communication with these people.

If you think that you can't stand it, then you should walk away. You'll further damage your feelings toward her, resent her, hate her and worse, you will damage your self image and you will start to blur the lines of what you feel is right and what is wrong. Do you think you are able to sacrifice that?
posted by Yellow at 5:23 AM on November 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


If you are laying in bed with her while she's texting someone else who is propositioning her for sex, it is completely OK to have a conversation right then. It doesn't have to be about her "daddy issues" or past sexual history. It can be about the present. It starts like this, "I don't feel comfortable when you engage with others in these kinds of conversations."

Depending on your bent, it can then have one of these sentences:

- "Men will still like you even if you aren't responding to provocative statements. You do not need to maintain a veneer of sexual availability to have friends."

OR

- While exiting the place: "I'll leave you two at it. Let me know if/when you are 100% available to me."

I recommend not trying to be her shrink through this. If she needs psychological help, let her get it from a professional if/when she's ready for it. I don't think this is the kind of thing that you can help her with, while being her boyfriend. For one reason of many, her relationship with you might be just another symptom of her underlying problem -- something you should consider.
posted by Houstonian at 5:25 AM on November 28, 2011 [12 favorites]


Yeah, this is a clearcut case of her not setting appropriate boundaries with her former lovers.

Straight up tell her that when she accepts people saying they are DTF with her without making it perfectly clear that a) she is with somebody else and b) that kind of discussion is now off-limits, she's hurting you. Tell her that this kind of discussion is, to you, something only you should have with her and that's a dealbreaker for you.

Set that boundary and if it's not respected going forward and it's not something you can live with. Get the hell out. Your love for her can't fix her. Only she can do that.
posted by inturnaround at 5:28 AM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


It sounds like she still needs the attention from a pack of dudes, if not the sex.
posted by Juliet Banana at 5:37 AM on November 28, 2011


I agree with others that it's not about her past or about her not sharing her past. It's about her not drawing appropriate boundaries that are consistent with you two being in a healthy, monogamous relationship.

There's a reason all these guys are sexting her and behaving inappropriately, and that is that she is encouraging it (for whatever reason).

Talk with her about that, in the present tense. How? You can't just slip it into everyday conversation without her noticing. Tough shit. Just make a point of bringing it up -- preferably not during sexytimes or during a fight. Try over breakfast.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:39 AM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


If her primary mode of interacting with male friends throughout high school (HIGH SCHOOL! I feel like some of the other commenters have missed this?) was sex, and if that same group of friends is now constantly reinforcing the idea that her value to them as a person hinges on her value as a potential sexual partner, then that is going to mess with her in ways that'll take some time for her to work through. It's extremely difficult to un-learn the lesson that men will only care about you/be kind to you/help you if you make them think you're sexually available, particularly since our culture is constantly reinforcing it. My own sister went through a version of this, and to be honest, so did I to some extent. Many women do.

Other posters are right in that this is NOT your problem to solve -- you aren't her therapist, and you can't fix this for her. She'll have to decide that she wants to change her own life, and then find the tools to do so outside of her relationship with you.

That said, I'll also join the consensus that you need to have a no-judgments conversation with her about boundaries. Take her word for it that she doesn't mean anything by what she's doing -- as I said above, a lot of it's probably habituated and she may only kind of be aware she's encouraging it. Just talk to her about how the situation makes you feel, and that you would appreciate it if she could find a middle-ground that makes you more comfortable. Try not to lecture her too much about how you think she's coming across to other people -- that will just make her feel angry or ashamed or both and isn't helpful. Just be honest and kind about your own feelings.

How about you. Do you have friends? Are they nice? Do they understand your girlfriend isn't available for sexual favors? Do they treat her well? If so, try planning more events with them, so that she can start to integrate a little with a different crowd. If she has a support system outside of her skeezy former-FWB dudes, it will make it much easier for her to draw boundaries with her old friends and start to reorganize the landscape of her social life a little.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 5:42 AM on November 28, 2011 [14 favorites]


Six months of dating seems a little early to get into the OMG, DADDY ISSUES, needa shrink, lets fix YOU! Also, yall are what, early 20's? Or, uh, she sounds younger than you and you sound somewhat more mature. I agree with the she dosent know what good boundaries look like. Since I'm pixels on an internet, I can't tell you if shes cheating or not. I've known girls who were in this sorta situation, and girls I'm 99% sure werent in this sorta situation. I know its hard when you seem upright, forthcoming, and kinda sweetly hopeful/good intentioned. But again, you cant fix her. You can point out how you feel about things, how it makes you uncomfortable/hurts you... but... if she dosent/cant/cont change on her own, then youre outta luck. And I doubt you can keep this relationship going w/o trust. Thats how people end up on Maury getting DNA tests.
posted by Jacen at 5:54 AM on November 28, 2011


All this stuff that she's doing, it's annoying as hell for a relationship, but let's face it: it's stuff she's doing. What are you doing? There is a point where you've got to say your piece ['...the other dudes propositioning you and you having a giggle or a patient smile? It's gotta stop'] and if nothing changes, you move on. That's just the stuff she's doing. You do different stuff, and you look for someone who values that different stuff.
posted by honey-barbara at 5:55 AM on November 28, 2011


I don't have any trouble with a woman having lots of sexual relationships or sexual content in friendships. This is not a priori bad if it is good for her and her friends, but lying to you is a problem. She needs to be with a partner who is comfortable with this and she needs to be self aware and honest in her dealings. She isn't there yet, and you need to have a conversation with her.. focus on issues of honesty, not that sexiness is bad.
posted by By The Grace of God at 5:57 AM on November 28, 2011


Lots of guys are creeps. Really. And women who have had rough lives attract these guys like you wouldn't believe. If you want to be depressed, google "revictimization".

Let me give you her logic:

--These men like me and are actively interested in me, and history has shown that they are likely to stick around
--If they think they have a chance, they won't leave me/they'll be there when I need them
--It makes me feel secure to have more than one person who will be there for me
--This man that I'm currently dating is probably temporary, why give up the security of having all these other men around?
--Rejecting these people will offend them and I can't afford to do that

Okay, now for advice:

You've been together for six months. I don't think you're at the point where you can say "hey, get rid of your creepy security blanket and tell your friends to fuck off, I'm all you need right now!" It took a lifetime for her to learn these coping mechanisms and it'll take a while to unlearn them. At the same time, this behavior is hurtful and unpleasant. I would talk to her about it, in a "this makes me uncomfortable" kind of way.

--Don't expect her to stop talking to these guys entirely until she feels really secure. The fact that she's telling them to stop at all is a good sign.
--Draw firm boundaries about her interactions with them when you two are together, such as asking her not to text other people when she's with you
--Emphasize her non-sexual qualities and skills
--Encourage her to hang out with long-time friends who aren't creepsters
--When you fight, be sure to reassure her that you're not leaving her (unless you are). This will keep her from running to these guys because she has mistaken your temporary anger for permanent abandonment


And of course, if this is too much for you, you have the right to move on and live your life.

Good luck!
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:57 AM on November 28, 2011 [39 favorites]


Yeah, adding to the chorus of "it's not her past and her unwillingness to discuss it; it's her present behavior." Whether she is consciously jerking you around or acting on deep-rooted learned behavior, the way she is interacting with her male friends is a problem for you, and you need to let her know this rather than getting into fights about her past. I mean, the fact that she is failing to set boundaries is a lot more important than the cause of it and is, moreover, something she can actually do something about. It's also something measurable that you can appropriately react to.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:59 AM on November 28, 2011


A bit more. People have sex for lots of reasons. Daddy issues can be one of them. But don't be one of the people denigrating female sexuality. Just garden mill being a liar, which she is, is bad enough. If you think the relationship has good foundations you can discuss the lying, but be aware the lying is likely fuelled by the shame she feels about her sexuality. So, a discussion that doesn't add to her shame is the best way to start.
posted by By The Grace of God at 6:00 AM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


She doesn't want to talk about her past; I feel it's relevant to our relationship.

You're probably not right about that.

Once she got out of high school, she started to get back on the right track and now seems to be in a better place. Recently she said to me that she finally feels like she's in a the place she wants to be and has her life on track.

So, help her keep it there. She'll let you know what she needs for that. Believe her.

Now, I've tried to bring up her past a couple times, but only ever gently. She's ashamed of the stuff she did and doesn't like talking about it.

Sounds fair and reasonable to me.

Firstly, I don't know what to do about such a big shroud of secrecy lying over events that were clearly so important in her development. She really won't talk about things more than about three years ago.

So in fact it's not a big shroud of secrecy; it's a big cushion of let's-not-go-there. If you were in her position, would you not want such a cushion?

This normally wouldn't be an issue -- people have pasts, and the past is the past; it's not a big deal if she's genuinely changed the direction she's driving her life in, as it clearly seems she has. Let it go.

However, this is a bit of a weird situation, because many of the people she slept with, specifically the FWBs, and people she used to flirt with / send nude pictures to are still great friends of hers.

If she's no longer having sex with them, it will not pay you to make an issue of that.

This normally wouldn't be an issue, but they flirt with her endlessly, and not in a playful, friendly way, but in an intensely sexual and (I would say) inappropriate way.

If she's no longer having sex with them, it will not pay you to make an issue of that.

Just the other night, after visiting friends, one of these guys started texting her, telling her he wished she was in his bed and so on (it kept going for about 20 minutes until she told him to stop because we were trying to sleep).

If she's no longer having sex with him, it will not pay you to make an issue of that.

Another close friend of hers frequently shares sexual links with her and talks about how he misses her / how adorable/sexy she is and so on. And this isn't just a few guys, it's a pretty huge chunk of her friend circle.

If she's no longer having sex with them, it will not pay you to make an issue of that.

Annoyingly, she'll often text these people back while they're flirting with her, ostensibly telling them to go away in a "nice" way (she doesn't want to hurt anyone, apparently).

If she's no longer having sex with them, it will not pay you to make an issue of that.

When I brought up that I'd like to know in advance if a close friend was a former FWB (especially if we were going to meet him together, since it puts me in an awkward spot if I don't know, imo),

Change your opinion. It's wrong.

If you and she are now doing the exclusive sexual partners thing by mutual agreement, then it's up to her to stick to her end of that, and up to you to stick to yours. It's not up to either of you to police the other's interactions with friends.

she got defensive and told me she just didn't understand why I had to know, which seems to be her attitude to her past in general.

Oh, she understands fine why you think you have to know. What she's doing is telling you in a "nice" way to curb your insecurity and pull your horns back in. Which you should totally do.

She gets male attention all the time, which is to be expected as she's very attractive.
I don't have a problem with this per se, but she has quite a few acquaintances (a cop, for example, who used to grab food with her as she works in a dive bar in a dangerous area); she's told me nothing happened with this guy, but he frequently propositions her for sex, straight-up.


If she's not having sex with him, it will not pay you to make an issue of that.

I told her I didn't want her to hang around with the guy any more

Bad move. Insecure move. Controlling move. Making-a-rod-for-your-own-back move.

and she agreed,

no doubt "nicely"

but just last week she got a text from him again after a month or so of nothing; she admitted she'd gone to see him to ask him about something or other going down near her work (it's something only a cop would know, but still) and he'd (apparently, judging by the text) misinterpreted her casual, platonic questions as an advance.

Deflecting this guy is her job, not yours. Let her do her job.

Although I don't think she's cheating on me or putting the wheels in motion (when she tells me she loves me, I believe it; she seems very sincere in most of her actions and is going out of her way to support me at the moment),

That's terrific. Hold onto that.

something about the situation makes me really uneasy

Sounds to me like somebody else has cheated on you recently and you're shit-scared it's going to happen again.

Well, you know - it might. And if it does, it will suck. But it would suck so much more to destroy a beautiful thing by acting as if somebody else's love for you can only be sustained by your own eternal vigilance.

Have the courage to risk trusting your new love.

and I feel like there's this secrecy that's becoming the elephant in the room.

If you stop pumping it up, it will deflate of its own accord.

I don't know if she just surrounds herself with creepers, or if she's actively flirting in order to get attention from other guys (this is my guess).

If she's not having sex with them, it will not pay you to make an issue of that.

I should not that my last relationship ended after being cheated on,

Thought so.

so I'm perhaps a little more sensitive than I might usually be to all of this;

OK, so you made the mistake of jumping into a new relationship while still a little raw from the end of the last one. Doesn't have to be a fatal mistake. Work on your own wounded past. Let hers be hers.

I haven't had a chance to really hang out with a lot of these people just yet and see how they interact, but from the small glimpses I've seen of online conversations and text messages (she occasionally shares these with me; sometimes I inadvertently see) it looks pretty blatant.

If she's not having sex with them, it will not pay you to make an issue of that.

These guys really don't have her best interests in mind.

That's not your call to make. You've a clear conflict of interest. Everybody has a right to choose their own friends, and your beloved is no different.

I'm worried that when we fall out, she's gonna run to one of her male friends for support and he's going to use the situation against us, since he doesn't give two shits about her relationship or about me.

If you're truly more worried about that than you are about being dumped again, then (a) that's healthy and (b) you want to work on taking down your own insecurity to the point where you become her best support option as soon as possible after any disagreement.

Additionally, although I'm not sure if it's reasonable for me to feel this way,

Reasonable or not, you do feel this way. The trick is to learn to think about things differently, and keep doing so (which is where reason can help) until you feel better about how things seem to you.

it's pretty upsetting to me that she keeps these guys around, as I feel both disrespected and also that she's putting our relationship in unnecessarily risky territory.

You won't make the territory any less risky by cracking the sads every time she wants to enjoy the company of people she's known for longer than she's known you; quite the opposite in fact. Don't become a self-fulfilling whatsit.

I also feel that, really, my attention should be enough for her.

That, friend, is an egregious piece of Twilight-grade high-school-romantic bullshit you'd do well to rid yourself of.

Before you think I'm the archetypal jealous boyfriend for saying that,

Whoops - too late :-)

I don't mind her being flirted with / hit on; I just don't think it's acceptable for her to be going out specifically to garner such attention, especially when it becomes so serious so quickly,

If she's not having sex with them, it will not pay you to make an issue of that.

to say nothing of the drama -- we've had a fair bit already with a couple of guys becoming pretty upset that she chose me over them, despite the offer never being on the table.

That upset is their problem. You don't need to come within miles of owning that.

Bottom line is, I love her, but

Get rid of the "but". Love her as she is, or leave her to find somebody else who can.

it's an issue. I don't really know how to bring it up.

Then don't. Recognize that it's your issue, not hers, and reframe your thoughts about it until they cease to trouble you.

Just trust her to do the right thing.

If she doesn't, you will be hurt. You need to accept that possibility and trust her anyway. If you're having trouble doing that, it's a sign that you jumped into this thing before you were really ready; that needn't be fatal but it will require internal discipline on your part to make sure you don't start seeing your beloved as the reason why you have some insecurity.

She's told me multiple times that I have absolutely nothing to worry about and I don't want to come across as jealous / psycho and end up having her become MORE secretive about her behaviour to avoid conflict, but I'm not sure how long I can put up with it.

This is how she is. If you can't find a way to be OK with that, then you should walk away. But if you do decide to walk away, be very clear that you're doing so because you are not ready to accept her as she is, not because she did this and did that and did the other.

People change, but you can't make them change. It sounds to me like she's in the process of making changes for the better.

For those of you who say "just talk about it", it's one of those things that's sort of hard to drop into every day conversation -- and I want to do this as diplomatically as possible, which is why I need a bit of advice as to what I should do and what I should say to make things as drama-less as possible.

Say nothing more, and do work on your own ability to trust the woman you love to do what she says she's doing.

So, MeFi, What do I do?

Remind yourself every time you start feeling jealous pangs that the jealousy is your issue and that getting rid of it is something you can and should do without requiring more of your beloved than she will freely offer.

What do I say?

I love you.
posted by flabdablet at 6:11 AM on November 28, 2011 [12 favorites]


She's ashamed of the stuff she did and doesn't like talking about it.

Then don't try to make it into a conversation. She will end up associating you in her mind with "that person who keeps reminding me of and needling me about things I want to leave behind me."

You need to separate all the other stuff about your relationship from your apparent need to dredge through her past.
posted by deanc at 6:20 AM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Unfortunately, she's kind of a mess. She's convinced her only value as a human being is in her sexual attractiveness. You will not win this-her need for constant sexual validation to calm her insecurities will override anything that one single person (you) can provide her.

A mature, secure woman would deal with this stuff by giving these guys one warning, and then cutting off all contact. She doesn't do that because she wants attention. She's not gonna/can't change her insecurities just because you want her to.

So you have to decide if you are happy with this relationship the way it is, because odds are very, very good it won't change. I, too, would bet a paycheck on this. Will you be happy if 5 years from now, things are still the same, or will you look back and think, "what the hell was I thinking?"
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:41 AM on November 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


So. Many. Red. Flags.

Look, if you are telling her that certain behaviors are a problem (telling exes to stop flirting, unwillingness to open up about past, contacting certain exes) and she is not willing and eager to AT LEAST BEGIN to compromise about them, then she is not committed to your relationship.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:48 AM on November 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


From what I can tell, for this relationship to work she will have to be willing to say the following to her friends when they make sexually charged comments:
"Hah, I'm flattered, but as you know I have a serious boyfriend and we're exclusive. I like spending time with you as a friend but I have to tell you that going forward I'd rather you don't say those things to me. Got it?", which escalates to:
"Hey, those comments aren't ok anymore. I asked you not to say things like that to me and I was serious. Please stop.", which escalates to:
"Dude, knock it the fuck off. If you do that again I can't be your friend, period. Final warning."
Followed by cutting off contact. (And fewer, less friendly warnings are perfectly fine, too--better, even--if she'd rather play it that way. Respectful friends shouldn't need more than one "that has to stop.")

In my opinion, staying friends with ex-FWBs isn't a problem and knowing her past isn't important if she is willing to set these boundaries. I'm sure the reasons she hasn't done that are complex and it'll be a skill she'll have to work on, but for the kind of relationship that you need--exclusive, trusting, adult, drama-free--she has to do it, or you have to walk.

I think you're handling the jealousy dimension of this very well; I don't hear any jealousy in your description, actually, just completely justified uneasiness over her unwillingness to show a basic level of respect to you and your relationship.

It's clear these boundaries are something that you need in a relationship and it's your responsibility to communicate that to her. I don't have any advice on how to do that except this: When you talk to her, make it just about the boundaries, not about the other stuff. Don't frame it as something she's doing wrong, and avoid any suggestion that she's a bad person or that her past actions have hurt you, just say that it's something you need in this relationship, from here on out. Need. Own that. Be clear. Don't minimize that or apologize for it.

Honestly, I'm not optimistic the relationship will make it very long. I think you're exactly right that she'll fall back on this reservoir of affirmation and attention as soon as you guys hit a rough patch. Right now she doesn't know how to have the kind of relationship that you need and I don't think she'll learn until her behaviors cost her someone she cares about, and that someone will be you. I sincerely hope I'm wrong. Good luck.
posted by kprincehouse at 7:13 AM on November 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


You seem to be very worried about the past. Well the past is dead and gone which will also be the status of your relationship if you keep trying to force your girlfriend to bring up subjects that she is clearly uncomfortable with. You believe that her friends are all trying to hit on her . That's a really bad sign - about you my friend. You either trust her to be faithful - or you end the relationship. Choose one. Stop pussyfooting around with your relationship.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 7:23 AM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


When I brought up that I'd like to know in advance if a close friend was a former FWB (especially if we were going to meet him together, since it puts me in an awkward spot if I don't know, imo), she got defensive and told me she just didn't understand why I had to know, which seems to be her attitude to her past in general.

But it doesn't really put you in an awkward spot. No one can tell that you don't know who her previous sex partners are. It's not like neglecting to tell someone that a party is a costume party, where the information would've been helpful to know in advance. You just want to know because you want to know. There's nothing you can actually DO with the information.

I mean, what if she had a change of heart and told you who she had had sex with in the past. Would it make a difference? Is a guy who keeps hitting on your girlfriend but has never had sex with her really somehow better than a guy who keeps hitting on your girlfriend but he totally used to have sex with her?
posted by 23skidoo at 7:34 AM on November 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


You sound like a very sensitive person, which means you have a good chance of being able to help her in a major way. But you also have a very good chance of being badly hurt. If and when the relationship falls apart, your being badly shaken up, to the point of danger, is a real possibility. In regard to pressing her about the past, I think you should, with gentle pressure, continually, because otherwise the pattern will be set by her resistance and you will be left in the dark about major parts of her life, until the day they potentially come into the open again in your relationship in an explosive way. If she's going to leave you because of your insistence, then you should think of it as better happening now, early in the relationship, than later, when much more will be at stake.
posted by Paquda at 7:54 AM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


The past is the past, and really nothing can change it.

With that in mind, this girlfriend of yours is straight up trouble. She feeds on this type of attention while saying "i dont want to hurt anyone"

Fuck that noise! If she was truly serious with you, she would cut that shit out. In fact she should change her number if she truly cant tell these guys off. But I'd bet a dollar to a donut that she wouldnt do such a thing and you will continue to be bothered. Two things will either happen, she will cheat or you will get sick of this shit. Best move on now, its only been 6 months.
posted by handbanana at 8:29 AM on November 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


You sound like someone who lost their spouse in a motorcycle accident; she sounds like racing motorcycles is her hobby.

Neither of you guys sound like you are bad people; but you guys are, perhaps, terribly wrong for each other.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 8:31 AM on November 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


Want to echo that this is an issue of boundaries, not her past. If she's very, uh, storied in her history you guys are going to encounter past hook-ups and there will be friends that she can't just drop because you two started dating.

However, it is totally OK for you to be uneasy about her not laying down the law. It's not OK for these guys to keep going after her when they know she's with someone else. If she isn't making it 100% clear she's not interested, it's not OK for her to do that either. Please take into account what DarlingBri said about women and learning to set boundaries though. We really aren't taught to say "No" forcefully, and often guys, especially the kind of uncouth guys who are hitting on your girlfriend, take any kind of "No" as "WTF you horrible ice-cold bitch how dare you!". The younger the woman is (like, say, early-mid-twenties) the less likely it is she'll have learned how to do this properly. It isn't always about daddy issue and a need for attention.

I'm actually going through the same thing with my current boyfriend, though I definitely don't invite the kind of attention your girlfriend seems to. I also have some guys showing inappropriate attention and it makes my boyfriend uncomfortable, but I also tend to be a people-pleaser and these guys aren't random dudes on the street I can totally alienate. He was even cheated on by his previous girlfriend too, just like you.

kprincehouse's strategy works well at being firm without being a jerk, though often I don't even need to go there. Delaying responses to texts and saying "Busy with [Boyfriend]" in response to multiple texts is often enough to send the message that their texts are not interesting and their priority way below the boyfriend. Though granted, I haven't encountered any guys as aggressive as the ones after your girlfriend so it's possible the latter two relatively passive methods wouldn't give the hint.

Anyway, I suggest talking about this with her in terms of "This really makes me uncomfortable. I believe you won't cheat on me, but I feel these guys are being disrespectful to our relationship. I feel there are ways to draw stronger boundaries to deter their advances without being rude to them." And then outline some of the stuff kprincehouse says.


The compromise is, however, that it is not really fair for you to demand she tell you all of her previous sex partners and which partners she's hooked up with. Once she starts drawing boundaries, you have to trust that she can draw them. It is not really fair for you to demand she dredge up parts of her past she finds painful in order to satisfy your curiosity. And that's really what your interest in which friends of hers are FWB is--I mean, how will it change anything if you know? Are you going to bring a club to encounters with them and go cave-man style? That part is irrelevant. What she does now with the attention is the important bit.
posted by schroedinger at 8:35 AM on November 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also, I want to emphasize for other commenters that it really doesn't have to be about a need for attention and daddy issues. Sometimes it really is as simple as trying to figure out how to draw boundaries without being labelled a giant bitch. You see, being labelled a giant bitch by a guy who is even vague acquaintances with you isn't just about being liked. It's an issue of safety. No woman wants the type of guy aggressive enough to make sexual advances when they know she's with someone to mix their sexual attraction towards her with anger.
posted by schroedinger at 8:41 AM on November 28, 2011 [12 favorites]


Her past is none of your business and you come off as if you look down on her when you talk about it. Sure you cloak it in "caring," but really? You sound like a sanctimonious jerk.

You're not better than her. She doesn't need fixing by you. Got it?

I think you should stay well far away from all this drama! The easiest way to do that is to set your own boundary....

"Honey, let's turn our phones off when we are hanging out. Let's not text other people when we are together."

I'm kinda wondering why you need to date someone you think is broken and needs fixing? Don't go there anymore in your mind or heart. You are making something that could be a non-issue and just fade away all on its own into a major major issue just by focusing on it.

The correct answer is that she should keep electronic communications with others to a minimum when you are hanging out, just like most adults do when socializing. Texting while you are socializing or on a date or in bed with your SO is just plain rude.

I don't think she lied about the cop thing, FWIW. You had no right to ask her to stop talking to him. You got what you paid for with that.
posted by jbenben at 8:42 AM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dmfa. And get some therapy. Life is too short to be a fixer for damaged people. Just move on and figure out how you got into this mess in the first place.
posted by empath at 8:43 AM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


If she's not having sex with them, it will not pay you to make an issue of that.

If the OP's comfort zone was "anything she does up until having sex with another guy is fine", this would work, but it sounds like it's actually more in the "anything she does up until encouraging other guys to proposition her for sex is fine" range, so we should be encouraging him to ask for that. (And, in accordance with ask.me tradition, to walk if he doesn't get it.)
posted by milk white peacock at 9:09 AM on November 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


There are two things going on here.

1. You're being a controlling and insecure person due to your own past. Others (flabdablet, jbenben, xingcat) have said what needs saying about this. It's not bad to be insecure. It's bad to turn yourself into a monster because of your insecurities. Don't be that guy. Learn to say what you're insecure about and accept the ways she may or may not adapt. Don't try to control her.

2. She is changing, or has changed, some of who she is or was. You think you know who she was (you probably don't, and you don't get to know more than she wants to share, so knock that off). You do not know what she wants to become, or if she's done changing. You use phrases like "on the right track " as though you and she agree on what that means. It's not at all clear you do. She may be who she wants to be now: someone with a lot of sexy exes who always want to get with her. She may be part way towards changing into something quite different, which you might be able to help with.

The most you can do is explain your insecurities, and make spaces in places you think she might want to go. You can't push her through. If you're unsatisfied by her after doing these things, you will have to leave. She won't become who you want just for your sake, and there's no sense trying to force it.

Concerning the latter ('making spaces where she might want to go'), something the young rope-rider said caught my eye:

--Emphasize her non-sexual qualities and skills
--Encourage her to hang out with long-time friends who aren't creepsters

You too may be surprised how seldom she hears the former, and how much it means to her to have psychosocial breathing room that is not all about sex. Some people really haven't come to accept that they have non-sexual value to anyone. Try it and see if that's who she wants to be. People are complex.
posted by ead at 9:18 AM on November 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think you are overstepping boundries in a healthy relationship by demanding she cut off contact with her friends and tell you her sexual history (you come off as incredibly judgemental to me; it would be devastating to hear that judgement from a boyfriend trying to shame me about my history). She is responsible for setting boundaries that she is comfortable with.

I wonder too if the fact that her job in a dive bar requires her to be flirty and appear to be sexually available in order to increase her tips also affects how you percieve her. Perhaps (if she is also interested) you can encourage her to upgrade her education/pursue opportunities that do not rely on her appearance and sexual availablity for money.

Your insecurities are damaging your relationship and are the only thing you have control over.
posted by saucysault at 9:22 AM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I need to be in a relationship with someone who is not secretive about her past, and I need to be in a relationship with someone who knows how to set appropriate boundaries between herself and past friends with benefits/lovers/would-be lovers when she's in a relationship. Right now, you can't fulfill those needs for me, and while I think you're a terrific person in many, many ways, I think it best that I end our relationship. I won't be texting you for sex, or for anything else, because I respect you -- and I sincerely hope you learn to respect yourself and stop putting up with that kind of behavior from people who clearly do not have your best interests at heart. Goodbye."

That's my two cents, at least.
posted by davejay at 9:24 AM on November 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


Please stop pushing to know so much of her past so early in the relationship. You've mentioned she's been through some trauma. Accept that, and accept that because of it, she may not be ready to share, or that she's actively trying to forget certain things. Don't pick her scabs for her, leave that to psych-professional-types. It's not your job to address/fix these things. Pushing her to talk about things she's not ready to talk about will only push her further away. Besides, what good will knowing these thing do you, really?

She may be in place where she thinks she's ready to change her behaviors and develop healthier relationships, but she really doesn't know how, or even where to start. As mentioned above, healthy boundaries take many women (maybe especially those with traumatic pasts) a very long time to learn how to develop.

If you don't feel you can handle being in a relationship with her while she figures these things out for herself (and without your pressuring her or trying to fix her), then do both of you a favor and get out now, early, before a cycle of distrust and resentment has time to build.

At least one of my exes could probably have posted your question. MeMail me if you'd like to talk more.
posted by MuChao at 9:47 AM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hope you realize, to a third party, the image of you in bed while your girlfriend is receiving sexually explicit texts from someone else makes you out to be the chump in a bad romantic comedy, the likable main character who's being totally dominated and used until he notices the nerdy introvert from the office who is interested in him for who he is and you root for him to wake up and go after the thing that will make him truly happy.

I mean there's a lot of good advice in this thread about how to try and salvage things, but I think you should take these steps with the knowledge that this situation to most reasonable people seems way beyond salvage and unless there's a real willingness from one of you to change your expectations or behavior I wouldn't plan on putting much more time into this. Make this clear when you open the conversation.

I wouldn't even go so far as saying she's at fault for anything, I don't know her and lots of people have different ideas of sexual boundaries than I do, but even if you both say you have enough common goals and expectations of the relationship, it's clear that you don't.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:49 AM on November 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


if the gender roles were reversed i would bet the vast majority of the advice would be DTMFA. So, that's my advice.
posted by cupcake1337 at 9:58 AM on November 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


I can only imagine that this probably makes her feel pretty crappy, too. If not, there may be an element where being wanted like this feeds her ego and a pile of self-esteem issues

Both of these things can be (and probably are) true.
posted by granted at 9:59 AM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree that getting her to talk about her past FWB's and hook-ups makes little sense. You're not a therapist; sifting through her past really serves no purpose.

That being said, I think this question illuminates a philosophical divide between commenters and you will have to decide where you fall along the divide.

(1) Those who think the burden is on you: The point of view that it is not your place to set expectations about who she hangs out with, that even if these guys are explicitly propositioning her for sex that it's up you you to trust her to turn down these proposals and if you don't trust her, you should just break it off. But it is not your place to tell her who she should hang out with. This school of thought does not necessarily think it's inappropriate for her to continue hanging out with these guys who proposition her while she's in a relationship with you, as long as she sets boundaries. If you are insisting that she stop hanging out with them, according to this school of thought, you are being uptight and controlling.

(2) Those who think the burden is on her: The point of view that it is completely inappropriate for her to allow herself to be surrounded by these orbiting males who are constantly propositioning her for sex while she's in a relationship with you, that it is reasonable for you to have a problem with this, that for her to permit this is to show massive disrespect to you. This school of thought generally believes that, as long as she is in a monogamous relationship with you, she owes you the courtesy of not hanging out with these guys who proposition her constantly. This school of thought would generally advocate her breaking things off with these guys, and be very pessimistic about the success of the relationship unless she stops hanging out with them.

I fall into the second school. I think it's a reasonable expectation, when we're dating a person, that their friends are respectful both to that person and to us. For these guys to proposition her is massively disrespectful to her and to you. It suggests a complete disregard for the boundaries that are known to them. These friends are not nice people. And the first school of thought, which sees he burden as falling on you, would also impose a burden of anxiety on you because, really, who would be comfortable with their girlfriend being constantly propositioned by her so-called friends? What if she gives in, in a moment of weakness? It is not reasonable for you to be expected to be comfortable with guys who are constantly competing with you for sex from your girlfriend.

Furthermore, it's problematic that you are being counseled not to push her to break things off with these disrespectful friends because she's a troubled person and they are her support network. By making that allowance, you're going down a path where you're acting more like a therapist and less like a boyfriend. We should not have to put our legitimate expectations of respect by our girl/boyfriend on hold just because the person is troubled.
posted by jayder at 10:23 AM on November 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


Your girlfriend sounds like an attractive, immature, damaged young woman who needs sexual attention from men for personal validation. And, whatever her past is, though like others I don't think she needs to confide it all to you, she's obviously been messed up by it.

For those saying you are a jealous, insecure jerk--there is a difference between not wanting your SO to have any male friends and saying, "Hey, how about you avoid the guy who keeps asking you outright for sex?"

Frankly, like others I think this relationship is going down in flames:

She allows policeman to proposition her, agrees with you that she should stay away from him, then went behind your back and saw him anyway. If the whole interaction was innocent, why keep that secret from you? Why not tell you upfront she was worried and wanted to ask him about something?

She waited 20 minutes before telling the guy who "wanted her in his bed" to stop because you were trying to sleep. Not at all okay. Her immediate response to the first text should have been, "WTF, Dude, this is NOT cool! You know I'm taken. Cut out the sex stuff NOW if you value our friendship".

That close friend of hers that "frequently shares sexual links with her" and tells her how he misses her? Guys don't keep doing that with a girl who has been in a relationship for six months unless she's encouraging the behavior.

And, as you say yourself, "this isn't just a few guys, it's a pretty huge chunk of her friend circle". She may be cheating on you already--and if she isn't now she will to keep these guys around, because she obviously needs them to feed her ego, and she has already shown a clear disregard for your feelings.

something about the situation makes me really uneasy and I feel like there's this secrecy that's becoming the elephant in the room.

Trust that feeling. My gut feeling is that one of the reasons she chose you over those other guys (which apparently led to hard feelings, another sign that she is encouraging their attention) is that she feels like you will put up with this stuff from her. She may be damaged from her past, but that's not an excuse for continuing the manipulative behavior she's engaging in. The best thing for you to do right now is walk away.

I you stay, well...

My hope is that if she could actually be open and honest in a safe setting and deal with her issues, she might be able to get past this need for sexual attention from all these men. I know "therapy" is a stock answer here, but if she keeps this stuff up she is seriously asking for trouble not just for your relationship, but her own personal safety. The attention of all these predatory men going unchecked while they vie for her with you and each other could get really ugly.

My prediction, though, is that you will end up involved in a huge, ugly confrontation with at least one of her male "friends" where you'll discover she's cheated on you more than once. And that you will still want to forgive her, because you love her.
posted by misha at 10:29 AM on November 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


My gf's past is the past and my past is the past and neither of us need to know all the sordid details of our sexual histories, but you are describing something very different -- the past isn't staying in the past, I can see why that gets to you.

This is something that probably is pretty deep-seated with her. It's not something that can be fixed by simply saying "I would prefer it if you didn't (behaviour you dislike)". If it were simply a matter of that, no one would ever cheat on anyone else. But personalities are things that do not change on dime, and I think you should prepare yourself for the reality that this is who she is. She likes attention; she has issues regarding boundaries; she has issues about sexual intimacy.

You can either be with her lovingly knowing and accepting that that is who she is, or you can say, "hey, I love you, but this is just too hard for me to deal with" and move on and find someone who doesn't have the same issues with boundary settings in a monogamous relationship.

Frankly, I think you should do the latter -- you certainly appear to be going down a road of heartache with someone who (no matter how much she says she loves and vice versa) can't treat you in the way you want to be treated. Ergo, the only reasonable solution is to move on.
posted by modernnomad at 10:37 AM on November 28, 2011


There's a lot of noise in this question, what with her difficult past and all. It doesn't matter. She is treating you like dirt. Maybe it's because she is insecure and is afraid of being alone and sex is the only way she knows how to be close to people. Whatever. She's treating you like dirt. You can't fix her. All you can do is state in clear terms that this is not okay with you, that things are like X right now and for you to stick around they need to be like Y. And if they aren't like Y soon, you leave. Life is too short and her issues are not yours, nor does it do any good for either of you or for the world at large for you both to be dragged down to the level of her problems.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 10:46 AM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yep, the simple fact that you need to face is that her life is full of lies - maybe she's lying to you about what she does with who, maybe she's lying to some or all of these guys about what she's up for... Doesn't really matter. The result is, for whatever reason, she thinks this is okay. It's not okay. Moreover, nothing you've told the internets indicates that she has any problem with her behavior.

And if she won't talk about her past? How do you know so much about it? Is that her tease with you? Or is this based on gossip from others? It's really not your business and you should put it out of your mind.

The dishonesty, though, that is something you have to deal with and I am sorry but it does seem your best option is to end the romance. If nothing else, you'll teach her that decent men have boundaries.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 11:21 AM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


teach her that decent men have boundaries.

This! If you love her, teach her that decent men have boundaries. Meaning, leave, and be explicit why. In the long term, this will help her learn, and will do more to help her be a more functional person that what you're doing now. Far more.
posted by davejay at 11:38 AM on November 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


I totally understand why this behavior of hers hurts you and makes you concerned for your girlfriend, but it is still disrespectful to try to change someone. There are certain boundaries that I think would be fine to set - asking her to focus on you instead of texting men back while you're in bed together is very clear and specific, and focuses on her presence in your interactions rather than monitoring her interactions with others. Getting up and leaving when she flirts in your presence would be healthy. Sitting there and watching and seething and critiquing what she did afterwards would not. Insisting that she deflect all attention to your satisfaction is going to be difficult even if she manages to make some progress in deflecting attention; as long as the action is hers and the prerogative of judgment is yours, there is going to be a disconnect where dissatisfaction can grow. She may modify her behavior, but she can't do things exactly the way you would like in the context of each moment - because she doesn't live in your head.

Additionally, asking that she drop friends who act like this is ultimately the same as insisting a partner drop friends for any other reason - it is unfair to cut someone off from their support system, however negative you may judge them to be. It will create a poor dynamic even if you don't mean to be that abusive guy who hates his girlfriend's social life. The best you can do here is encourage other friendships to grow and hopefully displace the former ones.

I agree with others that there is a high risk of cheating here, even if she is otherwise very genuine in her interactions with you. Women who try to please men by not setting verbal boundaries are more likely to try to please men by not setting physical boundaries. I really don't think you should continue this relationship if that prospect would be devastating.
posted by decathexis at 12:54 PM on November 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


If you like her, stick with her. If you don't, leave.

If you stick with her long enough, she'll eventually drive you crazy and you'll be forced to leave.

In the meantime, obviously you like something about her. Eventually this something will dry up and you won't like her anymore. You won't be able to put up with her ways for too too long.

A this moment, 6 months in, you're really not in a crisis. Just don't buy any property with her, don't marry her, don't open up a business, don't sign a lease and make sure to use a condom. Hey, if things go right, maybe she'll change. Don't waste your time trying to figure her out. All your suspicions are most likely spot on.

Oh, and don't expect her to pick you up at the airport. Parking there will cost about as much as a cab, but you'll keep your dignity. Take public transportation if you can.
posted by shushufindi at 4:30 PM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


8 years ago I was a very attractive 22 year old. I wasn't abandoned, I wasn't abused, I didn't even lose my virginity until college. But, there's still a lot about your girlfriend's issues that sound familiar.

Here's the thing about being attractive and young and insecure as a woman: you get hit on all. the. fucking. time. Like, it's not unusual to be propositioned multiple times...on a trip to the grocery store. And then, you get told by society that you should be grateful for this constant harassment - that it's a validation of your worthwhileness as a person, but that very soon you will be old and undesirable and it will all go away.

As a result, even though I grew up in a very supportive home, and had all sorts of positive reinforcement for achievements that had nothing to do with sex, I still couldn't help at least partially absorbing the message that sex was pretty much what I was good for, and the only reason anyone would like me.

Plus, it didn't help that the following people hit on me: teachers, teaching assistants, neighbors, men in my church, coworkers, bosses, friends, classmates, and literally dozens and dozens of men whom I had to interact with for professional reasons. There's nothing to remind you that sex is what you're good for like being hit on by someone who's supposed to be the source of nonsexual interaction and validation. (And, I imagine that working in a bar means your girlfriend especially gets hit on a whole lot.)

It's a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think that all you're good for is sex, you'll introduce sexual tension into all of your friendships, because it seems the only way to make them survive. So at 22, nearly all my friendships involved some level of sexual tension. But even though these relationships frequently went right up to the border of completely inappropriate and lingered there for a bit, they were also still genuine friendships, and people I genuinely depended on for company and emotional support.

I was really lucky - I met a man who had very little natural jealousy, whose attitude toward these friendships was basically "your business, keep me out of it". (We're still together, BTW.) What eventually happened was that the worthless creeps circling me gave up when they realized I wasn't actually going to put out for them, and the real friends got their own relationships and we all basically grew up and learned to behave. And, I got my first promotion at work, and started making a bit of money, and slowly realized that yes, there were many reasons people liked and valued me other than sex.

So I think that there's hope for you and your girlfriend, because if she's really on a good track, this issue will clear up by itself given time. But also, frustratingly, it's really not something you can help her with. Anything you say about why she's good for more than sex isn't going to be credible to her - of course you'd say that because you're sleeping with her. Similarly, any attempts you make to police her boundaries for her will only reinforce the idea that these men only care about getting sex from her (so she needs to continue to be sexy to keep their attention) and she's only valuable to you if you have her exclusive sexual attention.

This doesn't mean you can't focus on the non-sexual aspects of the bad behavior. Late-night texting is annoying whether or not it's sexual. Also, you can definitely support and encourage her as she accomplishes things that don't depend on being sexy. Double-check you aren't doing things to make this dynamic worse. Do you only talk about how hot she is? Do you ever "joke" about how she got her extra tips/good grades/praise because she's hot? Do you tell her she doesn't have to worry about getting a job/saving for the future/accomplishing things because she's hot? That sort of stuff is insidious, undermining, and ridiculously common.

Tl;dr This is her problem, not yours. Don't make it your problem and your relationship just might be fine.
posted by psycheslamp at 7:14 PM on November 28, 2011 [11 favorites]


Hi. I'm your next ex-girlfriend. By which I mean I dated (a guy just like) you after (a girl llike) this chick totally fucking destroys you and your ability to maintain healthy boundaries later. Two things:

1. Stop trying to fix her. You can't. All you can do is be as honest as possible about what you needand why, and willing to walk away when she won't or can't give it, not becaause she's terrible or broken, but because your needs don't align
2. When you're done, mean it. If you do show yourself to be the kind of guy to want to rescue her in spite of her issues, you are a good guy, one of the better ones shes dealt with. She will not want to let this support go completely. Be prepared for years of her suddenly needing your help or attention just when you're getting serious with someone else. Not saying throw her to the wolves; just remember that if she is used to trading affection for support, she may well try to use that on you later. Be ready.
I know this sounds pessimistic, but my ex's version of this girl did not get better, or has not yet, despite the best efforts of a few guys like you.. 7 years on, she's still playing this game with lots of guys. One main and vaguely inappropriate attachment to a half dozen others. She'll set the boundaries when she's ready, but until then, sounds like this won't be the relationship you want.
posted by OompaLoompa at 11:06 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


you're totally right about the jealousy, and i thought your comment above was superlative - but i don't think 1 in 1000 people are secure enough to walk that walk. i certainly the hell wouldn't be.
posted by facetious at 7:36 PM on November 29, 2011


[folks, dial it back from teh dramaz and please answer this question, not the question this would be if it were about you or a loved one, thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:01 PM on November 29, 2011


OP, I highly recommend that you read this: Pity the Pretty

I suggest this because it will give you an insight into what psycheslamp described (except from a man's point of view). Please understand that I am not trying to suggest that you accept the curve ball that she is throwing you, only that the people here who are saying "she is being such a disrespectful bitch and needs to tell all of these guys to get lost!" really don't understand what it is like to be a smoking hot woman. It is not all pink puppies and giggles.

Really, if you are going to date a hot woman, you need to understand that there is a TON of baggage that is heaped upon attractive people just for daring to be born beautiful. People tend to think that beautiful people are so very lucky and must never suffer. They couldn't be more wrong.

That being said, you are not responsible for fixing her or dealing with this situation. If you want to walk away from this, I don't think that anyone would blame you. But at the very least, try to see it from her side before you walk out the door claiming that she is a disrespectful cad.
posted by Shouraku at 8:30 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


If the thought of your girlfriend flirting with other men and having them proposition her in a sexual way after which she turns them down in a "nice" way so as not to offend them is such a big problem for you, perhaps you should avoid dating attractive women who work in bars. Really, why in the world do you suppose a dive bar wants to hire an attractive woman to work there anyhow? Flirting and turning people down in a "nice" way is practically a job requirement.

Expecting her to quit speaking to a police officer around her place of work is absolutely ridiculous, even more so that she works in a dangerous area -- and what would you expect her to do if the police have occasion to come into the dive bar, refuse to speak to the police!?

Looking at psycheslamp's comment, all of what she describes is going to be even more true for someone whose work environment puts them in a situation where they make more in tips for using that sexual tension -- except that making more money in that situation is not likely to lead one to the conclusion that people value you for non-sexual reasons.

I want to be clear that I feel working in a bar is a perfectly fine choice for employment, and makes a great deal of sense for economic and scheduling reasons for many people. But that you are so bothered by her planning to get attention, by they way some men demand sex or get upset that she is not taking them up on it (Not even something she is doing! And you are upset at her!), and by her being "nice" about turning them down (sometimes the wisest course)... these traits of yours may make you an unsuitable dating partner for someone with that job.

Even so, if you are going to get upset at your partner about men propositioning them for sex, there really isn't any remotely ethical way around that other than to not date anyone.
posted by yohko at 9:05 AM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


The only thing that matters to your long-term relationship with this woman is: do you love, trust and accept each other equally?

The details - whether it's OK to RP, cyber, or sleep other people, and the disclosure needed for these various activities - is up to you guys. The red warning signs are entirely due to her secretiveness and inconsistent truth-telling.

@Shouraku: Being conventionally pretty is no excuse for dishonesty. I've had the privilege to know a number of absolutely gorgeous people from all along the gender continuum. It's neither a precursor nor a justification for betrayal. The infantilization of conventionally attractive women is particularly annoying.
posted by SakuraK at 1:08 AM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


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