My girlfriend lies about hanging out with her ex
December 21, 2011 3:25 PM   Subscribe

Is it okay for my girlfriend to hang out with her needy ex? Why she would hide their meetings if there's nothing to hide? Am I rational or am I the product of being cheated on several times in the past?

I'm a lesbian and have been with my girlfriend for about a 11 months. We're both in our early 30's and this is not our first relationship. She's extremely loving and kind and we have had few problems or arguments.

My girlfriend has admitted to having trouble saying "no" to people in her life and often gives beyond her means. This is something we've talked about when it is related to us, but it has become difficult to discuss when it relates to her ex girlfriend who she is trying to rebuild a friendship with.

She started seeing me 7 months after her break up with this ex. She and her ex were together for a little over 3 years. They lived together, fought a lot, and had a very unhealthy dynamic. My girlfriend told me that she's finished with dating her ex, but wants to remain friends with her. She says that she gave her ex too much and neglected her own career and needs.

10 months ago when we started dating, little to my knowledge, my girlfriend still had a very emotionally dependent friendship with her ex, who she'd been broken up with for 7 months. As early love goes, I found it easy to "let live and let be". I was happy to take things slow and only knew that she was still friends with her ex.

After two months, my girlfriend and I started seeing each other more than once a week. Her ex realized she was getting more serious about me and as she became less available to her needs. She confronted her. At this point I learned that they'd been talking on the phone every day since their break up. While my girlfriend swore it was all business and catching up and that there was no romance to their friendship, I did find it a little odd to have that much contact, especially since my girlfriend complained that she hated talking on the phone (we mainly communicated on email and text).

After their blow up over email, my girlfriend went in person to talk (read: "process") with her ex, told her that she is not interested in getting back together and that she could only offer friendship. Her ex accused her of "misleading her" by being too available to hang out and not telling her every detail about her relationship with me. I was fine with her not sharing more-- my girlfriend is very PDA with me and introduced me to all of her other friends. I don't think it's the ex's business to know the details of our relationship as long as she knows that we are dating.

Her ex didn't speak to her much for two months after that. Our summer was calm. At the end of this summer she came back into the picture and they talked about rebuilding a friendship. She started meeting up with my girlfriend once a week or so for dinner on a week night.

I was uncomfortable and felt slightly threatened when she mentioned these hang outs and as they became more frequent. I didn't say anything to her right away, did a lot of introspection. After reading a message on this board, I suggested to my girlfriend that the three of us (she, her ex, and I) hang out. I figured part of it is that their friendship was so abstract to me and this would make it "okay", even if it would be a little awkward at first. My girlfriend was on board.

The next day, she called her ex, who right away adamantly refused to hang out in an intimate setting with me. My girlfriend told me that she pleaded, but her ex wouldn't budge because she has "social issues" and thinks it would be awkward. My girlfriend told me that she would hang out with her ex less and make boundaries with her from then on, but clearly stated that she would not stop being friends with her ex.

Since then, I've noticed that my girlfriend does hang out with her ex less (once every two weeks, from what I gather), but often tries to obscure when they do hang out, mainly by omitting information. Sometimes she tells me they hang out, sometimes she'll act as if she went to see a movie alone (and I'll later discover she went with the ex by overhearing her talking to a friend). I've told her that I'm uncomfortable with this, she says she understands and isn't hiding anything.

I've already made it very clear that I'm hurt by her ex's refusal to hang out with me, and she responded that she wished it were different and would continue to hang out with her less. I know that part of this is her being a people pleaser and not wanting to hurt my feelings. But at the same time, she's mentioned her ex as one of her closest friends and hand-made her a stuffed animal for a birthday gift this year (which she happened to mention after the fact). I don't see myself as a jealous person and have not had this issue in past relationships, but I find jealousy tearing me up.

Last night, we met up at a cafe and she was on the phone when I arrived. She got off quickly and was upset. She told me that her "friend" had just hung up on her when she said I arrived. I asked who her friend was and she changed the subject and didn't answer. I asked again, she somehow found a way to divert the conversation. I was very uncomfortable.

Today, at perhaps my worst moment, I did something I've said I'd never do and looked at her phone while she was in the shower. Confirmed--the the person she'd hurried to get off the phone with was indeed her ex.

I know I'm at fault for snooping. Some important background on me is that my last relationship of 8 years ended with my girlfriend cheating on me, and this kind of thing (lying, omitting information) makes it hard for me to trust someone. I also have a lot of doubt about my own instincts, versus "am I being paranoid", so confirming this was somewhat comforting. But now the question is, what do i do? My girlfriend went home for christmas so I have a full week to ruminate and perhaps drive myself crazy over this ;)

I'm afraid that what I thought to be very careful and conscientious efforts to ask for what I need and voice my hurt feelings have caused her to be less honest with me, although I'm not sure this is rational since she seems like she was doing this to "protect" my feelings from the time we started dating.

I feel that my only option is to stay and try not to be bothered, or leave. Aside from this lingering situation with her ex which at times wracks my mind, things with us are great. We communicate well, want the same things for the future, and have a great time together. On the other hand, I don't want to sign on to anything and ignore signs of on-going dishonesty.

I ask why she would hide information if there's nothing to hide? Am I being rational or am I just a little crazy myself, the product of being cheated on several times in the past? Would it be more ethical for her to stop hanging out with her ex and is that something I can even ask for?
posted by dreamsofhorses to Human Relations (42 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
That's a wall of text, that.

Pretty simple: you're clearly not OK with this. In my relationship, I would not be OK with this. You need to tell your girlfriend, "I'm not OK with this."

> the person she'd hurried to get off the phone with was indeed her ex.

Frankly, this smells like what it is: crap. Call her on her bullshit, and if she won't change her behavior, walk. It sucks, but it doesn't suck less to have an inconsiderate partner who is lying to you, and then lies about lying.
posted by ellF at 3:29 PM on December 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


Yeah, this is clearly not OK with you. And you need it to be OK for you to be in this relationship.

FWIW, I think their oddly intimate friendship, even if more on her ex's side, is, well, odd. Maybe the most troubling part is the end where she didn't answer your question about who she was talking with.

Given your feelings, given (at least) her ex's feelings, and given her unwillingness to cut the cord here... this doesn't sound good. I don't know if she's cheating on you, but even if she's not, this just doesn't seem like a healthy dynamic for you to be in.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:40 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I wouldn't put up with this nonsense. It's one thing to be friends with exes where everyone is getting along, it's something very different for the ex to appear to be actively against the success of the new relationship and refusing to meet you in a group setting.

Tell your gf to pick, and make it clear you'll walk if you she agrees to drop contact and you find out she's still talking with the ex. Time to draw a line in the sand.
posted by modernnomad at 3:42 PM on December 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


I've no idea what is going on between your girlfriend and her ex, but it's obviously something if she can't be honest with you about it. If it were nothing, she'd be able to tell you.

She's withholding the truth on occasion, rather than being honest with you, and she's actively misleading you. Listen to Whitney Houston. She'd rather be alone than unhappy. Go find someone who treats you well.
posted by Solomon at 3:43 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Gahhhh, if I had a nickel for every time I have heard of a partner going to meet their ex - but only to tell them that it's really over! Really! You don't meet someone up in person to tell them you don't want to see them anymore. So that's kind of where I stopped reading in detail.

So can you ask for this to stop happening? Yes, in my opinion. My hunch is that the response will be that she hides it better, until you find out the next time, at which time there will be some increasingly more difficult to believe cover story. You're also going to have more and more of those "worst moments" as you become more and more (rightfully) paranoid and feel the need to check up and prove things to yourself. I would run, personally.
posted by ftm at 3:46 PM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm all for people hanging out with their exes, but that's predicated on the notion that everyone involved -- current SO's included -- is genuinely fine with it, no one's still nursing any hurt feelings or agendas, and that everything is totally above board (that is, there's no hiding of conversations, time spent together, etc.). If those conditions aren't being met, then the situation is ipso facto on the path to being some variation of fucked up.
posted by scody at 3:48 PM on December 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


This must be an awkward situation for you - you seem to be caught up in the middle of something involving two people who have't finished playing games with each other.

"At this point I learned that they'd been talking on the phone every day since their break up. While my girlfriend swore it was all business and catching up and that there was no romance to their friendship, I did find it a little odd to have that much contact ..."

I said something similar elsewhere in a different thread, but at the risk of repeating myself, it doesn't take phonecalls every day to sort out "business", not if you've actually split up. How much catching up needs to be done if you've split up? Not this much, I would suggest. The idea of splitting up is that you don't spend hours every day (or even every two weeks) catching up and having clandestine meetings behind New Girl's back. Maybe your partner is enjoying the attention? Maybe the ex feeds some "need to be needed" that your partner has, that you as a more confident and less dependent individual doesn't? You're not wrong - I think it's unfair for you to be put in this situation.

"On the other hand, I don't want to sign on to anything and ignore signs of on-going dishonesty"

And if you are effectively and actually being lied to, either by omission or through deceit, that's a warning you should heed right now.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 3:50 PM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


She would have run out of chances if she was in a relationship with me. It's not needy to ask your new partner not to keep up the drama and effects of their previous relationship.
posted by honey-barbara at 3:50 PM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


You see, part of the problem with her mentioning her ex (and hanging out with, etc) is that in the introductory stages of a relationship you don't know that she is a kind and devoted woman who is not interested in her ex as a long term partner or lover. You don't know her well enough to know that this other woman is not a threat. You have no way of knowing that she is not playing on the side with her friend because you have not known her long enough to establish a pattern of honesty and integrity. Basically, she is throwing you a curve ball and asking you to take her at her word.

In my opinion, if you want to keep a person around you need to begin to build a trust foundation, then you can introduce your ex. I cant see how saying "I have this ex, Sexy McHotpants, who I am going to go to dinner with and you just need to learn to trust me after a few months of dating" is going to help you feel secure in the relationship. Helping you feel secure in the relationship should be one of her main goals. She should be wanting to please you not her ex.
posted by Shouraku at 3:52 PM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have no issue with exes remaining friends, but there have to be some boundaries and clearly, your girlfriend is compromising yours for her ex's. I think her behavior is hurtful and nonsensical, frankly. I didn't have to read the whole thing to know there is a problem... girlfriend, hide, needy ex were pretty huge clues before I even came in here. I don't know what the dynamics of the relationship are, and neither do you, but this would make most people uncomfortable, whether they had experienced a straying partner before or not. You are not irrational. Your girlfriend and her ex on the other hand...

Is it ethical to ask her to stop hanging out with her ex? I'd remove "ethics" from the question and perhaps say "is it reasonable?" and the answer is yes, if it makes you uncomfortable and unhappy and you've already tried to compromise and it still isn't working, it's reasonable and fair for you to ask this. However, the likelihood of that happening is pretty much zero, from what I'm reading.
posted by sm1tten at 3:53 PM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Okay, sister.

1. Your girlfriend's ex is a drama queen and a beast and a hot mess. That's not going to change. Fortunately, not your problem!

2. Your girlfriend is a bit of a drama queen, maybe a bit of a victim, and sounds a wee bit codependent. (Example: When normal people suggest that everyone get together and get to know each other, as you did, and someone refuses, normal people shun the refuser for being a drama queen and a beast. Your girlfriend, however, dives in for more.) That's also not going to change.

3. And then here's you. Come on, you proud, confident lioness! Time to lady up. Your girlfriend wants to have furtive phone chats with her ex? Let her! You think she might be cheating on you? Maybe! Maybe you'll find out. You're fretting, and getting twisted, and letting people run you around. You can make some demands--"You tell me when you're talking to her and don't lie to me, ever"--or you can let it go and say "Do whatever you want with your time and your ears, it's your life!"

It's about your choice in attitude here. Right now, what you're all aiming for here is drama. You must be the one to pull yourself out of the sinkhole. Let your girlfriend do what makes her happy, and either give or do not give her guidelines about how you expect to be treated.

Most of all, you should do what makes you happy. It sounds like you feel betrayed and mad. Well, tell her! Or get mad, let it out, and don't tell her. Either way! But ask for what you want, of what you can change, and let the rest go--and be your best.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 4:00 PM on December 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


Your GF is trying to "manage" you and her ex so that she gets to keep you as her GF while not losing her quasi-romantic relationship with her ex.

Don't allow yourself to be guilted or shamed into believing you're an insecure meanie who won't allow a friendship between exes. These two aren't relating as friends.

You have every right to demand that your GF cut her ex out of her life until she shows that she can be trusted not to lie about their relationship and to implement actual relationship boundaries so that neither of them acts as if they're romantically involved with the other.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 4:01 PM on December 21, 2011 [21 favorites]


I suspect that no amount of pleading will really get your point across to her, because she doesn't really care that much about your feelings, your plans, your desires. She's still primarily in a relationship with someone else who she has been seeing and loving for four or more years.

I also suspect that she will end up officially with her ex again at some point.

Something else will come between the two of you (an argument, or something) and she will fall into the warm arms of her ex rather than actually try and work it out with you. That, or you will draw the line about her dishonest goings-on and insist on more of a regular friendship that involves you as her partner, and she will defer to the person she feels most obligated toward: the ex.

If I were you, I would take the initiative and the latter route.
posted by General Tonic at 4:09 PM on December 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


Cut this crap off ASAP. this one isn't for you.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:20 PM on December 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


My husband was still friends with an ex who had moved out and dumped him to supposedly care for her elderly mother. And then met a rich guy and married him, but still kept my husband on the back burner. She was very saccharine sweet in all of her dealings with him and he even tried to get me to talk to her.

Yuck.

I basically put my foot down and told him tough. Not only was I uncomfortable with this situation, it was a total dealbreaker for me. And I let him know and then I called her up and let her know. I had some background because the family didn't like her but there was some other family element who did like her and that was the only reason they had ever put up with her.

Armed with that knowledge, and my intuition, I told him flat out: no more contact with this woman ever. I don't care if it was a friendship, she had dumped him and her weird-ass saccharine cloying emails were an affront to us a couple. So he did. And no more strife. A short drama to end all the ensuing drama that may have come from him continuing that "friendship." YMMV.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:24 PM on December 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Other people have better concrete advice, but I wanted to say:
Some important background on me is that my last relationship of 8 years ended with ...
It doesn't matter. Don't do this to yourself. Your reaction to this situation is totally rational and reasonable.
posted by caek at 4:26 PM on December 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


A perspective: Individually, most of the factors in this could be shrugged off. Doing so would be showing love to your girlfriend. Together, this is all way too much. Shrugging it off would be hating yourself.

I felt uncomfortable just reading the question. I'm sorry. I think I know the feeling of trying to make sense of it all. It's hard.
posted by krilli at 4:30 PM on December 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yeah I came from a relationship where the guy had repeatedly lied to me and screwed around on me and then eventually was violent with me. So I was prepared to set boundaries (after therapy) and I did. He really didn't care nor see it as an issue but he respected that I saw it as an issue and he broke it off because he cared more about me than maintaining some old relationship.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:41 PM on December 21, 2011


Being friends with your ex isn't a bad thing in and of itself - in fact one could argue it's quite healthy - but this level of attachment is bad for you and bad for your relationship. As people are saying, you need to tell your girlfriend that you aren't a fan of this at all and that you need her to cut back as it makes you feel upset and scared, which it does (and which is normal).
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:06 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


If she's such a people-pleaser, maybe she could try to please you for a change. Instead of her ex who was shocked to discover that she was an ex, from the sounds of things.

Sounds like neither you nor the ex is all that pleased here. Displeasure just seems to happen when your gf's around, eh?
posted by tel3path at 5:24 PM on December 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Am I being rational or am I just a little crazy myself

I think your instincts are fine and I think your needs are reasonable. It's reasonable for you to be anxious when your GF creates a space and explicitly excludes you from it. It's reasonable to question the motives of the ex given that she accused your GF of "misleading her." Judging by your post you have been straightforward about your needs and have tried to resolve the situation in good faith. Your GF is not returning that courtesy; instead she is lying and evading.

My girlfriend has admitted to having trouble saying "no" to people in her life and often gives beyond her means.

People like this may be wonderful and good-hearted, but they also act as carriers for crazy. Her ex has not moved on from their relationship to the point where she's threatened by your mere presence. Because your GF is not inclined to challenge this problem, that crazy is transmitted into your life, where it destabilizes things. Look at how your relationship changed when the ex wasn't around.

My girlfriend went home for christmas so I have a full week to ruminate

I've been there -- I once got some very bad news about my then-SO just a couple of days after she left on a one-month trip away from our home. It ... sucked. So I'm really sorry to hear you're going through this. Take care of yourself.
posted by Sauce Trough at 5:26 PM on December 21, 2011


Some side observations:

I think it's neat that queer communities tend to be full of people sliding from ex to friend, people who were casual hook-ups, people with a lot of emotional ties to each other that aren't really like those found in straight social settings (not that straight folks are never friends with their exes; it's just different.) Basically, I don't think a sorta-needy ex is a bad thing per se, and I believe that sorta-needy exes (of which I have had some) can in fact grow into solid friends. But not if the ex doesn't at least try to be a stand-up person. I would suggest that a boundary might be "if you aren't willing to hang out with me and my current partner sometimes, we can't hang out at all". My needy exes have occasionally been a bit awkward with my currents, but we all wanted to overcome that and made it happen. If the ex in this situation (who probably has conflicted feelings, as folks tend to) is being sincere, she can make the effort to go with her good, positive feelings instead of her selfish ones.

This doesn't say "cheating" to me because your partner is reducing the time she spends with her ex, basically telling you what's going on, etc. It sounds like she's conflict-averse and doesn't want to fight with either you or her ex, so she tries to downplay/conceal her dealings with her ex. I've done this (not that it's great) with absolutely no intent of cheating/breaking up - just a lot of strong feelings of guilt and affection toward the ex which made me unwilling to cut them loose. Also, did your girlfriend grow up in a home where there was very little tolerance for dissent and a lot of heavy-duty punishment or guilt over even minor disobedience? If so, it may be hard for her emotionally to be straightforward about wanting to do something that you don't want her to do.

Now, there is the alternative scenario where you just trust your girlfriend and let go - if your girlfriend is spending enough time with you and you're happy about that time and you trust her, just let her manage her interactions with her ex. If you are capable of doing that, I think it's the best approach because you're letting your girlfriend manage her own emotional life, removing a source of conflict and (on a selfish level) the ex stands out as being clingy and needy while you seem calm, generous and centered. But if you're not in a headspace where you can do that, then of course don't force yourself and make yourself anxious and unhappy.
posted by Frowner at 5:57 PM on December 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


"Am I rational or am I the product of being cheated on several times in the past?"

History repeats itself. Take a break until you know why.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 6:16 PM on December 21, 2011


Lotsa eloquence above (I particularly liked the thought someone related, that a partner didn't think something was a Big Deal, but recognized that she did and did as she wished.), but there are about six colors of bullshit in what your GF is doing.

Realistically, hard to see how this is gonna stop sans telling your GF it needs to or sayanora.
posted by ambient2 at 6:17 PM on December 21, 2011


At this point I learned that they'd been talking on the phone every day since their break up. While my girlfriend swore it was all business and catching up and that there was no romance to their friendship, I did find it a little odd to have that much contact, especially since my girlfriend complained that she hated talking on the phone (we mainly communicated on email and text).

Didn't this make you feel like shit? I have an ex who basically "I don't do [emails], so you can't expect me to respond to yours regularly." But he did respond to someone else's [emails], every. single. time. It felt awful and devaluing. You have every right to feel bad about this relationship.

If you ask her not to see her ex--and you can--she'll probably just sneak around or "technically" follow your agreement while still contacting the ex. Worth a try, but you'll be so busy monitoring her for adhering to your agreement that you won't really be able to enjoy your relationship.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:37 PM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Your ex needs to find other friends to "process" with. Perhaps a professional who helps people process things and has a neutral perspective. It is not fair of the ex to put this on your girlfriend, and it is not fair for your girlfriend to disrespect your reasonable expectations. Maybe with some time and distance, your girlfriend and her ex can be friends. Maybe. But this is just dragging out something that is supposed to be finished and your girlfriend is buying whatever her ex is selling, and she sure as hell doesn't want you around to stop it. I would not put up with this. Nope, not for a minute.
posted by kamikazegopher at 6:47 PM on December 21, 2011


This would be a deal breaker for me.

You don't need this kind of drama. If you're looking for someone for the long term, this ain't it.
posted by jander03 at 7:02 PM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Your girlfriend lies to you. That's all you need to know. She lies. It doesn't matter why. She cannot be trusted.
posted by 26.2 at 7:07 PM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I started reading this thread and was trying to formulate a way to say what I wanted to say without stereotyping, and then I read Frowner's awesome advice. I think the messy, entangled dynamic you're going through with the GF is pretty standard among the heavy proportion of lesbians I know. I think that what would work for me in your circumstance if I still wanted to give it a shot is to tell the GF that you appreciate the effort to ramp down the presence of the ex but that in order to feel comfortable with this, you need full disclosure - you need to know when they meet, and when they communicate. If she doesn't feel that's reasonable, that's OK, but it's what you need to feel safe. If she can deliver, great; if she can't, then that would be an insurmountable problem.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:01 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


thanks everyone. i know my writing is long-winded (i cant seem to get away from it and cut back extensively! ack!), so i appreciate your reading!

i do think the two of you who mention the queer community are familiar with a dynamic in the queer community--exes, friends with benefits, and plenty of open relationships with various boundaries in there. the funny thing is that my girlfriend is adamant about being monogamous. i once mentioned that i don't find monogamy works in practice in most long relationships i've seen around me, and she went into a whirlwind of worry that i want to be in an open relationship. contradiction on her part, but while i think polyamory works for some, i'm not looking for an open relationship. i, myself, am in touch with more than a few exes... it's just that my dynamic with my exes is nowhere near comparable. most of them i'll meet for coffee once every four months or so or perhaps talk on chat chat once a month. and i always tell my girlfriend.

a large part of me wants to make an ultimatum, mainly out of anger and this desire to regain "control" where i have none, but as many of us have learned, we only have control over our own actions. the thing is, i've already confronted her about the omission of information and it didn't seem to get through to her. and yes, she did have a VERY strict single mom who she lived with up until a few years ago, so i could see a lot of her lying and guilt coming from that experience.

anyhow, a whole week to get through, and hoping i don't drive myself nuts. the next time i see her, she'll be driving me 3 hours away on a surprise trip she's taking me on for my birthday. that is super sweet, and i hope to have time to have this conversation during the trip without insanity.
posted by dreamsofhorses at 8:41 PM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


also, i keep going back to this site. not sure if the guy is right that people lie so much, but i'm wondering if any of you have lied about similar things?

http://www.truthaboutdeception.com/lying-and-deception/what-lovers-lie-about.html
posted by dreamsofhorses at 8:45 PM on December 21, 2011


I agree with Frowner this is a common dynamic in the queer community but that doesn't mean it is a healthy dynamic. Your gf isn't making you happy and she is prioritising her ex's needs over your own. And you, in turn, are prioritising your gf's need to remain enmeshed with her ex over your need to be in a relationship with her. The ex will continue to undermine your relationship (you can bet your gf has mentioned having to lie to you, making her gloat over her own power, and loving that she felt she ruined your date when she upset your gf by hanging up when she mentioned you arriving). You know your gf is lying to you about her ex, most likely she is lying to her ex about you; in both cases she is minimising the actual relationships. All the energy she is putting into lying to both of you means she has less energy for the actual relationship. I would actually be tempted to contact the ex, clear the air about how serious your relationship with your gf is and see if the truth will make her back off from continuously attacking your relationship. That would really depend on her personality; as it is, the most important person in your gf's life is an abstraction to you after nearly a year of dating.
posted by saucysault at 8:52 PM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't get a sense of cheating from your description, but what bothers me is that I think your gf owes you some loyalty. If someone refused to hang out with my boyfriend, my response wouldn't be, "ok we'll make other plans then", it would be "well then you can go fuck yourself right into next week. You have social issues? well so do I, I have a social issue with people snubbing my partner" Anyone would be hurt to find out that someone refuses to hang out with them, and then on top of that you also get hurt when your gf puts her ex's desire to avoid awkwardness over your feelings.

She wants a friendship with her ex, and you have a right to want a relationship with a person who won't hurt your feelings. If the ex is making it impossible for both of these things to happen, then something else has to change. It's too bad that your gf can't see that the sort of person who is willing to throw this kind of monkey wrench into her relationship isn't worth forging a friendship with.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:00 PM on December 21, 2011


Walk. Don't give her a chance to lie to you again so you'll have to walk later feeling more stupid. Walk now.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 3:17 AM on December 22, 2011


It seems to me like there are two different issues here-- her relationship with her ex, and her lying/hiding/dishonesty. I just want to take a minute to focus on the second one. It's really hard to feel secure in a relationship and have that relationship deepen and progress if you don't feel like you can trust the other person to be honest with you, and so I think if you're not able to at least start making progress on that you really ought to get out of this relationship.

It seems entirely plausible to me that she's lying to you not because she's cheating or anything like that, but because she's avoidant and doesn't want to deal with your feelings about her relationship with her ex and/or her guilt for not drawing the boundaries she told you she would. And look, I empathize with that in a lot of ways, it's an understandable response, it's scary and unpleasant to deal with conflict and guilt and people being upset because of something you've done. But the bottom line is that it's not healthy for your relationship. If that's what's going on, she's got to be strong and face it if she wants to grow as a person and for your relationship to succeed-- and if you want the relationship to succeed, you need to let her know that she needs to do that and you can't keep putting up with the status quo. It shouldn't be a control thing, an ultimatum in the sense of you demanding "unless you X, I will leave you"... it should be you defining for yourself what your boundaries and feelings and needs in a relationship are, and telling her honestly (if it's how you feel, which I suspect it is) that you can't see a future with someone you can't trust and so if you don't start seeing progress then you need to look out for yourself and move on. It's not about controlling her, it's about giving her information she deserves to know about your feelings about what you need out of this relationship.

You can be empathetic, and listen to her tell you why she hides things and how it makes her feel to tell you about them, and tell her that you understand it's hard for her and you'll understand if she slips up a little, but I think you've also got to be firm that you need to see real effort and progress. If she's got the kind of personality I suspect she does, then unless you actually put her between a rock and a hard place then she's just going to keep avoiding the difficult stuff... and it'll be for her own good (not to mention yours and the relationship) to push and challenge her to grow here.

A warning-- she may ask you or you may be tempted to offer not to get upset about things she tells you if she promises to be honest about everything. I don't think that's a smart move. She needs to learn to be able to deal with your real feelings and emotions (assuming you're expressing them in a self-focused, appropriate way-- i.e. it's probably not helpful to respond with "I can't believe you spent all night talking with her, you promised me you wouldn't, what's wrong with you, can't I trust you at all?"... but you need to be able to tell her "wow, I feel hurt and jealous that you spent all night talking to her after you told me you wouldn't, it makes me feel like she's more important to you than I am" and she needs to be able to handle that.) I mean, you should definitely listen to anything she brings up about how your behavior is contributing to this pattern and honestly consider whether it's something you think you should change about yourself/your relationship-- these things are rarely 100% one person's fault-- but I think anything that involves you masking your honest feelings because someone else can't deal with hearing about them is really problematic.

Maybe learning to be honest with you and facing your feelings rather than running away from them will be too scary for her, and she won't be able to do it. But I really think you can't have a functional relationship in the long-term without her being able to do that, and for both your sakes, you should figure that out sooner rather than later.

(This is leaving aside the question of her relationship with her ex, you've got to figure out your boundaries on that too and express them to her, I just have less advice for you on that. Although I would wager a guess that if she's able to face her fears and become stronger and less avoidant of honesty with you, she'll also become less afraid and avoidant of conflict with/upsetting her ex and be better able to draw boundaries there too.)
posted by EmilyClimbs at 8:54 AM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


EmilyClimbs- I appreciate how you break down having a conversation about this. While I understand the advice to "just walk", I don't think anyone would ever have long term relationship if they walked on matters without trying to talk or work through them. I strongly believe relationships are work. I'm 33 and I've been through an 8 year relationship which was largely healthy, but had its ups and downs. But after 8 years of compromising and working and never once breaking up, when I found out that she was cheating on me AND lying about her degree of involvement with the person, I broke up with her that second. Point being: some things are very clear to me.

You are right, I need to set my boundaries and state that I can't continue if things don't change. We've had a semblance of this conversation and she and I have put my lack of trust in her entirely on me. She said "If you can't trust me, then this relationship isn't going to work". I do indeed have trust/abandonment issues after a few rough blows from recent break ups--I know that I'm hyper aware and ready to catch lying and deception (more than the average person). But, I DONT act out on my jealousy with passive agressive remarks or attempts to control her. I state my feelings--whether it's hurt, disappointment, or lack of faith. We've talked about the importance of truth for me, she said she wouldn't lie, but things became quite unsolvable after her ex outright refused to hang out with me.

Seeing this sort of thing in others' relationships --jealous, controlling partners, unhealthy "rules"--I get that my girlfriend doesn't want to sacrifice this "friendship" just because I say so, but she doesn't see how unhealthy their dynamic is. I think that she lets her ex get away with a lot and has continued this dynamic even after leaving the relationship, which she left because her ex was controlling. It also leaves me in a strange spot because I don't want to replicate that controlling manner, but it does seem that her avoidant, childlike behavior begs for intervention.

Catching her in a lie on Tuesday was a big slap in the face. She followed that by, a few minutes later, describing this elaborate stuffed animal she'd made for her ex's birthday last week (perhaps out of guilt). I thought it was really odd that she hadn't mentioned the project to me, since we speak at least once a day- and perhaps this made it seem more weighty.

So yes, a catalyst for change, but a week to ponder!
posted by dreamsofhorses at 9:54 AM on December 22, 2011


dreamsofhorses: After two months… I learned that they'd been talking on the phone every day since their break up… I did find it a little odd to have that much contact, especially since my girlfriend complained that she hated talking on the phone (we mainly communicated on email and text)

often tries to obscure when they do hang out, mainly by omitting information. Sometimes she tells me they hang out, sometimes she'll act as if she went to see a movie alone (and I'll later discover she went with the ex by overhearing her talking to a friend). I've told her that I'm uncomfortable with this, she says she understands and isn't hiding anything.

Last night, we met up at a cafe and she was on the phone when I arrived. She got off quickly and was upset. She told me that her "friend" had just hung up on her when she said I arrived. I asked who her friend was and she changed the subject and didn't answer. I asked again, she somehow found a way to divert the conversation. I… looked at her phone while she was in the shower. Confirmed--the the person she'd hurried to get off the phone with was indeed her ex.


dreamsofhorses: We've had a semblance of this conversation and she and I have put my lack of trust in her entirely on me. She said "If you can't trust me, then this relationship isn't going to work"."

I wish I could give her the benefit of the doubt as far as "maybe she just hasn't learned yet that trust isn't something you demand a partner give you, it's something you earn by repeatedly demonstrating your trustworthiness", but honestly, I can't. She doesn't sound just shallow and self-centered, she sounds actively manipulative.

dreamsofhorses: I'm afraid that what I thought to be very careful and conscientious efforts to ask for what I need and voice my hurt feelings have caused her to be less honest with me, although I'm not sure this is rational since she seems like she was doing this to "protect" my feelings from the time we started dating.

This makes me want to grasp you gently but firmly by the shoulders and say "Sweetheart, listen to yourself! Do you hear how badly she's got your thinking messed up?!

And she and I have put my lack of trust in her entirely on me has me outraged on your behalf. You did not "cause" her to be "less honest" with you. You did not choose to suspiciously distrust her straight-forward, above-board, on the up-and-up, pure-as-the-driven-snow behavior — from what you've related, she's been somewhere between less-than-fully-honest and outright-dishonest from the start!

This woman does not sound like she's good for you. If you're going to be partnered, you deserve a partner who thinks you're awesome and that she's lucky every day she wakes up with you in her life. And if your partner doesn't think you're awesome and that she's lucky every day she wakes up with you in her life, why do you want her as a partner?
posted by Lexica at 4:43 PM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


This woman does not sound like she's good for you. If you're going to be partnered, you deserve a partner who thinks you're awesome and that she's lucky every day she wakes up with you in her life. And if your partner doesn't think you're awesome and that she's lucky every day she wakes up with you in her life, why do you want her as a partner?

honestly, the things i was asking advice on are much more "underlying"/suspicious. I don't have any evidence that she treats me like "shit". truly, she tells me Im awesome all the time---"i'm so lucky to have you"/"you're awesome"/"you're such a good girlfriend". Am I to doubt this also, since she is friends with her ex? That seems silly. You all have been helpful in validating my feelings. I don't want or mean to undervalue that she cares about me and loves me. I agree that this dynamic is unhealthy and i want to either see it change, or leave... but i don't doubt that she's doing this out of bad habit/intention to protect my feelings (not that it makes me less angry or that i decption lying for these reasons in my own values).
posted by dreamsofhorses at 9:50 PM on December 22, 2011


and, also, i don't think i can blame her (entirely, if not at all) for my "messed up thinking". i was raised to doubt myself and be very polite and thoughtful around others, something so deeply engrained in me that it dictates my behaviour/i can't quite knock it. i know that she is highly tolerant of impoliteness, gumption, and acting out, but i have found that i can't bring myself to act that way around her... even when i'm angry. it's just the way i am.
posted by dreamsofhorses at 9:54 PM on December 22, 2011


No, you can't blame her entirely for your "messed up thinking". She didn't cause it, she's just taking full advantage of it, that's all.
posted by tel3path at 6:14 AM on December 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


not sure if the guy is right that people lie so much, but i'm wondering if any of you have lied about similar things?

Well, I don't think anyone but a psychopath lies about all of those things all the time, and some of them seem pretty major to me, but some of them seem pretty low stakes. I mean "people lie about enjoying things a partner likes to do" seems a mis-construction of lying to me. Similarly, in a dating situation there is no need to reveal debt; that is a pretty intimate thing I don't believe my partner and I disclosed until we joined our finances. Finally, I spent a total of four days a year with my MIL before her death; I thought she was great. If she didn't like me, my husband had zero reason to disclose that, even if I ever asked.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:32 AM on December 24, 2011


Until yesterday my ex and I were very close, texting or chatting most days, going out to dinner every couple of weeks or so. Last week on my day off he came with me to take the puppy out to play at a park (we got her together and I can tell from the way she reacts whenever she sees him that she misses him).

The boyfriend are on unstable ground and headed toward a break-up, but even so... I go out of my way to make sure he knows ahead of time when I have plans with the ex, or who is texting when my phone goes off. BF shows no sign of jealousy and says that he isn't bothered, but I realize that its a situation that could cause jealousy so I watch to make sure he's really okay with it.

I have nothing to hide. Bf knows that i discuss relationship problems with the ex, that the ex comes to me when he needs to talk about his own misadventures in the dating world. I also have very few other friends at the moment due to a series of melodramatic events that followed the break up with the ex (mostly involving other people feeling the need to take sides even though the break up was mutual and agreeable).

Granted, its not always as easy as just trying to be considerate of your partner's feelings...

I do have another situation where my friendship with a girl (and her fiance, who i was almost in a poly relationship with) makes him unreasonably jealous. He goes out of his way to talk shit about them, then flips out if I say anything that might be interpreted as defending them. He gets angry if I mention chatting with her online, and if the guy's name even passes my lips its guaranteed to cause an argument. The girl almost didn't send me a wedding invitation because she knows how shaky things are, especially when it comes to them, and was afraid of causing an explosion.

I've had to cut actual contact with them... I don't even speak to the other guy anymore, I can't see them even in situations with mutual acquaintances present (aka, just not being alone with them isn't enough, I have to stay away entirely, which is going to make getting to their wedding difficult...). She and I only talk over facebook now, and he gets pissy if we comment on each other's statuses. She used to be his best friend, in fact they dated about a decade ago and stayed very close afterward until he threw away their friendship in the process of his pursuit of me.

While I have nothing to hide in either situation, I've had to choose to be more cautious in my interactions with the couple. I'm doing nothing wrong in either situation, but feel it is easier to avoid potential drama by not disclosing every conversation I have with the girl. She and I don't discuss the relationship, and we don't even talk about her fiance... we talk about the wedding, my puppy, her children, work, all the normal things that friends might discuss, but even then... mentioning tidbits of those inane conversations comes with the risk of starting a fight.

I wonder if the OP's gf is unconsciously thinking that hiding how often she and her ex talk is the easier way to handle things... Even if she's doing nothing wrong, she may feel that she's keeping the peace?

PErsonally, I know in my case its the wrong way to go... but I also know that my relationship is not long for this world, so I'm not willing to put forth the effort to find a better way to handle the situation. The op's gf may be more willing to compromise if they sit down and have a calm discussion about how the behavior appears to be questionable, and together agree on where the boundaries. "I'm okay if you go to the movies together as long as I know ahead of time" and such... If she keeps promising to limit her contact, maybe setting a number "I'm okay with you having lunch once a week, texting or talking on the phone now and then..."

I think, in my case, if I were willing to work on finding a better way... I'd be happy if my partner sat down with me and outlined where his comfort zones are, what he is and isn't okay with, and us coming up with a compromise... I'm not willing to give up my best friend, her fiance or my ex... but for the duration of the relationship I am willing to take steps to prevent those friendships from being an issue.

/ramble, gonig to bed now
posted by myShanon at 10:20 PM on January 2, 2012


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