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Can I ask my girl to stop talking to her cheater exes?
February 3, 2012 11:18 AM   Subscribe

Is it unreasonably controlling of me to ask my girlfriend to not initiate online contact with a specific set of ex-boyfriends, namely those that she has cheated on her (ex-) husband or other boyfriends with?

Background info. I just moved back to my hometown after 18 years away. It's a medium sized college town in the Midwest. I am just divorced having been with the same person for all of those 18 years. My girlfriend-- who I love madly-- has been here the whole time, and when we had our "how many partners have you had?" convo she lost count at like 50. That's fine, but the first few times we went out she ran into several exes that I didn't know she had prior and got a little freaked out; I think I'm pretty much past that but this helps explain why she now thinks I'm the jealous type.

In addition to having lots of ex-partners in this town, she also has had a pretty checkered history with monogamy, having cheated on her husband and most, if not every, partner of over a year. I trust her, but that helps set the stage for this incident.

Earlier this week, we went and saw our favorite band in concert with her two brothers. I have been trying to ingratiate myself to them for awhile, so I considered this awesome. On the way home, I asked if she'd been to see this band with any exes with her brothers-- a stupid question, sure. She replied that she had seen them once with the guy she had cheated on her husband with. That would have been the end of it. Except the next day, I saw that she posted a Facebook link to the ex's page. I got upset about it and I can't get her to understand why.

My position is this. I am not asking her to unfriend her exes-- she is Facebook friends with several-- I just don't want her posting links or encouraging conversations and interactions with the ones she has cheated with in the past. My thinking is that these guys have a proven history of not caring about her relationship status when making moves, and she is sending them (and me) messages by doing so.

She is also a little Aspergery, and this is why I cut her a little slack in not getting why it's so hurtful to me. I would like, frankly, some backup on my position. She has suggested I'm being semi-abusively controlling in asking her not to do that anymore. Am I out of line?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (51 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
1. People don't change.
2. Stop asking questions you don't really want to know the answers to.
3. Really great relationships aren't this much work.
4. People really don't change.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:22 AM on February 3, 2012 [72 favorites]


Do you think she's going to cheat on you? If so, you should worry about new guys, not old ones she's chatting up on Facebook for all the world to see. If "proven history" really means something to you, you should worry about her, because you know for sure she has a history of cheating; maybe those other dudes just had a bad night or something.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:24 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Perhaps being honest would suffice, i.e.:

I'm uncomfortable with the relationships you have with your ex-es but I trust you. Please know if you ever cheated on me I would be devastated and it would put our relationship in crisis.

Then trust her.
posted by mazola at 11:25 AM on February 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think you're being unreasonable. She's a promiscuous person who has cheated on every proper boyfriend she's ever had. She walks the walk, talks the talk, but you want her to suddenly be a truthful, super-monogamous woman with no past and have no contact with the many men she's known.

Why are you doing this? Just because she likes or even loves you doesn't mean she's going to change her basic nature or behavior if it's that ingrained and she thinks it's ok.
posted by devymetal at 11:27 AM on February 3, 2012 [48 favorites]


she also has had a pretty checkered history with monogamy, having cheated on her husband and most, if not every, partner of over a year. I trust her

Er... why?

I think devymetal's pretty much got it.
posted by MsMolly at 11:30 AM on February 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


Would you think it was controlling if I begged you, recently divorced man who was with one person for 18 years and has just returned to your childhood home, to please, please, please consider the possibility that you are trying frantically to be a really great guy in really great relationship because you are damaged and you need to prove that you are a really great guy?

I suspect this relationship is going to bring you more pain. And you seem like a great guy so it would be sad too see you hurt.

Given her history, why do you trust her?

If you trust her, why do you want to impose rules that could be seen as controlling?
posted by Lesser Shrew at 11:33 AM on February 3, 2012 [8 favorites]


she also has had a pretty checkered history with monogamy, having cheated on her husband and most, if not every, partner of over a year.

This is the only relevant thing in your situation.

Decide if you can trust someone who that is true of. Then decide whether that means you need to break up or not.

The rest of it? How many people she's slept with and the fact that she's dated other people in the past? That's life. Assuming she's somewhere around your age, and you were married for 18 years, she's had plenty of time to accrue a love life that doesn't involve you. Welcome to being an adult.

As for running into exes, welcome to small town life. The dating pool is smaller and it's a lot more likely that you'll run into people while out doing mundane things. You can't really prevent her from having this kind of contact with people.
posted by Sara C. at 11:33 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Short answer no, you can't ask her to stop talking to her exes. I would imagine that this implies, to her, that you don't trust her. I'm actually rather curious as to why she cheated on prior exes.. perhaps it had to do with trust issues. Showing that you don't trust her by asking that she doesn't contact her ex-boyfriend is only going to make the issue worse.

The point is, until you understand her motivations in talking to her ex-boyfriends, it does come off as controlling. Perhaps her relationships with them were more casual and based on friendship than a serious, monogamous relationship.
posted by oxfordcomma at 11:36 AM on February 3, 2012


So... you basically want her to be someone she doesn't seem to be?

I think that asking if your expectation is unreasonably controlling is actually the wrong question to be asking.
posted by scody at 11:36 AM on February 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


On the way home, I asked if she'd been to see this band with any exes with her brothers-- a stupid question, sure.

It seems to me you're picking at a scab and wondering why your body is hurting you. STOP PICKING AT THE SCAB AND THE PAIN GOES AWAY.

I can tell you from experience that trying to control someone's basic interaction with exes will blow up in your face. You'll be making the interactions taboo and hidden and thus incredibly sexy...and you can guess where that leads.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 11:38 AM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


In addition to having lots of ex-partners in this town, she also has had a pretty checkered history with monogamy, having cheated on her husband and most, if not every, partner of over a year. I trust her, but that helps set the stage for this incident.

You don't trust her. You just don't. And I'm not saying that you should. But you very clearly don't trust her.

Because it doesn't matter what her exes do or don't do. If she doesn't want to cheat, she won't cheat. She's not going to accidentally fall on one of their dicks because she sent one of them a Facebook message. No, if she cheats on you, it will be because she wanted to.

So yeah, if you do trust her, you wouldn't ask because nothing she does with them will result in her cheating. But you clearly don't.

In general, though, forbidding a partner from doing something is really out of line.
posted by inturnaround at 11:42 AM on February 3, 2012 [15 favorites]


Wow, she introduced the dude she was cheating on her husband with to her brothers? She seems to have a nearly sociopathic disregard for the social agreements that make up normal relationships. She could have at least pretended to be ashamed of it. Jesus.

You're not being "abusive". Foolish, maybe, but abusive? No. The fact that she's even bringing that out makes me highly suspicious that she's manipulating you so that she can cheat more easily (and then she can more easily be like "oh my god you're SO SUSPICIOUS it is ABUSIVE when you expect me to be ON TIME and not THREE HOURS LATE SMELLING LIKE SEX!"
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:43 AM on February 3, 2012 [15 favorites]


Sara C. has a good point - small town. Assuming she's been in the town for the 18 years you've been away, her social circle is that town, and only that town. You're going to meet everyone she's been with.

As for the trust thing.. well, personally, I wouldn't think she's going to change. with the Asperger-y thing you mention, especially. And any push back from you in response to her doing anything, even including cheating on you will be met with incredulousness on why you'd try and control her.

Not to be rude about it, but she's probably a fine re-bound girlfriend, but, especially coming off a 18 year marriage, don't go jumping right into a serious relationship and fall into the trap of not knowing how to live on your own first. Get to know yourself as an individual without a second half.

So - enjoy the relationship for what it is - if you can't deal with the fact that she's going to fall off the wagon sooner or later, and is going to be rubbing her past relationships in your face (not on purpose or in a vindictive way, but just because that's her social circle), end it now. If you can deal with it, have fun, relax, and don't invest too much emotionally.
posted by rich at 11:43 AM on February 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


Have you had a discussion with her about monogamy in general? Because I can't tell whether you have any reason at all to think she's not going to cheat on you. She just doesn't seem like a very monogamous type.
posted by BibiRose at 11:43 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


My thinking is that these guys have a proven history of not caring about her relationship status when making moves

Do you believe that all/most of the cheating was the other person's fault? The evidence does not agree, since the common link is your girlfriend, I am sorry to say. I'm afraid I also see heartbreak for you down this road. People can be super super great and awesome... but also have unresolved issues that compel them to act in unhealthy ways.

Would you consider asking her to see a therapist so she can work out the reasons behind the repeated cheating? That's one thing that might help. But otherwise yeah, you can't really set limits on who she talks to because that is not a recipe for a healthy relationship.
posted by Glinn at 11:45 AM on February 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


You can't reasonably forbid her from doing anything.

You can either trust her, or not- and if you don't trust her, don't stay in a relationship with her.
posted by rachaelfaith at 11:45 AM on February 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


I trust her

Well, no. You don't. The fact that you're laying down these rules--or trying to--pretty much shows that you don't, in fact, trust her.

Personally, I don't agree with the "people don't change" mantra. I've known a lot of people who have changed radically and drastically in their lives. It's hard, it's not common, but it does happen. If you genuinely believe that she is one of those people and that she has really done the hard work to make changes in her life, then you just have to trust her with that. If you can't trust her, then you're better off not being in the relationship than trying to make it work by hedging it about with "rules" of this kind.
posted by yoink at 11:47 AM on February 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


You say you trust her, yet you want to control her. Those two things don't compute.

If she is untrustworthy, then controlling who she talks to or facebooks with won't make her trustworthy.

If she is trustworthy, then not controlling who she talks to or facebooks with won't make her untrustworthy.
posted by headnsouth at 11:49 AM on February 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


Can I ask my girl to stop talking to her cheater exes?

No, you can't. Largely because she is not (to paraphrase Spock) "your girl". Or, evidently, anyone else's. Such is life.
posted by The Bellman at 11:54 AM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


1. Trust is trust. No buts.

2. What do you care if she cheats on you? I mean, if she gets pregnant and you have to raise some other guy's kid, maybe that's a bad thing to you. But really?

3. "You'll be making the interactions taboo and hidden and thus incredibly sexy...and you can guess where that leads."
Truth. The best thing you can do is have an open relationship. It's possible that she will a) lose all interest in sex with other men when it's not "cheating" or b) you will have an open relationship.

Otherwise, it comes off as: "Honey, I love you so much that I want you to be miserable."

Also, what Lesser Shrew said about proving something to yourself. Few people want to be alone. But some time spent unattached could be good for you. At least consider it.
posted by Eideteker at 11:57 AM on February 3, 2012


A long list of ex-partners doesn't mean a person can't be a good partner. Neither does being friends with those exes.

Cheating does, though.

If her track record with monogamy was pristine and it was just about the long line of exes, I'd say that you were just ooged out by your girlfriend's past, and it would be your decision to make peace with it or break up. But since she's a repeat cheater, you're right to be wary of her.

You can't control who she talks to. She's responsible for her own behavior. You can only control whether or not you decide to trust her, and whether or not you stay with her.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:58 AM on February 3, 2012


Actually, you don't trust her, and no, you can't fix this unless you break up with her. You're asking her to be someone she's never been nor ever will be. Cut your losses. She does not have long term potential.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:58 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


If I were you, I'd get out of this relationship. She seems like a serial cheater and of course she would keep in touch with men who cheated on her---she has a lot in common with them.

I wouldn't invest in her, frankly, and you should really analyze where your attraction for her comes from. Maybe she's unattainable in some way that makes you crazy in love with her.
posted by anniecat at 12:09 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


My thinking is that these guys have a proven history of not caring about her relationship status when making moves

Wha...? If your concern is that these guys have a proven history of not caring about her relationship status, then what of your girlfriend's proven history of not caring about her own relationship status?

These guys are not going to trick your girlfriend into cheating on you. They're not some league of super sexy wizards spellbinding innocent women into their beds. She cheated on her past significant others because she wanted to. Simple as that. And no matter what restrictions you try to put on her, short of chaining her up in your basement, she'll cheat again if she wants to. And if she doesn't want to cheat, it won't matter how many exes or strange men she talks to on facebook or otherwise.

Look, the fact is, you don't trust her. If you did, you wouldn't doubt her ability and willingness to enforce her own boundaries with other men, and you wouldn't be trying to enforce her boundaries on her behalf by setting up rules prohibiting her from interacting with her past flings and exes. You're going to have to accept that you don't and can't trust her, and break things off before you get hurt, or suck it up and let her be who she wants to be, and take the risk that she'll break your heart.

I'm really sorry you're in this position.
posted by keep it under cover at 12:11 PM on February 3, 2012 [14 favorites]


…she also has had a pretty checkered history with monogamy, having cheated on her husband and most, if not every, partner of over a year. I trust her…

why would you trust her in light of this when this has big red flags all over it? because she hasn't cheated on you…yet? you don't trust her; that's why you want her to limit contact with her exes. you want to trust her because you've somehow already invested yourself heavily in this woman who isn't the most appropriate person for you to invest in emotionally. but you don't trust her, not really.

…she's probably a fine re-bound girlfriend, but, especially coming off a 18 year marriage, don't go jumping right into a serious relationship and fall into the trap of not knowing how to live on your own first. Get to know yourself as an individual without a second half.

this x1000.
posted by violetk at 12:14 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


She has suggested I'm being semi-abusively controlling in asking her not to do that anymore. Am I out of line?

You can say that it makes you uncomfortable when she does that, and you can lay out your reasons why. Honestly, you've done so quite succinctly here - these are people who don't respect her relationship status, she's had a hard time with this temptation before, etc. That's pretty much all you can do. In any healthy relationship, you can communicate about what you want and decide together what to do about it.

Ultimately, though, it really does come down to this: Either you trust her or you don't. If you trust her, then you need to trust her and let her do her thing, and risk being let down, because that is what trust is. If you don't trust her, you probably shouldn't be with her.

These are things you should internalize and keep in mind for your next relationship. After this one. Because if we were having this conversation in a bar and I'd had a few already and you told me this story, here is how it would go:

"Do you trust her?"
"Yeah."
"...Why?"

Seriously. The question of whether or not you're overreaching by making one request is an academic one. You're worried that she's going to cheat on you. She has told you, point blank, that she cheats on pretty much everyone she dates after a certain length of time. Seriously, think about that: The only people she hasn't cheated on are the ones she wasn't with long enough.

When someone tells you who they are, you really should probably believe them.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:22 PM on February 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


OP, are you happy being the third verse in a country music tale of woe? I suspect not. Choose accordingly.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:27 PM on February 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


They're not her "cheater exes." What matters isn't that they didn't care about her relationship status when making moves. She cheated. And she didn't care about her own relationship status when she decided to cheat (again, and again, and again).

I'm not saying she's a bad, unworthy, or unlovable person. I just think that your perspective is warped. She's being really open with you about who she is and what she does: she's told you about cheating on nearly all of her partners, and she's actively friends with her former affair partners. She's being open with you about not doing anything to prevent this relationship from going down the same path as her others.

Either she doesn't respect her current relationship with you enough to want to guard it against her old habits, or she has some severe emotional problems that are preventing her from seeing this situation from an adult perspective. People do change. But change requires hard work and self-awareness. In this case, that would look like seeking therapy, spiritual guidance, or other support for building better relationship skills, recognizing and naming the patterns that led to cheating in past relationships, and being responsive to your reasonable requests in order to build trust with you. She's not doing any of that. You're not out of line, but you're asking for pain here.
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:32 PM on February 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


What people on the Internet think about boundaries regarding sketchy exes is really not relevant for your relationship. What matters is that you think it's reasonable for her not to initiate contact with these men, and she doesn't.

The only way forward is for the two of you to hash this out together, and come up with a set of relationship expectations you can both respect. Trying to browbeat and dictate to her what she should, or shouldn't, do in a relationship will only guarantee that you're next in line to get cheated on by this woman.
posted by psycheslamp at 12:45 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


So many red flags here, it's hard to even begin.

This woman WILL eventually cheat on you. There is no evidence in anything you said that points to anything else. So, worrying about whether she talks to her previous other-guys is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, to use an old saw.

And, +1 to the notion that the next person she cheats with will be brand new, not one of the ones form the past. You could practically put money on it.

Good luck. Whatever happens, be it DTMFA or cheatstorm, it's not going to be pleasant for you.
posted by Citrus at 1:10 PM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


No, but you can break up. You don't have to deal with this crap if you don't want to deal with it.
posted by oceanjesse at 1:16 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


she also has had a pretty checkered history with monogamy, having cheated on her husband and most, if not every, partner of over a year. I trust her

What on earth... .... seriously, read that over and over and over and over.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:32 PM on February 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


You need to de-escalate your emotional involvement here. It is a statistical certainty that this woman will cheat on you. That's not necessarily the end of the world, or even of the relationship. I'm not telling you to dump her.

I am telling you to adjust your attitude. You know that she's going to cheat -- you basically told us that. You have to accept it. If you can't be serious with someone who's going to cheat, then you have to not be serious. If you can't be with someone who's going to cheat, then you can't be with her.

To directly answer your question, no, it is not "unreasonably controlling" for you to ask your girlfriend not to hang out with people she's previously cheated with. But that doesn't matter. It's unproductive. You just can't exercise enough control over someone to prevent them from cheating on you. Plus mate-guarding behavior is unattractive. If you can't find any peace knowing that this girl is going to cheat on you, then you have no business being in the relationship. If you are suspicious and anxious about her cheating, then the battle is already lost.
posted by grobstein at 1:43 PM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why did she cheat? Was it a combination of immaturity and looking for The One? Has she convinced you she's found him in you?

People do change, I disagree with those who say they don't. We mature and reassess our priorities.

You should have an open conversation with her about it.

Unfortunately, it doesn't sound to me like she's there yet, given how eagerly she still seeks her exes' attention.
posted by Dragonness at 1:45 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you trust her, you trust her in every situation. Unless you think these men are actually likely to force her into non-consensual sex--in which case, it's not a question of her not respecting your relationship agreements, it's a question of her safety--why would her spending time with them make any difference if she is committed to being monogamous with you?

Seriously, think about that. It's no more difficult for her to choose not to have sex with her ex-boyfriend than it is for her to choose not to have sex with her brand new co-worker, or with the hot guy from the deli at the corner, or with her neighbor. It's not like there's some magic rule that once you've had sex with someone, they've tagged you for life and you have to have sex with them whenever they want it.

You don't trust her. And, to be honest, you probably shouldn't. But if you do want to trust her, you have to trust her in every situation.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:45 PM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


"I trust her, but..." means you don't trust her.

From the info you've given, I can only say - it looks like a pretty educated conclusion to come to.
posted by lemniskate at 2:24 PM on February 3, 2012


One more piece of unsolicited advice since you were out of the dating game for a while - when we had our "how many partners have you had?" convo

If this doesn't work out,if you don't beat the odds and you do end up dating again, don't have a "how many partners" convo. You phrased that like it was normal and expected and just part of getting to know someone. It's not. How many doesn't matter. What matters is how people treat the people in their lives.

Good luck.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 2:46 PM on February 3, 2012 [10 favorites]


You're with the wrong woman.
posted by misspony at 4:30 PM on February 3, 2012


Please do not try to convince yourself that your relationship with her will be somehow different than the ones that preceded you in the cheating department. Yes, your relationship with this woman is as unique as all the the ones before you, but cheating is the one common thread in all of her other relationships.

Unless she has done major soul searching/therapy/hard work to figure out why she cheats in an attempt to stop that behavior in the future, she will likely cheat again. Nothing you bring to the table will help. We all like to think we are special and that our specialness will override our partner's past faults in ways that the others before us could not. This is sadly not true and applies to cheating, addiction, chronic lying, or any other destructive behavior pattern.

Ask yourself...has she done the hard work to stop this particular destructive behavior?
posted by murrey at 6:14 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


My thinking is that these guys have a proven history of not caring about her relationship status.....

Well, no. She has a proven history of not caring enough about her relationship status to refrain from doing things that would hurt the person she is in a relationship with.

As others have noted, your trust in her - if it is genuine - is naive at best. Yes yes, I know, it's very seductive to believe the implicit or explicit promise that "You! You're Different! You're Special! You're The Exception!" It's a tricky one. Of course you're special, but the best and most reliable way to be the exception to her pattern of cheating on all her partners is if she decides she needs and wants to make considerable changes in her character - ones that no longer include the possibility of lying to or deceiving any partner - not just you. So, perversely, in order for you to be special - the exception - you have to not be special. In order for you to trust her not to deceive you, you have to see evidence that she wouldn't want to do that to anyone. Then you have to see evidence that she's putting that desire into practice.

Since your focus seems to be on the technicalities of her relationships with her exes and you don't mention much about why you think her overall relationship pattern has improved, I can't help but think that she hasn't given you much grounding to trust that she's changed. That's why your trust in her seems naive.

The other possibility of course is that you don't trust her. If that is the case, first I would suggest shedding the pretense that you do. Then talk to her about it. How she responds will give you all kinds of cues about what to do next. Here are a few hints on what to look for: does she show any humility and remorse for the damage done to others? Does she show any insight into what drives her relationships patterns? Are her explanations self-serving or self-revealing?

Also, think about this from her perspective. Saying you trust her and then trying to modulate her relationship with her exes is controlling. It sends the message that you have the right to manage her behavior only because it makes you feel icky. If you feel icky, manage that, not her.

One last thought and I'll pipe down. You're just divorced after almost 20 years. You just moved home and you're madly in love? Perhaps this isn't your most solid, clear headed phase in life. That's fine. Perhaps you're not in much shape to make super big commitment decisions and perhaps you've been keeping company with a gal who's not so swift at making big commitment decisions. You've been with the same woman for 18 years, she seems to have a relationship shelf-life of a year. Maybe in that equation is some puzzle piece into what you need right now.
posted by space_cookie at 7:30 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


You're setting both of you up for failure. You're being disingenuous all the way with this, including by coming here for some sort of pile on.

Look. You didn't just ("oops!") happen to ask about her seeing that band with other men! And most adults your age understand people have history and respect privicacy and don't ask the "how many people have you been with?" question. Geez.

Stop setting her up. Stop setting yourself up.

I think this is not the rebound relationship for you. Forget about her, you're not playing fair. This will end badly if you keep deluding yourself about the fact that you've chosen a partner who will hurt you.

Seek therapy, not another SO.
posted by jbenben at 10:33 PM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


My position is this. I am not asking her to unfriend her exes-- she is Facebook friends with several-- I just don't want her posting links or encouraging conversations and interactions with the ones she has cheated with in the past. My thinking is that these guys have a proven history of not caring about her relationship status when making moves, and she is sending them (and me) messages by doing so.

I understand where you're coming from, but here are two questions you need to ask yourself: 1) Is her engaging in the behavior "commenting on the Facebook wall of people she has cheated with" likely to increase the chances of her cheating on you? (and) 2) Will her ceasing the behavior "commenting on the Facebook wall of people she has cheated with" be any indication that she is not cheating on you?
posted by 23skidoo at 12:08 AM on February 4, 2012


My thinking is that these guys have a proven history of not caring about her relationship status when making moves, and she is sending them (and me) messages by doing so.

You know, I agree with this, that she is sending these guys messages. I've dated guys who have done the same thing. These people crave being the center of attention and drama.

However:

She has suggested I'm being semi-abusively controlling in asking her not to do that anymore. Am I out of line?

I think this is pretty much who she is. And these are the behaviors she strongly desires to do and really enjoys doing. I do not think she wants to stop this for anyone. That doesn't mean you need to stick around and put up with it though.

So, it just requires a change in framing. Don't ask her to stop doing anything. Tell her that she has the right to do whatever she wants, however there are some things that hurt YOU and some behaviors that YOU do not want in your life. So she has every right to go ahead and do them and you're not asking her to stop, however YOU will need to go ahead and move on if they continue.
posted by cairdeas at 12:09 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


She replied that she had seen them once with the guy she had cheated on her husband with. That would have been the end of it. Except the next day, I saw that she posted a Facebook link to the ex's page.

She's toying with you. The fact that you don't see it amuses her for now. She seriously intends to break your heart, once she's gotten out of you whatever she's into you for. But I can almost guarantee that in her heart of hearts, she views you with contempt.

It's quite possible that she has something like borderline personality disorder, or would self-define as a sex addict if she realized it was a problem for her. But she doesn't sound like a healthy person to be trusting much farther than you can throw her.

Get out. Now. I beg you.
posted by dhartung at 5:16 AM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


while it's thrown around way too much, if indeed she is "Asperger..y" or whatever you choose to call it and she's survived small town life by living by her own rules, or "breaking" theirs, why on earth would you want her to change something that clearly is her.
She is what she is. I would wish she might be more honest and just not marry anyone, or enter into a monogamous relationship when that dorsn't appear to be in her nature but I've not lived in a small town for decades so what do I know.

These guys are not the problem, and I suspect she is not the problem. However, I believe your expectations for her are a problem and one which will bring both of you sadness.
posted by Wilder at 7:56 AM on February 4, 2012


This is an exercise in futility. You cannot micro-manage other people's fidelity. Also, FWIW, in 20 years of dating I was not faithful to any partner - not one - until I met my husband. I have been shagging the same person exclusively for nearly a decade now and nobody is more surprised than me.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:30 AM on February 4, 2012


I've known a lot of people who have changed radically and drastically in their lives. It's hard, it's not common, but it does happen. If you genuinely believe that she is one of those people and that she has really done the hard work to make changes in her life, then you just have to trust her with that.

While this is true, I think what the OP is reacting to here is that this is evidence that this woman has not radically changed her life. She hasn't changed people, place, and things. She hasn't chosen to demonstrate concern for how her behavior might look and the feelings it might raise for her current boyfriend. I agree that she's not any more likely to cheat with her old cheating partners than with some new guy (and probably less likely), but she is sending a clear message of nonchalance about a serious issue, and disrespect for the OP.

You can't prevent her from associating with her cheating partners, and you don't have to buy the idea that all former cheaters will become present cheaters, but you should pay attention to her unwillingness to change her behavior to demonstrate her love for you. "I Walk The Line" is the relevant country song here: i.e., I carefully modulate my own behavior so I don't get into trouble, because I love you.
posted by OmieWise at 6:32 AM on February 6, 2012


Hi there! I’m the girl the OP was talking about. I wanted to say “thank you” for the comments and opinions. It helped me to see what someone from the “outside” might think of a situation such as this one.

A few quick things from my end (which have already been discussed with the OP):

#1. I counted again, and it’s 31 people. Not 50. This is over the span of the last 18 years. It’s still a higher number than many people’s, probably, but hopefully that helps to put things in a bit more perspective.

#2. I’ve been in about 10 (ten) serious relationships, and of those, I did cheat on four of those people. Number one was when I went to college and I cheated on my high-school boyfriend. Number two was when my college on-again, off-again boyfriend went overseas for a year and a half and (I’ll admit it) I got lonely. Number three was when I was looking for a way out of my marriage (and had found out my husband had cheated as well). Number four was when a boyfriend I’d been with for over three years stopped having sex with me. Like, at all.

Was it right for me to cheat? No. Do I realize this? Of course I do! Have I done some soul-searching to figure out what my problem is? Yes. And I realized that I have only ever cheated under the following two circumstances:

A) I am not getting enough sex/physical attention in my current relationship (and the guy knows it). And

B) I feel like the guy does not respect me.

So now I give a disclaimer to new boyfriends (including the current one), telling them that I HAVE cheated in the past, but that as long as he respects me and has plenty of sex with me, there will be no problems whatsoever. (In fact, I gave this disclaimer to my last boyfriend, and it still took over a YEAR of us only having sex once every few MONTHS or so for my eye to start wandering.)

#3. The guy whose wall I posted on was a friend of my brothers’ BEFORE I ever even met him. He went with my brothers to see the band in question YEARS before I ever dated him. And the link I posted to his wall was about a local IMAX movie theater that’s being built in the area, because I know he likes to go see IMAX movies. I posted it as a friend and wasn’t even thinking of our past relationship when I did it.

#4. The OP and I have known each other since the late Eighties/early Nineties, have tons of mutual friends, and had been Facebook friends with each other for like 3 or 4 years before he separated from his wife and decided to move back to his (our) hometown. It might look like we’re moving fast, but in my opinion we’re just making up for lost time. And I’ll promise to him, in front of Metafilter and anyone else who cares to listen, that I’ll always be true to him, for as long as he will have me.

So feel free to give any advice or make any comments you like, but just remember that behind every post on the Internet is a real-life situation, with real-life, nuanced people, that can’t possibly be understood from just one viewpoint alone. :)
posted by xasp42 at 11:06 AM on February 6, 2012


So now I give a disclaimer to new boyfriends (including the current one), telling them that I HAVE cheated in the past, but that as long as he respects me and has plenty of sex with me, there will be no problems whatsoever. [emphasis mine]

I have some observations/questions for you. (These might sound more like an interrogation than I intend, but unfortunately that's just one of the quirks of the internet in cases like this.) Please note that I don't think you actually need to answer these questions here; I would just suggest that you (and your boyfriend) consider them carefully and thoughtfully on your own.

1) The way you construct your comment I quoted above, it appears you are putting the primary responsibility on your partner (e.g., his sex drive must always match yours) in order to ensure that "there will be no problems whatsoever." In other words, you have set up a situation in which your partner must do certain things to make sure you don't cheat.

On one level, I think this is showing good insight into understanding the past circumstances that triggered certain feelings for you that led you to cheat. On another level, though, it seems that you may have (inadvertantly) created a kind of "get out of jail free" card for yourself, so that the ultimate responsibility for your behavior is subtly shifted from you to your partner. I would contend, however, that it's crucial to recognize that it wasn't actually your past boyfriends' lack of sex or respect that made you cheat; cheating was your (imperfect) response to the (understandably) uncomfortable feelings you were experiencing when you felt neglected.

2) Since then, what new strategies have you developed to deal more constructively with these particular trigger feelings of disrespect or neglect? How do you typically deal with difficult or painful emotions in general (anger, sadness, fear, discomfort)?

3) What constitutes "feeling respected" to you?

4) What will you do if your boyfriend goes through a serious illness (including depression) that might affect his sex drive?

5) If you felt the need to cheat on a partner in the future (due to feeling disrespected/neglected), what other options would you pursue before cheating on him -- e.g., conversation, therapy (alone or together), breaking up?

Again, I don't intend for these comments to be hostile, but more just food for thought for you and your boyfriend as you move forward in discussing your expectations and boundaries.
posted by scody at 12:13 PM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


scody--thanks for the reply! :) To address a few of your items:

#1. I realize it sounds like I'm putting the onus on the guy to do certain things. That's not my intent, of course.

It might help if you know that the person in question (who stopped having sex with me) knew that I was feeling deprived for quite a while, even TOLD me that he knew I wanted it, but made no moves to actually address it. And the entire process started in like 2009 when the guy and I moved in together and the sex dropped off pretty quickly after that. Like, we were doing it maybe once a month. And then even less than that. And he'd periodically be like "yeah, sorry about that," and then do nothing. Whenever I'd want to, he'd have some generic excuse, like "I don't feel very sexy right now." I didn't actually break up with him until 2011, and that was only eleven days after I cheated. So it took quite a while for me to get to the point where I felt that desperate, I guess.

#4. I doubt that will be a problem with the current boyfriend, but if it is, of course I'll talk to him. :)

#5. See #4.

I really appreciate your input--thank you! :)
posted by xasp42 at 12:46 PM on February 6, 2012


From the OP:
I have been around the block a few times and I fully expected to get the DTMFA response and was therefore prepared from the beginning to ignore it. Sheesh, people. The reason I wanted to ask the question is to get an idea about the very basic thing that was bothering me: am I wrong in being upset by the initiation of contact with this particular sub-class of ex? Not too many people bothered to answer that question, but those that did helped convince me I was being a baby about it and to get the fuck over it already.

A couple of things to answer questions.

1. I do trust her. The question was whether it's appropriate to reach out to those people (Yes, that is a stupid question). And whether it was appropriate to ask her not to.* So when I said "I trust her, but" what I was trying to communicate is that the fact that she's not cheating isn't really the issue; it's whether it's disrespectful (that word again) to publicly be reaching out to someone that she's cheated with before.

*Again, look at how I asked the question. She's a bit Aspergery. When I couldn't make her understand how this incident was upsetting, I asked if it would be easier to deal with if I created a bright line rule to exclude actions that would be hurtful-- I have an Asperger's sister and such rule-setting is a common strategy for getting around social situations that aren't grasped intuitively. So it's not like I was trying to Set An Edict, rather to put a solution out there. In the wake of us discussing this thread, I dropped the proposed rule altogether and just said "it's my problem to get over and I'm over it."

2. I did offer an open relationship, and she didn't want it.

Anyway, we're not breaking up and I'm very happy with her and you guys have showed me-- ironically enough-- that the Very Dramatic approach to my feelings is never going to be very fun. This wasn't ever anything close to an existential crisis for our relationship, just a typical boundary development point. Thanks for the advice.

posted by jessamyn at 6:23 PM on February 6, 2012


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