Meeting the ex?
May 30, 2009 6:59 PM   Subscribe

Tips for meeting the ex girlfriend?

I have been seeing a guy for a while now, though we're not at the point where I would say that we're in a monogamous relationship-- which is fine with me, as we're having fun and taking it easy.

I have always been aware of his ex, who lives in a different city but has family and lots of friends in ours. Although their relationship ended several years ago, they are still best friends. I have heard through the grapevine that, though she is in a relationship now herself, she is pretty jealous of the guy I'm seeing and protective of him.

I am going to a party where I know I will meet her for the first time. She knows all about me and has expressed discomfort (to both her ex and mutual friends) with meeting me. I know that this talk COULD be considered controlling or unhealthily jealous, but I know all too well how it feels to see your ex with new person, and I totally get where she's coming from. BTW, I am friends/acquaintances with many people at the party, but there will be a lot of people there she has known for years.

I really want things to go smoothly, and I'd even like to be able to friends with her as she sounds really cool. Plus, she's an important friend to the guy I'm seeing. Any tips for making a positive impression, diffusion tension and awkwardness, and having a good time?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The best thing you be is ...yourself! Be friendly, be nice, be you. This is what adults do.
posted by applemeat at 7:05 PM on May 30, 2009

I've been in your shoes. Be nice, be yourself. That's all you can do.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 7:05 PM on May 30, 2009

Play it completely cool. Best case: everything goes smoothly. Worst case: she makes an ass out of herself with jealousy and it doesn't reflect at all on you. You'll be fine, though: the threat of embarassment is often enough to keep otherwise nutty people in line.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:35 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

If it were me, I'd probably say


If you feel that's too agressive, maybe something like....

"Hi, it's great to finally meet you! I hope we can be friends". Which you do, so it will sound sincere. Sincerity is very disarming.

(I hope you choose the second suggestion ;) Sometimes what you've heard "thru the grapevine" isn't true at all.
posted by iconomy at 7:42 PM on May 30, 2009 [5 favorites]

"Friends" probably won't happen, though.
posted by megatherium at 7:43 PM on May 30, 2009

So these suggestions are coming from a very cautious point of view. Well, first of all, she is not your friend and it is really unlikely that you'll be friends in the future. So, yes, be humble, be nice, however I think you should also maintain a healthy distance in a sense, don't reveal any information that your boyfriend doesn't know about you. It's like a game, play nice, be always civilized (and I mean all the time), dodge questions that you think she is fishing for more information about you or your relationship, and don't give any additional information. Also as a side note, If she is close to that guy, she might know about you more than you can imagine. So just make sure she doesn't add new information to her vault and Good luck!
posted by caelumluna at 7:50 PM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

caelumluna has it.

DON'T put yourself out there in any way. You don't know her and she has a reason to be catty about you. Pleasant, polite, distant. Spend as little time talking to her as possible and more time making friends with everyone else there.

If she feels possessive the chances of you making friends with her at this present moment are slim. If she thinks you're a cool person, it will just make her more pissed and jealous.

If she eventually gets over her issues with you and your boyfriend, you might be friends. But not quite yet.
posted by kathrineg at 7:57 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I just met a woman that my ex has been dating for 6 months. My ex and I have been broken up for a long time and have a close friendship but I have zero desire to have any kind of approval/ disapproval role in his dating choices beyond the simple "she seems very nice, I'm glad you met someone" that I offered him. And she does- if they stay together for years or get married or something I'm sure I'll get to know her. However a forced intimacy with a stranger at our first meeting? would have been extremely uncomfortable.

So be yourself, and treat her like any other new acquaintance. Chat about work, the weather, movies etc. Don't assume an intimacy where there isn't one and don't allow her to either.
posted by fshgrl at 8:00 PM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

It sounds like you think you're auditioning. You're not. If she doesn't like you, and the guy you're dating lets that sway him, he's a) immature, b) not the guy for you, and/or c) still into her.
posted by palliser at 8:27 PM on May 30, 2009 [5 favorites]

I've been on both sides of this one. (Except that I'm not really a jealous person. A little protective of people I love, though.)

Look her straight in the eye, be friendly and nice, keep it neutral (don't respond to any fishing expeditions or try too hard to bond with her.) palliser's right, you're not auditioning. Don't get defensive. Keep your cool.

Find some other subject completely unrelated to your guy on which you and she can have a conversation. Do you both like some of the same music, or authors, or type of film, or sport, or something? Do you both hate sushi or football or something? It's okay to ask your guy for some help in this regard. "Hey, I'm a little nervous about meeting Ex-girlfriend, what's she like? What's she into? I sure would like to be able to talk about something other than your awesomeness, ya know?"
posted by desuetude at 10:13 PM on May 30, 2009

I would lower expectations. Your goal is to not make a scene and/or to not let her get to you. Is she coming with her boyfriend. Talk to him. I do think you can one day be friends with her, but not now. My wife of 17 years finally met the woman I dated for 10 years before I met her two years ago. They are now good friends emailing each other and having lunch whenever either is in the other's city. I was more concerned about it than either of them. I also met my ex's husband. We get along although I would not consider us friends. He's a dick and I'm not. Heck , my kids have met her and her kids too. TIME is the key here.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:22 PM on May 30, 2009

This happens.

Try to out-nice her.
posted by hpliferaft at 11:03 PM on May 30, 2009

Most of what's above (just relax, be nice, don't get your hopes up on becoming best friends in one night), plus be nice to him. She's going to be looking for any hint that you're pretending to be a nice person in public while being manipulative, controlling, and generally not-nice behind the scenes. Get your own drinks, leave them alone to talk awhile, stay away from PDA's that obviously just territorial-displays or showing off, etc. If you didn't need me to tell you not to do those things, you should be fine.
posted by K.P. at 2:39 AM on May 31, 2009

....I've been the ex being met, a few times (I have the habit of staying friends with exes). I've also been a little uncomfortable about meeting my exes' new girlfriends as well; I don't know if this is helpful, but if hearing why I got uncomfortable would help, here it is...

I would sometimes be afraid that I'd from now on never see the guy individually. It can be a little weird when you've known someone on an intimate level -- "intimate" on an intellectual and emotional level, not just a physical one -- and now they've got someone in their wake whom you are NOT on those kind of terms with. I've been over my ex on a romantic level, but I still really trusted them with...stuff, you know, talking over problems with. But...I did not trust his girlfriend with them, because hell, I didn't know her. I'd have thoughts like, "Wait, if I talk to him about that thing with my job, is he now going to talk to her about it? Damn, that's no good. ...What if he expects me to talk to her about that? What if I never get to see him apart from her, and what if I never get to just hang out with someone I'm that comfortable with any more? That would suck too. ...I bet he wants me and her to be super-good friends, but -- I don't know if I want to do that yet. I'm being pressured to like someone, and I'd like to make up my own mind about that, 'kay?"

In my case, at least, it comes down to that -- he's someone she feels comfortable with because she knows him, but someone she knows and trusts is now part of a matched set with someone she doesn't know at all. And that's a weird sort of paradox.

So how does this help you? What should you do? Well, everyone is saying to just be yourself, and that's my advice as well. K.P> has some good advice as well about letting them chat a bit amongst themselves, and staying away from territorial PDA's. Not that you should avoid each other at all times, but lengthy make-out sessions are maybe pushing it. Territorial conversation isn't so great either; one of my exes had a girlfriend once that had had a habit of talking about their sex life in mixed company, and that made me really uncomfortable -- not out of jealousy, but more because it was just plain too much information. And I think it was a bit territorial ("I'm fucking him now, got it?"), and I finally had to take him aside and ask him to talk to her about toning it down.

Also, I think it would help to remember that if you do sense any tension, that you may want to remind yourself that it may not have anything to do with you specifically at all. She's nervous about this too, and she's got her own stuff going on; if anything goes pear-shaped it may be because of that rather than anything you did. Don't try to be best friends right off the bat -- you both may need more time for that. This is just a first meeting.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:55 AM on May 31, 2009

Friends, at least in the near future, is not likely to happen. I think that attempting to become friends with her at this point is setting yourself up for an awkward, unpleasant interaction.

I'd go for being friendly, polite, and relaxed. Say hi, tell her that it's nice to meet her, and that you've heard good things about her. Chat a little more if she seems friendly, gently excuse yourself (to get a drink, use the restroom, greet a friend) if she seems awkward or uninterested in talking to you. Then, focus on spending time with your friends, and allow her to spend time with her own friends - don't force more conversations on her. If you are open and friendly, but allow her space to either talk to you or avoid you as she wishes, I think you'll have the best chance at the meeting going smoothly.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:30 AM on May 31, 2009

hpliferaft: Try to out-nice her

Don't do this. It will seem stilted, awkward, and you might come across as fake or patronizing if you're trying too hard to be nice. Speaking from a guy's perspective, it would make me incredibly uncomfortable if my girlfriend was unnaturally polite to anyone, especially my ex. It's never not awkward, and at worst, seems very passive-aggressive.

Treat her like you would any other person you met through your boyfriend, but keep in mind that she has a bone to pick with you, so you have reason to be slightly reserved. Chat, have fun, don't compete, don't mark your territory. Act like the both of them are acquaintances/good friends of yours.
posted by Turkey Glue at 12:07 PM on May 31, 2009

You're obviously very understanding of the situation, so just be your nice, personable self.

Don't give her any ammo...
posted by futureisunwritten at 1:12 PM on May 31, 2009

All the above advice about being nice and friendly and non-aggressive is really great.

But in my personal experience with meeting many a jealous ex-girlfriend, I also try to look hot as fucking hell. I don't bust out the low-cut backless red dress and stilettos because that would be terribly obvious, but I definitely wear the jeans that make my ass look great and an incredibly flattering, yet not-terrible-revealing blouse. Lame as it is, looking really good immediately gives me the confidence to breezily shake her hand while saying (sincerely!), "Hi, Ex, I'm zoomorphic, and it's nice to meet you."

Yeah, it's immature and a little neurotic, but hell if I'm going to meet his old flame looking like he picked me up at the 7-11.

And then I'm really nice.
posted by zoomorphic at 6:23 PM on May 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

Definitely look good, but probably the most important thing is to avoid coming off as competitive in any way. Look cute but not overly threatening, and when you meet her use the same sorts of tactics you would to form connections in any other sort of situation. For me, it's always helpful to come armed with an opening that will immediately make her feel like you view her as an interesting individual rather than simply your bf's ex, i.e. anything from "I heard you worked at xyz company/agency and I thought that was really cool, could tell me more about what that's like?" to "I love those shoes, where did you get them?" Focus on meeting her for her instead of solely for her role in your bf's life, and if she's worth anything she'll respond positively. If she's rude then she just missed an opportunity to make a new friend.
posted by mishamashes at 4:09 AM on June 1, 2009

If you have a feel for what her interests are, try thinking of some conversation topics around them you can bring up (naturally)... and then bring them up with your boyfriend while she's around. Some of the questions others have recommended asking her are good, but too many feel like an interrogation, and it can be hard to get her to open up. If you have conversations with others about things that she's interested in, she'll have an easier time speaking up.

Don't choose subjects you have strong opinions on; she's likely to try and out-knowledge you / take control of the conversation... let her. Expressing honest interest in the things she has to say, and asking questions that shine a spotlight on her knowledge / passion is one of the best ways to get her to like you.

If you have good vibes from conversations about her / you, then her interests, then you can try looking for common ground (other than the boyfriend -- too soon for girl talk!) and talk about things you both have interest in (the city, other mutual friends, etc). Don't let it become clashing ground; avoid criticizing, one-upping, or questioning the source / credibility of anything she says (puts her on the defensive, where she'll close up).

At the end of the night, when saying bye, highlight the best point of your previous conversations ("thanks for the tip about...", "it was fun talking about...", "we'll have to talk more about...") -- it makes her feel like you've paid attention to her, and reinforces her final impression of you for the evening with something good.

Good luck!
posted by ElfWord at 4:52 AM on June 1, 2009

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