My boyfriend has been doing lunch with the ex and not telling me about it.
September 10, 2009 6:54 AM   Subscribe

I found out my boyfriend sometimes goes out to lunch with his ex, and he doesn't tell me about it. I feel this might be a red flag, not necessarily because of the specific situation, but because it shows he is perfectly capable of lying, even if by omission. Please help me gain some perspective.

My boyfriend has been doing lunch with his ex at about a once every three months rate ever since we started dating. They had been together, very on and off, for about 6 years. When we started dating, they'd been broken up for a little over a year, and as far as I know not really seeing each other.

A couple of days ago a mutual friend told me she's seen them together at lunch a couple of times - he isn't aware he was seen. She told me about it expecting me to know it already, which I obviously didn't.

I know I need to talk to him about this, obviously, but unfortunately we've been having a very busy couple of days, including a house guest which leaves us with no adequate time for this conversation.

The thing is, I can't turn it off in my head he lied to me. He could have easily told me they were occasionally seeing each other in a friendly way, and then mention it when it happened, as he does everyday with every other person he goes out with, be it male or female.

But in my head right now I can only think that even if this is one of those cases where he just didn't tell me because it's meaningless and he didn't want to bother me with the "ghost of the ex", it still exemplifies he can lie by omission and be perfectly cool with doing that, and I don't know how to deal with it.

Am I over-reacting? Is it weird I'd feel okay about him doing lunch with a girl friend and not necessarily mention it, but I see doing lunch with the ex in a completely different light? And yes, I do know I need to talk to him, but I need to figure this out in my head first.

I feel apprehensive because of the lying, on the one hand, and very hurt it is more important for him to pursue a friendship with his ex than it is to be true and honest with me on the other. At the same time, I'm not sure if I'm being overly dramatic. Maybe the not telling me falls under the "little white lie" department... Maybe he doesn't feel omitting is lying. I'm just confused. Please help.
posted by neblina_matinal to Human Relations (52 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This isn't a lie by omission as the term is usually understood. It may be a red flag for some other reason, but not for that one. In all likelihood he doesn't see it as such a big deal - some people remain friendly with exes, and unless he's spending a lot of time with her, etc., it's really not cause for concern. I think you're making a big deal out of nothing. Just ask him about it.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:58 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

We don't know you. We don't know him. I'd find it a bit weird if it happened to me but that's just me. YMMV. You need to talk to him - not us.... That's how it is...
posted by Chairboy at 7:00 AM on September 10, 2009

If asked straight out, I'd own up to it, but in the past I've not told girlfriends things just because I know they'd worry about something that really was meaningless - especially when they were stressed out about other stuff at the time.

Other times I've gotten in trouble for not mentioning something that apparently I should have mentioned, but at the time I didn't realize it was something that needed mentioning.
posted by backwards guitar at 7:01 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Does he generally tell you about everyone he has lunch with every day?
posted by craven_morhead at 7:08 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think you have a right to be bothered, and you should say something. But give him the benefit of the doubt. Personally, I find the concept of "Lying by omission" to be problematic... no one is ever 100% honest about every small facet of their life. So 'omission' becomes 'lying' only when it is convenient to you. However, this specific omission is not good. He may just be trying to spare you both from what he thinks is unnecessary drama - so bring it up with him under that assumption. On the other hand, he may still harbour some feelings for her (not necessarily bad but explains the omission) and he may be hoping to get back together with her (necessarily bad, but could be resolved). Although once every three months is like... very seldom.

Mention it to him and ask him to be open about the nature of his relationship with her. So long as he is forthcoming, and you are trusting, it should be fine.
posted by molecicco at 7:09 AM on September 10, 2009

It's entirely possible that she got to be his "ex" by keeping careful tabs on who he was associating with. A short leash is seldom the way to a man's heart.
posted by dinger at 7:10 AM on September 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

There are a ton of reasons he might not have told you about it, and I don't think it's a red flag until you find out what the reason is. He could have thought it was no big deal, or that you'd get mad, or that he thinks he already told you about it.

I don't think there's any way of knowing if this is an issue until you get it out in the open with him. Also, how do you know it's every three months or so if you just found out from a friend who has seen him out with his ex a couple of times?
posted by xingcat at 7:10 AM on September 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think it IS a lie by omission if he mentions every other person he has lunch with...but he may not think of it that way right now. He probably has it in his head the way backwards guitar described it.
I wouldn't make it a big thing in my head before I heard his side of the story, but, when you do talk to him, make your preferences clear on his disclosure about this kind of thing in the future.

On preview, what the last three people said all rolled up together.
posted by hellogoodbye at 7:11 AM on September 10, 2009

I suspect he hasn't told you because he was afraid you'd overreact and overanalyse. Do you think you're likely to do those sorts of things?

Anyway, the best way to handle it is to just straight up say "how was your lunch with [the ex] the other day?" Just treat it as a casual omission of an event you're curious about.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:11 AM on September 10, 2009

Yes, speak with him, but not in an accusatory fashion. It is important for future trust issues to "clear the air." What I suspect you may find out, like in most long-term relationships that end, there are always loose ends that need to be tied up; i.e. bank accounts, personal belongings, what to do about this or that. Even if it's the worst (for you) and they are considering getting back together, it is better to know that sooner rather than later.

Am I over-reacting?

You haven't over-reacted yet. What you do with the information you will receive when you discuss this with him will answer your question for you.
posted by netbros at 7:14 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think I've said this in another thread, but it's worth repeating.

"I didn't say anything because I knew my boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse would get mad/overreact" is a terrible excuse. If you find yourself thinking such a thing, it's a sign that something is fundamentally going wrong in the relationship/communication dynamic.

There is a difference between having lunch with friends from work and having lunch with an ex-lover. Of course it's possible to do the latter innocently, but doing so requires maintaining the appearance and reality that everything is above-board. That includes going out of ones way to tell current lovers that such an event is taking place, until such a time that current lovers indicate that they don't care.

Maybe your boyfriend doesn't realize it yet or maybe, as I've mentioned, there's something that's breaking the lines of communication.
posted by muddgirl at 7:19 AM on September 10, 2009 [23 favorites]

You use the word "lie" or "lying" about 10 times in your post. When did he actually lie?

I'm not saying he didn't lie. Maybe he lied by omission. But you haven't given enough facts to suggest that's what happened.

I agree he should have mentioned it. But maybe it honestly slipped his mind. Neglecting to mention something isn't the same as lying about it.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:27 AM on September 10, 2009

Am I over-reacting?

Possibly. What I noticed is that you seem caught with the idea that he never ever lies about about anything, at all, ever. While it's certainly true that a relationship should be based on truth, no one is perfect and sometimes people may lie for stupid reasons.

You need to talk to him soon to see where this fits on that scale. Either way, going forward he should be truthful about this lunches, especially when you make it clear that you don't mind them, but the hiding of them really bothers you.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:28 AM on September 10, 2009

Yes, speak with him, but not in an accusatory fashion.

This. The conversation you want to have involves clarification, not confrontation. Make sure you're in the appropriate frame of mind going into it. If you're stuck in a "he's lying" loop, rehearsing what you want to say beforehand could be helpful, so "you're lying" isn't what you say or imply.
posted by EvaDestruction at 7:35 AM on September 10, 2009

Yes, bring it up but not in an angry/accusitory way.

"So, friend X says that she saw you and Y having lunch the other day! I didn't know you were still in touch with her. How is she doing?"

That will give him a chance to own up to it in a non-shaming way. Don't quiz him about why he didn't tell you. That will make this into a bigger deal than it needs to be. Do NOT use the word "lying" unless you really want to start a fight. This just doesn't sound like a huge deal.
posted by tk at 7:39 AM on September 10, 2009 [7 favorites]

I would be upset, and I'm in a polyamorous relationship - so it's really not about his seeing the ex-girlfriend, to me, it's about his not telling you he was doing it. It sounds like you feel the same way.

How upset I would be would depend on how long he'd been doing it (i.e. just how many times he'd had the chance to say, "Oh, honey, guess who I had lunch with today" and didn't). I'm not sure how you know the frequency/duration of these meetings based on a friend spotting them out at lunch, but let's roll with your estimates.

Not to say that you should be obsessing over numbers, here, but to me there's a difference between something done once or twice, without mentioning it to you, and a pattern of behavior where he is specifically hiding something from you. I'm sorry, I don't think anyone is oblivious enough to think that going out with an ex repeatedly would not be of at least mild interest to their current partner.

Someone upthread advised: He may just be trying to spare you both from what he thinks is unnecessary drama. That's sweet, but to me, that's a dealbreaker - I get to decide what sort of drama I think is necessary. What kind of relationship is it going to be if he doesn't expect her to share/respect his views on whether or not it's okay to be friends with exes? And if that's an issue for them, how are they supposed to work that out reasonably if he hides it from her?

Upset!=outraged, however. If you decide to speak to him, I would try to remain calm and understanding, and stress that you're not upset about his meetings with the ex themselves, and he should feel free to continue them. Focus on what's really bothering you - his not telling you about it - and explain that this is the sort of thing you'd like to know about in the future.
posted by shaun uh at 7:39 AM on September 10, 2009 [4 favorites]

This may be a problem but as you described it, it's not a "lie of omission." How do you know the frequency with which he sees her? You have some very specific knowledge.

This is a question, not of dishonesty, as you put it, but of disclosure and boundaries. You should decide what you want the ground rules of your relationship to be and then discuss them with your boyfriend. Disclosure: do you want to tell each other every time either of you arranges to meet up with an ex? A member of the opposite sex? Anyone? Boundaries: do you want to bar meeting an ex or a member of the opposite sex at all over a certain frequency?

I don't think it's unreasonable to want to be told when you are meeting up with exes, but it is unreasonable to expect that if you haven't discussed it. (And if you do discuss it, only then does it become a lie of omission.) What you might really want is to mar meeting up with exes whatsoever, but this person has played a big part in your boyfriend's life and he will probably resent having to cut her out completely. Given that he's probably going to keep meeting with her, do you really want to know about it every time?
posted by grouse at 7:49 AM on September 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

I don't think you are over-reacting in the least. However, you don't currently know anything other than the fact that they've had lunch a couple times. If you've trusted your boyfriend thus far, then give him the benefit of the doubt until you are able ask him about it. This should help save you excessive worrying and imagining about what is up.
posted by orme at 7:55 AM on September 10, 2009

I strongly agree with mudgirl. This may be completely innocent, but I think that contact with exes is something that one's current partner should be told about.

Honestly, what I would do if I were in your shoes is this: Casually ask your boyfriend when was the last time he saw the ex. See what he says. If he says, "Oh, I just had lunch with her the other day," great. If he he tells you something that's obviously false (based on the information your friend has given you), tell him what you know and see what he says. This isn't your chance to blow up on him -- I don't think that will accomplish anything and if he hasn't mentioned these lunches because he's concerned about your feelings, it isn't going to make the situation any better -- but rather to give him a chance to answer honestly. He may be one of those guys who thinks, "well, she hasn't asked me about the ex..."
posted by kitty teeth at 8:06 AM on September 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

The thing is, I can't turn it off in my head he lied to me.

Whether or not he told you, whatever his reason may have been, this is the issue.

You don't trust him.

Maybe you have good reasons, having to do with him, or something in your past. Maybe you're just less able to trust people in general. But if you already feel that he's lied to you, is there anything he could say that would change your mind? Would you believe him if he gave you a perfectly legitimate reason for not telling you? (thought he told you; planning you a surprise party; didn't think you wanted to know everyone he was having lunch with)

If I found out my wife was having lunch with an ex-boyfriend, and didn't tell me, I'd be surprised, because it's the type of thing she would normally mention - but I wouldn't think she was LYING to me. I'd assume she meant to tell me and just forgot, for whatever reason. But that's because I trust her, and she's never given me reason to do otherwise. (I should mention, here, that both she and I maintain friendships with at least one of our respective exes.)

You need to address and fix the trust issue first, or you'll ultimately need to go your separate ways, because you can't have a relationship with this man unless you trust him, and he is deserving of your trust.
posted by mikewas at 8:11 AM on September 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

I am a guy and I feel not telling your gf that you are having lunch with an ex is a BIG NO NO.

I feel he is hiding something . Remember this didnt happen once but several times.

You have to ask him about it. If he gets defensive about it then i would say you know what bye and leave him.

IF he wasnt hiding anything he would have told you.. Relationships have to be open. If he hides this from you what else would he hide from you.
posted by majortom1981 at 8:16 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Meeting up with the ex isn't the problem as much as the lying (and yeah, since he tells you about everyone else he has lunch with every day the he has been lying by not mentioning her). Problem is, now you have caught him lying how can you believe his explanation? I'm with you in that if he had been up front you wouldn't now have the worry that since he lied so smoothly about meeting her maybe he is lying again about why he is meeting her and how often.

When it comes to white lies to spare someone else's feelings (which I think you you wondering if it is his motivation) I think it can be really hard to judge the line when it goes from the selfless "I didn't tell you because I didn't want to hurt you" and the self-serving "I didn't tell you because then I might have to explain my behaviour". I think honesty works best in relationships, even if it means sacrificing a few white lies for convenience's sake.
posted by saucysault at 8:20 AM on September 10, 2009

This is my favoritest RelationshipFilter comment ever (snipped a bit):
Trusting is better than not trusting, because if you get hurt as a result of trusting, it typically happens quickly, hurts for a few months, then you're over it; if you get hurt as a result of not trusting (and this is actually a self-inflicted hurt), it just grinds you into the ground over years and years.

Every time you have a doubt about your beloved, you need to remind yourself that you absolutely trust her not to cheat on you, no matter what. You could make this a little mantra. You'll probably find that after you've told yourself you trust her, that part of you goes "but..."; well, that's a thinking pattern you don't need, and that you'd be better off without, and it leads to feelings that only hurt you for absolutely no benefit. If you currently don't trust her absolutely, then just fake it until you make it.

You can't protect yourself from betrayal by being distrustful. Distrust not only sucks for you, it actually makes betrayal more likely.

Distrust of your partner is not a feeling you want to entitle yourself to. It's a feeling you'd be far better off training yourself to get rid of. It's one of those toxic things people just absorb from watching too much Neighbors or Home And Away; it really has no place in any healthy mind.
posted by flabdablet at 9:47 PM on September 30, 2007 [21 favorites -] [!]
posted by desjardins at 8:30 AM on September 10, 2009 [6 favorites]

Casually ask your boyfriend when was the last time he saw the ex.

Personally, I'd be less manipulative than this and just tell him what your friend told you and ask whatever you want to know. Setting traps makes you more difficult to talk to... probably not what you are shooting for here.

Make sure you are comfortable with this level of intimacy before you intiate this type of inquiry, too. You won't be able to tell him to keep his nose out of your business, very sucessfully, afterward.
posted by ServSci at 8:32 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

As mikewas points out, the length of your relationhip matters - as in, how long has he had to build up your trust. If this is a newish relationship of about six months or less than a year then lying so early sets a pattern. If you have been together for years and are committed to each other and this is the first time you have doubted him then there will probably be more flexibility from you in trying to understand his motivations in lying.
posted by saucysault at 8:33 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would only be worried if he claims that he hasn't seen her since they broke up or otherwise gives you the impression that they aren't friends anymore. If, however, he has told you that they are still friends then there isn't really anything wrong with him going out to lunch with her once every few months. This is what friends do, and since he's probably not telling you about every single other person he goes to lunch with (right?), then he's not "lying" about the lunch with the ex since you have not specifically asked him about it.

I'm a firm believer that two people in a relationship together should have some parts of their lives that are separate. You don't need to know every person that he does lunch with (even an ex) and he doesn't need to know the same thing about your daily life. It's not lying, or anything bad, it's just all about having your personal time and space.

If it's still bothering you, I'd just casually bring it up one day whenever it wouldn't sound too weird/accusatory: "Hey, have you heard from [ex] lately? What's she up to these days?"
posted by bengarland at 8:37 AM on September 10, 2009

Re-reading your post, it seems like perhaps he does tell you about every other person that he does lunch with? If this is the case, yeah, it is somewhat strange that he's not telling you about the ex. I would give him the benefit of the doubt, though, since he's probably not telling you because he thinks you will get upset or worried about nothing. Sometimes guys just think girls are emotional time bombs (it's true) and we don't want to worry you about "nothing". I'd just tell him what your friend told you, ask him if it's true, and ask why he hasn't been telling you about it. Just be upfront with him, but go into the conversation thinking that his reasons are innocent (because hopefully they are) -- do not be confrontational and upset until he gives you a reason to be, such as denying that he went to lunch with her.
posted by bengarland at 8:43 AM on September 10, 2009

OP:He could have easily told me they were occasionally seeing each other in a friendly way, and then mention it when it happened, as he does everyday with every other person he goes out with, be it male or female.

Since several people have misread this line from her post, yes, he tells her about who he has lunch with every day EXCEPT for the ex-girlfriend (I dunno if he tells her that he eats alone or makes up a different friend). I think that deception is different than if he rarely said who he ate with.
posted by saucysault at 8:43 AM on September 10, 2009

"Hey, have you heard from [ex] lately? What's she up to these days?"

It's manipulative to ask questions to which you already know the answer. Furthermore, I doubt you CARE how she is doing, which makes the question insincere.

What do you really want here? Be honest with yourself and with him. Do you want reassurance that he isn't having second thoughts about your relationship? What can he say or do to reassure you? If it were me, I'd say something like "Hey, Mary saw you having lunch with Jane the other day, and I thought it was odd that you didn't mention it. Is everything cool?" Because that's what I'd really want to know - is everything cool between us?
posted by desjardins at 8:51 AM on September 10, 2009 [14 favorites]

The fact that he generally tells you who he has lunch with but has specifically omitted telling you about the old girlfriend suggests that there is a problem -- possibly big, possibly small -- in your relationship.

1) The problem may be that your boyfriend is cheating on you, or thinking about cheating on you, or still holding a torch for his ex.

2) The problem may be that you're an insecure clinger or a controlling shrew, and he didn't tell you because he knew you'd freak the hell out.

3) The problem may be that your boyfriend is a wimp who isn't willing to have any conversation that might even be mildly awkward or confrontational and would rather hide things from you than face up to them.

4) The problem may be an interaction between milder cases of 2 and 3, with him somewhat justifiably worried about an overreaction and wimping out of doing the right thing because of it.

5) The problem may be something else entirely.

The way you've framed this question makes me kind of doubt the controlling shrew option -- though maybe a little on the insecure end of things. Still, you don't give off strong overreaction vibes in this question at least. But do look at your past interactions and figure out if you've given your boyfriend any reason to fear telling you about this.

Were it me, I'd probably be a little bit passive-aggressive in mentioning it. Something along the lines of 'Hey, Sally saw you having lunch with Rita the other day. How is she these days?" Just to see what his reaction is. If he was deliberately hiding it from you for reason 1, it'll likely be a lot more terror than if he was doing it for reason 3, especially if you appear to be not freaking out.

If his reaction doesn't then freak you out more, saying something like "You know, it would be okay to tell me you're having lunch with her. I'm not freaking out about it, and there's no need for you to feel like you have to hide things like this from me." would get the point across without accusing him of being a lying liar who lies.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:59 AM on September 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

This could just be a red flag that he is extremely private and maybe a bit emotionally closed off. My ex (we were together 7+ years, but 4.5 were long distance and we saw each other progressively less frequently) is extremely private; I'd say pathologically so. He never told me ANYTHING about any previous relationships. We parted amicably about a year ago and still keep in touch. He still calls fairly regularly. I know that he's been seeing someone else for awhile and I have no doubt that she is completely in the dark about my existence. However, she'd have no cause for concern; we never discuss our previous relationship or say anything inappropriate. We mainly just talk about current events, movies, art, career stuff, funny comments on Guardian articles, etc. Also my ex will not even admit to me that he has a girlfriend, even though he knows that I know, so we don't spend any time talking about her either. Just because she's an ex doesn't mean that it's not on the up and up, but if he's not telling you about it it could mean he's got issues communicating.
posted by kaybdc at 9:08 AM on September 10, 2009

Ignore comments above that imply you are controlling or unreasonable.

The issue isn't lunch with his ex once. I could see it happening once and not mentioning it because of a whole litany of reasons. If it happened once, okay, it happened once.

But contact with an ex on a regular basis that one is not completely clear and upfront with one's current partner IS hiding something. It IS lying by omission. It's not "do you tell him everyone you have lunch with every day?" come ON. It's about being careful, and respectful, and completely above-board. No, I do not tell my boyfriend every time I exchange a Facebook message with an ex. But I make sure he knows who I am in contact with and how I am in contact with them: "Hey, so-and-so mentioned on twitter they are planning a trip here in october, i'm going to email them and see if they have time to get together for a drink. do you want to come with?"

He doesn't ask for it. He's never said anything. He is probably more secure in the relationship than I am. But it just feels like the right thing to do, so I do it. It's how I would like to be treated.

Now, having said that, your boyfriend may just not have the social skills to know that having lunch with his ex on a regular basis and not telling you he is doing so is something he should be telling you. So I think that desjardins has it.
posted by micawber at 9:28 AM on September 10, 2009

It's right to bring this up with your boyfriend and explain that you're not okay with his not being forthright about this ongoing relationship. I think he's in the wrong but it doesn't necessarily mean he's fine with lying, omission is a big gray area of honesty that we all have a foot in - you're omitting something important to him right now, in not telling him what you've heard and how you are reacting to it. Of course you have an excuse for why it's just not the right time to talk about it. Give him a chance to speak for himself and have a talk about expectations in communication. Don't insist on figuring it out in your head first, you need his side of the story to figure it out.
posted by nanojath at 9:37 AM on September 10, 2009

While not wanting to be harsh, my take on what you've said here is: (1) he is not lying, (2) you are over-reacting, (3) this is drama.
posted by kmennie at 9:51 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think you imply that you live with your boyfriend... So who is this friend that happened to casually mention that your bf and his ex go to lunch? And what reason do you have to trust this person??

"A couple of days ago a mutual friend told me she's seen them together at lunch a couple of times - he isn't aware he was seen. She told me about it expecting me to know it already, which I obviously didn't."

Sometimes people like to cause trouble for others... it's weird and mean, and it happens all the time.

Seriously, I think there is nothing "innocent" about mentioning to a friend that you've seen her boyfriend and his ex gf having lunch together on multiple occasions. I don't even know how that works! Does the friend stalk the boyfriend everyday from 12p to 1p? Does she work at the restaurant where the bf has lunch with the ex? Maybe your friend was trying to alert you to a serious situation (bf reuniting with the ex?) without getting in the middle of things, but the scenario as you describe it sounds like someone is stirring up trouble.

Please have an open conversation with your boyfriend. Don't be afraid to bring this issue up with him immediately! There is every possibility you have been mislead regarding something or anything that may or may not be happening between your bf and his ex.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 10:10 AM on September 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

I understand why you're upset, but I'd approach this as a conversation and not begin with accusations about lying or misleading you. As a few others have mentioned, I think saying something like, "Friend saw you and ex having lunch the other day. I didn't know the two of you were in touch. How did that come about?" is the best approach. After he responds, assuming he doesn't address not telling you, ask, "How come you didn't mention it to me?" Try to stay calm and really listen to what he says. Maybe he really is that clueless, maybe he was intentionally keeping it from you, or maybe he thought he told you, but there is no way of knowing what the deal is until you actually speak with him about it.

I wouldn't ask him how she was, because honestly, you don't really care how she is, and I wouldn't try to trip him up by asking when the last time he saw her was. You want to know why he was having lunch with the ex and why he didn't mention it. Ask him those two things in as neutrally and directly as possible, and then based on the conversation, go from there. Good luck!
posted by katemcd at 10:23 AM on September 10, 2009 [4 favorites]

If there is anything to be taken from the answers above it is that there is not universal agreement on whether your boyfriend's behavior is acceptable or not. Clearly it is not acceptable to you, and you need a change. Unless you want a reason to dump him, then I see little advantage to taking the perspective that he has been "lying" to you, or has engaged in some other egregious breach of relationship norms. That is the way of drama.

If you want to keep him but for the behavior to change, then the adult way to handle this is to say what you need. For example, "Hey, I heard that you met up with your ex-girlfriend for lunch the other day. It's not really a big deal to me if you see her every few months or so, but would you mind telling me when you meet up with her in the future? It would make me feel more secure about things."

If he is a decent, trustworthy guy, that will solve this problem forever. If he's not, then you should date someone else.
posted by grouse at 10:41 AM on September 10, 2009

Am I over-reacting?

Repeat after me: There is no such thing as over-reacting, there is no such thing as over-reacting . . .

There is no manual of behavior in relationships which is the law of all time. You are allowed to set your expectations for what you want out of a relationship. You can say "you have to tell me about your lunches with your ex." You can say "No lunches with your ex." Saying these things will, naturally, put some people who don't want to do things out of the category of mates or potential mates. If you find your relationships are overly limited by these beliefs, find a way to change. But you are allowed to set the boundaries of what you want. Be clear about those boundaries, but set them.

I suggest telling him that in future, you would like to know about when he is going to see his ex and a very few details about what is going on.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:52 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Repeat after me: There is no such thing as over-reacting, there is no such thing as over-reacting . . .

And keep repeating this until the moment you die alone.

Not saying you're over-reacting, but it is possible to overreact. Your feelings are important, very important, but don't get so self-righteous about them that you'll never reflect on them, hold them up to logic, or be willing to have your mind changed.

That said, jacquilynne's "5 options" is probably the best analysis. Let him know you know, "Hey, I heard you had lunch with xxxx." Let him say whatever he wants to say, and then tell him that he can talk to you about these sorts of things, because you won't overreact. But also let him know that it's something he should have mentioned: "I don't need to know everything, but some things I'd rather hear from you, you know?"
posted by spaltavian at 11:53 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

How much do you trust this "mutual friend?"

There have been a couple of questions to askmefi from women who are interested in their friends boyfriends.

What if your boyfriend denies going out for lunch with his ex, and is telling the truth?
posted by Iax at 12:19 PM on September 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

I definitely mentioned it to my husband when I started exchanging occasional Facebook messages with an ex-boyfriend earlier this year, and now and then I would update him on things we'd been saying, if they came up. I did feel it was the kind of thing I would want him to know about because I told him, rather than him finding out about. I guess, like muddgirl, I just think of that as the default "good relationship behavior" -- tell the other person when you're contacting someone you used to date.

That said, I knew the reaction I would get would be completely nonchalant -- "Oh, right -- what's he up to?" or whatever. No interrogations, no expectation that I not contact him, etc.

Are you a safe, peaceful place for your boyfriend to bring the details of his contact with his ex?
posted by palliser at 12:25 PM on September 10, 2009

I think this question would've been more useful if you asked had already talked to him. Then you could include his resopnse in here. If he says "oh I'm sorry I didn't even realize I should tell you, I'll mention it next time, or you want to come along next time?" then you have nothing to worry about. If he starts denying or hiding anything, or gets annoyed that you asked, then you can overanalyze whether it's a red flag or not. So mention it to him exactly how spaltavian put it. Not in an accusing way, but just say you'd like to know next time. And next time he lets you know don't get annoyed at him, or else he WON'T tell you about it after that.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 12:29 PM on September 10, 2009

From your overreaction and exaggeration, he was right not to tell you. Ask him if he still sees his ex. His answer is the test of his honesty.

You do not own him. Ownership of other people was made illegal more than a century ago. Neither is it desirable to be in a relationship that is some Orwellian panopticon: you should not expect to tell each other every innocent thing. If you have a serious problem with clinginess and insecurity that you cannot give him the benefit of the doubt, it is in his best interests to break it off with you.
posted by Matt Arnold at 1:07 PM on September 10, 2009

Big issue - bring it up
posted by bunny hugger at 2:18 PM on September 10, 2009

From Telling Lies by Paul Ekman, who is a leading psychologist in the field of emotions and lying in particular:
Not everyone considers concealment to be lying: some people reserve that word only for the bolder act of falsification. If the doctor does not tell the patient that the illness is terminal, if the husband does not tell mention that he spent his lunch hour at a motel with his wife's best friend [...], no false information has been transmitted, yet each of these examples meets my definition of lying. The targets did not ask to be mislead; and the concealers acted deliberately without giving prior notification of their intent to mislead. Information was withheld wittingly, with intent, not by accident.
Given that you believe your friend's observation, I think you're well within the norm in thinking this is lying. You're certainly not overreacting by writing a thoughtfully composed question to an internet community before bringing it up with your boyfriend. But I think the fact that you turned to AskMe means that you're either afraid of what his answer will be if you ask him directly or you believe he would continue to lie about it and you'd continue to be unsure.

As others have suggested, the friend's trustworthiness is a variable. I favorited the comment(s) that suggest asking about the ex obliquely. It doesn't have to be passive/aggressive or manipulative. Give him the benefit of the doubt and simply ask "Do you ever hear from so-and-so?" in a casual moment, and gauge his reaction. Put his reaction side-by-side with your friend's statement, look to your gut, and make a judgment call.
posted by cocoagirl at 5:47 PM on September 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

I don't think it's "clinginess and insecurity" to wonder why he didn't mention this to you; but I would also try to credit my loved one with good intentions/actions, and I would bring it up in an open, listening, accepting mode (not a tense, worried, upset or suspicious one).
posted by Bergamot at 5:55 PM on September 10, 2009

If he tells you who he has lunch with every day, how did you not notice those days when he said nothing? You've come up with a fairly precise timeline on these lunches, based on remarks from a friend. This makes it seem a lot of this is in your head.

Also, do we actually know he even had lunch with the ex? Maybe the mutual friend was wrong. If he wasn't aware he was "seen" then she wasn't very close.

I would say just ask him, and don't be upset. Especially if there are other connections like work or grad school that would require them to talk.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:26 PM on September 10, 2009

You say he tells you everyday who he goes to lunch with - is that true, or is it that he tells you when he has lunch with people in your mutual circle of friends. I tell my wife about things I do with people she knows, but tend not to tell her about people she doesn't really know - assuming (correctly I believe) that she's probably not interested. While an ex might be known to you (in that you know his relationship history) are/were they a mutual friend?

And even if he has chosen specifically not to tell you about it, it may well be because, as others have said, he thinks you might take the information the wrong way - no matter what a shitty rationalisation that may be on his part.

In general I find life much nicer overall if I can just believe the best in people - while it may not pan out all the time, it means I spent less time obsessing about things that really probably are inconsequential.

Take it back a couple of steps I guess - do you trust him? If so then is this really a big deal? Is is just about lunch, or are there suspicious late nights at work and other things you're worried about?
posted by sycophant at 1:29 AM on September 11, 2009

Of course it's lying by omission, and yes - now you know that, whatever the reasons, he may not always be completely truthful with you. I believe in being open and trusting, but I also believe in facts... facts help you figure things out, for better or worse.

My husband thinks he can't lie to me... but he does, all the time. How? If he has a meeting at 4, he may say it's at 2 or 3, or "early tomorrow." Why? Not because he some nefarious tryst planned, but because (I've deducted), he's evading some suggestion he thinks I might make, that he doesn't want to deal with. Such as, "oh, if your meeting isn't until 4, why don't we go buy lace doilies at 12? We could go to, like, 20 or 30 places to make sure we find the very best ones!" It's silly. I never push or nag him to do anything he doesn't feel like doing (in fact, I'm more of a collaborator for dodging things that actually are pretty important; I'm terribly irresponsible). So, the truth is that all he would have to say, if I did suggest something, is "oh, I don't feel like doing that," and the matter would be finished, with no pushing or whining... and he totally knows (and freely acknowledges) that, yet he still has this automatic time-fudge reaction. Maybe it's because of early family stuff, or an earlier relationship, or just some intrinsic need not to get (potentially) pinned down by any time-schedule - I have no idea. He doesn't either. And it's completely obvious when he's still home at 3:30, that the meeting wasn't at 2, or "early."

It's just one of those things. If I really need to know, I'll say, "okay, what time is your meeting, really?"

So. I have my data points. Does he lie to me? Yes. About important things? History and other factual evidence says "no."

You now know that your boyfriend will engage in some "lying-type" behavior, but you don't know if it's important, or "just one of those things." You must ask him why, and that will give you more information. Time and observation (not spying... just awareness) will give you more information. Eventually, if you're objective, there's enough information to feel fairly confident how things are.

And also, PS: the fact that you wonder if you're over-reacting, tends to suggest to me that you probably aren't. I don't sense any OMG... his EX!!!! or OMG, he's LYIIIIIIIIING to me!!! Your attitude as represented by your post seems perfectly reasonable.
posted by taz at 4:44 AM on September 11, 2009

I don't sense any OMG... his EX!!!! or OMG, he's LYIIIIIIIIING to me!!!

No, she just used one "i" in "lying."
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:55 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Revisiting this, I think that regardless of whether it's a lie of omission or not, it obviously bothers you. Based on that alone, you should talk to him about it. I would just say "Hey loverboy, Y said that she saw you eating with ex-gf the other day. True? Sorry if this sounds clingy, but I'd just feel better if you told me that you have lunch with your ex. Kthanksbye."
posted by craven_morhead at 7:08 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

I agree with looking at this in terms of how long you've been together. If you're less than year--ahhh, it's not really your business yet. If you're more serious though, and have been dating for at least a year or two, I'd definitely ask him about it.

To those naysayers who say she's overreacting? Well, I don't think it's odd at all to have lunch with an ex. What I do find odd is having a continuing relationship with someone you dated for six years, and never mentioning seeing or talking with that person to your new s.o. I mean, maybe it's just the fact my s.o. and I share all kind of information with each other--who we spoke with that day, who made us laugh, who has some interesting stuff going on--that I find it weird that there are long term couples out there who don't. I mean, even if the conversation at lunch were boring, I'd still tell my s.o. about what I ate. Exchanging tidbits about our lives is just a daily thing between me and the s.o.. That's why an omission like this would really make me feel weird.
posted by thisperon at 5:32 AM on September 12, 2009

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