Lesbians and their Ex-Girlfriends/Friends! Ugh?!
November 26, 2009 9:48 AM   Subscribe

My new girlfriend is still friends with her old girlfriend... how do I not let my jealousy eat me alive?!

I've been dating this girl for a several months and everything's going great and we get along very well. The only thing that irks me is that she is still friends with her ex girlfriend. They've been broken up for ages and I can tell that she is not interested in getting back with her ex. We live in a liberal US state and can be open and all of that and so she's openly affectionate with me in public, even in front of her ex. However, her ex on the other hand, looks at her with 'those' eyes that signal "I'm still into you!" She also texts, calls and messages all the time.

I've told my gf that I'm alright with them being friends, since I don't want to come off as the crazy new girlfriend and I know it's really common for lesbians to be friends with their exes (heck... I'm friends with a few of mine... though mine weren't as serious). But the problem I have, is that I can very clearly tell that her ex still has feelings for her... she wants to hang out with my gf alone more than in groups. She is seeing someone new, but doesn't look at her new love interest the way she looks at mine.

My intuition is generally right on with regards to reading people and I really believe that I'm dead on about her still having feelings for my gf. I'm sure others can see it as well.

So... since I know it will not work in my favor if I act jealous or say anything to my partner, how do I get past the jealousy of them hanging out? How can I think of this in a way that won't drive me crazy? Does it matter that her ex is still into her? Should I just act as if it doesn't bother me in the least? What are some strategies for getting over jealousy or discomfort?
posted by DorothySmith to Human Relations (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Background info: I just moved to the US for school so we've been dating since early fall.
posted by DorothySmith at 9:56 AM on November 26, 2009

So... since I know it will not work in my favor if I act jealous or say anything to my partner

I think you might be wrong about that. Perhaps you do have room to say to your girlfriend, "Girlfriend, whenever I am around you and your ex I get a strong reading that your ex is not really over you, and as a result I'm kind of uncomfortable with how much she contacts you and wants to hang out with just you" and see where the conversation goes from there. The idea is not that you demand that your girlfriend ceases all contact with the ex, because you have no right to do that, but maybe if your girlfriend were alerted to the signals the ex is sending and/or knew how you felt, she might be willing to make some concessions or talk to the ex about dialling it back or something, or just reassure you.
posted by orange swan at 10:04 AM on November 26, 2009

I have mentioned that I can tell that her ex still has feelings for her. She acknowledged that it may be true and reiterated that it is completely platonic on her part. Although she's acknowledged it and reassured me, I can't help but get uncomfortable when she receives a text, message or hangs out with her ex. How can I change my thinking to not let this bother me?
posted by DorothySmith at 10:12 AM on November 26, 2009

Tell her the truth! Tell her it makes you feel a bit uncomfortable, and maybe you can both work it out. I would talk to her more on the lines of "help me cope" than "I order you not to do it". she may see it from your perspective and decide that it's not worth it hanging out with the ex, after all.
posted by Tarumba at 10:15 AM on November 26, 2009

I think it is a bit touchy if the ex is still into her, but the most you can do is voice your concerns and let your girlfriend try and reassure you. You've done that, so I guess the next step you could try is befriending this ex yourself. If you can all hang out together and see firsthand how they interact, perhaps it would make you feel a little better.
posted by sunshinesky at 10:22 AM on November 26, 2009


What is the liklihood that you'll get over this in time--high? If so, just suck it up. Low? Take an approach of pity instead of jealousy--how sad that she still can't let go, after all of these years. You can think this, you can also say it out loud every once in a while. It will express your hostility without making you sound too jealous.

I'd also ask girlfriend to curb the alone time because it's a bit cruel to do that with someone who obviously is still so into you.

That's the tack I would take, and steer clear of the jealousy.
posted by kathrineg at 10:27 AM on November 26, 2009

One of my very good friends is in this exact same scenario, except she's your gf in the analogy... People vary, naturally, but I can tell you this -- former romantic partners + the two of them being alone + at least one of them still having feelings + alcohol = rarely a good situation for the new relationship on a long enough time-scale.

I don't think it's unreasonable for you to say to your gf, "hey, it's pretty clear she still has feelings for you and I don't feel comfortable the two of you hanging out alone without me around."
posted by modernnomad at 11:09 AM on November 26, 2009

She acknowledged that it may be true and reiterated that it is completely platonic on her part.

It's probably a bit of an ego boost for your ex to be around this person who has feelings for her. It doesn't seem fair to the ex or to you. Obviously, you're uncomfortable with your girlfriend spending time with someone who clearly wishes she weren't in her current relationship (with you). And on the ex's side, it seems unfair for your girlfriend to pretend they have a healthy, platonic friendship when the ex is seeking something more.

I think you could frame a conversation in terms not so much of "I'm paranoid that you and your ex are going to get back together" but rather of "I think you should consider the feelings of everyone involved."
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:35 AM on November 26, 2009

How can I change my thinking to not let this bother me?

I'm a big fan of trying to rearrange my thinking, but I have consistently gotten the advice that it'd be better to stay present with what I'm really feeling and discuss it, so I second the advice above.

But, to answer your question, here are some attitudes you could try on. You can see that there is a range within each one, and each has some truth but maybe misses something as well. But together they might help:
- Fatalism. "If you love something set it free. If it comes back to you, it's yours. If it doesn't, it never was." You can't control the world, you can only control yourself. You think it's worse to say something than not to say something, so you've made your decision about how you're going to behave, and beyond that, whatever happens, happens.
- Trust in her ethics. She says she's with you. She goes to the coffee shop, and you're worried she'll cheat? How would you feel if someone said, "don't go in the grocery, how can you be sure you won't steal something?"
- Trust in her decision-making. She had both options and chose you. She decided. She's empowered, she knows her own mind, and she says she wants you. Awesome! Don't insult her by acting like she's going to "slip" or "get seduced" or something.
- Confidence in your desirability, cockiness. If you wants her ex more than you, then good riddance! You'll find someone who wants to be with you. It'd be good you found out right away. "Wanting you more than anyone else" is the top criteria you want in a partner, and anyone without that trait is not someone you'd want to be with anyway.
- Unshakeable confidence. She has already had both options. She chose you. (And, of course, because you're awesome.) She broke up with the other person, she decided against her. Now she's with you, she likes you. She constantly says she likes you.
posted by salvia at 2:19 PM on November 26, 2009 [4 favorites]

Ok, if your girlfriend is faithful and speaking the truth, try to remove the whole concept of 'ex' out of the equation. Looking at it this way you are jealous that someone else fancies your girlfriend. You cannot control how other people feel about her, so treat it like the ex was anyone who was getting a bit too friendly with your girlfriend: mention it to your girlfriend without making it into a Big Thing or an accusation.
posted by slimepuppy at 2:54 PM on November 26, 2009

I'm sure this will go against probably all the other advice in this thread.

But in my life, when I've bitten my tongue and acted "cool" with things that my gut really wasn't cool with, because I felt I didn't have the right to have a problem with them, those things always increased their frequency and degree of uncoolness.

When I'm just honest about my feelings, see my feelings as valid rather than as things I don't have the right to feel/ask for, I end up in relationships where those things don't go on.

Everyone else's mileage may vary. Personally, I would ask my girlfriend to stop hanging out with her ex alone, and discourage the texting and googly-eying until it's at an appropriate level.
posted by Ashley801 at 3:25 PM on November 26, 2009 [4 favorites]

If your gf knows the ex still has the hots for her and expects you not to care, that's ridiculous IMHO. It's disrespectful to you to expect you to turn a blind eye to it and to the ex by jerking her around. If she respects the both of you, she will distance herself from that "friendship."
posted by CwgrlUp at 6:12 PM on November 26, 2009

I think it's worth revisiting this with your girlfriend, and just be honest. Whether it was an ex or some other random person, most people would feel uncomfortable if someone who had feelings for their partner was texting, hanging out alone with their partner, and so on. It's not about not trusting your ex, it's about not trusting the other person to be appropriate and disliking the feeling that you and your relationship are not being respected. Also, I think there's a big difference between changing the boundaries of how one conducts a friendship and asking someone to give up the friendship entirely.

It sounds like your relationship is serious and happy, so minimizing contact with her ex should be an easy choice for your girlfriend to make. You may run into some "but she's my friend/you can't tell me what to do/why don't you trust me" resistance, but try your best to listen, calmly acknowledge why your girlfriend would feel that way, and then ask her to do it anyways for you and your relationship. If she refuses, then I'd reevaluate. Good luck!
posted by katemcd at 5:18 AM on November 27, 2009

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