My girlfriend contacts her ex every day
March 7, 2010 11:24 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend feels sorry for her ex. He contacts her several times per day, she replies because she feels sorry for him. I am paranoid... should I learn to relax?

Firstly, the guy lives on the other side of the states and cannot visit her often, so I shouldn't worry about them getting physical. I am just worried she is not over him. I have talked to her several times about this.

Some facts:
- She knows I'm paranoid, but she has done a lot to show me she is committed to me.
- She told him that he needs to contact her less "because it bothers my boyfriend".
- She can't tell him she doesn't love him because she is afraid of making him feel bad.
- She told him that she thinks I am the one.
- She usually hides when she's talking to him or waits until I'm not around to talk because she knows it upsets me.
- I've heard her talking on the phone to him a few times, she doesn't talk to him like a friend. He told her he loved her, she didn't say anything.

Soon I will be leaving the country and her and I will go long distance. During that time, he is going to visit her and they will travel together for a month. They have had this plan since before they were dating.

I think he has the impression she is still in love with him, but in fact she just feels sorry for him. I think its unfair to not be straight out and clear with him that she doesn't love him any more, but she disagrees. She can't bring herself to make him feel so bad. She is a really nice person at heart so I can understand this reasoning, but I don't agree with it.

From her point of view, there is nothing wrong and I should think positive. I have tried this, but it just keeps wearing me down (we've been together for 7 months).

I'm just not sure what to do. She has been in contact with him almost every day since they broke up. I've already told her how frustrated I am, but her solution seems to just be to hide her communication with him from me more, which only makes me more paranoid. She also now avoids talking about it with me and usually changes the subject since she is tired of dealing with it. Am I being too paranoid?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (56 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
This is a whole lot more than her just feeling sorry for him...
posted by gwenlister at 11:27 AM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

This situation in itself is not the problem. Lots of people are friends with/still in contact with their exes for various reasons. The problem is that you communicated quite clearly to her that it bothers you and she continues to engage in this behavior behind your back. "I feel sorry for him" doesn't cut it as an explanation, I'm afraid. You need to discuss the situation thoroughly, get some concrete answers and not brush off your very real feelings about it all. If she can't provide these answers or change her behavior, maybe it's a deal breaker.
posted by meerkatty at 11:30 AM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Am I being too paranoid?

No. It's bad enough that they talk every day, but it is not appropriate for them to travel together alone for a month. I am all for exes remaining friends, but that's a over the line under the circumstances.
posted by amro at 11:31 AM on March 7, 2010 [16 favorites]

also, I can't imagine she would be so okay with continuing to do something that make you so unhappy if she was actually as committed to you as you think she is. Take a step back and see what is really happening -- she is putting the feelings of her ex above yours. She is much more concerned about making him 'feel bad" than she is about making you feel upset, paranoid, and uncomfortable.

The reason why she can't tell him she doesn't love him is because she still does.
posted by gwenlister at 11:31 AM on March 7, 2010 [10 favorites]

Oh, and on preview I noticed that this contact is several times per day. If this isn't a red flag, I don't know what is.
posted by meerkatty at 11:31 AM on March 7, 2010 [5 favorites]

Am I being too paranoid?

It sure doesn't sound that way to me. She's been talking to her ex pretty much daily for at least seven months? A nice person might want to let someone down easy, but that would take what? A few weeks of decreasingly frequent contact?

You don't provide enough information to indicate whether she's still in love with him, but she's most definitely getting some payoff here. Maybe she likes making you paranoid. Maybe she likes the way he moons after her.

At the risk of sounding callous, I think the fact that you're leaving the country is a godsend so you can distance yourself from the craziness.
posted by DrGail at 11:37 AM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Have you tried pointing out to her that if she is really concerned about hurting him, she won't continue to lead him on? Because if she's really not interested in getting back together with him, then that's what she's doing.
posted by amro at 11:38 AM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

The problem is that you communicated quite clearly to her that it bothers you and she continues to engage in this behavior behind your back.

From what I gather, she is doing this 'behind his back' not to be secretive, but to spare his feelings. It seems to me that she's trying to take the poster's feelings into account while also not giving the cold shoulder to someone she used to be close to. Perhaps she doesn't understand the depth of the poster's paranoia.

To answer the question, I think you're being far to paranoid. She has made it clear it's you she's interested in, she has told him you're 'the one' (wow! amazing! that's wonderful for you!), and apart from hiding the conversations (which she's probably doing because she thinks it'll make it better for you) she's done nothing even remotely suspicious. I think you should take more serious steps to deal with your paranoia, not to deal with her behaviour.

Maybe you could work out a deal with her, in the sense that while you actively seek ways to reduce your paranoia, she begins to reduce their communication to a more reasonable level.

As for the trip - no problem normally, but when he's so clearly wanting to be back together, it's going to be an interesting trip for sure.
posted by twirlypen at 11:40 AM on March 7, 2010

She sure is treating him like her other boyfriend. She loves you but that doesn't mean she doesn't also love him and want to be with him. Hard to be in your situation, but in the end, you can't control her, she doesn't want to stop. What do you want? What can YOU do to get what you want?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:45 AM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

From what I gather, she is doing this 'behind his back' not to be secretive, but to spare his feelings.

The OP specifically says that she is hiding this communication from him:
but her solution seems to just be to hide her communication with him from me more

It's the first bf's feelings that she is trying to spare. I'm sorry, but the primary relationship should come first, not the previous one. Huge red flag, you have every right to be paranoid, you deserve some real answers and/or a girlfriend who cares about your feelings.
posted by meerkatty at 11:46 AM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

Soon I will be leaving the country and her and I will go long distance. During that time, he is going to visit her and they will travel together for a month. They have had this plan since before they were dating.

Whoa whoa whoa. This is absolutely not normal behavior. You don't travel alone with an ex who is still in love with you if you want to keep another relationship.

If, after 7 months, she cannot say no to him without hurting his feelings, talks to her ex several times a day and thinks it's entirely okay to go on a formerly-romantic-turned-confusing trip with someone who will likely be trying to get with her the whole time they're together, you're not "the one". You're "conveniently located".

Run away. This is not a relationship that will do good things for your health, well-being or your sanity. If she really thinks you're "the one", she'll decide to be an adult and end the foolishness that's going on and then maybe you can think about taking her back. Maybe.
posted by Hiker at 11:49 AM on March 7, 2010 [26 favorites]

This is not paranoia at all. You'd like it to be paranoia, because that would mean everything is really A-okay, but it isn't, and it isn't.
posted by jon1270 at 11:50 AM on March 7, 2010 [5 favorites]

Yes, he lives on the other side of the country and you say you shouldn't worry about them becoming physical because of that...but what about the month they'll be traveling together?

She already clearly has an emotional attachment, but I'd imagine that she knows that it isn't practical to be with him because he's not around, so you're the substitute. He's the constant.

I think she's lying to him, not indicating her true feelings. She's also lying to you, hiding the number of times she talks to him. She's also likely lying to herself about where her loyalties lie.

I really don't think you're being paranoid here given the set of facts you've laid out. You need to decide if this is something that you can accept and live with or if you need to move on. If it were me, I'd get rid of the drama and move on with my life, wishing them both happiness on their trip and on the phone.
posted by inturnaround at 11:51 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

anonymous: During that time, he is going to visit her and they will travel together for a month.

I cannot stress to you enough how much of a problem this is. You and she need to work on this problem, but an immediate line needs to be drawn in the sand here.
posted by mkultra at 11:52 AM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's bad enough that they talk every day, but it is not appropriate for them to travel together alone for a month.

Hahaha. Yes. You are being taken for a ride, friend. Your girlfriend may sincerely believe that nothing worth noting is going on between her and this guy, but your girlfriend is, let me be charitable and give her the benefit of the doubt here, incorrect. I'm sorry, if she didn't care about him anymore, she wouldn't take all of his calls, and she would tell him she didn't love him anymore, assuming it's actually the truth. They are not going to travel for a month together just as friends if he has anything to say about it, and I would be concerned about either your girlfriend's faithfulness or her safety. He doesn't believe her when she says he's over him, and if she tries to keep it platonic on this little jaunt of theirs, he may not take it well.

I don't care if they've had that plan since before they were born. When they really break up, they'll cancel their plans to travel together for a month. Your girlfriend needs to grow a spine and decide which guy she actually cares about, and actually leave the other one. I'm sorry this has become your problem, because this is something a person ought to resolve well before she's seven months into her next relationship.

If I were you, I'd DTMFA when you go abroad, because even if she doesn't cheat on you with him while you're away, in your position I would suspect she had so strongly as to drive me a little nuts. She's given you an ample demonstration that she is not to be trusted when it comes to this guy - she's lying about something as innocuous as talking on the phone.

She told him that he needs to contact her less "because it bothers my boyfriend".

This is the wrong reason. He needs to contact her less because she doesn't love him anymore, and you don't typically talk on the phone multiple times per day for seven months with a platonic friend.

Again, I'm sorry to be so blunt, but you have given this girl the benefit of the doubt and way too much toleration of a very unconventional arrangement that you were unhappy with for far too long. This person is not a good girlfriend for you. In your place, I would have moved on after month one.
posted by little light-giver at 11:56 AM on March 7, 2010 [21 favorites]

Yeah, it seems your gut is speaking for a reason. I'm just now starting to listen to mine, and it turns out I'm psychic.
ok maybe not but I do feel better about my decisions these days, and you might too.
posted by inkytea at 11:58 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

should I learn to relax?

Absolutely. Cutting your losses and leaving this woman instead of "going long distance" with her will go a long way towards accomplishing this goal. Staying friends with exes is cool and, usually, to the credit of the people involved. But this is all way over the line, even without these traveling plans.

Your lady seems way too ambivalent about some pretty crucial stuff here. Find one that isn't. You're gonna lose your fucking mind trying to maintain this relationship long distance while she's running about with this other chap. You don't deserve that. No one does.
posted by EatTheWeek at 12:01 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

my advice is to NOT consider your relationship as exclusive, see how that feels to you, and, if that isn't acceptable, move on.

Her relationship with the other guy does not meet the definition of "ex", they are still in a serious relationship.
posted by HuronBob at 12:03 PM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

It really sounds like she's either getting something unhealthy from this (attention, drama), is still into the guy, or is a huge doormat. There's letting someone down easy, and this isn't it.
posted by you're a kitty! at 12:03 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Hey Anon -could you add a throwaway email, or MeFi mail me? I'd like to tell you what happened with me, but I'd rather not be hugely public with it.
posted by kellyblah at 12:05 PM on March 7, 2010

This is NOT ok. Firstly, the travel thing is a huge red flag. I guarantee that will be a problem. I know this is painful for you, but make an ultimatum with your girlfriend about this. Tell her to cut off contact with this guy and don't go traveling with him or the relationship is over. Trust me, you will be far far better off without this woman if it turns out she is not willing to do basic things to make you feel comfortable in the relationship.

Let me explain something too: you may think this is an irrational fear, or some problem of your own that you need to "work on" - not so. She will tell you that you are being "irrational", somehow "possessive" or some other vague self-serving term. The bottom line is that a relationship requires some give and take. If she continues to talk to this guy and you have made it clear that this is not OK with you, then she may be over him and she may not be interested in him BUT she is not respectful of your feelings. This is a problem.

I won't say that this is irreparable, but a lack of consideration for basic things may be fatal to a relationship especially if it is a pattern and over major things (like this).

At the very least, withdraw affection and any physical contact until you are sure this problem has ended.
posted by candasartan at 12:08 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

If she loves you and not the ex-BF, and he loves her, then traveling with him (alone? just the two of them?) for a month is rather cruel to him. Really, it's not fair of her. She probably doesn't mean to lead him on, there may be multiple non-refundable deposits, but it's really going to be awful, especially if they share rooms or adjacent plane/train/bus seats.
posted by amtho at 12:11 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Just think! After you break up, you can still talk to her every day and even plan a big trip with her and hang out and her next boyfriend won't mind at all...
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:18 PM on March 7, 2010 [26 favorites]

I was all set to give the girl a pass for simply being immature and a pushover until you got to the part where they'll be traveling alone together for a month. That ain't cool. As a woman who has also felt bad for ex-boyfriends I've broken up with, there comes a point where you need to separate yourself from them in order for them to have a chance of getting over you. You need to tell them you don't love them anymore, and if they keep telling you they love you anyway, you tell them to stop saying that, especially if you're involved with someone else.

Making other people feel bad is a fact of life when it comes to romantic relationships. I'm sorry, but it sounds to me like she is more interested in her ex than you. Even if the guy claimed to be over her and just wanted to take a trip with a friend, I'd have a hard time dealing with that - but this guy is still telling her he loves her? No. Nope.
posted by wondermouse at 12:24 PM on March 7, 2010

From what I gather, she is doing this 'behind his back' not to be secretive, but to spare his feelings.

How can you possibly know that?

I agree with everyone besides twirlypen. This isn't even close.

She has gone way, way over the line, and she knows she's doing it.

I generally think it's best not to be overly jealous in a relationship, but if ever there were a good time to be jealous about something short of literal/technical cheating, now would be the time.

I have no idea if she's sincerely interested in the guy or is just really unassertive and has no sense of boundaries, but no matter how you cut this, her behavior is unacceptable. You just can't stay in a relationship with this status quo continuing. Not while retaining much self-respect, anyway.
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:31 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Also, I hope you don't mind if I do a little edit on your heading:
My girlfriend contacts her ex every day few hours
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:32 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Yeah, this behavior is not normal.

There's are two school of thought when it comes to ladies remaining friends with their exes, but neither school legitimately thinks multiple contacts per day and a month of travel alone away from you is anything but a huge red flag.

Of course, you don't own her and you can never tell her that she is forbidden to do these things. However, she doesn't own you and you are free to leave any relationship in which your partner's actions are making you uncomfortable. In this situation or others, never look for others' opinions about what is permissible to be uncomfortable with; you are in control of what goes on in the relationships in which you participate.
posted by Willie0248 at 12:34 PM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

Your special lady friend may not still be in love with her ex but she really loves the attention. And she is being a big, bad meany by leading her ex on. That's some bad romance karma that will come back to bite her in the ass.

Ultimatum time: hey girlfriend, how would you feel if I talked several times a day to my ex-girlfriend. Texting, phone calls, email messages? She's really pretty and has a good heart and is still in love with me but I just don't want her to feel bad.

I'm guessing that your girl may see the light. In the event that she doesn't then it's time to cut bait and move on. Then she'll have all the time she needs to text Mr. Brokenheart McGetinherpants.
posted by amanda at 12:42 PM on March 7, 2010

By the way, if you need justification in your heart to dump her (hint for life: you don't), this is likely a form of emotional polyamory on her part. She's just immature enough to believe that if there is no actual sexual contact then there is nothing inappropriate about the situation.

Read "Not Just Friends" by Shirley Glass. If you are young, realize that this sort of emotional affair will pop up quite often throughout your romantic life.
posted by Willie0248 at 12:42 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

You are not being paranoid. And I think you know that you're facing a ton of trouble, drama, and pain if things continue this way.

Let's assume that the given "facts" are true:

- She knows I'm paranoid, but she has done a lot to show me she is committed to me.
- She told him that he needs to contact her less "because it bothers my boyfriend".
- She can't tell him she doesn't love him because she is afraid of making him feel bad.
- She told him that she thinks I am the one.
- She usually hides when she's talking to him or waits until I'm not around to talk because she knows it upsets me.
- I've heard her talking on the phone to him a few times, she doesn't talk to him like a friend. He told her he loved her, she didn't say anything.

Even if all this is accurate, you've still got a serious problem. Your girlfriend has really shitty boundaries. Your observation that she's stringing him along unfairly is absolutely true, but I doubt that she understands that at all. A lack of boundaries this significant is toxic. People are going to get hurt if this continues, and it will probably be all three of you.

Let this one go. DTMFA.
posted by dchrssyr at 12:48 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Soon I will be leaving the country and her and I will go long distance. During that time, he is going to visit her and they will travel together for a month.

That's ridiculous.
posted by modernnomad at 12:53 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

"..because it bothers my boyfriend"

This alone would bother me. She is maintaining an emotional exchange with her ex. It doesn't matter "why".

That is, her feeling sorry for him is useless. Nothing has ever been made better by any person "feeling sorry" for another person.

So, when she says, "it's not ok with my boyfreind", it's almost like she's saying, "but, it is ok with me".

I think it's great when exes can remain friends, close friends, etc. It's the manipulation (his patheticness) and her trying to file it under something acceptable ("feeling sorry for him"), and her own unwillingness to take responsibility (my boyfriend doesn't like it) that's the problem IMO.
posted by marimeko at 12:55 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Let me explain something too: you may think this is an irrational fear, or some problem of your own that you need to "work on" - not so. She will tell you that you are being "irrational", somehow "possessive" or some other vague self-serving term ... she is not respectful of your feelings. This is a problem.

posted by EatTheWeek at 12:56 PM on March 7, 2010 [7 favorites]

I think she's lying to him, not indicating her true feelings. She's also lying to you, hiding the number of times she talks to him. She's also likely lying to herself about where her loyalties lie.

posted by the foreground at 1:01 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

God, a lot of people sure do love to chime into these threads with their "let me tell ya, friend, word to the wise, take it from one who knows..." Or they arrogantly imagine that their person "red flags" are somehow culturally universal "red flags".

This is really easy — you feel disrespected and paranoid and you need to figure out an arrangement whereby you don't. My personal guess is that this does mean either laying down the law or ending the relationship, but it's certainly possible that that's not the case.

The crucial thing is to keep the goal in mind, which is not "to get your girlfriend to comply with the majority view of acceptable behavior on Ask Metafilter", but for you to feel happy and respected and whole, whether in or out of a relationship.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 1:12 PM on March 7, 2010

Well, at first I was openminded about what she was doing. That's because I was once in the exact same situation as your girlfriend. I allowed my ex to keep calling, obsessively, several times a day, not because I had some secret true feelings for him, but because he had become mentally unstable and I was afraid he was going to kill himself. And I was terrified of feeling responsible for that. I didn't hide it from my boyfriend, but on the other hand, I was too scared to tell my ex I was dating someone new because of what I thought he would do to himself. However, my level of attraction to him was a negative value and there was no chance then or now of me considering dating him again. His behavior did nothing but cause me stress and was the biggest turn off possible.

But, then I got to the part about your ex going on vacation with him when you are gone. I think that's way over the line. I think you would be totally reasonable to give her an ultimatum of not talking to him anymore and not going on the vacation with him.

The two problems are:

1) She's being dishonest with you (hiding this from you-- it would almost be better for her to simply say it was none of your business than hide it).

2) You have expressed that something really bothers you and rather than either trying to honestly communicate about it and work it out, or agreeing to go your separate ways, she's decided to just keep doing it.

I think those are both totally legit problems. I don't think you are too paranoid. However, I do not think she necessarily still has feelings for him. BUT, even assuming that all it is is that she is just afraid to upset him- what will happen when they are on vacation and he tries to sleep with her? Will she be too afraid to upset him then? I think you should not allow this situation to get to that point.
posted by Ashley801 at 1:19 PM on March 7, 2010

She's dissing you, and she's not over him.

Based on your description, you have been far more than tolerant than most people would be in your situation.

She has been in contact with him almost every day since they broke up.

Almost every day for 7 months?? This is not standard practice for dealing with a hurt ex.
It sounds like she didn't wait long enough after they broke-up to start a relationship with you. I think this trip of yours and her travel plans with the ex are just thing that is needed for this situation to resolve itself.
posted by archivist at 1:21 PM on March 7, 2010

Hmm, in my last answer I missed the fact that she's been doing this for 7 months.

In my situation, where my ex started obsessively calling me, I felt *extremely* guilty, overwhelmed, and frightened at the idea that if I cut him off or told him I was seeing someone new, he'd kill himself. And I had good reason, because he'd already made an attempt to kill himself while on the phone with me before, right after we'd broken up, and had been hospitalized for that.

Nevertheless, when his calls started flaring up later on, I only let the situation go on for a few weeks before I put a stop to it. To let it go on for 7 months is in my opinion, really bizarre. I don't blame you for thinking there is something more there.
posted by Ashley801 at 1:32 PM on March 7, 2010

I *completely* agree with Little Light-giver (on prettymuch all points). This doesn't just smell bad, it is bad.

I think it's ultimatum time: She takes the trip and the relationship is done. Ultimatums are no fun to receive, especially when you've been [planning/spending for/looking forward to] a good time for a while, so expect it to be received poorly. They are also out of vogue: Expect some variant on the Chauvenistic Controlling Bastard label. But enough is enough. It is one thing to tolerate contact between two people who share a history together --in fact, I personally shoved two ex boyfriends down my own S.O.'s throat as part and parcel of my non-negotiable circle of friends. It is another thing altogether to go on an unchaperoned road trip with a former interest that your SO has strong misgivings about (been there too, and I gave ground on that one because it was the RIGHT thing to do). Good partners do not deliberately put themselves in situations that are unhealthy for the relationship. And regardless of her intentions, this will be very, very damaging.

Oh, and if you're looking for a reason why you're feeling paranoid: It's because she's being dishonest. Nothing quite breeds paranoia like your observations not matching what people are telling you.
posted by Ys at 1:46 PM on March 7, 2010

Some people would be fine with this. Others would not. You are allowed to draw the line wherever you wish. Some dealbrakers might limit you to a small segment of the population. I suspect this one would not.

Furthermore it appears that she is set to do exactly the bare minimum in terms of this boundary to keep you happy. More than anything, this concerns me. It demonstrates a desire to interact with boundaries to find the borderline where she has maximum freedom to do what she wants, instead of seeing those boundaries as a guide to her as to what makes you comfortable.

Here's your problem--often people who want this type of freedom without responsibility will attempt to portray the situation as an issue of unwarranted jealousy (a real problem that does exist in some relationships). They will often portray themselves as victims and engage your soft feelings for them when issues like this come up. This manipulation, pure and simple.
That's why I think a negotiation model of relationships work best. Asking for exactly what you want in terms of boundaries and seeing if they will give it to you is a good thing. But for this strategy to work, you must be able to truly be ok with the idea that something can have a whole lot of something you want but enough of something you don't want to make it not worth your while. So even though your girlfriend inspires strong feelings of attraction in you, that means that unless you get other key must-haves in the deal, its not worth your while.

Personally, I would have long ago said that I do not want a monogamous relationship with this type of behavior and said that we aren't going to make it. Some others do not have a problem with it. But from what you say, you do have a problem with it, so make your decisions accordingly.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:58 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think it's too late for an ultimatum, mostly because you are about to leave the country. If she agrees with the ultimatum, how will you ever know if she's keeping her end of the deal? Taking calls in private will be substantially easier. She can feel free to say whatever she wants to her ex, without fear of being overheard. And, she could do the same to you as she is doing to him -- just keep stringing you along with multiple calls per day.

She'd rather hurt you than hurt her ex. But, she may not want to end it with you completely. This will be very easy with a long-distance relationship. For her, it will be the best of both worlds. For you and the ex, it will be a discouraging, drama-filled relationship filled with mixed signals.

You deserve better.
posted by Houstonian at 2:26 PM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

The one month trip alone pushed it over the edge for me. I think you need to give her an ultimatum regarding the trip as well as her contact with him. Say, "Him or me?" And if she chooses you, no more contact with the ex is allowed. It's inappropriate. If my man was all up in his ex's ass 24/7, I would leave him. You need to set the limit and if she truly loves you, she will stop contacting this guy. If she doesn't, well you know the truth and you can be smarter with the next one.

BTW, you're not paranoid - stop calling it that. You're concerned given her shady behavior and rightfully so.
posted by icy at 3:14 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I hate to pile onto the dogpile but unless you're planning an open relationship with her and her ex... yeah, it's time to move on. It sounds like she's doing a lot to show you how committed she is to you because she's not actually committed to you.

If anyone needs do that much explaining, it's damn fishy.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 3:25 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Several times per day? I don't talk to anybody that much. (Other than my husband, because we live together and whatnot.)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 3:41 PM on March 7, 2010

During that time, he is going to visit her and they will travel together for a month. They have had this plan since before they were dating. (...) I'm just not sure what to do.

Have you considered that maybe she is about to break up with you?

Since nobody else here has suggested it: why don't you call her ex and ask him why he's still in contact with your girlfriend? If you don't have his phone number, ask you girlfriend for it, and tell her that you want to talk to him.
posted by iviken at 3:42 PM on March 7, 2010

Since nobody else here has suggested it: why don't you call her ex and ask him why he's still in contact with your girlfriend? If you don't have his phone number, ask you girlfriend for it, and tell her that you want to talk to him.

Nobody suggested it because it's a really bad idea. It is not your place to call him; don't do it.
posted by amro at 4:17 PM on March 7, 2010

My advice is that you need to form a compromise with her in which she only has contact with this person a certain number of time a week, month, etc. Even better would be for her to steadily decrease this until she's not contacting him at all.

Trust me, I'm in a situation slightly similar to yours, and if you don't reach some sort of compromise, then it's going to tear you apart. If she's not willing to make a compromise, then I'd really question how committed to your relationship she is.

And as far as them traveling together for a month, there's no way that's acceptable. Either something is going to happen between them (likely physical) or even if it doesn't, the uncertainty you're going to have when they are together is going to undermine your relationship. Make her cancel her plans or move on. You shouldn't be tortured like this.
posted by elder18 at 4:21 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Your GF could be me a year ago. granted, she is NOT me so it could be totally different, but my experience was identical. it was very difficult for me to accept that i had to distance myself from my ex, i also was very afraid of hurting him or making him feel bad. i finally cut myself off from him almost entirely, and a year later i'm happily married to the guy i left him for (who had your exact attitude about the situation). so, what she needs is to cut him off. he will NOT be able to move on until she does this. it took me months to accept and understand this. now my ex who i thought would never be able to be happy without me in his life is moving in with his girlfriend and is very very happy.

so, from my experience - she doesn't want him back, she doesn't love him, but she doesn't know how to go about accepting that fact. please don't be too hard on her. it's a difficult situation in her mind. just be supportive but consistent about the fact that you'd feel more comfortable if she spoke to him less.
posted by assasinatdbeauty at 4:48 PM on March 7, 2010

Um, it's not that she's not cutting him off because she feels bad for him; it's that she's not cutting you off because she feels bad for you.

From her point of view, there is nothing wrong and I should think positive.

This idea is designed to make you feel like shit and that it was your fault when you guys break up. She doesn't want to be the bad guy.
posted by AlisonM at 5:42 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Several times per day? Holy shit. If she had any sense, she would have cut things off a long, long time ago. That she has not cut things off is more than enough sign that she has very poor judgment. If there were such thing as breakup law, the traveling-together would be considered "constructive dumping." She's the one who's decided to put your relationship on ice. Don't feel bad about making it official.
posted by Dasein at 8:13 PM on March 7, 2010

Okay, I was this girl ten years ago, more or less, or at least, I could've behaved this way, so let me try to explain how it would've looked to me, back then. She may be different, of course.

I think she's devoted to you, so it's probably paranoia to think that she's going to leave you for him. The really important fact here is that she has chosen to be with you and says you're "the one." I would take her at her word.

Your discomfort makes sense -- I'm not saying "you should be okay with this." I would just get clear that this is an issue with her, and her inability to draw lines with him, and how that impacts you -- not an issue about how she feels about you. Let's say she was spending all of her free time and cash helping a drug-addicted 17-year-old runaway, and she kept letting that person eat all of your food and sleep in you guys's bed. You would feel right to say "wtf? I want to sleep alone with you!" Her inability to draw lines with this guy is impacting your life with her. But it's coming out of a different part of her mind and heart than the part that is excited to be with you.

She can't really say "no" to him, and she doesn't say "no" to you either (she hides things), but the person she says no to is herself. She probably knows more about what everyone else wants from her than what she herself wants. His clinginess and whiny desperation probably makes her feel uncomfortable, but she doesn't know that it makes her uncomfortable, and she doesn't think that she could keep herself out of this awkward situation. Asserting boundaries and putting herself first like that would feel harsh and selfish and mean.

All that said, I don't know how to advise you. I worry for you guys. This is probably a deep part of herself that's not going to shift easily. Your attempts to shift it will cause problems. Here are the binds that you are in.

Bind #1 -- If you say, "push him away," you're the selfish one, and you get disregarded. She doesn't want to be selfish, and she doesn't want your partnership together to be selfish. She doesn't put herself first, and as part of her inner-circle, she may not put the relationship first either. You guys are so blessed and lucky, and you love each other, and now she wants you guys, together, to be selfless and put everyone else before yourselves.

Bind #2 -- It's hard for you to teach her to be more self-directed and self-fulfilling and less nice. Because anything she does for you is likely to come out of her desire to please others and be nice. Whereas what you want is for her to stop pleasing others and being nice, and to start pleasing herself and drawing lines will make her happy and take good care of herself and her loved inner-circle ones. But asking her to do that is like saying "stop doing what other people tell you to do!" (*universe explodes*)

So, your options are extremely limited. Honestly, none sound great to me. Could you find patience to relate to this problem as a problem she has with herself? That would be the best. The "ultimatum" suggestion that so many are making could backfire in many ways (e.g., it might erode her respect for you, or establish a strong power imbalance), so if you take that advice, I'd be really careful about how you approach it.

I'm sorry you're struggling with this. Sorry for writing a novel, and I acknowledge that I might be totally off-base in my interpretation, but if it's been helpful, I'd be happy to talk more over MeMail.
posted by salvia at 10:18 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

salvia hit pretty much exactly what I was thinking. I haven't been THAT bad, but pretty close - she's got an extreme version, but the self-sacrificing everything-to-everyone habit is a common part of female socialization. That is to say, I know lots of women with this problem (and not a few men, either, to think of it).

That said, the travel together for a month is terrifying because he will be the presence, and you will be absent, and the people-pleasing tendency will focus on him. And he wants her to love him and not you. If she can't tell him straight up "Stop saying you love me. I don't love you, and I don't want a relationship with you." over the phone, do you think she'll be able to say it in person?

I don't know. Maybe she will. Sometimes it takes line-crossing - he might have to prove that he's being selfish before she'll put her foot down. If he won't back off eventually it'll reach a point that she has to say either "yes, I love you" or "hey, cut it out, our relationship is over, I told you (your name here) was the one" and it might well be the latter. So I guess the "best" you can hope for is that she tells him to bug off and it ruins the vacation.

What does she think he'll act like on this trip? Does she have any plans for dealing with it? Denial only goes so far - ask her, explicitly, what she thinks he'll act like. What she'll do if he tells her he loves her, or tries to kiss her, or puts his arm around her and tries to snuggle. Because she either hasn't thought about it or has tried to avoid admitting that she doesn't know what to do.

Is he even going to want to travel with her any more if he doesn't have this illusion that she loves him? Is she going to have to admit that she's basically lying to him to keep the peace and to not have to "make a scene" by cancelling or changing trip plans?

I guess what I'm getting at is, she has to see the ways in which her behavior here is selfish. She's not telling him the truth, which he would want to know _before_ the trip, so that he can make his own decision about whether to call it off.
posted by Lady Li at 11:01 PM on March 7, 2010

Woahhh hooo hoooo. Yeahhhh nooooooo. You can thank us later.

I'm friends with several of my ex-boyfriends and there are a few a few common denominators in those situations which make those friendships successful. (Note usage of the word "friendship.") I see exactly none of these in your description.

First off, full disclosure. If my Sig Other wants to read my emails from my exbf/friend, go to it. If they want to meet each other, I'll even make them dinner and provide the beer. I venture to guess if you asked to meet ol' boy, your girlfriend would get very uncomfortable with the idea which says something right there.

Secondly, while various exes and I do engage in trips down Memory Lane (along the lines of, "Wow, I miss our times together, you are really special to me.") and we get a bit sappy from time to time and exchange old pix on Facebook or whatever, we make a big ol' U turn at the end of said Lane. That is, we don't try to recreate our dating relationships by spending extended periods of time together.

Thirdly, I don't engage in any situations with exes where there's the potential for panties to hit the floor. Dinner together? Sure. Emails? Sure. Travelling together for a month? WTF, no. Just no.

Most importantly though, the deal is this: whatever it is that hurts you in a relationship, if the other person doesn't heed it, it's time to go. You have a right to feel whatever you in fact do feel. The other person doesn't get to override your feelings by declaring them irrational. YOU HAVE TOLD YOUR GF QUITE SPECIFICALLY THAT SOMETHING SHE'S DOING HURTS YOU AND HER RESPONSE IS TO KEEP DOING IT. It doesn't even matter what the activity is, if someone does something that causes you pain but keeps on doing it after you've discussed it with them, your feelings are not a priority for them. And the corollary to that is that you can't form a loving, trusting relationship with a person who doesn't concern themselves about your feelings. Actions speaking louder, words, that whole nutroll.

She has shown she's not going to change her behavior and my guess is that if you give her an ultimatum, she'll just go underground with it and continue. (Uh. Learned that the hard way myself.) You are not dealing with an honest, sensitive, let's-work-it-out kinda person here. You're dealing with someone who repeatedly puts her needs and A THIRD PARTY'S NEEDS ahead of you and your feelings.

As tough as it is, rip off the band aid and find someone who's respectful toward you.
posted by December at 9:01 AM on March 8, 2010 [4 favorites]

I don't think this girl is playing the OP. There are too many red flags here. I think she just doesn't know how to be assertive.

Women have been strongly socialized to put other people's feelings before their own. He is going to keep calling her because she hasn't told him not to, because she doesn't want to be 'mean' or be a bitch or hurt him. And he knows this, so he is going to keep using it to his advantage.

But this is hurting you, and she may not realize it. So if you say to her, "Listen, it's really sweet that you don't want to hurt [exboyfriend]'s feelings, but the fact that you won't cut this relationship off with him hurts my feelings, a lot. I can understanding staying friends with an ex, but this isn't 'friends' - this is like you're still in a relationship with him."

And then see what she says. If she says, "Yes, you're right, I just don't know how to cut him off, he says he'll kill himself every time I try" then you can OFFER to help her, you can talk some solutions out with her.

If she says "stop being paranoid" then you have your answer. And I think you already do. I think that there is part of her that likes the attention that she is getting from two guys.

I think that the trip is a definite, definite no. I don't care if they had this planned at birth. It is inappropriate for her to take an overnight trip with a man she was previously involved with. If it isn't for business (and even then I'd say she should try to get out of it) I don't understand why she's going.

When I was in college, my boyfriend and I made plans to take a trip after we graduated. We bought the plane tickets and everything. Then we broke up, and he still wanted to take the trip together, and at first I thought it would be okay, and then I realized it would be a terrible, terrible idea because he was still mooning over me. He was a nice guy and everything but I didn't want to spend three weeks backpacking around Europe with him trying to get me back or angry and silently sulking because I didn't want to get back together with him. I still wanted to take the trip but I took it about six months later, and not with him. I don't know what this trip is, but if she really wants to take it she should make the arrangements separately.
posted by micawber at 12:11 PM on March 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

Dude.......... GET OUT NOW!

Seriously, I'm just going to paste you what I said to my girl (of 6 months) when I finished with her just the other day. It will explain her behaviour & how abnormal it is for her to want to even see her ex. I just walked out of her house when she was out the back, made it a lot easier because she simply would not speak to me about 'why' she felt so drawn to this total ass who she was meant to despise.

Save your feelings. If it bothers you like it did me then you are just a perfectly natural human being & don't think that you're any less. They are the ones with the problem.

I don't care what anyone says, the natural & ethical thing in this life is to be a genuine person & to only have 'that type of love' for one person. They just have to be the right one..... & they will come!

If you wanna share experiences message me, because the worst thing is all this is after I treated her like a godess..... now I know men exaggerate about how they treat women, but I am telling you now, I did NOTHING to warrent this sort of abuse on my emotions.


This is the last time I will speak to you about it because I want you to
understand the reasons why I did what I did so you're not left asking questions,
and I would also appreciate you puttin HER GAY FRIENDS NAME straight on accusing me of doingthis because I wanted my ex instead (since he appears to have misunderstood what
you evidently said to him).

Honestly, after almost 6 years of not speaking to
her, why would I now? Hence the reason I f***ed her off up the road when she
contacted me........ ex's can smell when their ex is happy with someone & they
will do their utmost to destroy that whether they want them or not, because they
are empty lonely people who find comfort in falsely being with someone to hide
their own insecurities. And it also kindof wouldn't make sense me going on about
the HIS NAME thing if I was going to go and do the same myself :/

These are the reasons why I left.... nothing else, that was the only issue I had
about you HER NAME, & I still question why you kept on at it when I was trying to
offer you a real good happy life.

Asking your ex boyfriend (who you said wasn't very nice to you anyway) before your
current boyfriend to help you carry something home is wrong, simple as.......
then to make matters even worse you invite him in for a drink & a laugh on the
bed that you & I slept in. Granted I couldn't get to you because of transport
issues, but all you had to do was wait till the day after for me to come over and
we would have gone and got it together (Like we were supposed to anyway)..... I
know I diddn't buy you one like I said I would, but getting him to carry the
mirror I couldn't buy you really threw it in my face. I even walked 10 miles in a
blizzard to make you understand what I was willing to do to make you trust that I
would always be there for whatever you needed before anyone else.

Getting texts from your ex at all hours of the day, first thing when I wake, &
last thing at night trying to be more involved with you than he should be then
b*tching when you don't reply to him straight away is also wrong. Not wanting to
even cut him back a little bit just told me that you enjoyed his attention more
than mine...... do you know how bad that made me feel? Every text from him made
me feel dead inside, & the fact that you were only with him cos you were bored
hurt me even more because you responding to him & going to see him just told me
you were bored again. Even when I wasn't with you I wasn't 'bored', I was content
with the thoughts I had a beautiful girlfriend at home who couldn't wait to see me again.

Going to meet your ex 1 hour after your boyfriend leaves is wrong..... especially
when you were the one to call him out first. Then lying about where you went & who you
went with because you knew it would upset me. This was probably my lowest
point..... this is when I realised you really diddn't have anything meaningful
for me, hence why I broke down like I did about it that Thursday. I've never
shown emotion like that in my life, not even when my Dad died was I that low.

Not making a compromise & cutting your ex off for the bloke you supposedly are
'really in to' is wrong...... I was more than fair about the whole thing, and you
continuing to have him on side just whittled me down more and more to the point
where all that I had for you is gone.

Calling out your ex's name in your sleep however isn't wrong (OH YES SHE DID!)......... I wouldn't be so selfish as to hold that one on you because it was way beyond your control. But you have to understand that the only reason you did is because of the increasing contact you were having with him.

I could never look at you the same again, as much as I wanted to all I would see
is you & him & that makes me feel like a private joke between the two of you.

Please don't hate me for this. I'm only saving you the problem of having to deal
with me not being able to put everything into us because you & him was all I
thought about. It wouldn't be fair to either of us.

I hope you find your happiness one day, & I really wish that whoever you are with
treats you well, because although you made mistakes, you still deserve to be
happy, just like everyone does.

I hope that you will see I've had the decency to be honest & explain to you 'why' so there's no agonising questions left unanswered. I still could do with knowing why you diddn't think any of that was a big dealBut to be honest, I don't think you even know yourself, that's why you can't tell me & I respect that.



P.s I know I am VERY opnionated, & I appreciate that some peoples views & experiences might be different to mine, but lets try to remain civil & accept each others way of seeing things.

Good luck to all the people that deserve better than this ;)
posted by Hinny at 7:44 AM on April 5, 2010

Oh yeah! I had a constant red flag from the beggining & she said I was silly to even concider that being anything to moan about.

Her Facebook (daily user) status stayed at 'Single' for the whole 6 months! I tried everything to get her to if not say she is in a relationship, at least take the single status off to stop the guys she adds as friends thinking shes available and open to lots of flirty stuff.

I tried to joke about it...... something like 'Oh la la, this sexy girl is still single?!' naively thinking the would think 'oops, better sort that out'....... but no, she couldn't be arsed! The rediculous thing is she was on her page an inch from the edit button when i said that!

When I spoke to that 'Gay Friend' of her's about it (since I thought bringing it up again with her might make her think I am being overprotective or controlling which I so totally was not!) & he said 'Oh that's just her...... she's not one for labels. I thought that was a pretty lame excuse, if she diddn't like labels, why was she done so as single? Besides.......... I like labels, they are reassuring but my god can the wrong ones make you feel so inadequate :/

So yeah, really stupid of me to use that an indicator of what she thought of me......... I thought it was pretty accurate, especially so as with her last ex she changed it for him......
posted by Hinny at 8:56 PM on April 5, 2010

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