My girlfriend keeps initiating contact with her ex-boyfriend and I don't like it.
March 28, 2010 2:05 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend keeps initiating contact with her ex-boyfriend and I don't like it. I know she's doesn't want to get back with him and I know she is not going to cheat on me. One of the reasons I don't like it is because he seems so indifferent to seeing her, but she just keeps initiating contact. He has made it quite obvious that she is of little importance in his life now and he has moved on, maybe he feels like she treated him badly. But every now and then she wants to get together, why can't she just leave him alone!?

She knows I don't like it, which I have made quite clear and I am still friends with a couple of old girlfriends, which she does not mind. However the friendships are mutual, the time lines are longer since we broke up (mutually) and I am very open about what I do, which often includes her and careful about the situation.

Any ideas as to make me feel better about this?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Your girlfriend is seeking some sort of validation from him. She may not want to fuck him, but she wants his approval or to get back in his good graces or something. I think that she is wasting your time and not being at all considerate to. The emotional energy that she expends on that is the type of thing people should be pouring into their relationship with their significant other, not wasting on some random douchebag. You sound like you're tuned into the nuances of how you interact with your exes and are doing the right thing - which is why her doing this is a problem.

I rarely say this in relationship questions, but I think it's ultimatum time. You deserve someone with no other entanglements.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 2:12 PM on March 28, 2010 [6 favorites]

Is she not open about the situation? In what ways does her ex demonstrate that he doesn't have the same regard for her as she does him? Have you told her directly that you don't like it, or just given hints?

If it really is lopsided, perhaps she does have some unresolved issues with him, in which case, you should maybe stop trying to feel better about it and instead ask your girlfriend what she's getting from this and how unfair it looks to you.
posted by erstwhile ungulate at 2:14 PM on March 28, 2010

Have you asked her why she continues to contact him?
posted by anniecat at 2:17 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ask her why she keeps doing it. That's the fastest way to get your answer.
posted by Solomon at 2:18 PM on March 28, 2010

Any ideas as to make me feel better about this?

Realize that people are complex and have compassion for the fact that they may not realize how complex they and their emotions are. It's understand that this bothers you, but does it bother her? Do you know why she does this? Have ya'll talked about it? If you haven't, you should.

The question you ask is very much about you. I think you need to sit down her and talk about her and that relationship and why she seeks a connection with him. Once you have a clearer idea of that, you may develop a more sympathetic ear to her thoughts and emotions on this subject.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:28 PM on March 28, 2010 [5 favorites]

It's cool that you're being really thoughtful and deliberate about this. I would try to put your finger on exactly why this bothers you, then ask if that's the situation. I'd be as specific as possible about your worst case imaginary scenario. Asking her to allay your concerns will be a low-stress way to start an exploration of why this bothers you, why she does it, and whether (given that information), you still find it troubling.
posted by salvia at 2:57 PM on March 28, 2010

I think if you understood her motives you might better be able to empathize. Perhaps if she treated him badly (or is worried that's what he thinks), she is trying to assuage that guilt by continually reaching out to him. Or something totally different, but at least if you knew her reasoning, it wouldn't feel threatening. Talk to her.
posted by agentwills at 3:07 PM on March 28, 2010

Is it any of your business who she's friends with? Does it upset her unreasonably, or just you?

You should feel better about it by respecting her boundaries and friendship preferences.
posted by smoke at 3:25 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

I suggest asking if her reasons are [the reasons you're most concerned about] as the way you ask what her reasons are. This approach takes advantage of the fact that you have time to prepare for the conversation (whereas she'll be more on the spot), avoids putting her on the defensive, has you really owning and expressing your uncomfortable feelings and what's behind them, and (even if she only hazily understands her own motivations) cuts right to the essence of whether your concerns are necessary, possibly quickly allaying them and creating a low-stress conversation.
posted by salvia at 3:27 PM on March 28, 2010

You haven’t really made it clear why this bugs you. You know there’s no risk of cheating/her wanting to get back together with him. And if this only happens “every now and then” (which means what – once a month? Every two months?), and she tries to talk to him and he acts like a jerk to her, that’s her choice to continue to want to contact him.

So maybe that’s the problem – is it because you don’t like the way that he’s treating her? You don’t understand why she would put herself through this? That she’s focused a little bit too much on trying to talk to this guy instead of putting that energy into the relationship with you?

So talk about it with her: be clear about why this bugs you. Ask her what she wants to get out of contacting him, and what she actually gets out of contacting him.
posted by foxjacket at 3:34 PM on March 28, 2010

I know she's doesn't want to get back with him and I know she is not going to cheat on me.

Well, with respect, no, you don't know this, actually. Nobody can ever know something like this about a person.

You need to be a little more assertive and explain to her that if she is truly interested in some sort of validation as far as her intimate relationships are concerned, she ought to be concentrating on the one she is in now, rather than one she was in previously.

How do you feel better about this? The first step, as others suggest, is getting her to detail exactly why it is she keeps doing it. Hell, you might even want to contact him.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:35 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

I actually IMed my partner to see if he'd posted this. (Nope.) I'm the girlfriend in a situation like this right now, mainly because the ex's mom is having health problems and I'm concerned about both of them. My partner implies that he's okay with it, and I try to make up for this clear bit of weirdness by paying attention to him in other ways.

Your girlfriend KNOWS that he won't validate her, but there's some shred of hope in there that makes her come back. I want my ex to say, "You know what? I'm sorry that I was such a jerk and did XYZ stupid things," and he did say that kind of thing to me once after we'd broken up (but before we'd really, really split). In a way, that's worse than if he never did, because that keeps the hope alive. There's that survival instinct kicking in that makes you latch onto whatever you can :P

But what would actually happen if he did say those things? There's no reason we would get back together. And I certainly don't want to mess with his current relationship, much less my own (over which I have more control).

She's seeking a kind of validation that you can't give her; not only was her ex very different from you, but she was a different person. The things she might have right now might be way better for her, and she knows that, but it's still really, really hard to convince yourself that your needs can be met in different ways. It's like changing a part of your identity.

I try very hard to be as open as possible about what I'm doing, particularly because my current partner's last girlfriend cheated on him. We have a relationship based on a lot of deep talking (thank you, therapy), which not a lot of couples seem to have to the same degree. So we work on figuring out what the specific things are that bother me about the situation: is it that the ex is a jerk and a bad person, or is it that this ties into a lot of the feelings I have about the way I interact with other people?

You sound like you are following the guidelines for consideration on your end. But if she's not giving you the same consideration, or at least discussing her reasons why, that's a red flag. That's the golden rule of anything, much less a relationship: do unto others as you would have others do unto you. In what other scenarios might she give unequal consideration? You need to play by the same rules.

So, yeah, we're dealing with this situation about as well as we can. But even though I have a good reason for trying to initiate contact right now, it still makes me feel terrible every time I try to do it. That tells me right there how careful I have to be. Your girlfriend needs to heed those warnings.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go knit the ex's mom some socks. (After getting three other friends' okays, I asked my partner permission to do so. He seemed baffled, but it was the right thing to do.)
posted by Madamina at 3:35 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sounds like you don't like to see her be consistently humiliated by this guy.

Best way to get over it: tell her to never tell you about it ever, or try to see the positive traits she's expressing--persistence, friendliness, trying to stay connected and keep bonds strong even when it's awkward. All good things.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 3:38 PM on March 28, 2010

I'm pretty sure there's a psychological phenomena involving this, where if someone rejects you you're more likely to seek their approval than if they were just neutral... I can't remember more information than that, but it might be something worth looking into.
posted by biochemist at 4:08 PM on March 28, 2010

Your girlfriend is seeking some sort of validation from him.

Yep. I once had a relationship end, and she took it really badly (shockingly so, from my perspective, given the duration and depth of the relationship.) Nearly a year later, on my birthday, she sent me some books I'd left at her house and a long poem (which, to be honest, I didn't read much of, because it was obvious from the first paragraph that it was an epic poem about how I did her wrong, but with two different names.)

The thing is, she was a great person, I was just a dick at the time (I've commented in the past about a girl I mistreated, and how my mistreatment of her is what made me realize I was a dick.) So we talked on the phone a few times, and I told her it was me not her, etc., but that didn't help; she kept reaching out and she stayed angry.

So, finally, I figured it out and left a voicemail on her answering machine in which I said I had thought about it, and that we should get together for dinner soon and spend some time together. The result? She never called back, and I never heard from her again. I have no doubt whatsoever that she was looking for me to do exactly that; to show a sign of being clearly interested so that she could reject me instead of the other way around. Once I figured it out, it was easy enough to do -- and if I'd been wrong and she'd taken me up on it, at least we would have had a few hours to talk about it in person and work it out (or for her to yell at me in person for a few hours.) Either way, it was win-win.

Ultimately she wants him to care about her, even though he doesn't want her. It's a really hard thing to get over, as near as I can tell, but people do get over it. If she can recognize what she's seeking and communicate about it honestly with you, then this should work out okay -- and if not, then at least you should remember, so that you can help her get over you if you leave her later, by making sure she knows she's important to you, even if you can't get past the incompatibilities.

Good luck!
posted by davejay at 4:15 PM on March 28, 2010 [8 favorites]

Yep. I once had a relationship end...

Eh, weasel words. I once ended a relationship...
posted by davejay at 4:16 PM on March 28, 2010

She probably misses him. It's normal. Maybe she wants to see if they can be friends in some way and is baffled that he doesn't seem to want that. I've had that happen before when I didn't want to be friends with an ex - he didn't understand that I had no interest in him as a friend, only as, well, I'm sure you can fill in this blank yourself, and he kept trying to contact me to be friends with me because, I guess, he wanted to know that I still valued him as a person even if we weren't together. Which is also a pretty normal thing - I mean, you put a lot of time and effort into relationships, and when they end it can be a lingering pain to realize all that effort didn't result in any lasting thing, even if it's just friendship. I know I'm much more okay with my breakups that ended in friendship than the ones that didn't.

As long as you still trust her and don't believe anything dodgy is going on, I don't think it's too big of a deal. Annoying, yes, but it'll probably die out eventually.

Someone above said you might want to contact him and to this I say HELL TO THE NO. I occasionally talk to an ex of mine who I'm not really friends with yet (we broke up less than a year ago), and his current girlfriend started sending me facebook messages about how she wanted to hang out, and I was kind of like, no, I don't hang out with this ex, it would be weird to hang out with his girlfriend. And then the messages continued and she just made herself look like a complete psycho and now my ex's family and friends all dislike her. I think it is NEVER a good idea to contact your S/O's ex unless your S/O introduces you.
posted by distracts at 12:28 AM on March 29, 2010

I think a better question is why are you remaining in a relationship that is not providing you with what you want.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:48 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Having been that girl, I really recommend you let her be, and come to her own conclusions on it. Two reasons:

1) some of us like being in contact with exes. I may not be in love with you anymore, but I still may want to keep in touch, get dinner once in a while, and share news on mutual contacts
2) if he really is so MEH, it can take time to realize / acknowledge / come to grips with it and let go of someone you thought was still your friend. You can't help with this.

(This is all if she truly isn't looking to get back together with him (and you have to trust her on that))
posted by whatzit at 12:22 PM on March 29, 2010

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