Do I tell her about this ghost?
October 13, 2010 10:14 AM   Subscribe

Should I tell my near-fiance about my inability to forget someone else?

Mid-way through 2009, I met a girl who I dated very briefly. I developed strong feelings for her, which she did not develop for me. She ended it, and after a couple low-level suggestions that she reconsider, I moved on. Kinda. But kinda not.

I met someone else. Someone kind and wonderful and beautiful and with whom I am very much in love. I want to marry this woman, and we're definitely on that track. And I don't want off that track.

But... (there's always a but). I remain hopelessly enamored with this girl I dated before. It's clear to me nothing will ever change her mind, and I've made efforts to get her out of my head (including cutting off all contact, despite our amicable breakup). I've gone as far as seeing a therapist, who was a little helpful, but not very.

I expect this to fade with time, but I've reconciled myself to the fact that it may be a very LONG time. And here's where I get caught up in knots.

It feels wrong that this woman who is my source of so much support in every other aspect of my life is not privy to this struggle. And it feels dishonest. But of course, I also think telling her all this would be incredibly hurtful and could jeopardize what we have if it made her think I'm not totally committed to her (which I am).

What would you do? If you were her, would you want to know? If I share this, how can I do it in the least damaging way possible?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (46 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
No, don't tell her.
posted by Electrius at 10:16 AM on October 13, 2010 [7 favorites]

Nope... don't tell her. It may feel good to get it off your chest, but it will be a continually niggling insecurity for her.
posted by kimdog at 10:18 AM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

I would want to know whether you were capable of keeping damaging, hurtful thoughts to yourself without sharing them under the guise of "honesty."
posted by grouse at 10:19 AM on October 13, 2010 [5 favorites]

One thing to consider: if this other girl were to somehow become interested in you again, would that change your relationship with the woman you love now? I'm not sure how you should respond in regard to telling your girlfriend depending on how you answer this question, but I think the contemplation might somehow prove useful.

Also: please do not propose to this woman until you are really over the previous one. Nobody wants to hear "You're the only one for me, except for that one other girl I can't stop thinking about." Especially nobody wants to hear "You're the only one for me" only to later find out that there's somebody else on your mind.
posted by vytae at 10:20 AM on October 13, 2010 [22 favorites]

How long has it been since you and the other girl ended it? If you guys met in mid-2009 that means ~ a year, which isn't enough time to let the feelings completely fade.

I wouldn't tell her. You need to give it more time.
posted by biochemist at 10:21 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

My guess is, with the information you've given here, that it's not about this particular other woman per se, but maybe rather something that she represents to you. Some idea that you don't want to let go of. An idea that is also not complementary to the idea of wanting to marry your girlfriend.

You need to figure out what that idea is, so you can learn how and why you need to let go of it. Don't focus so much on letting go of HER, but of what she means to you. When you've figured out what it is, THEN tell your gf. No sense in it now, lest two people go mad chasing undefined ghosts.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:22 AM on October 13, 2010 [8 favorites]

Based on your description, it sounds like you're more in love with the idea of this other girl than the girl herself. You say you met and then dated briefly -- have you asked yourself why such a transient relationship mae such a big impact on you?

That aside.

If the other girl came to you tomorrow and said she loved you and wanted to be with you, what would you say? Would you leave your near-fiance for her? If so, you aren't ready to get engaged. And you might not be ready to be dating, period, depending on how bad this is.

If you think the dream of this other girl is going to continue to hang over you, I think you should do one of two things: either break up with your current girlfriend and get yourself sorted out, or tell her about what's going on with you so that she can make an informed decision. Personally, I would not want to be in a relationship with someone who was still infatuated with his ex. Your GF may or may not agree with me, but she's probably noticed that something's up -- if only in a low-level way -- and she needs to be able to look out for her own best interests.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:22 AM on October 13, 2010 [5 favorites]

I don't deny that one can develop a strong attachment for someone despite a brief relationship. However, that's just how the brain sometimes works, and it really doesn't mean anything. I'd definitely advise you to tell your fiancee about that woman you used to be married to, or how you had a kid in high school who you gave up for adoption. That's life-altering stuff.

But what you've got is just a funny little infatuation with someone from the past. What's more, you're not actively trying to stoke those memories--you've done the "right thing" and put her out of your mind.

This is a whole lotta nothin' that would, I expect, really hurt your fiancee, though. Keep this one under wraps, and you'll forget Ms. X in time (probably sooner than you think).
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:23 AM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you do tell her, make sure you make it VERY clear to her that you're doing everything within your power to get over the other girl.

As to whether or not to actually tell her, I guess it's better that she finds out now and can make an informed decision about your relationship than she finds out in some other way later on. Make it clear to her that this hasn't affected your relationship yet and is even less likely to in the future. Part of me thinks that it will hurt her, but part of me thinks that if she's under the impression that you don't have some kind of baggage from previous relationships, then she's kidding herself.
posted by Solomon at 10:25 AM on October 13, 2010

Marriage does not entail a perfect melding of brains. After marriage, if you're like most people, you'll probably still be subject to crushes, pangs, and unworthy thoughts of all sorts. So will your wife. If you bring them up and discuss them, you give them more power than they really merit.

Don't fight the crush, and don't (by tell telling your girlfriend) create drama over the crush. Don't agonize over it. Acknowledge it, but ignore it. That's the only way to really make it go away.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 10:30 AM on October 13, 2010 [9 favorites]

I think it would be almost selfish to tell her. It's not 'being honest'. You just want to not be the only one thinking about this... at least... it sounds that way to me.
posted by mittenbex at 10:30 AM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

Don't tell her, but definitely don't propose. Give it three months and seek therapy. If you still feel the same, you need to end it. You aren't being dishonest right now, but you will be dishonest if you tell her that you want to marry her with the thought of another woman on your mind.
posted by 200burritos at 10:31 AM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's your struggle, your problem. Your fiance has nothing to gain and all to lose (jealousy, hurt, envy) from this knowledge. I think the instinct to share is your relinquishment of responsibility (hey, I suppose to protect our relationship from this other-woman but I failed) and an underhanded way of recruiting her help on your personal problem. Man up and clean up after yourself. Consider keeping this secret a gift of mental health to your fiance. Yeah, it's going to be another burden, but you are about to take on responsibility by bucket-load, you won't notice it.

I think the advice "we should share everything in the relationship" is a qualified one. Sharing and communication is very important; but like all actions, it must be done with a goal in mind. When you are in a relationship, that goal should be to preserve, maintain and improve that relationship. As long as you are honest about that goal, you should choose your action accordingly. "Do not lie" and "tell everything" advice only apply to children; with adults, one must take in account of the result and consequence of one's action.
posted by curiousZ at 10:34 AM on October 13, 2010 [4 favorites]

Tell her, because it's who you are and you shouldn't have to hide who you are from the person you're going to marry.

That said, it's odd that this hasn't already come up and if you bring it up now, it's natural that she might be scared or worried about your commitment. You've been hiding part of yourself from her and you're sort of dropping it on her, seemingly outta the blue, so it's totally understandable if she's "WTF? WHO ARE YOU?!"

The best way to approach it is to sit her down, make it clear that you love her and are not looking to break up with her or postpone the marriage, but there's something you want to share with her. Be prepared for anger and hurt. Be prepared for her questions, such as "If she wanted you back now, what would you do?" "Have you been been thinking of her while you're with me?" etc, etc. Be patient, as she'll need time to come to grips with that. Be sure of your answers and be truthful about them.

Finally, be prepared for her NOT coming to grips with this, it could happen. Some people would view your withholding of this information as strain of lying.

Good luck!
posted by nomadicink at 10:34 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

No. I was your girlfriend in this situation once and was told. It led to the downfall directly.

On the otherhand, If you're secretly looking for a way to push your current girl out of your life, then tell her about the girl you can't get off your mind.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:36 AM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

posted by Area Control at 10:37 AM on October 13, 2010

If you still feel the same, you need to end it. You aren't being dishonest right now, but you will be dishonest if you tell her that you want to marry her with the thought of another woman on your mind.

I disagree. It sounds like your memories of her are just that. Memories. We can have fond memories of previous relationships and still belong to healthy marriages. As long as you don't plan on pursuing your ex, I would move forward with your soon-to-be-fiance.
posted by morganannie at 10:39 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can't unring that bell. Ever.

I think it would be a load off your back to tell her. Don't kid yourself that this would be anything other than selfish. We all have our own little messed up obsessions and fantasies, but those crazy little thoughts that dance through your head every once in a while don't necessarily mean anything.

Also, it has only been a year. Not that long in crazy obsessive infatuated crush time. And not that long in this relationship either. Give both a lot more time. People I never thought I would get over I somehow did, even though it sometimes took so long I got to the point where I just assumed I never really would, but that didn't end up being the case. I've heard that the chemical rush you get from being infatuated doesn't going away for sometimes up to 18 months. You aren't even there yet. You are probably still riding the high a little bit.

And remember it's not honesty if no one asked a question. I know, I know lie by omission, but no not really. I'm sure there are people in her past that she occasionally pines after and goes what if? But that's life and being human. You just have a bad case of it at the moment.
posted by whoaali at 10:42 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yes, you should tell her.

Why? Because she probably doesn't want to be married to a guy who's still obsessing over someone he met a year and a half ago. In fact, she probably doesn't even want to date him anymore, considering that she'll realize she is a rebound and a bandaid for a girl who was obviously a short term relationship....that even therapy didn't help him get over.

Do the polite thing now; let your near-fiancee find someone who is enamored of her. Then help yourself out by cutting contact with your ex and moving on with your life.
posted by motsque at 10:44 AM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

Been there. Done that. Well, w/regards to the infatuated awhile post breakup part of it. Eventually married the girl of my dreams (not the one I was infatuated with).

I tried therapy too which I think can be really helpful.

I also recommend you *not* tell your current about your infatuation. It's a selfish thing to do. What you can do is at some point disclose you were in a close relationship that was difficult for you, and ended (if you haven't already told her). But spare her the "I think about this other person often" part. It's just not about you getting it off your chest. It's about you growing beyond that relationship and into a new one 100%. Sounds like you're on your way but not there yet. I'm sure you'll get there soon enough.

Meantime, I *strongly* suggest never having contact again with this other gal. When a relationship is really lopsided, as it sounds your previous one was, it's just broken. No amount of desire to "be friends" will alter that brokenness. Maybe you'll see each other in 30 years at an airport.

Good luck.
posted by pallen123 at 10:49 AM on October 13, 2010

Don't tell her. She doesn't need to know and it will only do harm.

It also might be an idea to hold off on proposing to her until you can honestly say you're over the other girl. Being in a rebound relationship - no matter how good it is - can be a precarious thing anyway, and if it also includes you pining (secretly or otherwise) for some other girl, then it sounds like it might not be a situation in which to make such permanent decisions.

The good news is that getting over the other girl isn't likely to take as long as you think.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:54 AM on October 13, 2010

How old are you? In my early 20s there were all these things in my romantic past where I was like, "Man, I will NEVER get over that/stop regretting that/whatever." All this dramarama hanging out in the back of my mind. I got married at 24. Now I'm 32 and I can barely remember any of it. I talked to a guy not long ago whom I remembered as a friend and he was like, "Man, remember when you had that giant crush on me?" and I was like, "I did?" BECAUSE I TOTALLY DIDN'T EVEN REMEMBER. At the time I thought I would never get over all the drama surrounding that situation, it would always wound my feelings and hurt me ... and I hadn't even THOUGHT about it in years. And when he reminded me of it, I laughed. (And he was pretty pissed that I laughed because apparently he thought I'd spent the last 12 years pining for him. Even though he knew I was married. What a jackass!)

Anyway, even married people get crushes. If you love your fiancee, and this other girl is just a crush, I think it's likely that it will fade with time. And I don't see any benefit to mentioning it, except perhaps in the past tense as a girl who broke your heart once.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:54 AM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

My God, no! Don't say anything. Your memories will fade.
posted by Mr. Justice at 10:57 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

would you want to know about your girlfriend's fantasies about an ex?

A lot depends on what you guys normally share, and how you usually express your feelings to each other. Do you talk about exes in general? Are you completely open about feelings of anger, annoyance, dislike, apathy, or other negative emotions when they happen or do you try to create more of a generous romantic atmosphere by expressing more positive & dismissing some of the less-positive thoughts about each other?

There are a lot of ways to do things. It does seem like it's pretty early in your relationship to worry that the other girl will be in your thoughts forever, but if you really want to share the info, I'd try to start with an open question - ask if she's ever got stuck obsessing over a memory or past experience that didn't go the way she wanted, and feel it out from there. Maybe she'll have a story about a guy she daydreamed about and then you can see if that knowledge brings you closer...
posted by mdn at 10:57 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

No. God no! Hell no! Don't tell your current girlfriend and don't derail your awesome relationship over this ridiculousness.

What you do is, you sit yourself down and remind yourself as often as necessary (every day if you have to) that what you are feeling is some mixture of nostalgia and infatuation. It is an acceptable, albeit silly, thing to feel and in any event it will fade with time and lack of contact. That's it. It's like a photo or a scrapbook about your life before current-awesome-girlfriend. Sure, it recalls some good memories, but as time goes on it has less and less to do with your actual ongoing life, as lived, and the genuine romantic relationship you have built.

If you really feel the need to analyze it further, you could try to figure out what it was about this girl that makes her continue to stick out in your mind. Clearly, your current girlfriend is better for you in 1000 ways, but apparently there's some factor sticking in your craw. If you can identify something concrete, that will probably help you decide how to deal with it further (if at all - see above); such dealing-with is inherently up to you, but just broadly: if the way she trips your trigger is non-sexual, then you can get this fulfillment elsewhere in your life. For instance, if you were just SOOOO compatible in terms of musical tastes, maybe you can go to shows and record stores more often with your music-loving friends. It won't be the same but it can scratch the same itch. And for mundane things like this, there's no rule that you have to share your interest and connection with your spouse; these are totally appropriate things to bond with your friends over.

On the other hand, if this former woman was super attractive or something (which I'm sort of suspecting is the case)... man, you just have to let it GO. It is narcissistic in the extreme to continue obsessing over that kind of thing as you mature and get involved in a long-term, or even permanent, relationship. You're going to be running into hot girls throughout life, it cannot continue to be a "thing" for you. It cannot disrupt your relationship every time one of them (kind of, a little, not really) has some sort of interest in you.
posted by rkent at 11:04 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Full-out honesty is overrated, particularly when it can be so damaging, with no benefit to anyone other than being full-out honest.

We protect the ones we love. Sometimes that can be a little messier than we'd like. Enh.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:05 AM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

For what it's worth, I once sat next to someone on a train. He was a social worker from Australia and worked with lots of couples going through divorces and post-divorce. He said the common wisdom in his field is that it takes three years -- post-divorce -- for people to fully move on and for their emotional ties to be dissolved.

I tell you this in the interest of patience with yourself; give it time to slowly dissolve (your feelings for this other woman).
posted by PersonAndSalt at 11:08 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you are writing MetaFilter and you have already been to a therapist, then your current GF absolutely deserves to know about this.

Tell her about your problem (gently, kindly) and let the chips fall where they may.

Whatever this is about, it seems to be out of your hands. I respectfully suggest that the only way to break through the "block" is to come clean about this intimate secret/problem you've been harboring.

If this has plagued you as much as I suspect, you have less to lose here than you imagine.

Clearly, there is no happiness for you without peace of mind. Take steps to get that. The rest will fall into place.
posted by jbenben at 11:19 AM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

mdn's answer is the only one here that makes any sense to me. Getting over an intense crush can take a while and especially if you only dated for a short time, you might find that Obsession Girl is not who you've built her up to be, or has changed and grown into a different person.

But think about what would happen if the situation were reversed. And think about it in terms of the level of things you normally talk about with each other.
posted by Jon_Evil at 11:25 AM on October 13, 2010

If you do decide to tell her, practice writing (or typing) out what things you want to get across first. Like an outline. This will help you do so in the most tactful way possible.

But for shit's sake, please make sure she doesn't see it before you're ready to tell her stuff.
posted by Jon_Evil at 11:27 AM on October 13, 2010

Been there, my friend. You're not in love with this girl, you're in love with your fantasy about the perfect romance that could have been. You might be surprised at how fast you can get over it- you'll run into her on the street one day, and she'll be with her husband and will have forgotten your name. And it'll suddenly click that, wow, I'm wasting so much energy romanticizing someone I barely know when I have the real love rght in front of me! When that day comes, you will be glad you didn't let this ephemera mess with your relationship. Don't tell.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:28 AM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

Listen to the Beatles "In my Life" (sorry no link I'm at work)

Yeah, we've all had amazing experiences in the past but some of us have been lucky enough (it looks like you are in this boat) to have found something new, real, fantastic, infinite, that trumps the past. This songs says you can still embrace and remember fondly the past but what you have now is what you live for.

But, no, there is no need to share. You're past is the past, it happened, it's a part of you (it's not going to leave you), let it stay in the past while you continue to live your future.
posted by doorsfan at 11:35 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

My first instinct is that you're not at all, not even an inch, ready to propose marriage here. Why the rush? Going by the 18 months to 2-3 years rate that it takes the "love" hormone (oxytocin) to fade and become replaced by more stable feelings, you have no idea what your feelings will be like in the long run for either of these women. Slow. Down. Figure yourself out first.

This article may be of interest: ... And if you do decide to talk about this, keep it casual and inquisitive. Say you read the article and thought it was interesting.

I think this is a lot like giving up any other addiction, like cigarettes. Some people go cold turkey and never look back. Some people quit fine but fall back to it years later due to external stress. Some people struggle and then quit with ease. Some people struggle forever. The latter is a pretty miserable bunch. The limerence forums on Tribe are full of people who have been married to supportive spouses for dozens of years--sometimes burdening the spouse with this knowledge--but obsess about someone from even longer ago who barely gives them the time of day. Awful. Something about this relationship does speak to a psychological need that has nothing to do with the woman from your past. Your job is to figure out how to fill that hole on your own at first. A few months of therapy is no start at all. Go back. Look into a mind calming practice such as meditation. Find other activities that neither stifle nor feed these thoughts. Unproductive thoughts should pass like clouds, observed but neither judged nor dwelled upon.
posted by Skwirl at 11:59 AM on October 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


My husband loves me totally, I am in absolutely no doubt about that, but he did have a previous girlfriend/crush before I came on the scene that totally devastated him -she married someone else. He did tell me about it, we are honest with each other about everything, we were even friends with this woman for awhile (just friends, really) and long story short we haven't even had contact with her in ages.

But I just did NOT need to know about her, y'know?

And frankly how many of us have tales of the One That Got Away or the One That Never Was (I certainly do) and honestly, we do not need to load that baggage onto our current loved one. You have to ask yourself, is this knowlege relevant today? For us, I think it was as this woman and her husband was in our social circle, but for you, I think not at all. I assume you are being totally honest with yourself re how you feel about this current gal. THAT is what matters.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:10 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Finish this sentence:

"I think that telling my girlfriend that I am basically obsessed with a girl that I briefly dated last year is a good idea because after I tell her _honesty with myself and her_ will happen, and that will be a good thing."
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 12:13 PM on October 13, 2010

I remain hopelessly enamored with this girl I dated before.

This sounds like one of those stories people tell themselves of the "one who got away" so they never have to engage in the mundane everyday stuff. You aren't enamored with that girl, you're enamored with the idea of her. Obviously there was enough of a disconnect between you two in reality that she didn't want to be in a romantic relationship with you and certainly didn't feel the same way about you. So your nurturing this obsession with the last girl is pretty unhealthy and you need to think about how it's not okay to obsess over someone who feels maybe lukewarm and friendly towards you. It is under your own control and I think how you handle these feelings is based on how you think about it.

Because it's not something unique -- nearly every man I've ever met has a "one that got away" (I think my girlfriends don't do this because women get a bad rap for obsessing over a guy who rejects them openly) and when they tell the story, it's basically the exact same thing, which is basically their not realizing that there is no "only if she" and "maybe she'll" but, rather, "it can't be because she's not who I wish she was in order for this to happen and while my fantasy resembles her, I can't control the reality that she's not who I wish she was."

If you continue to go, "oh, she's the one that got away" or "she is the great unrequited love of my life," that really shows an inability to let go of fanciful ideas and a basic gravitation towards fantasy when you could be cultivating your reality -- it's just wasted energy. I know it adds some kind of interesting dimension to "who you are" as a person with romantic experience, but it's actually a way of distancing yourself from reality so you can sort of continue to rub something painful (like rejection and contrast between reality and fantasy) and then attempt milk it for pleasure. Which won't work after awhile. Which is why you're having an unhealthy obsession.

So, no, don't tell your girlfriend about it because it's only going to burden her and that's not necessary. Just concentrate on getting over it, see it for what it is, assess the reality of the situation, and then move on by participating in real life.
posted by anniecat at 12:30 PM on October 13, 2010 [7 favorites]

It is probably my duty to read all other comments in this thread before responding, and I am sure they are good ones because this is AskMeFi but I'm just going to tell you my experience.

I dated some guys about whom I felt very serious before I met my husband. Between dating the last of them, a man I really was falling in love with, and meeting my husband, I saw a great psychiatrist for almost a year. She finally got me thinking carefully about why I was so attracted to men who were emotionally distant. (The man I was seeing before/during the psychiatrist is lovely in many ways, but he would agree that emotionally, he just can't commit. To anyone.)

So, then, some time later, I met my husband. He is giving, warm, funny, and otherwise a tremendous guy. I would have ignored him back in my days of only goihg for the remote sort of guy. But fortunately, I had learned a few things and I appreciated my husband, and hey, it is now 15 years later and I love him as dearly as at the start.

So, about that other guy. I thought about him for years. I thought about him in the early days of dating my husband. But you know . . . a lot less. And last year I saw him when my husband and I were at a baseball game. I invited him to join us, we had a great time talking, I remembered how much I liked him. Then I went home with my husband and you know, this is the first time since then I've thought of this other guy.

In short, this will fade when you are in a truly loving relationship. And of course you should not tell wonderful woman you are with about former relationship that didn't work out . . . certainly not that you are still thinking of it. It would be hurtful, it would not help you forget, it would import this former relationship like a ghost into your current one,

TIme really will fix this. Just be patient.
posted by bearwife at 1:52 PM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

Don't tell. A year isn't an unusually long time to stay infatuated with someone. Telling your girlfriend about it sounds like a way of keeping this mystery woman in your life, and that's counterproductive.

I was crazy hung-up on someone who refused to even say we were dating. It took me almost two years to not blanch when I hear his name. During those two years I fell in love with / moved across an ocean to live with my sweetie.

Exception to not telling: functional reason to tell the relevant parts of the story. My sweetie knows about it because the manipulation from that experience has made me a bit gunshy: "Sorry I freak out when you change plans on me - I dated a guy in the past who was manipulative, and I'm working through that."
posted by momus_window at 1:55 PM on October 13, 2010

I was once in your gf's shoes. My boyfriend at the time thought it'd be a good idea to tell me that he was still enamored with his ex, but he still cares for me just the same, and it doesn't affect our relationship. He was the type that wanted to be honest all the time, with little consideration of whether it was kind or not.

I could never un-hear that. Pangs of doubt struck me all the time, leaving me wondering if he's thinking about her right that moment, or whether he'd leave me if she came back. It was torturous and definitely soured the relationship and my trust, as much as I tried to get over it. If it is really true that this was simply a remnant of his past that he is trying to get over and will with time, and it truly does not affect his feelings for me, I would not have wanted to know. I certainly would not want to know if this was a year after he's been seeing me (which was the case for us, and for you), and have me question everything good between us from that year.

However, it turned out that his latent feelings for his ex wasn't so latent, and when she came back into his life, he promptly dumped me and went with her. In this case, I felt like a fool for staying with his for so long. I wish I had listened to my doubts, and dumped him the moment he told me he still had feelings for his ex. I wish he had never been with me in the first place.

In summary: I would not tell her if you truly feel nothing will become of these old feelings, that they'll fade with time, and it does not affect your feelings for your current gf (such as comparing them). However, if any of the caveats are true for you, I would think about whether you should be with your current gf at all, or whether you should let her go find someone who is into her 100%.
posted by lacedcoffee at 2:28 PM on October 13, 2010 [5 favorites]

I was once in your girlfriend's position. Assuming your present girlfriend really is your priority, my advice is to not say anything that will make your girlfriend doubt that she is your priority.

Bravo for not talking about the other girl.

Directly talking about her aside, though, make sure you're not bringing dream girl up in other, smaller ways. Stay away from things like talking about the past with tears in your eyes (I exaggerate but you get the picture), or obliquely mentioning things you might have done with her in the past. Weird, vague clues add up, and it's not fun to slowly piece together the ghost of a "perfect" other girl.

Also, you might have addressed this in therapy, but maybe you can isolate and try to change the ways you think about the other girl. Do you think about her when you're tired? When you're having problems with your girlfriend? Maybe you can learn to expect thoughts of her at certain times, and deflect by thinking of positive things about your current relationship, or just getting up and pressing reset.
posted by pluot at 2:42 PM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

Don't tell her, but don't ask her to marry you until/unless you stop obsessing -- and if you can't stop, don't ask.
posted by davejay at 2:43 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Don't tell her. It sucks to hear that your significant other has been carrying a torch for someone else your whole relationship, because it implies that you'd never have been with them at all if you could've been with that other person. That feeling of "I'm not the one he really wants to be with" is poisonous and hard to shake, no matter how reassuring you may be.

If you're serious about wanting to get over the past girl and marry this girl - if you would stay in your current relationship even if the previous flame came knocking on your door - telling will most likely harm your relationship for no good reason. And if that's not the case, then you're not ready to get engaged or marry yet.
posted by mandanza at 3:25 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

It feels wrong that this woman who is my source of so much support in every other aspect of my life is not privy to this struggle.

This sentence makes it sounds like the reason you want to tell your GF is so that she can provide you support regarding this issue, like she does with all other issues.

I really hope that's not the reason deep down that you want to tell her about this, that would be horrible.
posted by Ashley801 at 4:34 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I know the OP can't answer this here but something for him to ask himself: how would you feel if your girlfriend told you that she was hopelessly enamored of an ex? What would you do with that information? Help her process those feelings or feel mildly sick, wondering, "Why are you telling me this?"

While I can see why you'd want to tell, relationships are tricky enough; there's often (even in the best relationships) little fuzzy gray areas of miscommunication, and my concern is that a tidbit like this would cause her more unpleasant second-guessing questions than anything else.

Ultimately, what would her best response be? "Wow, that must suck for you to have a crush on someone else, knowing nothing will come of it and it will fade in a LONG time?"

I just don't see any good coming out of a confession here.
posted by dzaz at 4:53 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

No, don't tell her. That's a bad idea. What's also a bad idea is proposing when you are still hung up on someone else, so don't do that as well.
posted by chunking express at 8:10 AM on October 14, 2010

I'm of the opinion that if you 'can't get over' this other girl, it is because you don't want to. Figure out why.

But for the love of all that is holy, DO NOT propose/marry current girl while your brain is flirting with someone else. Seriously. It's not kind to you, and it's REALLY not kind to her.
posted by MeiraV at 5:11 PM on October 19, 2010

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