Is it really a binary decision?
February 16, 2011 3:12 PM   Subscribe

Are my relationship demands unreasonable?

Background: See this AskMe question.

Follow-up: Since that time, she moved closer and we started dating in July. However, not long after we started dating, she discovered I asked someone out and slept with someone else after I had said "I don't want to date anyone" (bad move). This led to a tearful breakup in November, after which I started to see a counselor for my addiction to affirmation.

In the past couple months, I've taken steps to not be such a showoff-y attention whore, and we have reestablished contact and thus once again grown close. However, I still feel she does not accept me; at her behest, I told her my entire dating history, which was really painful for her. She objects to my remaining friends with two of the people with whom I was involved, and says that, if I cared about her, I would no longer be friends with these people.

I'm of the opinion that, because it happened in the past, it's over and done. She wants me to break clean of my past, which seems to mean pushing away anyone who was part of my dating history. The friend in question was never someone I officially "dated", though we were physically involved. Also, this all happened about 5 years ago, and my friend has stood up for me in similar circumstances with her significant others. We're close, though we don't see each other often, and there's no chance of us being involved again.

Is there any way I can get her to accept that this friend can be an important part of my life? How can I best phrase it? Am I being selfish? Do I need to figure all these things out before I re-enter this relationship, or should I enter the relationship (and thus take away ambiguity), then help her heal (which is what she wants)? Is her (legitimate) distrust of me a deal-breaker for a relationship right now?

What the hell do I do?
posted by Turkey Glue to Human Relations (74 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
If it is important to you to maintain friendships with your ex-partners, then there is nothing unreasonable about that.

Which doesn't mean that I don't sympathize with her distrust of you; I see where it is coming from. But if it is important to you to keep up friendships with your ex-partners, and it's important to her that you don't, then this might be a deal-breaker.

And that's okay. You're allowed to want what you want, even when it isn't what she wants.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:19 PM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think your demands are unreasonable. She is probably feeling insecure, so you need to make clear to her that you are not willing to give up your friendship status with others because of her insecurity. However, it is important to do so gently, with compassion, and most importantly, empathy.

If you can say to her, "I understand why you would be uncomfortable with this, I hear where you are coming from, and I can empathize," I think she will be more willing to become comfortable with it.

No need to chastise her for feeling insecure, but you should also not cut off your friends for the sole reason that you don't want to and doing so will only cause resentment.
posted by DeltaForce at 3:20 PM on February 16, 2011


Your situation is unique as you've already proven yourself to be untrustworthy. Because of that, her request seems valid to me.

How do you get her to accept that you won't sleep with your friends? Don't sleep with your friends and continue not to sleep with your friends. And yes, it is incredibly selfish to keep a reminder of your infidelity around.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:21 PM on February 16, 2011 [18 favorites]


Also, if she were to have done the same thing to you, would you be upset? If so, acknowledge this to her, acknowledge that you too would be vulnerable in that situation. In this case, if you both want to move on, the best thing is not to focus on how you have different opinions but to acknowledge and accept her (the hurt party's) point of view.

I know that when I am hurt, the best thing to make it go away is not to tell me to not feel hurt or that I am wrong to feel hurt, but rather to be understood.
posted by DeltaForce at 3:27 PM on February 16, 2011


I've always been of the opinion that it's wrong for anyone to make someone else cut friends/ex-lovers out of their lives because of trust issues they might have . It's the kind of action that does absolutely nothing for personal growth (on the part of both parties in the relationship), and in the long run, it does the opposite in terms of (in your situation) her establishing trust within your relationship.

There's no such thing as a 'clean break from the past'. The past is part of you because it has shaped you into the person you are today. If you deny that, you're denying every aspect of yourself, and that's just wrong. No-one should ever do that for any one or any thing.
posted by New England Cultist at 3:29 PM on February 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


2bucksplus totally has it in this case.
posted by jbenben at 3:29 PM on February 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Your demands are reasonable. ("demands" is a bit of a strong word, though). Your gf wanting you to cut ties with your past is a big red flag. You can't cut ties with your past; it's your past.

Tell her that you have no romantic or sexual interest in this ex, that the ex is simply a friend. And then give her some time to come to terms with that. Trust isn't an automatic thing, often we have to earn it over time. But ultimately, if she doesn't believe you that this ex is only a friend, then she is saying she doesn't trust you. And you don't want to be with a such a person.

You slept with this other person while the two of you were apart, correct? If so, then you have nothing to be ashamed of.
posted by zardoz at 3:31 PM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I doubt that breaking off the friendship will heal her lack of trust in you, and by ditching an old friend I think it would show you to be someone whose loyalties are breakable. Subconsciously it makes you less trustworthy, somehow, IMO. If she doesn't trust you, she doesn't trust you. She's trying to make you 'safe', but we both know that's never going to happen.

This doesn't sound like a good start to a relationship. Don't 'sacrifice' for her. You (and she) might be better off taking your lessons and moving on.
posted by griselda at 3:33 PM on February 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


I would say no.

I had the same issue with my current boyfriend when we got together. I have dated a lot and usually end up becoming friends with my exes or remaining friends with people I've been physical with. This was never an issue with any of the men I have dated.

Unlike you, there hasn't been a situation where we were separated for a bit and having it result in me having sex with someone. So, I'm guessing she probably has more of a reason to be insecure or not trusting.

But, just like your girlfriend, my boyfriend freaked out about me still being in touch with exes... even on Facebook. Even though most of them were a long time ago. He would freak out about photos as well. And by freak out, he would usually start getting sick to his stomach, had anxiety... sometimes he would get mad. Of course, it was fine that he was in contact with his exes/causuals.

He told me that if I really respected/cared about him, that I would drop them all.
This resulted in me arguing with him and telling him how ridiculous it was. Especially since we live in a state 500+ miles from anyone I've ever dated.

In the end... I dropped the exes. I stopped trying to "win" the argument.

It's been about 1.5 years and sometimes I miss chatting with one or two of them... but keeping in contact with them wasn't worth seeing my insecure boyfriend have nervous breakdowns. It took about 6-8 months for him to be comfortable with my past.

So, is being in contact with the friend you were involved with worth seeing your girlfriend feeling insecure/upset? If no, then cease contact. It's weird at first, but after a while, it's fine.
posted by KogeLiz at 3:39 PM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ok, were you two actually boyfriend and girlfriend when you slept with the other person? From the sound of this question and your previous one, it doesn't sound like you two were exclusive. If you two weren't, her demands are 100% and completely unreasonable.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 3:40 PM on February 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Your situation is unique as you've already proven yourself to be untrustworthy. Because of that, her request seems valid to me.

Wait. What? When? From what I read they weren't dating when OP went out with someone else. And the friend they once slept with, 5 YEARS BEFORE, is not that same person. Right?
posted by grapesaresour at 3:42 PM on February 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


She ... says that, if I cared about her, I would no longer be friends with these people.

Nope. Fuck that.

Life is not supposed to be like the episode of Friends where Ross has to stop being friends with Rachel because Emily might get upset.

The ripcord. Pull it.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:43 PM on February 16, 2011 [11 favorites]


Generally, there's nothing wrong with staying friends with your exes. Generally, I look down on asking one's significant other to ruthlessly drop off contact with their exes. But I'll bet you can guess why I italicized "Generally." Real life is about specific situations, and those general principles don't apply in this situation -- at least, not in any neat and tidy way. Her being uncomfortable with you staying friends with your exes is totally understandable, since you cheated. And there would be something wrong with you staying friends with your exes in this situation: it would be hurtful to her. You both have valid concerns in the abstract, but you're in a much weaker position to assert that your interests should win out. If you wanted to take a strong stand that you should be allowed to be friends with whoever you want without her being suspicious or jealous, you should have thought of that before cheating.

I completely agree with griselda: breaking up is the only decent way out of this. Sorry. Live and learn.
posted by John Cohen at 3:44 PM on February 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I agree with Cool Papa Bell. Life is too short to have to deal with this kind of insecure bullshit. She's young and that might have something to do with it. You haven't even been dating a year and you're already having to deal with huge red flags. Anyone making you disclose your entire dating history in detail is a huge red flag (this excludes STD history). Anyone asking you to stop being friends with females, regardless if they were exes or not, is a huge red flag. Cool Papa Bell stated it best: The ripcord. Pull it.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 3:47 PM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


And yes, it is incredibly selfish to keep a reminder of your infidelity around.

A friendship of many years with someone with whom everything sexual and romantic was over 5 years before the OP even met the current girlfriend is not "a reminder of infidelity."

Did you miss something in the question? The person he wants to maintain a friendship with isn't the person he dated while he was telling the current girlfriend he wasn't ready to date--it would be reasonable of the current girlfriend to have issues with him having a friendship with that person, but she wants him to cut ties with all of his past partners, no matter how long ago the sexual or romantic hoo-ha was.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:48 PM on February 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ok, were you two actually boyfriend and girlfriend when you slept with the other person? From the sound of this question and your previous one, it doesn't sound like you two were exclusive.

Huh? He said:
not long after we started dating, she discovered I asked someone out and slept with someone else after I had said "I don't want to date anyone" (bad move).
posted by John Cohen at 3:48 PM on February 16, 2011


Her being uncomfortable with you staying friends with your exes is totally understandable, since you cheated.

From how the two questions are worded, he seems like he didn't cheat. They weren't dating while he hooked up with the other person. Before he got together with his current girlfriend, they were in the talking phase and both agreed that they didn't realy want to date anyone at the moment, including each other. That is when he hooked up with the other person.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 3:49 PM on February 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm generally kinda icked out by someone demanding you cut off friends or exs for their benefit, but given the circumstances, I can certainly understand her concerns.

Here is what I would want if I were in her shoes:

1.) Always mention you are going to hang out with ex before you actually do so. It can just be casual and in passing, but letting her know ahead of time seems respectful to her wishes.

2.) If it's socially appropriate, give them some opportunity to meet, say at a party or something. I'd steer clear of double dates, though.

3.) Hang out with the ex in situations that are clearly platonic. Coffee? Cool! Grab a bite together and catch up? Sure. Curl up on the couch and watch a movie together at her house? Not so ok with that.

4.) Tell current girl that nothing is ever going to happen with ex and mean it.

If you explain to her that this is a dear friend, that there is no possibility of other girl being a threat to her, then make sure you are very openly communicating about the time you spend with your friend and the girlfriend is STILL not ok with it, I'm not sure a relationship together has a stable enough foundation of trust to work very well.
posted by chatongriffes at 3:50 PM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, is this you telling her you weren't in a place to date anyone, or that you didn't want to date anyone else? It makes a difference as far as "reasonableness" goes, IMO.

Still, I probably wouldn't be willing to cut friends out of my life. You might need to sit down and really talk it out... which might be uncomfortable and might not go well. I would emphasize that you weren't in an exclusive relationship with her (at the time) and that you're willing to take other steps to regain her trust, and try to mutually decide what those steps will be.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:58 PM on February 16, 2011


From how the two questions are worded, he seems like he didn't cheat. They weren't dating while he hooked up with the other person. Before he got together with his current girlfriend, they were in the talking phase and both agreed that they didn't realy want to date anyone at the moment, including each other. That is when he hooked up with the other person.

Well, maybe I misread it, but I saw the sentence that begins "Not long after we started dating,..." as referring to things that happened when they were already together. Otherwise, I don't understand how it "led to a tearful breakup."

OP, clarification please? What really happened?
posted by John Cohen at 4:00 PM on February 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, I am not seeing how dating someone else when you weren't in a mutually agreed-upon exclusive relationship is "cheating", much less what it has to do with people you slept with 5 years before you met this lady.

I mean, it's shitty and lazy to say "I don't want to date anyone baby, let's just hang loose" and not be open about seeing other people, but I am not seeing "cheating" here, just a lack of openness.

Can you clarify, OP? And why does she want you to dump all of your exes from ever?
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:01 PM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


It was not long after they started dating that she found out that he had slept with someone during the period where they weren't exclusive. That's how it reads to me, but you're right, we need clarification because I think it would change a lot of people's answers.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 4:02 PM on February 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


I mean, it's shitty and lazy to say "I don't want to date anyone baby, let's just hang loose" and not be open about seeing other people, but I am not seeing "cheating" here, just a lack of openness.

It was mutally agreed upon not to date, it wasn't just coming from him.

In his previous question he states:

"We talked it over, and agree that, while both of us like each other, we shouldn't date at this point in time. We both have similarly cynical views on relationships, and while far from an ideal solution, this was something we were okay with."
posted by MaryDellamorte at 4:04 PM on February 16, 2011


Well, maybe I misread it, but I saw the sentence that begins "Not long after we started dating,..." as referring to things that happened when they were already together.

Oh, see, I parsed it as:

January 2010: The OP tells the lady that he can't date anyone right now.

sometime between then and July 2010: The OP asks someone else out and they have sex.

July 2010: The OP and lady start dating.

November 2010: The lady finds out about the pre-July thing and "tearful breakup" ensues.

See, this seems to me like a bad sign. She's retrospectively jealous of people he slept with before they were dating. That doesn't seem like a good fit for him (nor would it be for me).
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:04 PM on February 16, 2011 [11 favorites]


What's wrong with just fondly remembering an ex, rooting for them, being there in a real pinch ---- but dropping the freindship? How many friends do you need?

Exes who are friends are "on deck"--thats how it feels to your current girlfriend. Is it part of your addiction to affirmation that you need to remain friends with exes?
posted by vitabellosi at 4:08 PM on February 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


What's wrong with just fondly remembering an ex, rooting for them, being there in a real pinch ---- but dropping the freindship? How many friends do you need?

Sometimes people break up because they aren't a good match for each other or they have different life goals, not because one or the other is a shitbag. I'm friends with a few of my exes and I have 0% interest in ever dating them again, but they are good people who I know I can trust and I know that I can count on if need be. If anyone ever asked me to not be friends with them because they were insecure, I'd let the door hit them on the ass on the way out of my house. There are too many good people in the world looking for a partner and life is too short to have to deal with anyone's bullshit like that.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 4:21 PM on February 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Assuming the interpretation that the sleeping-with-other-girl incident happened before you got together, then yes, she's being nuts. But that doesn't let you off the hook - you need to learn that there are some things you keep private. You never should have told her about the incident, and you should not have acceded to her demand to tell her your whole relationship history. That's a game you should have walked away from. When someone says hey want to stab themselves, you don't hand them a knife. Also, although sleeping with that other girl was not a betrayal, if you had made some huge deal about "i'm not dating anyone," then I might wonder about your trustworthiness and self-knowledge. It would suggest you are very easily swayed.
posted by yarly at 4:25 PM on February 16, 2011


It seems like it doesn't really matter if what you want here is "reasonable" or not -- it's what you want. And it is not what she wants.

With everything you've described, it is very difficult to picture this being a "and they lived happily every after" story. The long term aside, you sound pretty miserable now, and it sure doesn't seem like she's getting much joy out of the thought of a relationship with you, either (even if you did everything she demanded!).

Find someone who "accepts you"--nay, LOVES you--and doesn't resort to manipulative gambits like "If you cared about me, you'd [x]."
posted by argonauta at 4:33 PM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think your desire to remain friends with your exes is unreasonable.

However, it is a major point of compatibility or lack thereof. Some people just don't get it and feel threatened by that sort of thing. They're not wrong, they just belong with people who see eye to eye with them on that subject.

It doesn't sound like you want to be with her very much. Nothing you've written here implies that she actually wants to be with the real person that you are. I see no reason to keep gnashing your teeth over this - just break up, already.
posted by Sara C. at 4:44 PM on February 16, 2011


Meh, whatever you decide about keeping in touch with these particular exes, your girlfriend's going to have to deal with the fact that you didn't spend the past five or ten years locked in a monestary, trolling the internet praying to find a girl like her. You can cut the exes off if you want, but your past ain't going away and if she can't come to accept that you're going to be dealing with irritating jealously bullshit the whole time you're together. Of course, maybe she can; she's only 20, after all, and sounds a little sheltered. But I'd sound her out about that before you decide to get back together.
posted by Diablevert at 4:49 PM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Exes who are friends are "on deck"

This is absolutely untrue and contrary in every way to every aspect of life as I have experienced it.

I am still friends with most of my exes. None of us will EVER BE TOGETHER in the future. Ever. EVARRRRRRR. We broke up for a reason. I do not carry a torch for any of them - if I did, we probably couldn't be friends. I don't keep them like a harem, waiting around for when I get tired of my current partner. And I don't feel like I fill that role for any of my friends who are exes, either. I have never met anyone who lived that way.

If I ever did meet someone whose life was like that, I would marvel at the total impossibility of such a thing. It would be like meeting someone who claimed that they were once abducted by Zeus in the form of a plastic flamingo. It would be thoroughly incomprehensible to me.
posted by Sara C. at 4:56 PM on February 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think that the answer is in your original question: "Are my relationship demands unreasonable?" Good relationships involve give and take, and compromise - not demands. If you are making demands - if you feel the need to make demands - then one or both of you are not in the right place for this relationship. You're not necessarily being unreasonable, but the fact that you feel you need to "demand" something means that it's not working.
posted by MexicanYenta at 5:02 PM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't see why some people are interpreting "I don't want to date anyone" as "I will remain celibate for you". It seems that the OP's friend in question has interpreted it thusly.

The only other interpretation I can come up with is if the friend in question objected to the OP sleeping with people who he was not in a relationship with (there seemed to be a related hangup involved in the linked question).

In either of these interpretations, I don't think that the OP's friend's complaints are justified.

This question is just fun for the confusion!
posted by kiltedtaco at 5:29 PM on February 16, 2011


However, not long after we started dating, she discovered I asked someone out and slept with someone else after I had said "I don't want to date anyone" (bad move).

No kidding. See, to her, this was probably a direct slap in the face. She'd understood that you didn't want to date, and it turns out you just didn't want to date her. From your point of view, it may have seemed OK to tell her because after all you were dating her now. But I can sympathize with her feeling weird, finding that out.

I don't think this has much to do with abstract stuff like "addiction to affirmation;" it's more like you got off on the wrong foot. You've been basically fighting about this since around the time you started dating, if I understand correctly. (Like a lot of people here, I'm confused.) What would it take to get either of you to really trust the other?
posted by BibiRose at 5:33 PM on February 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


[few comments removed - OP can you return to this thread and clarify things so people don't have to guess?]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:35 PM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


She seems way too delicate and insecure.

Really, it will go from "don't hang with your exes" to "I saw how she was looking at you and I don't like it" and life is too short.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:53 PM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd tell her "If you cared about me, you wouldn't try to tell me to abandon my friends when they've done nothing but support me and be there for me..."

Then I'd bail.
posted by Glendale at 6:22 PM on February 16, 2011


Everyone's policy is different, but I feel like my obligation to friends is sacred. Loyalty is a big part of who I am (perhaps to a fault) and what I hope for from my friends. On my deathbed, or when I'm reincarnated, or sometime next week -- I'm the one who is going to have to privately answer for a decision to cut someone off, to help them when they needed it (or not), to be there for their wedding and their children's childhood (or not). Those are the connections and the experiences that make life meaningful to me. I'm not going to feel good if I have to say to myself, "oh, yeah, the reason he has a six-year-old now and I didn't get to know his daughter as she grew up is because I listened to that one dude I dated for eight months." So, I reserve the right to choose who I apply that loyalty and care to. And I extend that right to those I'm in relationships with (who have had their exes sleep over and all manner of things that I think most people would consider out of bounds).

Again, everyone's policy is different, and I may come to feel very differently if someone ever cheats on me or if some new kind of possessive love overtakes me, so I'm not saying this view is "better" than others'.
posted by salvia at 6:32 PM on February 16, 2011


All this screams "run away" to me; she has some serious growing up to do.

This chick sounds a little like a drama machine. Frankly, I'm always a little wary of people who aren't friends with their exes (not necessarily BFFs, but at least amiable whenever life throws them together). She seems to have way different expectations of what things mean, what's acceptable, etc. than you when in a relationship. Example: Getting upset because you shagged someone else when you two weren't seeing each other? Really? Maybe if you'd rubbed her nose in it, but that doesn't sound like the case. She wigged out after a make-out session?

This does not sound like it will end well should you choose to stay.
posted by smirkette at 6:39 PM on February 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


It seems clear to me that the OP met the girl, made out with her, but she lived far away at the time, so he told her they couldn't date. Then, at some point after that, he met someone and slept with them. Then, after that, he reconnected with the girl and they started dating. This would mean that he didn't cheat on her, but I can understand her being hurt by him saying he wasn't ready to date then dating someone else right away, if that's indeed what actually happened.
BUT
That has very little, if anything to do with the OP's ability to be friends with his exes. The person he slept with presumably is not the ex that the girl is concerned about.

I would not break off strong friendships for a new dating situation. You know you have had a solid friendship with this ex for five years, but you don't know if things with this girl will work out long-term. I can, however, see where it might be better not to hang out with the ex as much one-on-one (maybe), because it might be a little awkward for her.

I have an ex that I was with for many years that I'm still really good friends with. If the guy I was dating now forbade me from seeing them, we would have a problem, and I wouldn't forbid him from hanging out with any of his exes. However, I'm the kind of girl that back when I was your girlfriend's age would have been a lot more concerned about my boyfriend hanging with exes than I am now. It might also be the fact that she's only 20 (or maybe 21 by now, I guess) that makes her so concerned about this kind of thing.
posted by elpea at 7:03 PM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not reading this as he cheated on her. I'm reading it as he told her he didn't want to date anyone, then he asked out someone else and slept with them. Then he started dating his (now) girlfriend, and then girlfriend discovered that during the period when he supposedly didn't want to date anyone, he slept with someone.

So - you told her you didn't want to date anyone ;but then you dated someone else and slept with that person. So she feels betrayed. Frankly, I would have dumped your ass right then, but she's obviously fairly hung up on you. It sounds to me like you don't know what you want right now, and it would be kindness to her in the long run if you were to stop seeing her, and free her up to see someone who knows what they want. Don't expect her to be happy about that, though.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:06 PM on February 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Demands? Demands in a relationship? Seriously?
Yes, they are unreasonable. If one of you is demanding something, it is unreasonable.
This is a relationship, not a business negotiation. What you want is not unreasonable. What she wants is not unreasonable. You two have to work it out without demands.

BTW, it took me years to get over my husband's ex's, even though he wasn't still in contact with them. So my bias is with your GF, for what its worth.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:09 PM on February 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think there is a difference between dating someone and hooking up with someone. It doesn't sound like he dated the girl he had sex with.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 7:09 PM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


So I'm going to make some guesses here. You said previously that your girlfriend attended a Christian college and that she felt guilty about making out while not being committed. Then you say the reason she doesn't want you to have contact with your exes is that She wants me to break clean of my past. Also, that hearing your dating history was painful to her.

Okay, so do you two have the same moral standards, or not? It sounds to me like she may be very conservative when it comes to physical relationships. This is not unheard of. I know someone who went to the bathroom and literally threw up after her SO told her the number of his former sexual partners.

Your problem doesn't necessarily have to do with jealousy, or possessiveness, or insecurity on her part. It may just be that she has different standards. The fact that you would hook up at all is likely the problem.

IF this is the case, the solution is not going to be for you to cut off contact with anyone you've slept or fooled around with. That's silly. The solution is for you and your girl to get on the same page in terms of standards of conduct. If she thinks a (non-cheating) hook-up is morally wrong and you think it's just dandy, you have to work that out with her!

If you want to pursue a relationship with her, YOU need to be thinking about commitment (and temporary celibacy, maybe), and SHE needs to be thinking about letting go of your past and concentrating on the future. If she can't be made to see that you're not wearing a scarlet letter (and neither are any of your previous partners), then I don't see the relationship succeeding.

Apologies if this speculation is way off-base; it's just how your posts read to me.
posted by torticat at 9:09 PM on February 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


In the previous question you were very ambivalent about the relationship with her for several reasons, and the only one that was not specific to her was "I've been in too many relationships recently and don't want to be with anyone". And it looks like you settled on telling her that, but then going out and having a relationship (however brief) with someone else. Which, fine, whatever, but then you got back with her. You already knew going in that she viewed physical intimacy as signifying a relationship when it didn't mean that to you (e.g. making out with her, having sex with someone else). You also know she doesn't have nearly as much relationship experience as you do.

Even though the two of you weren't together when you had sex with a friend, it still indicates a lack of fidelity, a lack of fidelity to your word. And now it's not really the friends she doesn't trust, it's you she doesn't trust because the two of you are on different wavelengths. She feels like you lied to her when you told her you didn't want to be with anyone and then you dated someone else. Now she doesn't know where she stands, because that was a mighty big clue that it's really her you didn't want to be with. Maybe she senses your ambivalence about her age/experience/relationship issues.
posted by Danila at 11:16 PM on February 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


(first of all, the OP didn't cheat on this girl.)

that said, this girl is controlling, manipulative, and insecure. unless your relationship is serious jeopardy because of a friendship you have with someone, a significant other does not get a say regarding who you are friends with. move on.
posted by violetk at 1:40 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm assuming that you and she weren't together when the things she's upset about (you asking Person A out, and sleeping with Person B) happened, and that she's upset because this happened after you told her you didn't want to date anybody.

And from what you've said in your previous thread, although there were reasons you were reluctant to date her specifically (her age, her relative inexperience), the reasons you gave her were about the situation more generally - "I don't want to date anyone right now, I'm burned out on relationships, and I don't like long-distance relationships anyway."

So, she's upset because she doesn't trust you now, because you told her something about your feelings re: her and re: a relationship with her that turned out not to be true, and she doesn't know how to deal with that. Combine that with a hefty dose of inexperience and immaturity, plus what seems like a fairly sheltered view of how relationships and attraction work, and she's seized on the friendship with your exes as The Answer. You're right to frame it as her wanting you to make a break with your dating history, because between your it's-not-you-it's-me dishonesty and her inexperience, your dating history scares the hell out of her.

To be clear: I don't think you should cut off friendships with your exes, and I don't think she should be asking that of you. But being friends with exes isn't really the issue, and you're not doing either of you any favours by treating it like it is. If you want to fix this, telling her that you put the friends-with-exes issue to the vote on the internet and X% of people said she was being unreasonable is not going to help; you need to really get to the bottom of what it is she's worried about, and what it is that scares her about your relationship history and your approach to relationships (and it really sounds like being okay with casual hook-ups is totally alien and scary to her), and what kind of reassurance you can reasonably provide.

It might always turn out that you don't really know what you want, and she's picking up on that and freaking out about it, or that she's just too sheltered and inexperienced to be able to deal with an adult relationship outside her Christian-college framework right now. But even then, best to know sooner rather than later.
posted by Catseye at 3:19 AM on February 17, 2011


There's a whole page of disagreement above about what's technically legitimate and whether or not it's cheating to sleep with someone else when you're not actually in a relationship with someone but you did say you didn't want to be in a relationship with anyone but sleeping with someone isn't a relationship and she goes to a Christian college and does or doesn't want to impose her values on you and is or isn't being totally unreasonable.

The problem is that we now have a page of MeFites swirling around in confused disagreement about what it all means, and we're not even emotionally involved. Since the girl in question is emotionally involved, I imagine this is all quite tortuous for her.

I also notice that you don't do LDRs but did get into a relationship when the girl moved closer, but presumably if the girl moved away again you wouldn't be motivated to make the relationship last. You are also not motivated to cut off contact with an ex-friend who had meaningless sex with you but still has a meaningful friendship with you but not meaningful enough for you to see much of her, but it's still a hill to die on where the current relationship is concerned.

This is the problem, I think - the girl is into you and you are just not that into her, and it shows.

Your admission of "attention whoring" is quite telling, too - by your own admission you aren't all that much into anyone, really, and while you may be comfortable being cast adrift in a sea of vagueosity the girl isn't, and this is a good way of keeping her full attention on you without your having to pay attention to her in return. Doesn't matter if it wasn't your intention to shape events in this way - this is how they've unfolded.

I don't even know if it's a matter of being "guilty" about making out with people outside of relationships or "disapproving" of your hooking up outside of relationships. I think it might actually be about not wanting to accept crumbs, and if I sensed that crumbs were all someone wanted to throw me, then saying I wanted more would not get me a whole loaf, but it might get me the concession of a promise of maybe half a loaf sometime in the future, and that would be a miserable situation to be in. So I'd rather say "moral standards" which (aside from not being untrue) would seem to be an argument from a position of strength.

I think you might just not be relationship material right now, so perhaps it would be fairer to break up with this girl and to do so without any suggestion of staying friends or maybe getting together in the future. You like ambiguity, but she doesn't, so a clean break is the kindest thing to do.
posted by tel3path at 4:18 AM on February 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


Sorry it took so long to get back to the thread; we talked about the issue last night, which seems to clear it up a little bit. I told her that I understand where she's coming from, and that my past is a lot more threatening to her than her's is to me.

To clarify the original situation: We were not dating when I slept with someone else, but I had said "I don't want to be with anyone". So I understand the mistrust, though that doesn't make me feel good about anything. MaryDellamorte's timeline is correct.

The friend in question is not the person with whom I hooked up. She's been a really close friend for a really long time, so it's an important friendship to me. We don't hang out often, but we talk regularly, and I know I can count on her. I'm on friendly terms with most of my exes, but through nothing more than Facebook.

Anyways, it doesn't seem like as big of a deal after we talk about it, but these things tend to pop up again and again (she still hasn't forgiven me for last year's actions). So, things like this are really tense, then we talk & hang out, and the tension dissipates... until she brings it up again. I want to clear up the tension before we continue with the relationship, but that makes me feel like I'm being a dick and holding her at arm's length.

To be clear, I like this girl a lot; we have a great dynamic, we can still spend all day together without getting sick of each other, I'm able to be emotionally honest with her, we know how to delight each other, etc. I feel like we have a lot of potential, yet she has a lot of trust issues and seems to hold me to an ideal I will never be (i.e. someone who was careful with his sexuality).

She gets super-upset over things like my past and wishes to know things like my dating history (which makes her shake and throw up with shame for being implicated with such), but we talk and hang out, and suddenly everything is okay. So, I can't tell if I'm being manipulated, if this is healthy, and whether or not our unparalleled dynamic outweighs our unresolved issues.
posted by Turkey Glue at 7:11 AM on February 17, 2011


"The friend in question is not the person with whom I hooked up." Whoa, this is very confusing.

"She gets super-upset over things like my past and wishes to know things like my dating history (which makes her shake and throw up with shame for being implicated with such)" Again, I'm not sure if this is shame or if this is her mentally redrawing the complex network diagram of your past and present relationships and picturing herself in it, imagining you explaining her to the next woman, and her going "wait, back up, you were or weren't in a LDR with her?"

"I can't tell if I'm being manipulated" - neither can I, though there may be more manipulation going on than you realize - maybe you can bring it up with your shrink in relation to the attention issues?

"if this is healthy" - no.
posted by tel3path at 7:18 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


If your past is making her throw up, it's not going to work.

I think a lot of times, people get into a relationship and then find out things that clash with what they thought the other person was like. Sometimes it's sexual history or drug use or a criminal record or financial problems. A couple of times with me, such things have come out in a "there are things you should know" type of talk around the time exclusivity came up.

The really sensible thing at that point is to decide whether a) that means you were mistaken to get into the relationship or b) you can accomodate the new information and keep on with the relationship. However, sometimes you're already too attached to be objective about this, or it takes a while to figure out how important the new information is. At this point, your girlfriend has had a few months to deal with what she found out. It really sounds to me like what she found out is that your values are not compatible, but she's trying to suppress this knowledge because she is really attached to you.
posted by BibiRose at 7:47 AM on February 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


which makes her shake and throw up with shame for being implicated with such

On my planet we call this "a bad fit" Again, she has things she wants, you have things you want. There seems to be a lot of room in the middle where you are sharing terrific things together, but if your past being a certain way is important to her and your past is just not that way [and she can't forget, and she can't forgive] this is just going to come up again and again and you're going to be stuck in this awkward situation where it's somehow your job to explain your past in a way that's acceptable to her. If she wants to be in a long term relationship with you, she needs to be putting in some of the work which should mean learning to hear about your dating history without puking, seriously that is Out of Line.

So, instead of the setup being like "you were wrong in the past, let's try to forgive you so that you can be in your right present with me" it should be more like "Hey were have been through different things in the past which have formed who we are today. The people we are today are people who want to be together. We should accept that the past is the past and resolve to move forward together." It does not sound like she is there yet and may never be there. She's the one who keeps bringing it up despite it making her sick when you guys talk about it. At some level this is her doing this to herself and sort of making you watch. I don't know if you're also playing some part in this, it's your story. But from here it looks like it's not that much fun.

The world is large and full of people for whom sleeping with someone when you said you needed some time alone is just a minor thing. Someone who you're not even long-term committed with who is telling you who you can and can't be close to and who is making you feel like this is your fault? I'd say bad fit, very bad fit.
posted by jessamyn at 7:48 AM on February 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Woah. Throwing up? You can't go back and change your past, and if I were you I'd find her dramatic reaction to it highly insulting.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:21 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


vitabellosi: I agree with the line of thinking "How many friends do you really need?", but this is one of my two closest friends (at least in terms of being the type of person to whom I've told everything) who has been trustworthy and loyal to me for years upon years. I've cut a few friendships/exes out of my life recently, so I don't object to that.

yarly: I was easily swayed and didn't acknowledge it as an issue until recently, which is why I'm in counseling. I don't want to hide things from whomever I date, and she said that it's better now that she knows, despite the shame she feels. I don't know if it was a mistake to tell her, or if she doesn't trust my past enough to not want to know.

It's hard to watch her reaction to this. I'm not trying to pick at it, but I also don't want my past to be off limits, and I'm concerned that a bad reminder is going to set off a tailspin of anxiety. She says she's working on accepting it, but it's still a sore spot, which is distressing.
posted by Turkey Glue at 9:30 AM on February 17, 2011


She gets super-upset over things like my past and wishes to know things like my dating history (which makes her shake and throw up with shame for being implicated with such),
This is not the right girl for you.
posted by pointystick at 9:36 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


but these things tend to pop up again and again

If you two have been going out only since last summer and there's already been a slew of drama, problems between the two of you that cannot be resolved easily, attempted breakups, issues that Just Keep Coming Up, etc. you might as well just break up now.
posted by Sara C. at 10:01 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hey, you cheated on her and she's let you back into her life. That is a big plus mark for her, many people would never do it. Please attach the proper value to her behaviour. You don't seem to be doing that.

She wants you to give up a friend you 'dated' five years ago and see infrequently. In order to 'stand up for' this old friend you're prepared to risk your relationship a second time.

I have to question here how much you really care for the current girl. Ask yourself: what is more important, which relationship would you miss more - the relationship between the current girl or the five-year-ago one - if you really had to choose one? Proceed on that basis.

Don't like the idea of 'have to choose'? Welcome to the real world: sometimes you have to. Yeah, it's a bit disloyal to someone who stood up for you in similar circumstances, but fuck that, this is the here and now, and sometimes something has to give. Sometimes you have to shut the door on good people because they don't fit with other good people. It sucks; you have to be strong enough to make those kinds of decisions, and live with them.

And here's another thing: maybe one day, when your current girl can believe in you again, she might relent. Put don't push your luck, let her come to that decision.

I feel, based on your use of the word 'demands' and your general attachment to what you perceive to be your relationship rights that you're a fairly ego-centric fellow. I also guess that maybe this current girl is already deep down prepared to give up on you for good.

If you value the current girl, and want to keep her, I would go straight to her and say, 'I'll give up my contact with X. She's a good person, has been loyal to me, not a threat to us. But for you, and for us, I'll give her up. If one day you feel she could let her into our circle, let me know, but if not I understand. The main thing is, I want you to be happy.'

If you don't value her, then just let her go and find someone who does.
posted by londongeezer at 10:08 AM on February 17, 2011


Hey, you cheated on her and she's let you back into her life. That is a big plus mark for her, many people would never do it. Please attach the proper value to her behaviour. You don't seem to be doing that.

Read Turkey Glue's response - he did not cheat on her.
posted by Sara C. at 10:13 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ok, thanks for the correction Sara C. But absent the first para my response is still the same.
posted by londongeezer at 10:30 AM on February 17, 2011


To be fair, I didn't cheat on her, but I went against my word, and she didn't find out about my behavior (namely, sleeping around & throwing myself at people for that affirmation; I'm not proud of that) until after we dated. So, she had assumptions about me, I did not meet them, and I had assumptions about how she would handle it. I think that, right now, we're trying to bridge that gap, which has proven to be messy & complicated.

londongeezer: I'm trying to figure out how selfish I'm being, and whether or not I'm justified or plain stubborn.

tel3path: I'm terrified that you're right and that I'm accidentally manipulating her. I can tell we're not healthy right now, but I guess I'm trying to see if it can become something healthy. (Typing that out makes it sound incredibly fucked up.)
posted by Turkey Glue at 11:06 AM on February 17, 2011


Turkey Glue, sorry to say you are probably beating a dead horse. I appreciate that you want to turn this into something "healthy," but I think the deeper issue is probably insurmountable at this time. YMMV.

I agree you are accidentally manipulating her. She's just not up to this. Someone above mentioned a "bad fit" - I concur.

IMHO, if this girl ever overcomes whatever pre-programming about romantic relationships she received prior to meeting you it won't happen for years. Or never.

Likely, she is confusing some accidental manipulation on your part with every rotten thing she was taught about how men treat women. Every time you think you are helping her, it probably eventually just sends her into another tail-spin. And then you again begin trying to spin the situation into something more palatable for her... wash, rinse, repeat.

You gravely miscalculated by going against your word. It's shitty thing to do no matter what and I would never date someone who did that to me. And yet, this has NOTHING to do with this girl's confusion about relationships in general. These two factors together, tho, equals a poor basis for a happy relationship.

Incidentally, I'm not sure where you get the idea that you are using relationships to feel good about yourself. It seems like something you came up with to appease this girl.

Lastly, one of my best friends is (finally!) dating someone he really really likes. He's a decent guy. And I hear through the grapevine he's pulling away from another friend he was involved with a number of years ago. This ex-girlfriend-now-friend is totally fine with that. It's normal for that to happen sometimes. In other words, I don't think the problem is your gf's problem with your ex, I think it is the overall dynamic between you and current gf.
posted by jbenben at 11:35 AM on February 17, 2011


namely, sleeping around & throwing myself at people for that affirmation; I'm not proud of that

It's hard to tell if she's judging you, hard, and you're falling for it, or if you guys are on the same page about sex and you really did drop the ball. But you sound like you're being really hard on yourself about this.

In my eyes, while it was shitty of you to tell her you weren't interested in a relationship with anyone and then go off and hook up with someone else, it wasn't shitty because you had sex but because you fed her a disingenuous line rather than being straight with her.

The trustworthiness issue (the bullshit about not wanting a relationship) is a whole separate thing from the sex thing. And the exes as friends issue sounds like the biggest red herring of all.

If she has problems with you because she knows you are comfortable with the idea of casual sex, or because she thinks you have too many sexual partners in your past, or because she thinks your reasoning for having sex with someone is faulty*, that is her business. It has nothing to do with whether you did right by her back in July, or whether you are a trustworthy person. You really should stop beating yourself up about the sex thing, and if she can't let it go, that should be a dealbreaker for you just out of basic self-respect. Don't be in a relationship with someone who thinks you're dirty, a whore, or a pervert.

*this whole "throwing yourself at people for the affirmation" thing doesn't make any sense to me, though I am a wanton hussy and all.
posted by Sara C. at 12:18 PM on February 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


You really should stop beating yourself up about the sex thing, and if she can't let it go, that should be a dealbreaker for you just out of basic self-respect. Don't be in a relationship with someone who thinks you're dirty, a whore, or a pervert.

YES YES YES YES YES YES.

Seriously, this isn't going to go away. If she shakes and vomits because you had sex with other people, you aren't going to stop having had sex with other people even if you accede to her demands to cut everyone else you had sex with out of your life forever.

It is okay to break up with someone who wants very different things from a relationship than you. She wants retroactive fidelity, apparently, which you cannot provide her and will never be able to provide her unless you build a time machine.

Yes, you probably need to work on creating your own moral compass, rather than getting it from other people. But here's the thing: you also need not to get your moral compass from her.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:49 PM on February 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


I agree with the line of thinking "How many friends do you really need?", but this is one of my two closest friends (at least in terms of being the type of person to whom I've told everything) who has been trustworthy and loyal to me for years upon years.

Then if you dump this friend for this girlfriend with whom you have an incredibly troubled relationship, you will have burned a multi-year important friendship for nothing, because there is no way you and this girlfriend have a future.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:53 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Relationships aren't about being reasonable all the time, according to some generally accepted or plausible or Ask Me-Fi or whatever standard, they're ultimately about giving your partner what he/she wants, and getting what you want in return. This is why inter-cultural relationships so often fail: people have very different expectations: no-one's wrong, they're just different. So trying to analyse your girlfriend's requests on the basis of what's reasonable won't work: all that will work is what works for you and her; how much is she worth to you?
posted by londongeezer at 2:55 PM on February 17, 2011


Sara C: I had been in a pattern of drinking a lot and trying to sleep with strangers, so it did feel like I was throwing myself at people. I wasn't as honest about it as I would have liked, which made me feel like I was segmenting myself, and frankly, it wasn't making me happy. It felt desperate and I wasn't happy with what I was doing, so I'm looking to move away from that. In short, I was completely unprepared for a serious relationship, much less one with someone who is more conservative than me.

Thanks to everyone else for the replies; I obviously have a big decision to make. This girl is really great, super-smart, and we understand each other really well, so I could see myself being with her for a long time. But the inherent instability of everything combined with her revulsion of who I was (am?) gives me pause.
posted by Turkey Glue at 3:54 PM on February 17, 2011


I don't want to pile on, but it sounds like you have different values which are not compatible. The problem isn't the lack of trust; the problem is the lack of compatibility.

This was apparent in your earlier question with her freaking out about a make-out session and you thinking it's no big deal. It's even more apparent now, when she literally shakes and throws up when considering your dating history and is ashamed of your past and is ashamed of how it reflects on her.

It sucks when you click with someone and have good chemistry and there's legitimately a lot you like about each other but you're still not a good match -- which is the case here. But it sucks even more the longer you drag things out after you've realized that.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:56 PM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Even if you've decided that all that sleeping around was wrong, and you regret it, and you want to turn over a new leaf, my point still stands. Don't be in a relationship with someone who thinks you're a whore/pervert/loose/whatever. Said person has no respect for you, and if you lap up everything they say, you'll soon have no respect for yourself.
posted by Sara C. at 10:36 PM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


It felt desperate and I wasn't happy with what I was doing, so I'm looking to move away from that.

Yeah, all that totally makes sense, but I still think you could be with someone who feels compassion for you on that, or who just loves you -- including the part of you that did that.

I mean, I don't know what your gg's value system is, but "... and the greatest of these is love" is Christianity 101. You sound like someone who sometimes does dumb things like most people do in their youth but is learning. Don't be with someone who wants you to be ashamed of yourself. You can find someone who accepts you and your past.

(It would be ironic if your attempt to win her love were the new "throwing yourself at people for affirmation!" I hope you find someone with whom you can stop seeking affirmation.)
posted by salvia at 12:24 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


gg=gf
posted by salvia at 12:26 AM on February 18, 2011


do not stay in a relationship with someone who is so finds your past so revolting that she throws up at the thought of it. your past is part and parcel of who you are and where you come from and you should not be made to feel like a shit for having it. this girl needs to either grow up and be more accepting of people and their past or date someone whose past is as unimpeachable as hers apparently has. and you need to MOVE ON.
posted by violetk at 1:03 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think that hanging with someone who would judge the vast majority of college aged people as doing "shameful" things is going to help your self-esteem or need for affirmation.

I'm glad you get along but the huge weight of her judgment and negativity about something you CAN'T CHANGE is going to disproportionately leave you scrambling to try to make it up to her, probably in unhealthy ways (like ditching old friends).
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:10 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know what? This isn't just a case of "incompatible values." She is actively making you feel dirty, guilty, and ashamed of your past sexuality. If the genders were switched, it would be enormously clear that this kind of conduct is practically abusive. I know that you don't feel good about your past either -- but that does not mean you should be made to feel like you're damaged goods. Because you're not! What's past is past -- you learned from it, and you go on, but you're not a bad person!
posted by yarly at 9:13 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


which makes her shake and throw up with shame for being implicated with such
[…]
So, I can't tell if I'm being manipulated, if this is healthy

Seriously? You really can't tell?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:37 AM on February 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


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