Pictures of a deceased ex
February 24, 2011 7:25 AM   Subscribe

A little over two years ago, my ex-boyfriend broke up with me. A couple of weeks later, he passed away unexpectedly. The whole situation, the break-up and his death, was incredibly difficult for me. For almost the past two years, I have been in a relationship with someone else; this relationship has gotten really serious over the past year and a half or so. We were friends when my ex-boyfriend and I split, so he has been with me through this whole situation and knows how hard it has been for me. Generally, over the past couple of years, he has been very supportive and understanding of what I am going through. Since my ex passed away, I have had pictures of him and me together in my apartment and as my facebook profile picture.

I have those pictures up because he was a very important person in my life and I want to honor his memory. In the past couple of weeks, my boyfriend has been telling me that these pictures (particularly the profile picture) are starting to make him feel uncomfortable. He doesn’t mind at all that I have pictures, he just thinks that since he and I have been together for 2 years now, it’s starting to be inappropriate that my profile picture is still of me and my ex. He keeps asking me how I would feel if he still had up pictures of him and his ex after 2 years of being with me, but I think that is not a fair comparison because this is a unique situation. Is he overreacting and being insensitive? Is it appropriate to still have up pictures of me and my ex together? Is there some sort of reasonable compromise here?
posted by CuriousJoe to Human Relations (73 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
He's 100% right.
posted by shew at 7:27 AM on February 24, 2011 [166 favorites]

Yeah, it's time to move on.
posted by Grither at 7:28 AM on February 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

It's not inappropriate to HAVE pictures of you and your ex. But to put out your identity as me+ex, when you've been with someone else for two years, says that you are living more in the past with your ex, than in the now with your boyfriend. It's cruel to your current man, who must feel like he is in constant competition with this idealized image of your ex-boyfriend + you.

You have to decide who your realest relationship is with - you+ex, or you+current.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 7:29 AM on February 24, 2011 [54 favorites]

Is it appropriate to still have up pictures of me and my ex together?

Not as one way of the ways in which you present yourself to the world, no.
posted by robself at 7:29 AM on February 24, 2011 [5 favorites]

I'd have to be on his side on this one, especially since it sounds like he's been so supportive and understanding for years.
posted by you're a kitty! at 7:29 AM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wow, your ex actually sounds like he's been remarkably cool about this. He is not overreacting. Change your profile pic. Maybe to a photo of you and him.
posted by amro at 7:31 AM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Not your ex, your boyfriend.
posted by amro at 7:31 AM on February 24, 2011

Is there some sort of reasonable compromise here?

Keep the photos. Change your profile picture.
posted by Perplexity at 7:31 AM on February 24, 2011 [12 favorites]

I don't think it's extraordinary that you keep pictures of your ex around, either displayed in your home or in a Facebook album.

I do think it's inappropriate to have a picture of yourself and your ex as a Facebook profile picture, and at this point any photos of him should be displayed discreetly if at all. The memory will be no less honored (but do remember: this guy dumped you. Honor him accordingly).

Your boyfriend is not being heartless, he's being very reasonable and more generous about the situation than most would be. He sounds like a catch, at least in this small regard. I hope you can move on from the past relationship and fully appreciate the one you're actually in.
posted by padraigin at 7:31 AM on February 24, 2011 [28 favorites]

There really isn't a reasonable compromise. It's time to move on. If it isn't time to have a profile picture that represents your life now, with your 'new' boyfriend, when will it be?
posted by dirtdirt at 7:31 AM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Let's imagine you have a sister. And this sister continued to prominently display (in Facebook and in her apartment) pictures of the boyfriend who dumped her over two years ago. What would you say to your sister about it?

Which is to say, yeah, if I was your current boyfriend, I'd be majorly weirded out by it too.
posted by browse at 7:33 AM on February 24, 2011 [7 favorites]

I would suspect he's actually felt this way for a while but wanted to be sure you had enough time (an appropriate amount) to grieve, and though he may not let it on it hurts him a little that you don't view your life (profile picture) as being with him instead of with someone from your past (deceased or not).

I don't think he's overreacting, and I don't think you are either. What i do think is that you should definitely keep those pictures around, and maybe create a folder of all of those in your profile, but also if you want your current relationship to continue to grow you need to show him that he means as much to you as your ex did/does.

It's a real hard position to be in: he wants you to move on a bit, but he doesn't want to push too hard, and also probably wants you to advertise (profile picture) that you are with him. You're not doing your ex a disservice by taking his picture off your profile, you're just moving on with your life after grieving enough. Ever seen P.S. I Love You? It might ring very true to your situation.

I apologize if what I say doesn't come across exactly fluid/right, I'm not always the best with off-the-cuff answers.
posted by zombieApoc at 7:34 AM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Your situation is fairly unusual (not actually unique though) but your boyfriend is right to feel bothered by your profile pic. It's pretty well signalling the message you'd rather be with the deceased rather than him.

The pictures in your apartment are different unless the only pictures you have up are of your ex or you and your ex. It's your space as much as your boyfriends and the reason we have pictures is to remember. Maybe you can compromise on this front by slowly adding more of you and your boyfriend thereby decreasing the percentage of your ex while not actually storing any of them away.
posted by Mitheral at 7:36 AM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

If your current boyfriend had posted the opposite side of this, I would advise him that it's a warning sign that someone he had been dating for two years was so hung up on an ex that he couldn't listen or respond appropriately to an honest and totally reasonable request. I would tell him that unless [you] were willing to really listen to him and see it from his side, he should decide whether or not he wanted to be someone who cares more for someone who has been gone for two years than someone who has been in his life that whole time.

My advice to you is to change your profile picture, figure out why you can't let go of someone who is gone, and then move on so you can give yourself a chance at happiness with someone who obviously really cares about you.
posted by Kimberly at 7:36 AM on February 24, 2011 [11 favorites]

I agree with Robself. On Facebook, we tend to act as if the profile picture is the photo on our desk of someone or something we love and want to be reminded of whenever we log onto FB. At least that's my explanation for why so many of my friends put their children's photos as their own profile photos, instead of a photo of themselves.

It makes more sense for the profile picture to be of you as you are now, with or without your current sweetheart... but sorry, not with your ex. You can keep his picture somewhere else you can view regularly, such as a dedicated album on FB.

I am sorry for your loss.
posted by dywypi at 7:37 AM on February 24, 2011

This is likely to turn into a pile-on but I'd have to say that it sounds more than a bit maudlin. If I were your current boyfriend, I think I'd leave you to your memories.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:37 AM on February 24, 2011 [5 favorites]

You don't have to make this transition all at once, but it sounds like the life you've got now is one that includes someone who is pretty awesome, and I would say this is an excellent opportunity to start showing other people in your life how awesome you think this guy is. This isn't about forgetting what came before, it's about acknowledging the great things about today.
posted by gracedissolved at 7:41 AM on February 24, 2011

You can and should keep pictures of your ex around. You can even stare at them after you've had a couple of glasses of wine in the evening. But your FB profile should reflect where you are today, not where you were two years ago. Take a pic by yourself. If you feel comfortable, take a pic with your new boyfriend. It's only appropriate.
posted by Gilbert at 7:42 AM on February 24, 2011

Sorry if this sounds harsh but I think it is really strange that you are choosing to honor your ex, a person who, in life, chose to not be part of a couple with you, by posting pictures of you as a couple.

I find this sort of disrespectful actually.
posted by murrey at 7:45 AM on February 24, 2011 [66 favorites]

Another thought, and this isn't meant to be hurtful but to maybe give you something to think about: this guy dumped you. Then he passed on, and you seem to have taken possession of him. Is it possible that this attachment to him is about taking back the power in that relationship? Grieving is natural but you may have mingled it with the desire to have him back, especially since the relationship, and the breakup, were so close to his passing. Maybe you have him in your profile pic as a way of showing that you still "have" him, even though he left you.
Please don't take this as cruelty, but as food for thought that might help you move on from that pain and into a fresh start.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 7:45 AM on February 24, 2011 [18 favorites]

Also, keep in mind that it's not just your friends who see your profile picture - it's also new people you meet who look you up online, plus plenty of acquaintances who don't know your current boyfriend, and who will be confused if they meet you together that he's not the guy in your profile photo.
posted by you're a kitty! at 7:46 AM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's rough to feel like a second choice or a back up plan. That might not be the truth about your feelings toward your boyfriend, but it's the message you're sending.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:46 AM on February 24, 2011 [7 favorites]

I agree with pretty much everything said above, and would add that even if your ex hadn't dumped you before his death it would be a reasonable request from your current boyfriend that you make this change. As someone said, he's probably felt this way for a while, and has finally said something because it reached the point where it was very important to him. He wants to know you're on board with him now and in the future, and that you aren't living in the shadowland of things lost.
posted by itstheclamsname at 7:46 AM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

It is flatly inappropriate to have a photo of you and your ex from 2 years ago as your Facebook profile picture. Especially when you're in a serious relationship. While there might be some conceivable exceptions to this (for instance, immediately after he died, with an explanation in the caption), they don't apply to you.

Many people have a photo of themselves alone in their Facebook profile picture. To have someone else in that picture makes a big statement. If it's not a family member and it's someone of the opposite sex, people will tend to assume it's your significant other (which may be heteronormative, I know, but I just said the assumption will be made). That doesn't mean it has to be a significant other or family member, but the only other good option is a very close, platonic friend. Ex-boyfriend? No.

For you to say it's OK when you do it, but it wouldn't be OK if he did it, is a double standard that will naturally lead to resentment. If you want to take a principled stand on that point, you're free to do so, but that sounds to me like a really bad move for your relationship.

I'm sorry that your ex-boyfriend died years ago, but that's not an excuse for not doing what's best for the relationship you're in now. It's good to remember those who died, but there's a reason we have mourning rituals (funerals and so on) that happen with a tightly limited period of time, immediately after the death. Once that's over, I recommend prioritizing the people who matter to you who are alive.
posted by John Cohen at 7:55 AM on February 24, 2011 [6 favorites]

I'm sorry for you loss and the difficult time you've had. It must have been really rough and you have my deepest sympathies.

That said, your boyfriend's request is very understandable and I don't think he's being insensitive or overreacting. Talk to him about keeping the pictures up in the apartment, but as to Facebook, take down the photo of you and your deceased ex. It's been two years and this step, however big or small it may seem to you, is a good step forward, both in letting go a bit and moving forward with your life.

You're alive, so live.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:56 AM on February 24, 2011

I'm on the side of the folks who think it's unusual for you to be honoring a man that you broke up with. I'm going to go so far as to ask whether you feel guilt about that? There is a lot in our culture about "don't disrespect the dead". You broke up with a guy - you didn't tell us why. But if he hadn't died just then, would you still have pictures of him 2 years later? What kinds of conversations would you have with your friends about your ex if he were still alive - would you have trashed his character? But (to me) it sound like now he's dead and you can't say anything bad about him.
posted by CathyG at 7:58 AM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

murrey and L'Estrange Fruit echoed my thoughts pretty well. You're not just posting photos of a deceased lover, you're posting photos of someone who was already your ex (by his choice, no less) when they passed away.

Listen, it's okay to remember your ex. It's okay to keep pictures of him. It's okay to miss him. But think about your current boyfriend's feelings. I'm surprised that he has only expressed his discomfort with this recently because I would have been weirded out by this a long time ago.
posted by futureisunwritten at 7:59 AM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Pictures of you and your ex around in the apartment -- assuming there aren't overwhelming numbers, and there are more of you and other people, and mroe of you and current bf -- are pretty normal. (It would also be normal to have those photos in facebook albums.) Incidentally, the situation is not all that unique, and there is no reason your current bf couldn't have a few photos of himself with an ex around too. (You have not said that you object to this, though.)

But your profile photo should be a photo of you alone, or you with your bf, or you as a kid, or a joke of some sort -- not you with an ex. This is a reasonable request, especially two years after his death. It just sends the image that you would be with him, care about him more, etc. Even if this is not true, this is what you are telling the world.
posted by jeather at 7:59 AM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

As just a FRIEND of someone who did this after a young man of our acquaintance died recently, I found the use of a profile pic of my friend and her dead boyfriend morbid and upsetting. Like, had to hide her from my feed it was so morbid and upsetting. It did NOT come across as respectful or as a mode of honoring him; it was fairly universally upsetting to all of our mutual friends. It felt really inappropriate and almost exploitative, in addition to being emotionally painful for all of the young man's friends and -- worse -- his grieving family. Nobody said anything to her because they all felt she had to grieve in her own way and didn't want to be rude, but NOBODY found it appropriate and it was upsetting everyone else who cared about him. If she had gone on with it for two YEARS I don't think our friendship would have survived it. As it was, she lost several friends over it and much of his family still has difficulty speaking to her because of the extraordinarily public, showy, and attention-grabbing ways she chose to mourn their son and brother's death.

Obviously that's one situation and the death in this young man's case was sudden and extremely tragic and difficult. Situations differ. But something to consider. I don't mean to be harsh, but it was an emotional situation for all of us involved so my feelings are kinda strong.

Two YEARS later? If I were your boyfriend, I'd assume you simply didn't find me important or had no intention of ever moving on and being truly serious with me. If this is SO painful for you after two years that you can't let go of him as the representation of your identity, I think you need counseling to help you cope with the loss. Two WEEKS of that as your picture might be a tribute, albeit one that might still be upsetting to others mourning him. Two YEARS of him as your picture? You need to let go, badly, and at this point it's not about honoring him, it's a security blanket for you. And it's disrespectful to your current boyfriend, sorry.

Other pictures of the two of you together are fine, with two caveats: First, don't constantly "share" them in your newsfeed; his birthday or the anniversary of his death are fine, but if you're constantly "sharing" them to bring them back to attention, again, that says you're at a point where you need counseling to cope with this. If they're just sitting there in facebook albums not bothering anybody, no biggie, unless you have 47 albums of 100 pictures each all of you and him, and like one of the rest of your life. (In which case you haven't moved on and need to talk.) Second, I'd find it appropriate to display ONE real picture of him in your home that's just the two of you, happy but not lovey-dovey, in an understated way (that is, not blown up to 11x14 and hung over the mantle). Group pictures including exes are no big deal, and pictures of exes are no big deal when they're in an album. But if your house decor has a lot of pictures of the ex, that makes a statement, and that statement is, my current boyfriend is not important.

Widows and widowers have to deal with the same issue, amplified, if they remarry; even then, it's typically thought most appropriate to have a FEW pictures of a beloved spouse of 25 years displayed publicly, but that the "places of honor" for pictures should go to the current spouse, and more pictures should be of the current spouse than of the old one.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:00 AM on February 24, 2011 [38 favorites]

Keep your photos, for sure. But as others are saying about the FaceBook picture, it does send a certain message... and one that if I was your s/o I wouldn't be chill with after 6 mos, let alone 2 years.

Remember that he's your ex and then he passed away. Were he still alive, you would not be together. I know that's a harsh thing to say and not how you want to remember him, but it's also the truth.

Keep your memories, but you need to start building your online life to reflect your actual life, which means changing your profile picture to one that's a little more recent. With or without your current s/o, if you've got a 2 year old picture up, it's time for an updated photo anyway.
posted by sonika at 8:04 AM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ditch the profile pic. Your boyfriend is completely in the right.
posted by fso at 8:06 AM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

I agree with others that this is totally inappropriate and disrespectful to your current boyfriend.

You say your ex broke up with you--had you wanted the relationship to continue? When he died, were you still hoping to get back together? I wonder if his death didn't make it impossible for you to get over the break-up, and thus take a more realistic viewpoint of who he was as a person. A very common part of break-ups is being exposed to your ex's nastier bits, parts they didn't show you when they were dating, and coming to terms with their faults and the realization why the relationship didn't work for either of you. Your ex's death froze your viewpoint of him in your mind before you had the chance to work through all of these things. Maybe in your head he's still the perfect relationship you couldn't hope to replace. Maybe you're beating yourself up over the reasons he broke up with you, blaming yourself and feeling guilty you can never correct the mistakes you made in the relationship.

But really . . . you have to realize if the guy broke up with you, he wasn't right for you. All relationships go through shitty times. But when people are "right" for each other, they are able to work through those shitty times, or those times aren't so shitty that they become unworkable. Your current boyfriend is amazingly supportive. I don't know of anyone who would tolerate their partner keeping up pictures of their ex in prominent places, and certainly nothing as public as a Facebook profile.
posted by schroedinger at 8:09 AM on February 24, 2011 [8 favorites]

I say just change the profile pic, don't get rid of it. Different people use Facebook photos different ways and it's not inappropriate to have those photos in there; not everyone carefully combs their photos.
posted by NoraReed at 8:13 AM on February 24, 2011

You have been through something that has wrung your heart out. Dollars to donuts, you've had a thousand "If only..." conversations with yourself, and that you've made all sorts of internal promises about honoring his memory. You're trying to do that, and it is right that there should be some testament to the fact that he existed.

But--and this is a big but--as he recedes further and further from your life, the ways that you remember him must evolve too. Maybe you have a tombstone to visit; maybe you don't. Maybe you still have letters from him, or objects that he gave you, in addition to these pictures. He still lives in these objects and in your heart.

It may be time to put these physical reminders aside so you can make a space for living love. The emotional associations, too. Imagine your heart has a hotel in it. Give your ex a room. Fill it with your wonderful memories and the things you wish you could have shown him and the "what ifs" of your former relationship and what his life could have been.

And then shut the door.

Visit this room when you need to. Indulge in those memories as you wish. But it's time to think about insulating that from all of the vibrant, alive, current and significant parts of living now.

I wish you a resolution that you can live with, even if what I suggested isn't it. Peace.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:15 AM on February 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

People grieve differently, so I think the people in this thread are being a little hard on you. I understand that changing the photos may be really hard because it means you're accepting not only his death, but also that he's gone and you're moving on. But I do think maybe it's time for a new FB profile, but there's nothing wrong with keeping photos of someone you loved around your house or in your FB album as long as those aren't the only photos.
posted by bananafish at 8:16 AM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've got to agree. The only thing I have a problem with you doing is that it's you and the ex as your profile picture. Anything else just doesn't really matter. And if it was me as your current boyfriend, we'd have had this fight a long time ago and it would have been a lot worse. Or I would have left you a long time ago under the assumption that you weren't over the ex at all and thus couldn't give me the attention and respect I deserve as your current boyfriend.

In my mind, depending on how old you are and how much time you spend on Facebook, you'd have about 2 weeks to a month to change the profile picture.
posted by theichibun at 8:16 AM on February 24, 2011

I might be slightly more sympathetic to your point of view if you'd been together and in happy gushing love when your ex died. But he broke up with you! That actually ended your claim on him as a partner socially, if not (of course) your feelings, and was a whole separate issue from his sudden passing.

I recognize that this hurt you terribly, but consider if he hadn't passed away and was still out there carrying on his life with someone else, and your Facebook profile was still laden with images of the two of you together. It would be a little worrying, wouldn't it?

I agree with the general consensus that, yeah, it's time to move on. Your new boyfriend should respect that the ex was an important part of your life and will always be a special memory for you that you have every right to honor, but I don't hear anything that suggests he isn't doing that. After two years of being there for you as you mourn, I think it's your turn to step up and give him a relationship with a healthy partner who can return the love he's giving you, without the dynamic of you being wounded and him being sort of your emotional caretaker. It would be better for you, too.
posted by Naberius at 8:17 AM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

You must at least remove your facebook profile picture, your current boyfriend is kind enough to let you keep that profile picture up for that long. It would indeed make me feel very uncomfortable if I'm your current boyfriend. Hope this helps.
posted by kazuya at 8:17 AM on February 24, 2011

The entire experience with your ex-boyfriend must have been very hard, especially the incredibly difficult rapid one-two punch nature of events.

That said... I'm uncomfortable with the way you're putting out an image of you and this guy together, when he broke up with you and is now not in a position to say anything about you continuing to present to the world the impression that you're still together. I think that's really problematic and you need to think about the choice you're making and what's behind it.

Your (current) boyfriend is right.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 8:22 AM on February 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

If I were your boyfriend, I wouldnt ask you to take down the picture - I would leave.
I actually give your boyfriend a lot of credit for putting up with it at all.
posted by Flood at 8:29 AM on February 24, 2011 [6 favorites]

Is he overreacting and being insensitive? Is it appropriate to still have up pictures of me and my ex together?

There's no "standard" here. People can ask for what they want. And they can leave if they do not get what they want.

You're going to have to decide whether the past or the present and the future are more important to you. And only two of those you can change.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:33 AM on February 24, 2011

If your boyfriend was asking you to dispose of or destroy the pictures, that would be unreasonable. But he's not asking that.

Keep your photos, replace the profile pic and start leaving the past in the past.
posted by DWRoelands at 8:37 AM on February 24, 2011

Your Facebook profile picture is your avatar, the first thing people see when they look at your profile, the image that appears in people's news feeds. Every link and silly comment and status update of yours has your ex's image by it. There are many better ways to honor your ex's memory, ones that aren't so closely tied with the way you present yourself.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:40 AM on February 24, 2011 [5 favorites]

Your boyfriend is a saint. The Facebook profile pic is inappropriate, and disrespectful to your boyfriend.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:54 AM on February 24, 2011 [5 favorites]

"CuriousJoe changed her Profile picture."

Five little words to make your boyfriends day....
posted by MarvinJ at 9:12 AM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sorry to double-comment, but just wanted to second the many commenters who've said your boyfriend has been remarkably nice about this. Many people in his situation would have been much less gentle and hesitant in raising the issue. You can very quickly fix the picture, give him a big, sincere "You're right, I'm sorry," and it sounds like that'll be enough to make this issue go away. That will be a very fortunate resolution to the whole thing. I'd do this ASAP if I were you.
posted by John Cohen at 9:16 AM on February 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

It's fine to have those pictures; no one is telling you that you can't have a past. But to have them displayed in your apartment and on your profile page is disrespectful and sends the message that your current relationship is not as imporatant as your former relationship.

You can either be in this relationship or be in the shadow of a relationship with someone who left you and then died.
posted by spaltavian at 9:22 AM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

A recommendation if I may...when you change your profile picture, replace it with one of you. Just you. 100% you and nobody else. Your identity. You, as a complete, whole person, standing on your own and capable of showing love to another without all that necessarily tangled up in the one outward-facing expression defining who you are. It'll be a good exercise, even if only for a little while.

Good luck with the new you, undivided!
posted by iamkimiam at 9:22 AM on February 24, 2011 [9 favorites]

You talk of respect. Respecting the dead. The prominent FB photo is actually a big act of disrespect towards the living, your boyfriend, and perhaps others. You are rubbing it in his face every day and every hour that it remains up, saying "you are not as important to me as he is". Your FB friends may well think you are not serious about your current relationship. His friends are probably giving him shit about his gf caring more for a dead guy that dumped her then him.

I am honestly sorry for the loss and grief you must feel. But, you need to stop this, or it will cause even more loss and grief. Your ex-boy friend is dead... two years dead. It is truly time to pack the photos away (by all means keep them) and put them in the hall closet. make the commitment to the current relationship... or do the humane thing and dump him.

If it helps, do a personal ceremony of letting go... go to his grave, say goodbye, never go back, or something like that, make a symbolic break. And even though it may be just fine to keep the old photos, perhaps... just perhaps... it may be better to ditch them.

good luck

choose life.
posted by edgeways at 9:34 AM on February 24, 2011 [5 favorites]

Your boyfriend is remarkably patient and understanding. Do this for him.
posted by LarryC at 9:57 AM on February 24, 2011

I'm sorry. It sounds like it was a rough time for you.

With that said, I'd have to go with what zombieApoc said above. Your current boyfriend might be having to answer questions about why you're depicted with a different guy if they see your activity on his wall. You can still have him in pictures and on Facebook, but I have to agree with your boyfriend where the profile picture is concerned.
posted by SillyShepherd at 9:58 AM on February 24, 2011

"CuriousJoe changed her Profile picture."

Five little words to make your boyfriends day....

Unless CuriousJoe is a boy and then it might be alarming to see "her" there!
posted by valeries at 9:59 AM on February 24, 2011 [6 favorites]

I'm pretty stunned your boyfriend put up with this for two years. You've essentially had the modern equivilant of an altar in his memory displayed to all your family and friends.

I really don't think you are either emotionally ready or invested in this relationship and should break up.
posted by whoaali at 10:21 AM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

Yes, he's right. Just ask yourself how you'd feel in his position. Put yourself in his shoes. You love someone, you've been with them two years... and they still have a picture of their ex as their public profile? Can you really not see how hurtful that would be?

Honouring the memory of your ex is fine, but it needs to be private, now. It's painful for you, yes, of course. But after two years of love from a man who you consider to be your partner it is surely time you considered his pain too. He's the living one. Do you love him? Then show it.

You had a painful experience. Yes. Now move on and give more value to the present.
posted by Decani at 10:27 AM on February 24, 2011

This is as disrespectful to the ex as it is to the boyfriend - he broke up with you but you continue to present to others through Facebook as though you are still together, and he of course can't express his feelings about it. I'm very sorry for your loss, but you need to let this go.
posted by goo at 10:29 AM on February 24, 2011 [11 favorites]

I'm with your boyfriend on this, but then again I'm also somebody who thinks it's weird/annoying when people use anything for their profile pic other then a picture of themselves.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:32 AM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've been in your current boyfriend's shoes: I dated someone whose ex-boyfriend/first love/dear friend had passed away about three years before we met. I spent most of that relationship feeling like I was competing with him. It was tough for me: I felt like no matter what I did, I would always come second—not even to him, but to the memory of him. No one can compete with a memory. I shouldn't have had to. Your boyfriend shouldn't have to, either.

I'm so sorry for your loss, and I empathize profoundly with your desire to keep your ex in your heart and to honour his life and the relationship you shared. I even agree that you should. But you have to balance that with the love and respect you feel for your boyfriend, and your responsibility to make sure he knows that you love him, that you respect him, that he's first in your heart. Like it or not, keeping your Facebook profile pic works counter to that.

Here's what I think you should do. Pour a glass of good wine, or open a bottle of good beer, or roll a nice joint, and put on that song, you know the one I mean, the one that makes your chest seize up a little bit with memories of him. Sit down at your computer and find a picture of yourself standing somewhere beautiful, a picture where you look happy and sexy and relaxed. A picture of the best version of yourself.

Toast to your ex, and his memory, and the good times you had, and change your picture. It's going to feel a little like letting go. It is. But it's the good kind of letting go, the healthy kind, the necessary kind.

Then find your boyfriend and give him a kiss and tell him you love him.

Good luck.
posted by Zozo at 10:33 AM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Because your ex's death occurred so soon after the breakup, you weren't ever able to go through the usual stages of getting dumped, where he ends up being someone you don't have feelings for, and you eventually transition to friends or acquaintances. He died when you were still in that "just got dumped, but I still love him and I know he loves me and he'll see the error of his ways" stage. And you've probably been kind of stuck there ever since. You didn't ever get the closure of seeing him date someone else and move on. You didn't ever get to say, "Argh! That asshole dumped me for HER/HIM?." He was always the man you were in love with when he died. But you're in a new relationship now, and by idealizing that past relationship and not letting it go, you're hurting the person who is currently present and loving you. You might not be ready for that presence and love, so you're holding him at a distance by continuing to cling to memories of your ex, but it's hurtful and doesn't honor your current guy, or, as others have mentioned, your ex.
posted by MsMolly at 10:41 AM on February 24, 2011 [6 favorites]

I've favorited Edgeway's answer and agree 100%.

I think you might also do some soul-searching. Your ex [i]dumped[/i] you before he died. Is this shrine to his memory (and yes, it is that) a way of having him take you back on some level? It seems to me that having your profile picture (people's first Facebook impression of you, after all) be one of you and your ex as a couple, is a way of saying "Ex, you may have dumped me - but I can get back together with you on some level - even if it's not the physical - and there's nothing you can say about it!" The guy is dead, so he has no say in things. You get to hang on to him as your boyfriend and there's no one to send you emails saying "Hi there, this is X. Please take this picture of the two of us off your Facebook profile; I've moved on and am seeing someone else." Or, worse, rant about his creepy ex-SO that just can't seem to let go.

You have your idealized memories of him - a ghost can't leave dishes in the sink or forget Valentine's Day. An idealized ghost would have always, always joyfully watched the kind of movies YOU want to see, would have smothered you in long-stemmed roses every birthday, would generally have been so perfect in contrast to your flawed, human current relationship.

Don't be Miss Havisham. If you're having this much trouble letting go, you might consider therapy. It's hard for any real-life human to compete with the beloved, idealized dead (who weren't perfect in life!). Please do some soul-searching, some therapy if necessary, and, above all, prioritize the living over the dead. The living always come first. Always.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:46 AM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

I agree with what everyone else has said here.

In addition, I think you and your boyfriend may need to sit down and have a talk about the state of your relationship. From what you've written, you guys got together really soon after the breakup and death -- an extreme rebound situation if there ever was one. The fact that your boyfriend was so tolerant of the photographs up until now suggests to me that he might have assumed a "helper" or "emotional support" role at the beginning of the relationship, making your emotional needs the focus and priority instead of his. Perhaps he's ready to outgrow this role?
posted by yarly at 10:55 AM on February 24, 2011

I hope you read this far.

I'm awfully worried about you. I think some part of your mourning process is full-stop frozen, and that may be why you're experiencing your partner's request as unreasonable. There's something keeping you from moving on, and it may be more powerful for being unexamined.

You had two mourning experiences thrust on you at almost the same time: you lost your relationship, and then you lost the person who still felt like a partner. I suspect the two losses are interfering with each other, such that the break-up interferes with you mourning him as a partner (because he technically wasn't), and the death interferes with you mourning the break-up (because you'll never get any more questions answered, because you can't be properly angry at him because he's dead).

It sounds like you got stuck in the early stages of mourning.

I really hope you figure out how to move on. It sounds like your current partner has been wonderfully patient with you, and I hope you can reciprocate his sensitivity. More than that, though, I hope you can heal enough to live in the present and plan for the future.
posted by endless_forms at 10:59 AM on February 24, 2011 [11 favorites]

Although you feel that your situation is unique, I actually know two people who were bereaved shortly after a breakup/divorce. One continued to keep photos of his dead ex-wife everywhere without adding any photos to them of his current girlfriend, ever, which basically freaked everyone the fuck out; as far as I know, none of his relationships have worked out because he's still (15+ years later) completely enmeshed with the woman who had just finished divorcing him when she died.

The other person kept a few photos of his dead ex-boyfriend around, interspersed with other photos of him with family and friends, and kept adding new photos of himself with his new boyfriends as they got serious (then rotating them out if they broke up). Now he is happily married and the photos of the late ex are in an album with other friend-and-family photos.

I know which of those people I would choose to emulate if I were in your situation. I am sorry for your loss, but life is for the living. Defining yourself as "{the late ex}'s boyfriend" in your Facebook profile sends a misleading message, both to your current boyfriend and to mutual friends of yours and the late ex's. And to yourself.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:06 AM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

You say you want to honor your ex's memory, but you're acting contrary to his wishes. You're keeping the photos up for yourself, not for him. He didn't want to be with you. Let him go.
posted by milk white peacock at 11:25 AM on February 24, 2011 [5 favorites]

Agreed with everyone that your boyfriend is 100% right.

However, the fact that you even had to ask if your boyfriend was being reasonable makes me think that you really need to see a counselor or talk to a professional about this. You clearly aren't processing this in a healthy way if 2 years later, you think it's unreasonable that your current boyfriend of a long time feels weird about you having your Facebook profile pic of you and your deceased ex, who broke up with you prior to his passing.

I'm sorry for your grief.
posted by elpea at 12:01 PM on February 24, 2011 [8 favorites]

Grief is different for everyone. I'm not going to say your grief process is unusual or bad or even abnormal. It's ok to still feel grief over the situation and to find personal ways to express it.

However, you do need to decide what is more important to you and what will help you more in the long run developing as a person. Is it more important to your grief process to keep this picture up at risk of alienating your current boyfriend? Will you be a better, stronger person, more able to progress in your grief by keeping this picture up, or would taking it down be a step towards moving on?

I can't answer that. But I do think you need to introspectively look at your grief process and asses wheather it is healthily progressing or weather your methods for dealing with your grief are harming your life and ability to cope with other things going on. I do think you should seek counseling if you can.

(Hint: call a local mortuary/ funeral home, especially if you know the one that took care of your ex-boyfriend's arrangements. The staff is trained to deal with grief, both normal and abnormal, and they do have resources that they keep just so they can give them to people who are having trouble with the grieving process. They have the info on grief support groups, low cost counseling and other things, and if they are a good funeral home, they will be sensitive and willing to give that info out.)

My suggestion is to take the picture down from the public arena of facebook (because really, your grief is your own. It dosen't need to be in the public arena to be validated. how you feel is how you feel.) but print it off and maybe put it in an album privately for yourself. I also reccomend reading on Grief and Grieving by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. It's easy to read and very sensitive.

When we lose someone there is no resolution. Don't expect one. Closure is a load of bull. But, you can get back to a point where you can remember the person for the good times you had and the positive role they played in your life. I know it's hard to get there when you're the ex, because often ex's are excluded from the "normal" grieving process. But you're not abnormal, and you have a right to grieve for your ex however that works for you.

Just be aware of weather your choices are helping or harming you. To me it sounds like keeping the facebook photo up might be doing more harm to your future self, but I don't know you. Even if i did, i'm not in your head to make that call.
posted by RampantFerret at 12:39 PM on February 24, 2011

I am sorry for your loss but you should take off the pics from facebook profile. You can still keep your memories, photographs and emotions if any with yourself. I think this is the right thing to do.
posted by kirang at 12:40 PM on February 24, 2011

Your partner has given you years of selfless support and loyalty through a very difficult experience, and now he is asking for some consideration in return. You should have compassion for what he's feeling.

The best way you can do that is by thanking him for being so patient and loving with you, recognizing you've got stuck in your grief, and telling him you'll be getting help so you can be a stronger person for yourself and a better partner for him. You simply can't ask him to bear this burden with you any longer. It's cruel. And if during this process of help and therapy you find that you simply don't love him the way you loved your ex, do the honorable thing and let him go. You deserve to be truly in love with someone in the present moment instead of an idealized past, and so does he.

If you do love him, show him. Change the picture. Give him kindness and respect. Do things as a couple that demonstrate you care as much for his needs and desires as your own. Be attentive and romantic. He's been waiting a long time for you to be a fully committed partner. It's time to step up.
posted by melissa may at 12:54 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Another voice among many to say that it's time to change the FB pic. Your boyfriend sounds like he's been wonderfully compassionate and patient, and now it's time for you to match his gifts with your own gifts of empathy and appreciation.

Doing so will not dishonor your ex; however, choosing not to do so, after all this time, has the appearance of dishonoring (or at least disregarding) your current partner. You are alive in the here and now and he is with you. It's time to be fully present with him.

Grieving is different for everyone, and you may always feel some sadness about your ex. At the same time, it is urgent to the health or your relationship (and your own emotional health) to begin taking steps out of this particular stage of grief where you seem to have been stuck for so long. For my serious grief work (and it is, indeed, emotional work), I've found that therapy and yoga have been essential and tremendously helpful. Best of luck to you.
posted by scody at 1:40 PM on February 24, 2011

A lot of the "advice" being given here goes directly contrary to accepted grief counseling methods. Especially the people that are using guilt to motivate action (such as the person saying that keeping the photo up is contrary to the dead ex's wishes) and the person above here who's saying "it's time to step up".

Please seek an actual grief counselor, or at least read some accepted material for dealing withg grief. A lot of the things being said on this board are not only against accepted grief counseling practices, they are actively harmful to a grieving person and listening to them too closely could retard the grieving process even more than keeping the facebook photo up (if that even IS retarding the grieving process. I suspect that society's exclusion of ex lovers from the communal grieving process is more the problem and keeping the photo up is just the symptom of a socital problem with grieving.

I know everyone is just trying to help, but many of you are doing active harm.
posted by RampantFerret at 1:42 PM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

I suspect that society's exclusion of ex lovers from the communal grieving process is more the problem and keeping the photo up is just the symptom of a socital problem with grieving.

I agree that our society has serious problems with grieving, but I don't think anyone is suggesting that the OP should be excluded from grieving their ex; indeed, most people here seem to have been quite respectful and accepting that the OP's grief is real and legitimate.
posted by scody at 1:48 PM on February 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

I know everyone is just trying to help, but many of you are doing active harm.

RampantFerret, you're perfectly entitled to point out the shades of difference between your advice and most commenters, but accusing "many" of us of "doing active harm" is over the top. The OP is a strong, autonomous person who is obviously going to accept or reject the advice in this thread based on the OP's opinion. Reading a flawed internet comment is not going to harm the OP.

You yourself said the OP should actually take the photo down, which is more severe than what most of us are recommending. I'm guessing you're not familiar with Facebook and the importance of the profile picture if you think this is an open question that only the OP can answer. We've given mostly clear-cut answers because many of us actually think this is a clear-cut issue.

Remember, this is not just an issue about the OP's inner state. The OP is only half of the two people that this issue is about. The other person is the OP's boyfriend (not the ex-boyfriend). There's no way around it: leaving up the Facebook profile picture is a disrespect to the boyfriend. You don't want to continually, publicly disrespect your boyfriend if you want the relationship to go well. If you want to prioritize the continuing, 2-year-long grieving process over your relationship, you have a right to do so. But if your current relationship is something you're basically positive about, I recommend not exercising that right. There are many things we're free to do but that we have good reason not to do.
posted by John Cohen at 2:07 PM on February 24, 2011 [7 favorites]

RampantFerret: "I know everyone is just trying to help, but many of you are doing active harm."

The advice to change the profile picture has nothing to do with grief or grieving.

Instead, it has everything to do with keeping the current relationship in a positive state.

If the OP still needs to grieve, they need to grieve. And that's fine. Most of the comments here focus on the current relationship. And if the OP wants to keep that relationship going the picture is going to have to stop being the Facebook profile image.

It doesn't matter if the OP keeps the picture on Facebook in an album. It doesn't matter if the OP keeps pictures of the ex around.

But keeping the picture of the ex and the OP as the OPs Facebook profile picture is disrespectful to the current boyfriend. And if the OP isn't really over the ex (which, again, is all fine and dandy) then there isn't really a point in having a relationship with the new boyfriend is there?
posted by theichibun at 5:33 AM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

CuriousJoe, I see from your profile that this is your first AskMe question, so I came here not to tell you to change your profile picture (which I think you should), but to tell you, in case you didn't know, that it is extremely rare for a human relations AskMe to get a get such a uniform response. 100% of the people who have answered agree - you should not have that picture as your profile pic. I have literally never seen that happen before. It's a good sign that you should heed this advice.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:34 AM on February 25, 2011 [6 favorites]

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