Is phoning the ex- unreasonable?
August 1, 2011 8:49 AM   Subscribe

Should I break up with my gf, and what is the proper thing to do when is not-very-long-distance?

Here's the basics as brief as I can make them: In 2001 I had a friend named Margo with whom I'd had a very brief relationship about 2 years before, and we had been (aside from an annual drunken 1-nighter) just friends after that. At the end of 2001 I met someone else (Jean) and we started seeing each other. Margo was jealous, but we remained friends, and the two liked each other well enough. Jean was in a band, and after a year asked me to join in. We broke up in early 2005 or so, but agreed to remain friends and still do the band thing. After a rough weekend or two, things settled into place. We had other relationships, and could talk about them or not. It was perfectly natural. In late 2008 I started spending a lot of time with Margo and we became officially a couple mid-2009. We discussed briefly that I would like to stay in the band (which meant staying overnight out of town) and agreed it would be ok so long as Jean and I were not sharing a room overnight.
Last fall I let Jean stay on my sofa the night before traveling for a show (so we could rehearse the night before and all travel to the station as a unit) and the night after (as we got back a bit late to drive). I neglected to tell Margo (as 5 years after breaking off a 3-year relationship Jean is just another friend to me), then she found out, hit the roof, and demanded I quit. She specifically said "I'm not asking you to quit, just not go out-of-town with your ex-" I grudgingly agreed.
A short while ago it came out in conversation I had phoned Jean twice since then (to congratulate her on a new child and offer sympathy when a mutual friend passed away). Margo hit the roof again, insisted I had wrecked our whole relationship again, that I was never to speak to Jean again under any circumstances. And also that had Jean been at a wedding we attended a month ago then not only would Margo not have gone but I would not been allowed to either. At presumably will not be allowed to go to any such other thing if Jean is there.

I'm thinking that's going a bit far, and am about to tell her so even if it means we're breaking up over this. But (predictably) all Margo's friends tell her that she's 100% in the right and I'm horrible while all mine say I'm ok and Margo is being insecure and far too demanding. What do the impartials say?

Also, we live about 1:45 apart, and see each other 2 nights per week. Is this conversation that quite possibly leads to breaking up something to wait and travel for or is that far enough to be long-distance and mean a phone-call or email is better?

email to
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (30 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Personally I'd prefer to be broken up with via text. That way I don't have to travel to a coffee shop or anything just to get dumped.
posted by ian1977 at 8:52 AM on August 1, 2011

So, to be clear, your question is not "should I break up with my girlfriend," but rather "looks like I'm breaking up with my girlfriend, should I do it on the phone or in person?"

In person, but make sure you have a plan to get home that does not involve staying the night at Margo's place. (By text? Seriously? OP's known her ten years. That's the most chickenshit, lame-ass thing you could possibly do.)
posted by phunniemee at 8:54 AM on August 1, 2011 [12 favorites]

I think it should be in person, you should do the traveling, and be prepared to get up and head back home immediately afterward.
posted by number9dream at 8:55 AM on August 1, 2011 [7 favorites]

Margo has been your grilfriend for a while and your friend for even longer. A less serious relationship could end over the phone, but this one has gotta be in person. It sucks that you've got to drive all the way down there to tell her so, but that's the way it is.

Would it be totally out of character for your relationship if you suggested meeting up for dinner at someplace halfway in between?
posted by aimedwander at 8:58 AM on August 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

Yeah, you go to see her, tell her you're done, leave. Do not attempt a complete dissection of the relationship.
posted by biffa at 8:58 AM on August 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

If you want to break up with her, I think you should break up with her. I think you should go over to her place and break up with her, though if this is really not feasible a phone call is marginally acceptable.

But from Margo's POV, you dated Jean for 3 years and continue to be in a band with her, including traveling with her. She's okay with it, but she doesn't want you to share a room with her (which is pretty reasonable). Then you share a room with her and hide this from Margo. Then you phone her a few times and also hide it from Margo. It's the hiding that she is objecting to, I think, not the contact. I don't think she's out of line for not wanting you to keep in contact with your ex when you hide the contact from her (the "nothing where Jean is ever again" seems a bit much), and I don't think you're out of line for not being happy with this.
posted by jeather at 8:58 AM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Um, yeah she sounds totally crazy, I think you should have a serious talk and be OK with it if it leads to a break up. That type of controlling jealousy is just not OK in my opinion.

You might want to send an email explaining how you feel clearly and frankly and say you want to speak with her about this soon (this will give her some time to think about everything as well). Then, let her decide if she wants to talk in person or over the phone.
posted by LZel at 9:00 AM on August 1, 2011

You need to do this in person. This isn't some short-term thing, it's not a "we've only had three dates" thing. You have history. Do it in person.
posted by rtha at 9:00 AM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

That way I don't have to travel to a coffee shop or anything just to get dumped.

...which is why you, OP, will drive to her house to do this. Two years is an in-person breakup, barring an ocean.
posted by griphus at 9:01 AM on August 1, 2011 [23 favorites]

Yes, I can totally say that I would probably prefer to be broken up with not in person. But I'm a conflict avoiding freak who wouldn't even want someone who was dumping me to do feel awkward. In other words, I am an outlier and you shouldn't use my preference to don't do this.

As far as how or why, if you can, I'd do my best to convince Margo that you are doing this not because you are interested in Jean but because her jealousy and controlling behavior is unacceptable. It may be tough to do without getting into an argument, but maybe she'll listen. And if she doesn't listen this time; maybe she will listen to the next guy she drives away.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:18 AM on August 1, 2011

Mod note: From the OP:
Jean did not sleep in my room as jeather, but in the living room with other people also in the same dwelling (so not unchaperoned). Also, I was pretty sure the answer was "in person" but all the online guidelines for long-distance break-ups say not to get a person's hopes up by doing it on a planned visit they are excited about. I was looking for clarification on where the line is drawn between long-distance and not.
And the real question is, in fact, if I'm accepting a no-contact-with-Jean thing (which I am in principle) is it reasonable for her to insist this also includes no phone contact when mutual friends pass away, and not attending important things like weddings just because Jean is there.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:22 AM on August 1, 2011

OP, my friend. Untangle yourself! You sound pretty angry and frustrated (reasonable) - but what do you want from this community? Permission to break up with your girlfriend? You have it - but only because if you want to break up with your girlfriend you are within your rights to do so. You might hear some people here say your girlfriend is out of line and you should dump her, and others might say she's justified. None of us really know, we are only hearing your side of the story. Search your heart.

Do you want to break up with Margo? (Then do it)
Do you want to stay with Margo but only if she can not be mad about Jean? (Too bad, you can't control her emotions)
Do you want to punish Margo for being mad at you? (That's childish)

Come up with what you want to do. If it means breaking up with her, drive down there, tell her it's over, try to be kind.

If it means staying with her, accept that she's sensitive and jealous and try to set real boundaries with her.

Good luck to you both. I'm sorry you're going through this.
posted by pazazygeek at 9:27 AM on August 1, 2011 [5 favorites]

No, that is not reasonable.

Also, those guidelines for for long distance relationships. Like airplane-long. I live in NYC and an hour forty five is how long it takes to get between Brooklyn and Queens on a shitty transit day.
posted by griphus at 9:28 AM on August 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

When I wanted to break up with my 2-hour away sort of long distance of 2 years boyfriend, I told him I was taking a quick trip up to see him, went up there, and did it. He sort of expected it though, so it was somewhat mutual and acrimonious. But my point is, if you want to break up with her, then you should travel to her and do it. That way she won't have to drive anywhere when she's upset.

I know you didn't ask for validation for what you're doing, but I think she's being unreasonable as well. I understand where she's coming from, and some people are more jealous than others, it just sounds like you guys are a bad match. Especially since Jean has a new baby! She shouldn't feel threatened by her, and it's annoying that she is.
posted by katypickle at 9:34 AM on August 1, 2011

If you are agreeing to a no contact thing, then "no phone calls when mutual friends pass away" is reasonable (though I think it's not really a huge deal if the rule doesn't exist, but if you're doing no contact, it would be weird to call her when someone you both know dies. It is not reasonable if the mutual friend is part of Jean's family), "no attending anything where she will be" is not reasonable, especially as you haven't actually cheated on Margo.

If it wasn't "I let Jean sleep on my couch" but rather "A bunch of people related to the band including Jean stayed over", then Margo is overreacting more than I thought, but again, it sounds like she's responding to the secrecy and not what you did. (I don't think what you did was out of line.) But what matters is that you have different levels of okay about exes, and if neither of you are happy with the other's level, then things won't work out.
posted by jeather at 9:34 AM on August 1, 2011

It's not reasonable as your retell it. Maybe from her perspective it's reasonable, if the incidents where she hasn't been told about feel to her like you hiding something. And in fairness I think it's reasonable to react to someone hiding things by wondering "what else am I not being told about?"

But it's irrelevant. As others said, if you want out then get out. You don't even need a "good" reason. Being unwilling to continue in a relationship means the relationship is over. Waiting around for justification is bad for everyone.

I'll buck the trend here and say that if you really feel strongly that you're being asked to do unreasonable things then you can certainly simply say so on the phone. "No, I will not agree to this limit. I know I'm being reasonable and fair and am not betraying you with someone who I have not been an item with for a long time - someone who treated you reasonable when you were the former partner and I was seeing her, so long ago." If that turns into A Thing and she declares she's unwilling to continue that relationship then you save you both the extended journey just to put a stake in the relationship's heart.

But only do that if you're open to talking through her insecurity and willing to continue with her. Doing it only because you think she'll do the hard work of ending it for you is a little cruddy; if there's other reasons you want to end this then show the integrity of ending it clean.
posted by phearlez at 9:40 AM on August 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Also, I was pretty sure the answer was "in person" but all the online guidelines for long-distance break-ups say not to get a person's hopes up by doing it on a planned visit they are excited about.

I think that's more for situations where the people involved don't see each other for months at a time, not days.
posted by amarynth at 9:43 AM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think you need to put your foot down re: your relationship with Jean -- avoiding big events she attends is ridiculous; avoiding sharing a motel room on the road is not. You can absolutely say "this [ongoing, very tiny, friends-only] relationship with Jean is non-negotiable; I will continue to call her when massive life-changing events happen, and you need to decide if you can live with that." And yes, have this conversation in person. Assure Margo that there is nothing romantic happening between you and Jean, that you will tell her in the future when you see Jean and will stop lying about that, and that she needs to trust you. Be as reassuring, yet firm in your decision about retaining minimal amounts of contact with Jean, as you can. That way, you are being as fair as possible, putting the decision in her own hands.

This is assuming that this issue is the only reason you're considering a break-up, of course.
posted by chowflap at 9:43 AM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

The older I get the more I realise two things:

1) There are two kinds of people in the world: people who consider their partner's exes to be toxic and threatening by default, and people who do not.

2) These two kinds of people are fundamentally incompatible.

If you want to break up, I think in person extends more respect to the relationship you're now terminating.

Having said that, I think phearlz has a good point; you can reject the ultimatum, clearly and compassionately, and see what happens from there. I personally however could not carry on with someone who just plain didn't trust me. Your relationship sounds like way too much drama for me, and making concessions to make the drama go away doesn't really seem to be improving things.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:50 AM on August 1, 2011 [10 favorites]

Call her and tell her you want to have a serious discussion about your relationship and arrange a time to meetup. This way she won't be blindsided and you'll both have time to think about what you want to say.

Margo is being very unreasonable and controlling. Nearly everyone has an ex that they're friendly with; it sounds pretty obvious that there's nothing going on with Jean. You've said nothing to indicate that your behavior was less than respectful of your relationship.

It sounds like you and Margo have a lot of unresolved history. Maybe I'm off base, but did Margo ever get over you the first time? Was it her idea to break up? An annual drunken one nighter, and jealousy when you started dating Jean? That doesn't sound completely platonic to me. Did you ever get enough distance between the two of you to just be friends? Was she hanging around hoping that the two of you would get back together? Also, I'm guessing that the physical distance between the two of you makes it easier for her to obsess over what you're doing when she's not around. Sure, maybe she's more jealous than most...but if you want to try to make it work, you should consider the roots of her jealousy and whether or not a bad beginning can be fixed.
posted by millions of peaches at 9:51 AM on August 1, 2011

We're not her (thank god!), we can't possibly know whether she'd prefer to be dumped in person, on the phone, by email, text or sky writing. Personally I'd want to be as far as possible from the crazy lady - demanding that you quit the band (saying she's not asking you to quit the band then adding a condition that effectively means you have to quit the band is bs mindgames to make herself feel better) for not disclosing that the Jean had stayed in your house (not in the same room as was the rule) was unreasonable and controlling everything beyond that is just plain crazy - the only exception to that would be if you'd cheated on Jean with Margo - then her fears might be slightly more reasonable.
posted by missmagenta at 9:54 AM on August 1, 2011

Uh, she isn't 'crazy'. I wish people would stop saying that. Some people have different ways that they choose to maintain their relationships with exes and it can be confusing when the partner doesn't share those ideas. @missmagenta, he should have called and asked Margo if it were alright that Jean stayed over. That is how relationships work. It isn't about 'rules' or 'not the exact rule'. It's about knowing what will make the other person uncomfortable and trying very hard NOT to do it. If I were Margo, I'd be jealous too. I bet that there is more that is going on...after all, the OP can only give one side of the story. Margo and Jean have had issues since 2001! It's foolish to think that Margo is this psycho crazy woman and the OP is an innocent angel.

You should definitely break up with her. At this point, I think you should tell her in person. Good luck!
posted by 200burritos at 10:12 AM on August 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

Of course you should break up with her. She behaves as if she owns you and clearly doesn't trust you in any way. If you are really going to break up with her, it doesn't matter how you do it. If it's going to be over, make it short, sweet and easy. "I'm done. Have a nice life. goodbye."

posted by txmon at 10:20 AM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

You don't sound like a guy who's ready to break up, you just sound like a guy who's really sick of having to provide a full IRS Audit on his social life. If you're providing an honest, relatively unbiased of how things actually are, you're being asked to prove again and again and again that you're blameless. That gets old.

So what _I'd_ like to know is, other than negotiating to maintain extremely close ties with someone who provides unique social & musical opportunities, have you done something to require this level of oversite? A history of cheating, a laundry list of past lies, just a general Don Juan character when it comes to interacting with the opposite sex? Because if you're a player or untrustworthy, you've brought this on yourself & she is within reason to demand additional accountability. (You can take it or leave it, of course.) But if you're an upstanding guy with no checkered past...this gets REALLY old fast, and I can totally sympathize with your fuck-it-this-isn't-worth-it moment here.

So, assuming you didn't earn this scrutiny, I thinkyou need to decide what you really want: An end to the scrutiny, or an end to the relationship. And proceed from there.

People can make themselves *really* crazy being jealous. At some point they've got to decide if, at the bedrock level, they trust their Significant Other. If she can't trust you --whether that be her fault or your fault-- the crazy is just going to keep building.
posted by Ys at 10:20 AM on August 1, 2011 [9 favorites]

I also agree there must be more to this story. The crazy jealousy seems out of context in a 10+ year relationship.
posted by jbenben at 10:47 AM on August 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


What I meant to convey was that the jealousy seems out of character for Margo and I'm wondering if the OP has her side of the story straight.

OP - if you want to break up, break up. But in the absence of additional evidence, this situation seems resolvable.
posted by jbenben at 10:51 AM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Break-ups are serious, and should be treated seriously. That means you do it in person.
posted by Decani at 11:31 AM on August 1, 2011

Unless your omitting some important details or mis-characterizing some aspect of the relationship (e.g. Have you cheated on Margo before? With Jean?), Margo seems a totally, irrationally, off-the-charts jealous. It's curious that Margo's friends all think you're a jerk; they're either lying to her to be a "good friend," are just as crazy-jealous as she is, or her side of the story is just as one-sided as your side of the story.

I do think that having a frank, honest conversation with her is reasonable. And give her an ultimatum: Jean is a friend of yours and you want her in your life, but nothing has/will happen while you're together with her (Margo). If she can't deal with you being friends with other women (even women you've dated), then she probably is not the type of person you want in your life. Reasonable people recognize that being about to have a good relationship with your ex is actually a sign that you're a good person; you're able to be adult about things when relationships end.

And I agree that all of this (whether you decide to break up with her or not) should be done in person.
posted by Betelgeuse at 1:18 PM on August 1, 2011

Oh noooononono OP. I recommend that you cut this one loose.

A short anecdote: a girl friend of mine and I met a guy while out; I became his friend, while she hooked up with him. But as she began to think they were going towards dating, she demanded that he stop hanging out with me a) without her permission and b) without her being there. After lengthy discussions, I decided to end my friendship with the girl. Why? Because anyone that wants to put ridiculous restrictions on your movement and associations does not have your interests at heart.

I've gotta wonder, does Jean know about the background drama?
posted by Ashen at 6:09 PM on August 1, 2011

In person, her town, not in public. But listen to what she has to say if you expect her to listen to what you have to say.
posted by Capri at 9:01 PM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

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