Longterm relationship, facebook acknowledgements and relationship with parents
May 2, 2012 5:10 PM   Subscribe

Hello all! I need your opinion on what you think about this. This is not directly related to me but I'm on the outside looking in. What does it mean if someone's longterm partner they have been with for more than 20 years on and off but are not married puts up a facebook album with pics of his life including his best friend, his child (not your child), his siblings and other family members and pics of everything he is interested in but no pics of you his significant other, and you hope to get married soon. However, he does include a pic of himself with your parents but you are not in the pic, and he refers to the description as his extended family and other pics of scenery shots you went on vacation with him with. However, he posts no pics of you and does not state that he is in a relationship with you. Is this cause for concern when you have no problem posting pics of you both on facebook? What do you think is the significance of referring to your parents as his extended family. He was your first and only boyfriend since high school, and you were neigbours so your parents knew him through the years growing up. What do you all think about this? Should the other party be worried?
posted by WhatrightdoIhave2happiness to Human Relations (46 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Sorry, but the hypothetical nature of the problem here when neither of the two people central to the question is actually involved in the conversation makes it impossible for us to do anything but guess, and that effectively makes this chatfilter. If your friend has questions, maybe get her an account so she can post them here, and we can try to help. -- taz

I would think his SO asked him not to post photos of her on Facebook.
posted by fshgrl at 5:17 PM on May 2, 2012 [12 favorites]

Im assuming the SO is you. If so, and you are planning on getting married, I would think your inability to ask him what it means and his inability to share why he choose to veer from the norm on this sort of thing, is a the real thing to worry about.
posted by cakebatter at 5:23 PM on May 2, 2012 [15 favorites]

A lot of my friends would have a problem with this. Personally, I haven't got any pictures of my SO on my Facebook and while it's partly because I don't want to advertise this part of my life (not because I'm ashamed of him, but because I've always regarded my romantic relationships as being more private than other relationships in my life), but reinforced as well by the fact that my current partner doesn't have Facebook and although he has never asked me not to post pictures of him, I know he'd rather not have pictures of himself online.
posted by ohmy at 5:24 PM on May 2, 2012

I would ask my SO about this, not because it's necessarily oh-so-weird, but because by the time I was posting an Ask Metafilter question, I'd realize it really mattered to me. Since we were planning to get married, we'd have the kind of relationship where I could just ask in an open-ended and curious way, find out my SO's feelings and thoughts, and share my own (without it being a big deal).
posted by salvia at 5:25 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

My sister's boyfriend was like this. For me, I feel that it's a dealbreaker-level problem, she was a little less concerned about it. I feel that it's the sort of thing that normal people have conversations about and decide what does and does not work for them as a couple. At some point my sister decided that even though it wasn't dealbreaker-like territory for her, after a few years together she felt it was pretty important for her boyfriend to not appear single on facebook and other social sites any more. He'd do things like go out to a restaurant with her and mention it on Twitter but it would be as if he was there by himself. She pretty much explained to her (I think well-meaning but clueless, but who knows...) boyfriend what she wanted. He changed the way he was doing things with no problems and they've been fine about it ever since.

The problem is not that the guy may or may not be trustworthy, exactly, it's that he's doing a thing that squirrely people do. And either he's doing this on purpose for some reason you don't know (and maybe he is squirrely and maybe he is not), or by accident because he is clueless. In either case, it's a good thing to have a conversation about if either party is concerned. But I do think that if there's not some understanding the normative expectation is that unless there's a reason and you are a put-pix-on-facebook type of person, you would include one of your significant other. That said, the world is full of lots of different sorts of people, so it might be nothing, but I'd certainly ask.
posted by jessamyn at 5:30 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

My brother and his wife were on facebook for 3 years before they "admitted" they were married and allowed tagging of pictures of them together. In their case it was because they were building a business together and wanted to maintain a professional appearance, but people have myriad reasons to not want pictures of themselves on fb.

So I wouldn't think anything of it whatsoever if you're really talking about an old boyfriend/neighbor who was just a fb friend but not a "real" friend. If it was my SO, I'd probably say "hey, no fair my parents get top billing & I get nuthin'? Post that picture of us from vacation last year, I love that one!" or something to that effect. If I couldn't say that, directly to him, and be satisfied with his response, then *that* would be the thing that was cause for concern to me.
posted by headnsouth at 5:31 PM on May 2, 2012

My partner would rather be blown out of a cannon than appear on Facebook or any other social networking site. I agree with fshgrl- if I saw this person's info page with no photos of the SO, I'd assume the SO didn't want pics of them on his page. And if I was the SO in question and I wanted photos of us together on his page, I'd just talk to him. If they're thisclose to getting married, they're probably cool with how they each use social networking. This shouldn't be a Difficult Conversation or a Problem to be Solved.
posted by but no cigar at 5:33 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would probably assume that my friend either didn't want photos of her on Facebook OR she was the one always behind the camera.
posted by muddgirl at 5:35 PM on May 2, 2012

Response by poster: As I said I am on the outside looking in. The guy in the relationship has no problem posting private details about himself on facebook. The one thing he does not post on facebook is anything remotely related to his girlfriend/fiancee. His girlfriend/fiancee has no problem with pics of them being up on facebook because she has a photo of them both as her profile pic, and other pics of him in an album.

In one pic once with his girlfriend/fiancee he untagged himself from the pic.

No he has created an album with lots of pics with all of the most important people in his life but she is not in any of the pics. However, there is a pic of him with her parents, and he refers to them as his extended family.

What do you all think about that?
posted by WhatrightdoIhave2happiness at 5:45 PM on May 2, 2012

I would think that it was time to have a conversation with my SO about the relationship and how we communicate about it to the rest of the world.

I'm kinda wondering if you posted this because you're interested in the guy and want to know if you have a chance with him. If that's the case, don't read too much into this. Some people are just a little funny about this stuff - and if he is being intentionally squirrely about his relationship status, then he's not a great prospect.
posted by lunasol at 5:46 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

In one pic once with his girlfriend/fiancee he untagged himself from the pic. ... What do you all think about that?

I would think I'm spending too much time on facebook if I notice details like that about other people's photos.
posted by headnsouth at 5:48 PM on May 2, 2012 [20 favorites]

If you are on the outside looking in, I would think you would mind your own business and not be so concerned.
posted by AugustWest at 5:48 PM on May 2, 2012 [20 favorites]

I would think they're separating or getting a divorce.
posted by peep at 5:49 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Some people like to keep their private lives private and their partners respect it.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 5:49 PM on May 2, 2012

I would think he has people on his friends list for various reasons whom he doesn't want seeing his romantic life or partner. Actually I probably wouldn't notice, but if I did that would be my first thought.
posted by brainmouse at 5:50 PM on May 2, 2012

I would think that someone who's been with him for 20 years would be able to make the same observation I have - that there are no photos of her on his page - and I would figure that either they've talked about it and there's a reason I'm not aware of, or they haven't talked about, in which case their relationship is so fantastically, deeply broken that it's not like anything I could say to them about it would make a difference.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 5:51 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think you should ask your friend -- CASUALLY --what SHE thinks about it and if it doesn't bother her, I would forget about it. You need to maybe MYOB on this one a little bit.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 5:52 PM on May 2, 2012

Since you've said that the SO has photos up of the two of them together on FB and has been open about their relationship, I'm going to rule out the possibility of "not wanting to be on FB/in photos/open about relationship". And it doesn't seem like "other side of the camera" applies, as it seems like the issue is more that the individual of concern is being obfuscatory and weirdly compartmental (calling the in-laws "extended family", for example).

It just seems like too many red flags all at once, I think, to be completely on the up-and-up, so I'd agree that this seems worrisome and strange.

So...should the other party be worried? Probably.

The thing is, either they already are concerned or they are blissfully oblivious. You don't ask if you should say something to that party, which is a harder question - there are probably hundreds of AskMes on that topic, and both sides have good points. If you're friends with both, I'd say to be careful to balance between not endorsing the obfuscatory elements (or actual shady behaviour) and avoiding open criticism/engagement about your concerns. And, of course, be ready to support the other party through whatever happens without engaging in character assassination (love makes people odd).

And, if by chance you ARE the other party, I'd recommend couples counseling ASAP. It's a good step to take before marriage, anyway, and in this case it seems like it would prevent a lot of heartache (or at least get the cards on the table).
posted by batmonkey at 5:58 PM on May 2, 2012

My husband does this - he thinks of me as something so important in his life that needs protected, and that I should not be subjected to the opinions and whims of his Facebook friends.

Really, unless you're close to the friend in question and she has expressed concern, I would hazard a guess that you have no idea what's going on, and are making (possibly completely inaccurate) assumptions based on your own experiences.

It just seems like too many red flags all at once

Again based on assumptions that may have nothing to do with your friend's experience. If you're really concerned, ask her.
posted by scrute at 6:00 PM on May 2, 2012

I would think:

"Wow. I've been with this person off and on for 20 years. You'd think after this amount of time I'd be past the point where I'm trying to divine the nature and health of our relationship through ambiguous facebook postings."

Yes, you should be concerned. Not because of his facebook activity or choices per say, but because you're primary access to meaning and understanding about the relationship seems to be through facebook, not him.
posted by space_cookie at 6:02 PM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Well I have observed that he has been flirtatious with certain ladies on facebook which he has passed off as 'oh it's nothing just harmless flirting'. He passes it off as a joke. His girlfriend is also his facebook friend and she has a pic of them both as her profile pic. He doesn't seem to have a problem posting pics of close friends and family. It makes no sense that he would post a pic with himself in a pic with her parents and she not be in the pic. In fact none of the pics in this one album has a pic of her.
posted by WhatrightdoIhave2happiness at 6:06 PM on May 2, 2012

You're on the outside looking in? None of your business. Keep your mouth shut until your friend brings it up. This isn't evidence of abuse or something like that, where you would have good reason to be proactie.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 6:07 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ugh. I missed the "not directly relate to me" part.


Quick backpeddling answer, could you just ask the party you're concerned about?
posted by space_cookie at 6:07 PM on May 2, 2012

Why is this important for you to know?
posted by catlet at 6:19 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd think you were fishing for us to agree with your opinion on the matter.
posted by salvia at 6:21 PM on May 2, 2012 [6 favorites]

What I think about this is that it sounds like a third party is stirring up drama where none exists. You've got a couple in a long-term relationship who are both aware of each other's facebook activity. They are either fine with each other's activity or not. If not, they need to work it out their differences between themselves.
posted by plastic_animals at 6:22 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is it possible that he has a wider / less intimate circle of Facebook friends than she does, and she does not want her photos and information shared with all of those people?

Is it possible that she writes potentially controversial things online -- political writing, let's say for example -- that could cause trouble for him at work if a bunch of people read them and realized that she was his girlfriend?

Is it possible that his ex (the one he had a kid with) is also in his group of Facebook friends, and seeing photos of him with the more recent significant other sets the ex off in a way that is just not worth dealing with?

Is it possible that his parents or his kid do not approve of the girlfriend and so he is trying to avoid conflict with them online?

Is it possible that they have an open relationship arrangement that you don't know about?

I do think his not posting any pics of his significant other when he posts pics of other people in his family is weird. But there are some reasons for him to do it that do not involve plans to cheat (which is what I assume you are worried about).
posted by BlueJae at 6:23 PM on May 2, 2012 [5 favorites]

Mod note: OP, this is not a forum for repeated chatting on the topic. Please ask your question and add updates when they are warranted but do not turn this into a discussion especially if you are unwilling to explain your role relative to these people. Thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:26 PM on May 2, 2012

It sounds like you want us to say 'he's definitely shady, and this is a textbook way of trawling for women'.

Maybe he's keeping her off his page so he appears single to other people. Maybe he's doing it for some completely different reason. If his partner is concerned, she could talk to him about it. If you're concerned for your friend, you could ask her about it. Endless conjecture won't help.
posted by twirlypen at 6:26 PM on May 2, 2012

This is a strange situation. Your friends are in a 20 year relationship where she wants to get married and he doesn't. And you seem to be in a very similar situation (guy doesn't want to get married, woman does) except it 15 years, not 20.

I think both women in these relationships should realize the men they are with are never going to marry them.
posted by 6550 at 6:36 PM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

She is very anxious to get married but he has been slow in getting to the alter. As I said they were childhood sweethearts and are now adults and have had an on and off relationship.

This sounds very much like your troubled long-term relationship with your girlfriend and her family, which you were resolving to end the last time you posted about it.

I feel as though I have answered in good faith a question that wasn't posted that way.
posted by headnsouth at 6:37 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: It does sound like it but it is not the same situation. I have not completely resolved my issue, but that is not what I wanted to discuss. This issue interests me with a friend because it is similar to mine and I have not yet resolved my own issue.
posted by WhatrightdoIhave2happiness at 6:41 PM on May 2, 2012

Mod note: OP, very seriously, this is not a discussion forum. Feel free to update the thread to answer people's questions otherwise just let people answer your questions already asked.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:49 PM on May 2, 2012

If they've been together basically 20 years, her family IS his extended family.
posted by Occula at 6:53 PM on May 2, 2012

The other party should not be worried if she is not already. The other party is privy to information that you and we are not.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:53 PM on May 2, 2012

Conversely, of course, if the other party is worried, then she should be. Not only is there value in instincts, but again, she is privy to information that you and we are not.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:57 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, this guy's actions smell fishy to me. I've seen this happen in relationships where one party is really stoked about being a couple and wants the rest of the Facebook world to know, and for whatever reasons the other party wants to continue to portray themselves as single.

Would I do anything about it? No. I wouldn't mention my concerns to anyone. If I tried to talk about this kind of thing with my friends or with my partner they would not encourage me. Picking apart another person's relationship because of their activity on Facebook isn't cool or interesting to most adults.

Facebook is not the window into another person's soul. I love it dearly and use it daily, but grain of salt and whatnot.
posted by OsoMeaty at 6:57 PM on May 2, 2012

It's a bit odd, sure. My brother and my sister-in-law, who are not actually married, have each other identified as partners on FB, and my sister-in-law and I have each other identified as sisters-in-law, and my brother and my sister-in-law's brother have each other identified as brothers-in-law, and I think my sister-in-law's niece has my brother identified as her uncle. That seems to be the norm with the other unmarried couples of long standing that I know.

But if this works for your friend, it works for her*. It certainly wouldn't work for me, and I would be beyond angry at my partner for not identifying me as his partner on FB. But that's me. Everyone's going to do this stuff a little differently. Still, what he's doing is certainly not the norm in my experience.

(*Or maybe it doesn't work for her, but she can't be bothered to argue about it with him.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:08 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

How one chooses to interacts on Facebook is really unimportant in the grand scheme of life. How many pictures someone posts of their SO, flirty comments where everyone can see them- who cares? Maybe your friend is picking her battles.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:15 PM on May 2, 2012

There is no mention, nor any photos of my SO on my facebook page. She requested that be the case for her own personal reasons.

This is none of your business.
posted by HuronBob at 7:19 PM on May 2, 2012

The guy is a player. If those two have been together for 20 years and he isn't announcing to the world how much he loves her and being in a relationship with her, you can be pretty darn sure that he sees himself as single and is waiting for something better to come along. Guys who genuinely love and respect their partners don't "chat up" random chicks online for an ego boost and go out of their way to untag themselves from photos with their partner.

If the couple has been together since high school, I wouldn't be surprised if she's starting to age visibly and if he's targeting younger, more fertile women online. I expect him not only to dump his partner when one of his flirtations has serious potential but also to marry and have children with the new, younger partner.

Anyway, OP, their affairs are none of your business.
posted by lotusmish at 7:32 PM on May 2, 2012

What do you all think about that?

I think it's (a) none of your business, and (b) you should ask the people involved, not random folks on the Internet.
posted by leahwrenn at 7:49 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would ask if it bothers her, and if it doesn't I would drop it. If it does I would encourage her to go talk to him, and then I would drop it. I would also make sure that when I am contemplating these scenarios I'm not begging the question or fishing for answers.
posted by Anonymous at 8:16 PM on May 2, 2012

Since maybe it's been too long a day and maybe I can't read right I fully grant that I am missing something important.

This issue interests me with a friend because it is similar to mine and I have not yet resolved my own issue.

Then ask us about your issue.

You're asking us to interpret the meaning behind the facebook activity of 1/2 a couple that you are not 1/2 of. Your question/updates read as if you have a theory about what this activity means, but you will not tell us. You will not tell us why this couple matters other than it is a "friend".

You have lots of information driving your theory about why this facebook stuff is happening and what it means, but you sound like you're hoping that the scant evidence trail you've left us will lead your readers to the same conclusions you have drawn.

Perhaps you think that something we will say will have some relevance to your issue, whatever it is?

You do not tell us who, if anyone, is bothered by this facebook activity. This is key. If no one is bothered, there is no problem. If you are bothered, then please get right along and tell us why. If someone in the couple is bothered, tell us what you want to do with that.

You have posted many updates, but we still don't know what the stakes are for you. This makes you seem like you are hiding and being coy with us.
posted by space_cookie at 8:21 PM on May 2, 2012 [5 favorites]

I wouldn't think anything of it. My husband doesn't have any pictures of me in his FB profile. I shut mine down for completely unrelated reasons, but I didn't have any pictures of him either. If people want to see pictures of him, they can go to his profile and vice versa. We're in a happy marriage and I'm 100% sure he's not cheating or anything. I think this is especially common with guys and I really wouldn't think to worry about it unless he was specifically portraying himself as single.
posted by desjardins at 8:32 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would perceive this in three different ways: 1) We don't have any great photos together to put up on Facebook or 2) Sometime, during the 20 year relationship I mentioned disliking photographs of myself or 3) Sometime, during the 20 year relationship I mentioned the desire for privacy.

I would be concerned, but only because of the lack of open communication between these two partners. But, personally, I am the type of person that craves their own privacy, so I would not want to share this information with others. With that being said, these two partners have been together for 20 years (on and off) which means that many people are already aware of the relationship.

This person should talk to their partner in order to figure out what's up. We can only speculate so much from our end. My money's on one of the first three reasons that I mentioned above, but even then, this person won't know until they hear it directly from their partner.
posted by livinglearning at 8:43 PM on May 2, 2012

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