Current boyfriend has lots of female friends...and I'm bothered...
June 11, 2013 1:50 PM   Subscribe

Have you ever dated someone with several friends of the opposite sex? What about someone who is friends with many of their exes and still keeps up regular contact with them? He's given me no reason not to trust him, but I'm still hung up on this. Is it just a matter of me working on my insecurity? Or should he be changing his behavior? More details inside...

Here's the basics of the situation:

He's 33, I'm 29. We've been dating since early March, and I wanted to move slow since my last relationship was a disaster. He's been very good to me and for me: he's got a great sense of humor, really encourages me to open up to him when I'm struggling with something, we have similar interests and ideas about what we want out of relationships/marriage/children, etc., and we just generally enjoy spending our time together.

At this point, I probably see him 3-4 days out of each week. We'll spend the weekend together bumming around our relative cities or we'll make a day trip out of the city to somewhere interesting. We go to concerts and comedy shows during the week or cook dinner together and stay in for a movie. Everything is progressing in a healthy way, and I feel good about where we are emotionally and physically...

EXCEPT for one thing:

Most of his friends are female, and many of those he communicates with on a regular basis are past girlfriends of his (or just girls he fooled around with). Now, he's been honest about this with me from the start. At one point I mentioned to him that I was having a hard time keeping track of all the women he is friendly with, and he even went so far as to email me a list of all of those he still talks with regularly with info about how they met and whether or not they were ever physically/romantically involved.

He has given me no reason not to trust him, and yet I find myself struggling with the fact that he phones and emails regularly with a girl he used to date three years ago...or that he wants me to go to dinner to meet an ex and her new boyfriend...or that he has dinner fairly regularly with his attractive female friend who just broke up with her boyfriend.

Now, before any of you ask, yes, I've spoken with him about all of this and let him know that I feel insecure about it. I don't feel like he should have to stop seeing his friends because I am uncomfortable, though; it seems unfair to request that when he's known these other women longer than me. He's told me that I have nothing to worry about and that if he wanted to date anyone other than me, he would. But that only comforts me to a point...
posted by singinginmychains to Human Relations (57 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Hi, I am the lady version of your boyfriend. About 75% of my friends are male. Most of my exes, both male and female, are still good friends of mine. I do recycle exes occasionally but not when I am seeing someone else, and not when they are seeing someone else.

I can tell you from personal experience that a constant lack of trust from any partner of mine on these issues will drive me away pretty quickly. Thus far he has been honest with you, and if this isn't enough, it may be something you cannot overcome. And that's okay. You're not a bad person for having insecurities. It would not be a good thing to constantly be in a state of worry and upset over this, though. It's really upsetting and oppressive to be perfectly honest with someone and still have them mistrust your every move.
posted by elizardbits at 1:58 PM on June 11, 2013 [42 favorites]

Best answer: Your dude is being beyond awesome about this.

LOTS of people have friends of the opposite sex. LOTS of people are friends with exes. I mean, I have even heard that bisexual people are able to exist in the world without wanting to hump everyone they see.

This is obviously something you are going to have to work on, and it's good that you're recognizing, at least on an intellectual level, that there isn't a thing wrong with what he's doing.

I believe the next step for you should be to find a good therapist and take some time to sit and talk through these issues so they don't take over your thinking.
posted by phunniemee at 2:00 PM on June 11, 2013 [15 favorites]

Actually the only warning sign that being friends with exes is, especially in this context, is that if you break up with him, he will probably be an easy break up. No stalking, crazy behaviour, destruction of property.

Basically if there's a "red flag" list you should watch out for, this is a "green flag" that he dates people he respects and that he's got a history of being good enough to people they keep him around after.
posted by Phalene at 2:00 PM on June 11, 2013 [60 favorites]

It sounds like you're approaching this with a level head in not expecting him to change his ways.

I think some people just aren't okay with their significant other spending lots of time with other opposite sex people, especially people with whom the S.O. has been involved in the past ... and that is a legitimate, reasonable way for you to feel.

Sometimes I think people like you expect too much of themselves, and try to fight their feelings when it would just be best to move on and find someone whose social circle doesn't get their hackles up.
posted by Unified Theory at 2:00 PM on June 11, 2013 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Gotta fake it till you make it... I've been in this situation exactly. It's fine to feel your feelings, examine them, tell yourself all the rational reasons you don't need to worry, and then allow those feelings to float away (at least this is basically how my therapist explains it). Your instinct might be to obsess over it, imagine scenarios, etc -- don't do that. It's fine to share feelings with your SO but I agree with elizardbitzz that if you are constantly in his grille about it it can and will drive him away.
posted by telegraph at 2:01 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is good news.

If you were dating a horrible piece of shit guy, would you become friends with him after? No. Someone who is friendly with some of their exes shows that they are such a good person that even the exes who shared heartache with him can be friends.
posted by munchingzombie at 2:02 PM on June 11, 2013 [18 favorites]

I think these are your questions:

Is it just a matter of me working on my insecurity? Or should he be changing his behavior?

My answers are yes and no, respectively. It sounds like he's been up front with you and isn't trying to hide anything. It sounds like you're uncomfortable with this, and that's fine, you have a right to your feelings, but I would think it unreasonable if you demanded that he change his behavior. I'm male, and have a lot of female friends, one of whom is an ex. On only one occasion, sweetykins mentioned a particular friend and said "hey, I know you're friends with X, and that's great, but you should know that I get sort of jealous of her sometimes. Just thought you would want to know." That was a great conversation, and it was a good piece of information to have, but I still hang out with X. So does sweetykins, actually. But it sounds like you've already had that conversation.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:02 PM on June 11, 2013

I am not friends with a single ex-boyfriend. I started dating a dude who is friends with every ex-girlfriend going back to high school.

What I learned about me
: I was not too discerning about who I dated, in that guys who were "good enough" for me to date were not good enough for me to be friends with once the dating part ended.
What I learned about him: he is a good guy, whether you are dating him or not.

Reader, I married him.
posted by hmo at 2:03 PM on June 11, 2013 [42 favorites]

He sounds like a great guy in the abstract, but that doesn't mean he's the right guy for you. Personally, I am not close to any of my exes, and find it strange (though sometimes very nice) when people are. So I would find it odd to be dating someone who's friend group is largely comprised of people they've dated.

Nothing you've said indicates anything wrong with his behavior or anything he needs to change. It's up to you to decide whether this relationship works for you, and it's completely okay if it doesn't. But as a stranger, looking at this in the abstract, it sounds to me like it would be worth you doing some really focused work on your insecurities.
posted by EvaDestruction at 2:04 PM on June 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm not sure how to help you with your anxiety around this, but some of the things you've said in this thread might actually be interpreted in ways that put your mind at ease.

Generally speaking, if people are floating around with one partner and looking for another, they want to look available. Which means they wouldn't be letting you know about spending all this time with other women, and they DEFINITELY wouldn't be letting the other women know about you. And yet, you know that he phones and emails regularly with an ex that he's friends with. And he wants to take you to dinner so you can meet an ex and her new boyfriend! That, to me, says he's showing you off and including you because he's happy with you and wants you to meet people who are important to him because he think they'll like you a lot!

If you're sure that your gut feeling is your insecurity and you're not ignoring any red flags (and it sounds like this is the case), maybe you can ask him for some reassurance from time to time to help you cope. Partners are there to make us feel better about stuff sometimes, even if it's irrational. Saying, "I'm feeling insecure and I know it's silly, but can I tell you how I feel about you and you can tell me how you feel about me?" occasionally, during particularly bad bouts of fear, might be a way to stave off feelings of insecurity by having a nice moment where you both reinforce how much you mean to each other (so he doesn't feel like he's doing all the work.)

It's actually an awesome sign that he is still friends with a bunch of exes. That sounds like his relationships and breakups have been well-adjusted, adult, and that he doesn't only see the value in people while you're dating but when you're friends, too. Honestly, I don't even know your partner and I already like him just based on your description! Try thinking of it as a wonderful sign of a mature, stable man.

And I am like your boyfriend as well-- I am still friends with all of my exes and they all mean a lot to me. I have no interest in getting back together with any of them, but they are some of my best friends because they know me so well! Even though we have broken up, they still want what's best for me because we care about each other in platonic ways. Which means that, when I have a new partner, I like them to meet my exes, because a.) I trust my exes to tell me straight up if I am making a major mistake and dating a batshit crazypants, and b.) I am excited about my new partner and want everyone to love them!
posted by WidgetAlley at 2:04 PM on June 11, 2013 [6 favorites]

My husband has a lot of female friends, too, and is friendly with his exes. When I was younger and before we were married I was insecure about it sometimes. Then as we got more serious, it became more and more apparent that he wanted to be with ME and that his relationships with those other women did not matter to our relationship. I agree with the above posters that dating someone who has past relationships that ended on a good note is a GOOD thing and means that he isn't a total jerk when things go sour.
posted by emily37 at 2:05 PM on June 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have this-ish and I was a bit insecure about it until I realised that if he liked those women enough that he wanted to be with them still, he could/would be. And he isn't, he's with me. I feel like someone new and exciting is more of a 'threat' (ugh) than a friendly ex. (May not apply if he's mooning after one that got away, but it doesn't sound like that's the case.)
posted by corvine at 2:09 PM on June 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

He sounds like a good guy. If you act confident about the situation, he will respect, admire, and appreciate you. If you act insecure about the situation and it affects how you feel, what you do, and what you say, he will eventually find that to be impossible to tolerate and you will be added to his list of exes. Look, if you worry about it, there are only possible bad outcomes and you are certainly not going to change him. If you don't worry about it, then either everything will be fine or everything will not be fine, and in the latter case, you will have given him a chance to show his true colors before you commit to marrying him. So giving him room is not only good for him but it's good for you and good for your relationship.
posted by Dansaman at 2:10 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

He is no longer with them; he's with you. Cheaters have something to hide; he's putting everything on the table about his exes.

Several of my ex-girlfriends are close friends, and I couldn't see myself EVER cheating on a current girlfriend with any of them. If there was (significant) sexual tension between an ex and I, it would be difficult to maintain a nonsexual friendship even without a new girlfriend - ergo, there isn't.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:11 PM on June 11, 2013 [5 favorites]

My partner (of 8 years) also has lots of female friends and is friendly with several of his exes; likewise, I have lots of male friends and also am friendly with several of my exes. In fact, if he hadn't been friends with women -- or if he didn't trust my friendships with men -- we would have never gotten very far. This is because men who can be platonic friends with women are Good Guys. They are demonstrating that they can relate to women as something other than sex partners. This is essential for a meaningful adult relationship.
posted by scody at 2:13 PM on June 11, 2013 [10 favorites]

I dated this guy too! It also bothered me in some "life would just be a bit less complicated if this wasn't so" way, I was never worried about him cheating on me. It helped that I was still friends with an ex, since I could relate to the whole "I don't hate this person just because we don't want to date" thing. I never enjoyed the dynamic where he had this significant history that included romance and sex with someone we'd both end up hanging out with. He wasn't the best at suppressing or explaining in-jokes and I'd occasionally feel a touch third-wheeling, in a way I never felt with people he had not dated.

So, not my favourite, but no one comes without history or baggage and I can think of much worse.

I do have to disagree with people saying that it means he would be perfectly fine if you broke up, that was not my experience. Not that it was a nuke from orbit disaster, but he became slightly weird and dickish and we don't speak anymore.

My one piece of advice, you are not obligated in any way or form to attend his ex-gf's baby shower or purchase her a gift, seriously just don't go. It'll be vaguely awkward on top of just plain boring and there are so many other things you could be doing with that time.

I have regrets.
posted by Dynex at 2:17 PM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I was you and I had trouble dealing with my insecurity and our relationship ended in part because of this. Your boyfriend is trying significantly with being open about the friendships, listing the history he had with each of them, and even wanting to introduce you to them. Fake it till you make it and get the support you need outside of the relationship. Lean on him to reassure you because he sounds totally willing to do so. I wish I could go back to day one and do this.
posted by happysocks at 2:21 PM on June 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

I married your boyfriend. My husband has almost exclusively female friends. I am also your boyfriend, in that I am friends with all of my exes (except the one who's crazy-insecure wife refuses to allow him to speak to me. Poor guy.)

Note that my partner and I are very well matched this way. If you don't roll this way and will never be comfortable with it, you may not want to continue dating this guy. I was with someone for a couple of years who actively uncomfortable every time I went out with anyone who wasn't female and it really did a number on eroding the trust in our relationship.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:22 PM on June 11, 2013 [5 favorites]

Husbunny was very friendly with his ex. He went so far as to get her car, drive it to inspection and registered it at DMV for her while she was out of the country. Was I jealous? Was I concerned? NO! That told me that he was a grown person and a real mench.

You're BF sounds awesome! Don't buy trouble. He sounds really trustworthy and nice.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:24 PM on June 11, 2013 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I just want to second that it's okay to feel the way you do - lots of people do, and both me and my husband are the same "type" as you when it comes to this. But, it wouldn't be okay to ask your boyfriend to change who he is. You either have to work through this (I totally believe that you can, your guy sounds like he'd be there to help you 100%) or decide that this isn't what you want and... natural conclusion.

A lot of this might stem from our own insecurity. When I've had these thoughts I always knew that they stemmed from my lack of self-confidence. The better I felt about myself, the more I realized that I'm an awesome person in my own right and I have nothing to fear. Are there things you could think of that would help you boost your confidence levels? Even temporarily. Working out, wearing flattering clothing, rocking an awesome haircut, silly things like that can be all it takes when I'm feeling insecure. I really believe that when we're comfortable with ourselves, we have less and less reason to compare ourselves to others and fear that our loved ones are doing the same.

It's really freaking awesome that he's been trying to involve you in hanging out with these friends, too. I think making that a habit could really help, because then they're also your friends. It's fine if you don't want to get too close to "these people," but maybe they're really cool and you actually have lots in common, and you find reasons to hang out that don't involve your guy. You never know, it could be fun. If I were in your shoes, I'd take every change to get to know his friends more and get past the "I'm the new girl" mental hangup.

I promise you that awesome guys who don't cheat on their girlfriends with their female friends exist. Lots of them! And it's 100% possible for these guys to be into you, and devote themselves to you, because you seem to be better than people they've dated before. Congrats!
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 2:27 PM on June 11, 2013 [8 favorites]

I agree. I see no red flags with this. I can't say it's definitely a positive, but definitely not a negative. As long as you trust him, and as you meet these women along the way, you'll probably get confirmation that he's just a nice guy.
posted by gjc at 2:32 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I too married someone like this. I had never dated anyone who was friends with any exes before. I was jealous initially, and then I realized it meant he was mature and knew what he was looking for in a relationship (and luckily that was me - yay).

Also, because these were people he chose to date in the past and still kept as friends, they have something in common with him and have some redeeming value - so it's no surprise that I like hanging out with many of them too. He has met a couple of my exes as well, and had he not already been friends with his own, I probably would have been more reluctant to keep in contact with them.

I've come to see that it is such a waste to go through all this selection to find those rare people we have something in common with, date them, break up, and never see them again...right? (But not everyone can do this well).
posted by beyond_pink at 2:32 PM on June 11, 2013

He dates people he likes and that he likes to keep as friends even when the romantic relationship is over - even more important, his exes like him enough to keep being friends. This is a good thing!

I'm a lesbian, friends with lots of my exes (one of whom was the officiant for the commitment ceremony my partner and I had a few years ago). My partner is also friends with a bunch of her exes. I have straight friends who are friends with their exes. Etc. It's quite normal (in my crowd) and to me is a sign of a healthy person.
posted by rtha at 2:36 PM on June 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

except the one who's crazy-insecure wife refuses to allow him to speak to me

To build a little on DarlingBri's comment, if you do find yourself wanting to set a similar ultimatum for your boyfriend, you should probably break up with him instead. Aside from all other issues with this hypothetical ugly situation, it will likely be difficult for you in the long run to respect someone who is willing to throw over longtime friends for you over unsubstantiated suspicions.
posted by elizardbits at 2:39 PM on June 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

I agree with everyone above who says that you need to find a way to deal with your own feelings, and that there's no reason for him to change his behavior unless he wants to.

I'll also add this: I'm more like your boyfriend than I am like you, and your behavior would be a deal-breaker for me. He's already done more to assuage your fears than a lot of people would be willing to do. There's absolutely no way I'd send a girlfriend of three months a list of all of my friends and details of our friendship. And if I felt like I had do, I'd feel smothered and angry, and I'd likely break up with her. Because I deserve to be with someone who trusts me, and I deserve to be with someone who respects my privacy, and I deserve to be with someone who wants me to have friendships that make me happy.

I say this not to upset or hurt you, but to point out that if you continue on this path, you risk losing him. If you keep asking him to change his behavior (and by that, I don't just mean changing his relationships, I also mean starting repeated conversations about your insecurities or asking him to answer tons of questions about his personal friendships), he's likely to eventually come to resent you. So yes, by all means, deal with your feelings. But you need to be the one doing the work to do that, because he's not responsible for your feelings. You are.
posted by decathecting at 2:41 PM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

I know a lot of people like this, including myself, and I don't have a problem with it. I would have a problem with having a girlfriend who had a huge problem with it (not like what you're doing — I mean to the point of trying to forbid me to have the friends I have). You're free to have your own preferences. However, consider the alternative. Consider whether you'd rather be dating someone who had only male friends, and was consistently not on good terms with with his ex-girlfriends after they broke up. Just something to think about.
posted by John Cohen at 2:44 PM on June 11, 2013

If it helps calm your anxiety, friendly exes are a sign that he's emphatically not a cheater - no one stays friends with someone who cheated on them.
posted by peachfuzz at 2:55 PM on June 11, 2013 [6 favorites]

I'm also a female version of your boyfriend. I've preferred male friends to female since kindergarten, and have friendly involvements with several of my exes (both serious boyfriends and casual partners). I currently live in an awesome roommate situation with one.

The thing that might help comfort you (if your boyfriend is indeed like me) is that fact that the exes I am friends with are only the ones with whom there was no leftover emotional baggage. In the situations where one of the other of us still harboured feelings, friendship just could not happen, and ongoing social interaction was way too fraught with drama.

In short, he is probably friends with these women precisely because he does not want to be romantically involved with them.
posted by bethnull at 2:56 PM on June 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

Yup. If he wanted to be with any of these women, he would be. But he doesn't because he wants to be with you.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 3:01 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have you ever dated someone with several friends of the opposite sex?

Yes, post-college. He was actually hooking up with many of them, on the sly. I was glad we only dated about six months.
posted by 41swans at 3:02 PM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Well, if there is anything to be anxious about, I can't see it from what you've written.

I can see how this might get on one's nerves; an orchestra appeared on TV and my mother said "oh my ex-BF used to be first viola in this orchestra" and my Dad said "the orchestras of Europe are populated with your ex-boyfriends".

But as grounds for feeling threatened, I don't see it.
posted by tel3path at 3:02 PM on June 11, 2013 [5 favorites]

Many, if not most of my husband's friends are female. I like that he's able to relate to women as friends. I know that he is able to have long-term, important platonic relationships with women. It actually makes me less concerned when he becomes friends with some woman I find intimidating in some way (someone I think is prettier than me, smarter, etc.) because I have a strong basis to trust that his close friendships with women are just that: friendships.
posted by Meg_Murry at 3:04 PM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

At one point I mentioned to him that I was having a hard time keeping track of all the women he is friendly with, and he even went so far as to email me a list of all of those he still talks with regularly with info about how they met and whether or not they were ever physically/romantically involved.

More than any thing else, this gesture tells me that he wants to put you at ease, and he wants you to be a part of his social circle--that, yes, includes his exes. I think the more you see these women as people, meeting them in person, getting to know them as more than just his exes, you'll let go of your insecurity.
posted by gladly at 3:04 PM on June 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

My husband has lots of female friends, including exes. It was weird to me at first, because I'd never dated anyone like that before and I had some sudden, deep insecurities pop up (stemming from my parents' relationship). But I/we worked through that and it really only made us closer. In fact, I'm good friends with one of his major exes and probably talk to her more than he does.

That said, there *was* one female friend who caused us major problems, and that was because it was a legitimate bad situation (she was very much in love with him, and he was in denial about it). They'd actually never dated, just really good friends who had hooked up a few times. She acted way inappropriately and he was too nice to tell her to cut it out. Their weird "friendship" caused our relationship some serious strife for a while. Suffice to say, we don't talk to her anymore (although we're friendly when we see her). I'm sure she thinks it's my fault their friendship fell by the wayside, but what can you do.

Anyway, all that's to say that I've been in your shoes and it takes some doing to get past it. I like what previous posters said: "fake it till you make it" and "get to know the exes" -- both of those techniques worked for me and I did lots of healing of myself in the process (dealing with the old family/parent issues). But also, sometimes some friendships *are* inappropriate, as in my experience. But I don't think that is a common thing, and the possibility of that happening is certainly no reason to NOT work on your own insecurities. Especially if the guy is worth it (and it seems like yours is).
posted by bienbiensuper at 3:35 PM on June 11, 2013 [6 favorites]

Would it help to hear something from the perspective of one such "ex-girlfriend-who-is-now-a-friend" and what we probably think about guys like your boyfriend? Because I'm the female version of your boyfriend too, with two ex-boyfriends-who-are-now-friends.

In case you're suspicious that maybe either he's secretly wanting to keep them around, or that his exes are secretly hoping to win him back, I can promise you that that is REALLY not the case. Especially since it sounds like many of them are in more of the distant past. My feelings towards those two guys is very affectionate, but just as definitively PLATONIC - or, actually, more FRATERNAL. Honestly, one guy feels so much like my brother that remembering that we dated once feels slightly incestuous. (We don't discuss it, but I've seen signs that he kinda feels that way too.)

So if you're maybe slightly nervous that there's some kind of secret "ooh let's try and restart the relationship again maybe" thing going on, then I can reassure you that probably not. Especially if they've been exes for 3 or 4 years.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:44 PM on June 11, 2013

Hi, i am that guy. Maybe my opinion is biased as such, maybe it isn't.

I would definitely read serious insecurity with the way(and fact) that most of my exes, or women i've had some kind of relations with are still friends with me as some fairly gross combination of insecurity and immaturity.

Why? Because i've been the guy who was insecure about the person he was dating having lots of friends of the opposite sex and looking back on it i just feel really gross. That type of insecurity is just unattractive(to me, but also to a lot of other people i've talked to).

That said, there's a lot of things different people aren't comfortable with. If you want to get over this, you should definitely try. If you think that you can't, you should start looking for someone likeminded. Because i'm sure he's been really done dealing with the "well whose she/why are you hanging out with her so much" stuff for years, whether spoken or just implied.

And i definitely think it isn't ok to wade in to this pretending you're ok with it when you really aren't. If you actually want to get over it, cool. If you're just stuffing it in a box to not rock the boat... not cool.
posted by emptythought at 3:57 PM on June 11, 2013

I have a few close friends who are exes. Mr. Nerd knew this when we first started dating, and he's okay with it.

The only friend who caused a problem was the one who couldn't accept the fact that I chose Mr. Nerd and not him (let's call him Charles). I allowed Charles to be in my life for several more years because I valued him as a friend. A few years ago, it became glaringly apparent that Charles was never going to get over the fact that I married someone else. He's been slowly fading out of my life for a couple years, and probably will fade completely in the not too distant future.

Nthing the "Seems like a nice guy if his exes still like him."
posted by luckynerd at 4:22 PM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I am another mefite who is your boyfriend. I have been in a quite happy and stable relationship for five years in large part because my GF understands that my circle of friends is mostly female and I have always been totally honest with her about how I am connected to all of them. She has become friends with pretty much all of them as well, without distinction to which ones I have shared a bed with in the past and which ones I have always been 100% chaste with. I like my friends because they are to a woman smart and funny and kind, not because of their vaginas.

I have never grasped why exactly we are all supposed to cut off all contact with everyone we have ever been close to as soon as we break up. I am friends with all but about two or three of my exes (and they are the ones who feel it is unseemly to still be friendly with past BFs, so I respect their wishes).

I agree with the general thrust of others above: this guy is being open and honest and respectful, and your description of his behaviour towards his friends shows him to be loyal. If there is a reason to think him unworthy, you have not communicated it to us above.

As Paul Newman once said of his fifty-year marriage to Joanne Woodward, "People stay married because they want to, not because the doors are locked."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:14 PM on June 11, 2013 [14 favorites]

there was a recent savage love podcast about this, and i thought dan gave really good advice.

you've only been dating for three months, it's not really that long. you are still working on building trust with him. i think it would be reasonable for you to ask that he tone it down with his lady-friends for now. not 100%, cold-turkey, never see them again, but see them less frequently, and do less date-y things with them. don't meet one on one, or maybe one on one lunch is ok, but one on one dinner and drinks and going out are not. over time he will demonstrate that he respects your boundaries, and you will trust him more, and then you will feel less insecure.
posted by cupcake1337 at 6:57 PM on June 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

I am not your guy and I wouldn't know him if I fell over him, but if you asked me to stop hanging out with my friends (because that's who they are to me) for some unknown amount of time when you and I have only been dating three months, we would not be dating any longer. That's one of my boundaries. Especially when I've been really upfront about who they are and have invited you to come hang out and haven't tried to hide or be skeezy about anything.
posted by rtha at 7:14 PM on June 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I really appreciate all of your responses've offered me the sort of straight-forward advice I was hoping for along with lots of anecdotal stuff that I found really helpful. I know that a lot of this stems from an issue I have with insecurity more generally, and I intend to seek out a therapist to help me tackle that. This guy really is a great one, and I don't want for my problem to end what we have going here. Thanks, everyone.
posted by singinginmychains at 7:29 PM on June 11, 2013 [5 favorites]

I had a girlfriend who was an easy flirt who had several male friends. When we went somewhere with a group she flirted a lot with men who flirted back. Did I worry? No because I was leaving with her at the end of the night.
posted by plinth at 7:34 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm like this, most of the people I've dated have been like this. Seems normal to me.
posted by ead at 8:21 PM on June 11, 2013

Why not suggest meeting up with his friends at some point? You might feel a lot better once you actually know and like the people concerned.
posted by Omnomnom at 4:07 AM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm glad to hear that you recognize the root of your insecurity and are willing to work it out. In my humble opinion, any guy/girl who is this transparent with you is worth sticking around for. The List is above and beyond for most people, which impresses me all the more that he did it.

Funny enough, I'm a hybrid of you and your boyfriend. I was raised with the conventional view that girls and guys can't be friends without subconsciously wanting to bump uglies with each other. At the same time, I tended to remain friends with my exes more often than not. Most of my friends are guys, because I'm that "rare" female who relates better to them than women. In fact, my BFF is a guy, who served as Dude of Honor at our wedding. There was a lot of cognitive dissonance when the hubby and I started out. I was insanely jealous of his women friends, but he had no issue with my exes and guy friends. Not even the then-recent ex of mine who wasn't quite done with me emotionally.

Long story short, I realized later on that if someone's going to cheat or leave, they're going to do it no matter how "vigilant" you are. Probably more likely if you're too vigilant. Transparency and trust are key here. I've made it clear from the beginning that I find cheating pointless and, as such, hold no prisoners in a relationship. If I want out, I'll tell you so. If you want out, I'd appreciate it if you told me so before carrying on with anyone else. Nearly 10 years on, nothing's changed and we're fine.

If I were to look at this with the most cynical eyes, I'd say I see nothing to be cynical about. Time could prove us all wrong. Yet, I highly doubt it.
posted by arishaun at 5:09 AM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I haven't read all the responses so forgive me if I'm repeating others, but I've found that the best, most trustworthy boyfriends are the ones with close female friends and exs--as long as they are open to you meeting them/becoming friends with them too.

The #1 red flag of a untrustworthy boyfriend?: he's jealous of your guy friends. Untrusting people are usually not trustworthy themselves.

My advice is become close with one or two of his female friends and you'll find yourself more at ease with the situation.
posted by hellameangirl at 9:49 AM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Just pretty much echoing what everyone else is saying. You feel insecure, which is totally understandable. But he also sounds like a decent guy. It's a challenging situation, so take it easy on yourself.

I have a close male friend (and yes there was some romantic weirdness at one time, eons ago) who is like this. He has dozens and dozens of female friends. I always feel sorry for his girlfriends as in I know I would be a nervous wreck in their place so I make an extra effort to be friendly to them and show I respect their relationship and am not a threat. Hopefully, at least some of these girls will do that for you too. Also, if it helps ease your mind any, the male friend I speak of is probably the most faithful, devoted guy know when it comes to relationships. He just genuinely likes hanging out with chicks.
posted by Jess the Mess at 10:06 AM on June 12, 2013

Just chiming in to say that him being friends with so many girls would make me feel everything you're feeling, if not more. Not that the jealousy or anxiety is right or wrong, but I would be feeling it.

However, if I had to script out how I'd want my boyfriend to behave in light of my discomfort, what you've described is EXACTLY what I'd want. That uber-honest & up front & understanding thing he's doing is just perfect.
posted by MeiraV at 10:14 AM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

I just want to say that you're not controlling or insecure just because you are uncomfortable with your boyfriend maintaining relationships with people he used to have sex with. Maybe some people can forget that ever happened, but I am not one of those people. My boyfriend used to be friends with exes until 1) he had to hang out with some of MY exes and felt the awkwardness and 2) realized those people were exes for a reason, and while good people did not need to be in his life regularly anymore.

It's not that I think men and women can't be friends, or that bisexual people can have no friends at all, I just think that once you've had sex with someone things change. I have tried being friendly with exes and while it was sometimes fun or nice, there were also times where it seemed like we were slipping back into old habits (playing with each other's hair, cuddling during a movie) and I'd rather avoid that for the sake of my new, awesome relationship!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 12:06 PM on June 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm going to go way against the grain here and suggest that if it deeply bothers you and its something that you can't therapy away, that you're probably not broken or insecure. Maybe you just have different values and preferences, or maybe you're in introvert.
Men like your boyfriend just don't do it for some women. And not because of immaturity or insecurity.
Some(very developed and mature) people gravitate towards people who are independent, free of a cart-along peer groups that they need to constantly bounce off of, and who's personal hobbies, interests and passions leave little time for socializing to the extent you are describing. Some women prefer more of an 'alpha-male' personality, who generally don't come complete with a gaggle of girlfriends and close ex'es.
I disagree with the notion that if you aren't an urban, metro socialite that can play musical chairs with partners in your circle and still stay bff's with everyone that you are somehow less evolved in some way.
Had to put that out there.
posted by tenaciousmoon at 1:07 PM on June 12, 2013 [9 favorites]

or maybe you're in introvert.

Can you clarify? I don't know what this means, and I may not be the only one.

(My operating definition of introvert: Someone who needs no-people time to recharge. May or may not be shy; may or may not be socially awkward in some ways; may or may not be diagnosed with social anxiety disorder; may be fine in small groups of friends but hate big parties and gatherings. Generally does not care that extroverts recharge by spending time with other people. Caring about *who* someone spends their time with is not the same as being introverted.)
posted by rtha at 1:37 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Some(very developed and mature) people gravitate towards people who are independent, free of a cart-along peer groups that they need to constantly bounce off of [...] I disagree with the notion that if you aren't an urban, metro socialite that can play musical chairs with partners in your circle and still stay bff's with everyone that you are somehow less evolved in some way.

Well, I think there are two questions here, which have kind of become conflated as one issue in the thread. The first is, essentially, can straight men have legitimately platonic friendships with straight women? The second is can exes be friends with each other?

I agree that it's not mandatory for everyone to be friends with their exes (and therefore it's not automatically problematic if someone isn't friends with their exes). I contend, however, A) it's not a mark of "immaturity" (as you seem to imply) if people do stay friends with their exes, and B) that whether or not a man can form platonic friendships with women in general (even if restricted to women he's never dated) is significant, and indeed is often a mark of a certain type of emotional maturity.

This has nothing to do with suggesting that everyone should have "cart-along peer groups that they need to constantly bounce off of." Introverted men with small social circles and extroverted men with extensive social circles are equally capable of crafting meaningful platonic friendships with women that nonetheless do not pose a threat to their romantic partners.
posted by scody at 2:08 PM on June 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

Sometimes people are just fine with cutting off friendships with people they've dated in the past, or people of the opposite sex, if you ask them to. It might work 'better' if you get married before making your request.

You just need to decide what kind of person you want to be.
posted by yohko at 4:59 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

My husband is like your boyfriend and I am more like you in that I have remained friendly with some exes but not superclosefriends. I did two things: went into therapy in part to work on my own (not just this) issues, and took a wait and see approach with each of his lady friends. That has actually worked very well, and revealed some surprises. Most have been great to meet/hang out with them and their current partners. Some drifted away as he and i grew more serious, which may have been a sign of underlying something, or maybe just meant they grew apart for other reasons. Some he never dated/hooked up with and have surprised both of us with their disappearance. Only one makes me testy, and only because she is much like the friend bienbiensuper and some other folks described--She turns up now and again to test the waters. I would still like to get to know her and have invited her to things, but she has mostly faded out at this point, too.

What my so has in common with your bf is he was keen to integrate me into his circles early and was really good about letting me know I am his priority. So I trusted him even on the odd occasion I didn't trust one of them.

All of which is to say, work on your insecurity if you can. Recognize he is going out of his way to put you at ease, so he's likely a keeper. Whether there is lingering sentiment with or from one of them, only time can tell, but from what you've described, sounds like no. focus on the relationship you have with him now, which is apparently where he wants to be. Good luck!
posted by OompaLoompa at 5:57 PM on June 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

He's given me no reason not to trust him, but I'm still hung up on this. Is it just a matter of me working on my insecurity?

posted by duffell at 8:10 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Frankly, I never date guys that have a lot of female friends because I know that I'm clingy and that I have major trust issues. I just don't want to be the woman who finds out that one of his "friends" who he used to be sexually intimate with was unhappy in her relationship and decided to take advantage of my future husband the day before our wedding. I need to be secure in a relationship and part of that means that I need to be on the same page with someone introversion-wise and intellect-wise. If you're anything like me, I would recommend you to think about where you want to be in a few years. Do you think that you can really trust him to stay loyal to you when your boobs and butt start to sag and you aren't quite the looker you are now? Because if you can't, you have your answer.
posted by lotusmish at 11:16 AM on June 17, 2013

Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this. I just lost my temper and said something nasty to a guy I've been dating for two months over his having a lot of female friends. We're going to talk about it later, but he's like your boyfriend in that he's completely transparent, wants me to meet them, doesn't hang out with them in situations that could be 'iffy' - like dinner, or drinks, one on one.

Reading this calmed me down so much. THANK YOU ALL.
posted by Everydayville at 3:16 PM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

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