Is this just a special-snowflake-petty relationship concern?
September 12, 2013 11:11 AM   Subscribe

If your partner did something wrong when you first started dating and you didn’t find out until later when you were deep in a happy relationship, what would you do? How much of the past do you let go and how much of the past do you let define the present (e.g., break up)?

When we started dating, my partner was still messaging with his ex on a daily basis. I never realized until I looked through his Facebook photos (like 8 months later) and connected the name. (He never hid his text messages from me, which loaded on his computer screen.) I talked to him about it and asked him if this was something I should be worried about. He said not at all, he has no intentions of getting back together with his ex but they did end on good terms and are friends. I was at a really busy point in grad school and didn’t think about it any further.

That occurred about 4 months ago. We have a wonderful relationship and I care a lot about him. Our one year anniversary, depending on what milestone, has past/is nearing but I haven’t been very enthused about it though we have talked about it. Something I read the other day reminded me of the texting issue and I realized I haven’t been excited about our one year because of that. I feel SO SELFISH saying this but knowing that he talked with his ex daily like we did took away from the specialness in the beginning of our relationship. I want to be the only ‘good morning’ he sent.

I shared my feelings with him the other day. He felt bad I was feeling this way. He explained further that he hadn’t expected to meet someone he liked so much so soon and that our early dates were special to him. He and his ex had come to a mutual understanding that they were not compatible and ended friendly. He emphasized he was single when we met, but he kept messaging because they were friends and he was still transitioning. He hasn’t had many break ups and since they didn’t end horribly… He says they don’t speak anymore. But he can't do anything about the past now.

I am at a lost. We are great together and committed—he is willing to move (within reason) to where I find a job next year (PhD/academic markets, sigh). I just feel like a stupid rebound, lied to. If I had found this out earlier in our relationship, I would have left. I told him I needed time to think about it. We haven’t spoken in nearly two days and I hate it.

Do I just need a swift kick in the behind from someone? Maybe some inspirational quotes on a flowery background about what trust/what's really important in a relationship is? I know my feelings are valid but in face of the good relationship we have I feel stupid focusing on this. Thanks all.
posted by inevitability to Human Relations (47 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
So there's two things going on here. "I want to be the only ‘good morning’ he sent." and "We haven’t spoken in nearly two days and I hate it."

One of those things you cannot change. Nor can he, nor his ex, nor the sum power of the United States Supreme Court. The other of those things, you can change.
posted by Etrigan at 11:15 AM on September 12, 2013 [18 favorites]

I'm confused a bit -- it sounds like you knew about this at the beginning of the relationship -- he never hid these messages, he was upfront about not wanting to get back together but that they were friends. Those all sound perfectly fine, although it's still understandable if you're upset about it. What did you find out recently that changed this? Again, it sounds like they broke up as friends and kept talking for a while, as he was dating you. This is a totally normal and acceptable thing to do, though it is not something everyone does. It is also understandable if it is something that upsets you, but it's hard for me to see it as something he did wrong -- it's just something that you would have handled in a different -- probably equally valid -- way.
posted by brainmouse at 11:18 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just for clarification: is it that you would be OK with him messaging his ex, as long as he would have told you (i.e., you do believe that exes can be friends, but you just wanted disclosure)? Or are you not OK with him messaging his ex at all (i.e., you don't believe exes can be friends, so contact is always a dealbreaker for you)?
posted by scody at 11:18 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

He was messaging with his ex, or he was flirting/sexting with his ex? You don't say anything about the content of those messages, so... what, exactly, is the problem here? That he was communicating with an ex at all when you had just started dating?

I see absolutely no deception here. I see no "Lied to." And whether or not your relationship might have been a bit "reboundy" at the very start, it's been almost a year together - that is way past the point at which you're even remotely a "stupid rebound."

He didn't hide those messages. He didn't lie to you. He didn't deceive you. Not everybody is on great terms with every one of their exes, but many people are and he seems to have handled that appropriately.

"I want to be the only ‘good morning’ he sent."

Just to be clear: Frankly, yes, I think you're being extremely petty here. Every relationship is entitled to its own quirks and the whims/desires of the people in it; there are no hard and fast rules about what's right or wrong. But as an impartial observer, based on what you've written here, I think you're pretty solidly out of bounds, making inappropriate retroactive demands on a guy who, from your own description, sounds like he's fantastic.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:21 AM on September 12, 2013 [48 favorites]

In my opinion he hasn't done anything wrong.
It's a GOOD thing that he left another relationship on good terms, especially since it sounds like they came to the mutually decision that they liked each other but knew they weren't compatible.
When you find yourself all of a sudden single again, some people keep comfort in old routines (i.e. saying "good morning" to an ex).

He wasn't hiding anything from you in the first place (Good news)
He was upset when he found out how hurt you were by this (Good news)
He is able to maturely talk to you about why he kept up contact with his ex and what his general motivations were (Good news)
He isn't in contact with her anymore (Good news)
He is willing to move for you when you find a new job (Good news)

All in all, he can't change his past, he wasn't doing anything wrong and it seems that he loves you.

I think you just need to stop fixating on it and cheer up! It sounds as if you're in a mature, healthy relationship - don't make drama out of something that isn't dramatic!
posted by JenThePro at 11:25 AM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

If I had found this out earlier in our relationship, I would have left.

Because he was talking to his ex? And didn't hide it from you? Do you want him to never again have any contact with his exes?

You are, of course, entitled to your feelings. But...this seems counterproductive. Were you guys completely exclusive from the start? Did you ever talk to him about how you feel in general about being in touch with exes? Do you feel like he's lied to you or tried to manipulate you?

My feelings on this: if all is as you've described here, consider this your kick in the pants, because I think you're being unreasonable.
posted by rtha at 11:26 AM on September 12, 2013 [6 favorites]

I don't think this is special-snowflake-petty, I think it's pretty serious...on your part. This is "Gift of Fear" territory, where you're trying to control his communications and who his friends are, walling him off from benign behavior that he has not at all attempted to hide.
posted by rhizome at 11:26 AM on September 12, 2013 [22 favorites]

You have two options, let it go, or break up.

Seething about something that is a nothing in the grand scheme of things gets you nowhere.

It's like being angry at someone because you had a bad dream about them. Sure, your emotions are there, but for no real reason.

So ignore your emotions and get on with your relationship.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:27 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Totally confused by what is the new wrong thing here, if there is one. I had a similar situation. When I first met my SO he was in a sort of complicated co-parenting thing with his son's mom that was more complicated than I had first really known (not in a "they were still together" way but in a "they were a little closer than you'd be with a normal ex and she was a boundary pusher" sort of way) and I had occasional discussions with him about this. One that sounds sort of similar is that I was having a talk with him about something early on in the relationship and he was like "Yeah I had this weird dream and I was telling R about it..." and I was like "Uh I'm not really comfortable with you and the ex having 'let's tell each other our dreams' talks regularly" If they had been just friends the whole time, I would have felt differently but as an ex that he had a complicated relationship with, I was not comfortable with it. So we had a discussion about it and he sort of tapered off from doing that and a whole bunch of other things that I felt were sort of holdovers of old intimacies from that relationship that weren't appropriate in a "we are just friends" sort of way.

To me your SO has been up front about the whole situation and while it might not be the situation that you would have preferred, I don't see any real transgressive problems from my cultural perspective. many people maintain friendships with their exes for various reasons and if he's been above board about it and open to talking and sensitive to your feelings about it, there really isn't anything you can do to retroactively make this have gone any differently.
posted by jessamyn at 11:28 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Two more things: you're framing this as something that he did that was wrong. Uh, why?

And: if you really were a rebound you very likely wouldn't still be together.
posted by rtha at 11:28 AM on September 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

You're 100% in the wrong, he did nothing wrong, you should count yourself lucky that he's accepted the way you've reacted to this so far, and you need to get over it ASAP.
posted by Perplexity at 11:29 AM on September 12, 2013

I think you're being unfair to your boyfriend. You assumed he wasn't on speaking terms with his ex. You didn't ask. He didn't lie to you. When you found out, you asked him if it was something you should be worried about, got a satisfactory answer, and kept dwelling on it. You didn't explore your feeling then. Now you're taking it out on him.

Unless there's something you're leaving out, I think you're the one exhibiting some bad behavior here.

This whole "messaging with the ex in the beginning of our relationship" sounds very mountain =\= molehill, IMO. The fact that you are catastrophizing this is a worrisome sign.
posted by sm1tten at 11:30 AM on September 12, 2013

If this is the issue you are willing to end an otherwise healthy relationship over then I fear you are going to be sorely disappointed with every relationship, like, ever.
posted by teamnap at 11:31 AM on September 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

Your question has a "what would you do" component to it. I would accept the fact that our relationship was new at the time and let it go.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:32 AM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

I want to be clear that I think that you can be on good terms with your ex. It makes me uncomfortable that there wasn't that time away when they broke up and there was overlap in our relationships. It would be a dealbreaker for me if I knew he was talking throughout the day, daily, with his ex.

I do appreciate the swift kicks. Rationally, I'm with you all. I just.. don't know.
posted by inevitability at 11:33 AM on September 12, 2013

I'm not clear on what the "something wrong" is that your partner supposedly did. You think it's wrong that your partner has friends he didn't explicitly discuss with you in detail in the early days of your relationship? You think it's wrong to be friends with an ex under any circumstances? You think it's wrong to talk with a friend who's an ex? You think there's a limit on how often a person should talk to his friends without telling a casual date about it? You think it's wrong not to tell you later about every single friend he had when you were casually dating?

You're jealous, I get it. And there's nothing wrong with feeling that way. You feel how you feel, and you should honor your feelings. But they're your feelings, and that means they're yours to deal with. And you can't get rid of your unpleasant feelings by blaming your partner or getting angry at him. Because he did absolutely nothing wrong. And so you need to find ways to deal with your feelings that don't involve blaming him or making him the bad guy. If that means ending your relationship, so be it. But be honest with yourself and admit that you're blowing up this relationship because you have jealousy you can't deal with, not because he did anything wrong.
posted by decathecting at 11:35 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Did you ever tell him or otherwise strongly suggest to him it would be a dealbreaker for you if he was messaging his ex? Did you ever ask him if it was happening? If the answer to both questions is "no," then it's probably unfair to hold it against him.

To the extent your question is really asking "is what he did generally considered by the wider population to be socially or morally unacceptable," I think the answer is no.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:36 AM on September 12, 2013

It makes me uncomfortable that there wasn't that time away when they broke up and there was overlap in our relationships.

Except -- there wasn't. It sounds like you feel that their relationship wasn't emotionally resolved when you met, but that's not what he's saying. Why don't you believe him? Is there some reason that you feel that he is not being honest?

It would be a dealbreaker for me if I knew he was talking throughout the day, daily, with his ex.

But, did he know that? Did you know he was recently out of a relationship when you met?
posted by sm1tten at 11:36 AM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

there wasn't that time away when they broke up

This is not a "thing", and it doesn't need to be for all people.

there was overlap in our relationships

Am I missing something? They broke up, right? And then after that, he started dating you? Are you using "relationship" in the "friend and/or romantic" way? Your romantic relationships did not overlap. He remained friends with an ex. This is a totally normal thing that many many people do (and the opposite is also totally normal, but neither are the wrong way to handle it).

He didn't do anything wrong. If this is a dealbreaker for you anyway, that's fine, but you need to not frame it as his fault, because it isn't.
posted by brainmouse at 11:36 AM on September 12, 2013 [16 favorites]

I think, to clear up the confusion:

They started dating, and the partner was communicating daily with a person. inevitability didn't realize until some months later that this person was the partner's immediate ex.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:37 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'll add to the chorus: yes, you're overreacting and should deal with your feelings about this. It sounds to me like this triggered a feeling from the past that might need to be worked through. That's what I would do, and I wouldn't let this ruin my relationship if I could help it. Talking it out with someone, maybe even a counselor, might help.
posted by xenophile at 11:45 AM on September 12, 2013

Yeah, I would strongly suggest you reframe this idea that he "did something wrong." Because I also agree with the chorus that from what you're describing, and from your follow-up, I cannot see that he did anything wrong. But is clear you are feeling uncomfortable with something, and that's fine -- but I think it's pretty urgent that you try to stop externalizing whatever this painful feeling is. In other words, stop attributing your pain to something he did, and start inquiring (gently, but curiously) what's really being triggered within yourself.
posted by scody at 11:50 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

@sm1tten: It sounds like you feel that their relationship wasn't emotionally resolved when you met, but that's not what he's saying. Why don't you believe him? Is there some reason that you feel that he is not being honest?

I didn't want to share this. But a week after we started dating he met up with his ex, I believe on a trip of a few days duration they had planned prior. To be clear, I am NOT blaming him for this because I'm sure he had this planned before we met. But it makes me feel that their relationship hadn't fully ended.

And also, thank you all for your advice. I really appreciate it, tough love as they are.
posted by inevitability at 11:52 AM on September 12, 2013

I think you should let this all go. You can't retroactively hold him to your current relationship status.

He talked to her openly in front of you - he didn't lie to you.

He maybe went on a trip (you don't seem sure of the details) - one week after a date with you - how the heck was he suppose to know the two of you would be serious?!?

I honestly feel bad for this guy because he seems to be honest and forthright with you and you are being unfair to him in my opinion.
posted by Julnyes at 11:57 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

a week after we started dating he met up with his ex, I believe on a trip of a few days duration they had planned prior.

This is, again, culturally determined as far as how okay or not okay it is. Some people do this. Some do not. Did you talk to your SO specifically about this aspect of his relationship with his ex? Did you know it was happening at the time? Were you guys exclusive at this point? It's always a little tricky to look back on the early days of a relationship that is now a lot more cemented and realize that you may have been a lot less close in the early days than you felt.

For many people--though certainly not for all--they're not even exclusive during the first week of dating. Again this is a culturally determined thing but your expectations (that once you started dating you wouldn't hang out with other people? do you think he was still involved with his ex when they took a trip together? I'm still unclear on what the problem is and am feeling like we're sort of prying it out of you) seem a little outside the ordinary. Which, again, you feel what you feel and this is fine, but you seem to be having some issues with your feelings and how you dealt with them and the fact that your brand-new SO didn't heed wishes that he may not have known you even had.
posted by jessamyn at 11:59 AM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

how the heck was he suppose to know the two of you would be serious?!?

Yes, this. He had already made a plan. Then he went on one date with you. Then he followed through on his previously made plan. Saying that "it makes me feel that their relationship hadn't fully ended" is a story you are making up in your own head (and I am not saying that to criticize you, but rather to simply describe the mental process that seems to have hooked you).

It sounds to me like you want a clear, bright line between his old life with his ex and his new life with you, and you want that clear, bright line to have been drawn immediately upon your first date. If so, this is a very unrealistic expectation (and one that's possibly got roots in romantic cliches about love at first sight, etc.).
posted by scody at 12:04 PM on September 12, 2013 [21 favorites]

I completely understand how thinking back on it all now it feels iffy, and it does not feel like the start of your relationship was as special as it could have been if he just immediately stopped talking to his ex after he met you. However, it seems like he's always been open with you about it, he's not hiding anything, and it seems like you trust him, just are just surprised by how you're feeling when looking back on all this. The fact that you have a good relationship now is the more important thing, in my opinion. So what if 1-2 weeks of your relationship were iffy? As jessamyn said, a lot of people aren't even exclusive for the first few months of dating someone. If you want, pick an anniversary date that would definitely be 1 year after he went on that trip with his ex, so that you celebrate a year of 100% togetherness, and that's something you can get excited about :)
posted by at 12:08 PM on September 12, 2013

Dude. If there was something going on with the ex, you would not know he messaged her, you would not know who she was, you would most certainly not know about the trip.

TRUST ME ON THIS. Seriously. This guy is up front and honest with you.

Feel free to memail if you want.
posted by sio42 at 12:16 PM on September 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

If you take a hard look at this relationship, are you being completely honest with yourself about how well it's working and how happy you are? I ask because this all sounds like you're, well, reaching for a reason to get out and maybe even cast him as the bad guy. From what you've described it seems like he's an honest person with a lot of positive qualities ... and maybe that's the problem, if something in you is telling you you're just not clicking even though everything sounds great on paper.

So with that in mind I'll say what has been said in plenty of relationship questions here before: you don't have to have a reason to break up, if you're not happy in a relationship. Please don't read this as DTMFA - if you truly are happy together except for this thing, I think you would do well to find a way of working through it because it truly doesn't sound like he's done anything wrong - but if you're not in love after a year, maybe it's time to really examine that.
posted by DingoMutt at 12:19 PM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

inevitability, you seem to think that there is a particular "script" that all relationships need to follow, and any deviation from that script makes you feel slighted.

The truth is that there isn't any one pattern for healthy, happy relationships. Sometimes, for instance, someone in a bad relationship meets a another person with whom he or she is more compatible and has to extricate him or herself from the old relationship. That can be kind of messy and confusing for everyone until it all gets sorted out.

Your situation is much, much easier. Your boyfriend and his ex might not quite have ended their relationship when you and he got together, but they had already made peace with their break-up when he met you and were moving away from each other. Ending a relationship is different from resolving it--and resolving it is much more important. It sounds as if there were no regrets or recriminations or accusations still hanging in the air, no attempts to rekindle things, and they seem to have been in the process of severing their connection in a mature and reasonable way when you got together with him. And now he no longer has the need to communicate with her at all.

He sounds like a keeper, actually--a guy who understands how to relate to other women as friends only, even women with whom he has had a shared history--at the same time that he observes appropriate relationship boundaries. You are actually really lucky--this happens less often than one might think. So enjoy your good fortune and your wonderful boyfriend who has clearly chosen you.
posted by tully_monster at 12:21 PM on September 12, 2013 [10 favorites]

So, going to break away from the unanimous answers here a little. My current partner was still sleeping with his ex when we started dating (she was actually still in the process of moving out of his place, which he hid very well), and I didn't find out until about a year in. They broke it off completely about 3-4 months into our relationship, but it was a total shock for really the same reasons you describe here--I had to re evaluate what all the cute things that I considered foundational to our relationship actually meant and whether they were as "foundational" as I thought.

Now, of course what we dealt with is more extreme by a factor of (n), but emotionally you still likely feel tricked. The only solution is NOT to stonewall your partner, but to COMMUNICATE your feelings in as productive a way as possible. You want comfort that the "good morning" messages (for example) meant more to him when sent to you than to her. This is not an irrational desire. However, this is also something that he can't just give to you and be done with, partially because it's in the past and partially because you probably feel some betrayal of trust (he went on a trip with his ex after you two started dating? That's not just tacky, that's sneaky. Ask why he didn't tell you, but accept his answer if it seems better than plausible).

The way to move forward here is to consciously not reframe the things he said and did for you as being less true or less shiny because he was talking to someone else. Clearly, he was still emotionally tied to his ex. Also clearly, that went away pretty quickly. Sometimes people don't operate on the timelines that we would set for ourselves! This isn't to say that you shouldn't have a conversation about this, but it should certainly carry with it the same respect that you would normally show and demand from each other--since, ultimately, it's a conversation about a breach of respect that already happened and then ended.

If this issue crosses your boundaries in a way that you simply can't manage through respectful conversation (like, if it is indicative of other trust issues that you two may have), this might not be possible to salvage. If you have an otherwise trusting, stable relationship that just got going on the wrong foot, you should talk about this and then just let it go...with reservations. Don't turn this problem into the touchstone of your entire relationship, but maybe take some time to really think about why exactly this represents such a breach of trust to you.
posted by zinful at 12:23 PM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

I do agree with most of the folks here, that it's ok to be friends with an ex. No deception, staying with you long-term, caring how you feel about, those are all good signs that this was above-board.

That said, I think it's fine that you're upset about it. We've all got our hang-ups, I guess this is one of yours. You just need to be able to treat it as your own problem, not his—talk to him about it in those terms, and maybe you two can figure out a way to help get you over it. (Or maybe he'll decide it's not worth it, that's fine too.)

tl;dr: Don't take things out on him, but don't drown your own feelings.
posted by vasi at 12:29 PM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

If he's messaging her daily now, yeah that's weird. Otherwise let it go. Relationships take time to build, and are partners have just as nuanced feelings as we do. You need to know that. It is a hit to the ego to imagine that our partners see someone else and feel a pull, feel a connection to another, but honestly if you want a balanced partner, you must allow him his own life. He will have special memories of friends and relationships long gone, just as you surely do. Let go of control and learn to trust the trustworthy. Get reassurance of his commitment if you need, and really listen and believe it and then drop it already.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:31 PM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Like Zinful above, I found out (quite recently) that my current partner had slept with one of his FWB while the two of us were allegedly exclusive for over a month. I was furious and am still very hurt. But we're still together because when I look at it logically, that really was a different time in this relationship. Two-and-a-half years ago, we didn't love each other, didn't live together, didn't know and care about each others' families, and didn't talk seriously about marriage. As hard as it is, you have to compare apples to apples. All your current thoughts and feelings and plans weren't around a week after you met this guy, and it's not fair to compare his actions at that time against the present status quo.
posted by Pomo at 12:44 PM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

It's understandable that you would be having these feelings now - anniversaries can stir up a lot of emotion, and instead of being able to look back on the start of your relationship with mooshy happy feelings, your memories are tainted by this sense of things not having been what you thought.

But there's a real difference between feeling lied to and being lied to. You had one story you were telling yourself about how things were when you started dating, and then you found out things were a bit different. But that isn't being lied to, because the story in your head was something you made up, not something he (falsely) said to you. It seems like he's been very upfront with you and done nothing wrong. It isn't dishonest to be friends (even close friends) with an ex when you start dating someone else. It isn't dishonest to go on a trip with an ex after going on a date or two with someone else. So although your feelings may be understandable, they do not actual reflect any wrongdoing on your boyfriend's part and shouldn't be held against him.

However, it may be productive to think and talk this through further. It seems like maybe there is some kind of mismatch between your and his thinking on issues like: how much information about your life and other relationships (platonic as well as romantic) should you provide to a new romantic partner right when you start dating? Do you need time apart from an ex after a breakup, or can staying friends ease the transition? How close it okay to be with an ex when you start seeing someone new? At what point in a new relationship does the new person become a more important connection than your other friends?

Your feelings and concerns about the start of your relationship seem to be making you feel less close to your partner. Maybe they make you wonder what else you don't see eye to eye about that you just haven't found out about yet. And you won't get that closeness back by being angry at him for not having seen things exactly the same way you did. But maybe you can get it back by really trying to understand how he feels about those issues, and understanding the story he tells himself about the start of your relationship and how you fell in love, and recognizing that his opinions and feelings and stories are just as valid as yours, even if they're a little different. Maybe when you hear his story, you'll realize that the best anniversary to celebrate is your seventh date, or after you were together for a month - I'm sure there were plenty of times that were special to both of you for similar reasons, and that you can still feel good and happy about remembering.
posted by unsub at 12:46 PM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

i get where you're coming from -- it can make you feel like a dupe, like you were the only one who was head over heels excited at the start. it retroactively messes with a power dynamic that you didn't even know existed. it can be jarring!

you're mourning the story you THOUGHT you had shared together -- PLUS trying to understand this new piece of information, and what the story actually was. it is painful to let go of whatever romantic story you had about each other. i get that. you are going to have some grief for a while about this, and that's ok.

maybe you will decide that it is more important to you to be with someone who was all-eyes-on-you from the start.

or, maybe not. either way is completely ok! you probably have a gut feeling about what is most important to you. listen closely.
posted by crawfo at 12:47 PM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I can kind of see where you're coming from. I've had friends and roommates get drunk and sob about their ex and how much they want to get back together with them while in a new relationship of 3 to 5 months and the only thought I have is "God damn am I glad I'm not her/him!" The thought of blissfully dating and liking a guy, while he's at home moping about his ex, is rather repugnant.

So, yah, it would be a nicer cleaner story that you two met and hit it off, and there was no ex girlfriend chatting and relationship dissolution going on behind the scenes. I can get that. I would probably spend some time being a little miffed that my reality and the actual reality didn't quite line up.

I don't know if I'd throw the whole relationship out based on that though. Considering he's been completely honest and never tried to hide what he was doing, I don't think this says anything bad about his character or your current relationship. Trying to seek out the perfect background story for a relationship is a bit of an alarm for a strange sort of perfectionism. No one is going to be perfect, no long term relationship is always going to go exactly like you'd want it to. If this is really where you've decided to set your bar, I don't think anyone will be able to jump high enough.

Or, maybe you've got unrelated relationship ambivalence and you're hanging it all on this hook because you haven't anywhere else to put it. If that's the case, you never need a reason to not date someone.
posted by Dynex at 1:13 PM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

You know, i think a lot of people send the wrong message with the whole "your feelings are valid, it's completely valid that you're feeling this" line. It has it's place, but it's shoved out as a panacea before basically any advice when someone asks "is it ok that i feel this way?"

Sometimes the answer is no. No, this is not a legitimate way to be feeling.

Look at this way, how would you actually act on these feelings? If you had known and said anything at the time it would have been weird, controlling and unhealthy. It reflects well on you that you said you would have simply broke it off, but now that you're here there really isn't any legitimate way you can feel about this. If you can't get over them, you should probably just walk away from the relationship instead of holding some weird resent ball.

Really though, there's a place and a time to be told that your feelings are legitimate and you shouldn't feel bad for feeling the way you do. This isn't one of them, these feelings are pretty much making a mountain out of, at best, a molehill. and any action you could take from them would be irrational and destructive.(and don't even get me in to the whole "emotions aren't rational!" thing. that has a time and a place as well, and when it's justification for what could either be weird controlling behavior or contempt it needs to go take a time out).

Honestly after reading everything you've described, the way he ended this relationship sounds like they ended it like adults, not teenagers. Good breakups don't end with I HATE YOU NEVER TALK TO ME AGAIN or cutting off of all communication. Even if people realize they weren't a match romantically there was often all kinds of shared interests or just general friendship compatibility that it can seem like an utter waste to walk away from if both parties go "yea, we shouldn't date". I have good friends who went through breakups like this and still hang out with their exes years later.

I also generally frown on putting way too much stock in the beginning of a relationship. The first couple months generally aren't serious relationship territory even if both parties agreed to be exclusive, or just "jumped right in" to trying to make it a serious relationship. That takes time. I feel like a lot of people would generally get less frustration out of relationships in general if they treated that time period less seriously, especially in retrospect after a year.
posted by emptythought at 2:24 PM on September 12, 2013 [9 favorites]

I know it's hard, but you're going to ruin your relationship if you let this get to you. You have to move on. If it bothers you, you have to end it now. It won't change.
posted by puppetsock at 2:48 PM on September 12, 2013

I feel like a lot of people would generally get less frustration out of relationships in general if they treated that time period less seriously, especially in retrospect after a year.

I think this is a really good point. Those first weeks and months together can be extremely fun and fizzy and exciting, but in so many ways the real depth to a good relationship is built beyond that point. My partner and I have been together for 8+ years, and we were crazy about each other on the first date, and yet: neither of us remembers the actual date of that first date (it was some time in early June, 2005), and the gap between the time one of us said "I love you" and the other said it back was something like three months. If I had put too much store by those details early on, it could have killed a good thing unnecessarily, over a couple of stupid Rom-Com details.
posted by scody at 2:50 PM on September 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

Those first weeks and months together can be extremely fun and fizzy and exciting, but in so many ways the real depth to a good relationship is built beyond that point.

And also, I think in many very healthy dynamics (not all!) the first weeks etc are NOT fun and fizzy, but rather good and calm and balanced. And people think that is just unendurable and wrong and where are the fireworks omg break up! When actually, with a little patience, that good calm balanced dating phase can burn into some serious awesome.

Basically, all the scripts are optional, all the movies are lies, if you love the guy you gotta bleach this out of your brain.

And if you don't, you gotta own this particular dumping because it ain't his fault not even a teensy lil itty bit. Seriously. It is not actually a crime or a lie to follow a different script from the one your partner, entirely unbeknownst to you, is playing in her head.

It's okay if you just can't date someone who wasn't 100% devoted to you from minute one. But it's not okay to be cruel to someone (silent treatment is super cruel!) because they weren't, and never ever pretended to be, and only now do you realize you can't stand it.
posted by like_a_friend at 3:05 PM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

emptythought: "You know, i think a lot of people send the wrong message with the whole "your feelings are valid, it's completely valid that you're feeling this" line.
Sometimes the answer is no. No, this is not a legitimate way to be feeling.

There's a wide range between "ok" and "legitimate".

Last week someone criticized something I did, and accidentally touched a nerve. I swear I wanted to punch a hole in the wall, stick their head into it, and follow that up with a bucket of mud, a stick of dynamite, and a boot. A legitimate feeling? Clearly not. But still ok, once dealt with appropriately. I got a pep-talk from a friend, tired myself out with a long walk, and all was fine.

Maybe some people can tell themselves "this is not a legitimate feeling, henceforth I shall not feel it again". But for our OP, it might be better to say "this is not a legitimate feeling, but I can make it ok if I process it appropriately". Maybe that means convincing herself that people in contact with an ex can indeed start a happy relationship with someone else, by talking to friends or family who've been there. Maybe it means telling her boyfriend that she has this feeling, knows it's not legitimate, but could use some extra generalized reassurance for a little while. Maybe talking more about both of their pasts, so she can realize that everyone has one. Maybe even swift kicks on MetaFilter :)

There's plenty of room for advice beyond "no".
posted by vasi at 3:55 PM on September 12, 2013

The other thing--I'm guessing you're probably both in your twenties and haven't had a lot of long-term relationship experience? It's a learning process. Starting out, people make mistakes. Hell, people keep having to learn by trial and error into their forties and fifties. It sounds as if he really wants to do right by you, so forgive him. And forgive yourself for feeling petty about how things started out. It doesn't matter that the beginning of your relationship wasn't perfect. It matters a lot more what your relationship is like now.
posted by tully_monster at 3:59 PM on September 12, 2013

how long did the texting go on for once you started dating? would you feel differently if he had been dating other people when you first met? a lot of people aren't exclusive in the initial dating period so i guess i'd view it a bit like that. are you trying to find a way out of this relationship or sabotage this relationship? this just doesn't seem like a big deal to me depending on how long it went on for and how many texts a day we are talking about.
posted by wildflower at 5:58 PM on September 12, 2013

I think a lot of people are being really harsh. Online it seems as though everyone is like "What the heck is wrong with you if you can't stomach your SO hanging out with/talking to/taking trips with their ex all the time??? No normal person has any negative emotional reaction to their SO's exes!!! In fact you should invite her into your life and all be best friends forever!!!!" when in real life I literally don't know anyone of either gender who is comfortable with their SO having more than passing contact with a recent ex. I am a well-adjusted person and I don't date people who have heavy contact with their exes because it has NEVER ended well when I have dated those people in the past. I don't hold it against them and I'm sure people have wonderful friendships with their exes that are completely platonic but to me it's just not worth the risk to me personally and I have never seen a completely innocent relationship with an ex (at least on both sides). Sometimes I wonder if I'm living in a completely different world than all the rest of humanity with their immediately platonic exes and 100% innocent motives because this is so rare in my experience. Anyway, so I get that if daily contact with an ex is a deal-breaker for you and you were not aware that was happening I can see why you're upset. You are now in a relationship where something happened that is normally a deal-breaker for you but way past the time to do anything about it. Well I guess the only thing to do if you love him is look at it as a blessing in disguise that you didn't know and thus stuck with him and look! it actually, for once, turned out fantastic! Just focus on that. If you feel insecure about the ex thing just try to laugh about it. Also, maybe meet her if it's not weird? That might help too so you realize she's just a (probably cool) person instead of some dark cloud interfering with your relationship.
posted by Valkyrie21 at 6:50 PM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have to say that if I was in your boyfriend's shoes, in that you hadn't talked to me for 2 days regarding something that you were upset about 4 months ago, that actually happened a year ago, and that I hadn't really done anything wrong... well, you would never hear from me again.

Have you thought at all about how he's feeling right now? Is it important to you that he's hurting now, or is it more important that you're upset about something that happened a year ago? Nothing is perfect in this world, and if you want to have a solid relationship ever, you will need to let go of the times that things weren't exactly right.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 8:02 PM on September 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

To give an update: I wasn't completely cold about it--I told him previously I needed time to think and that I would call him in 3 days. And I did. We talked over the weekend and we're still together. It's been difficult but there have been positive strides.

I'm trying to strike a balance of appreciating people's input but also maintaining some privacy so, I marked best: one answer that got the most favorites and was a good straightforward, real response; another that really got to what I was feeling; and one more that kind of hit it on the head that it was also about some other ambivalence. Thanks all!
posted by inevitability at 3:58 PM on September 19, 2013

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