Social Media Etiquette for Homewreckers
July 7, 2014 3:22 PM   Subscribe

How long should one wait before indirectly notifying a recent ex via social media that they are in a new relationship? Is this even a thing?

Help me settle a discussion with my boyfriend regarding the appropriate amount of time to wait before indirectly notifying an ex that you have moved on.

I have been in a relationship with a wonderful man for about 3 months now. We have had a long history and were in a relationship with each other a few years back. Since then we have seen other people, but we kept in contact through out. Our recent reunion was timed shortly after he had ended things with an ex and this is causing some problems. While I was not in contact with him at the time he ended his relationship, it was partially fueled by lingering feelings towards me. His ex is aware of who I am, but we are in entirely different social circles. Now he has asked me to restrain from publicizing our relationship on his social media accounts (ie pictures, general mentioning, etc) for an 'appropriate' amount of time out of sensitivity to his ex.

The kind sentiment is somewhat in the right place, but I also am not wild about censoring my life. I think the appropriate amount of time has passed. He thinks it is too soon- although I suspect his judgement is clouded by guilt and not wanting confrontation.

How many months is reasonable? Anyone out there have advice for the kindest way to deal with predicaments like this?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This doesn't quite make sense to me -- if it's just about her seeing them, then he can deal with that programmatically on facebook with blocking/grouping and the like. If it's about anyone in her circle seeing this... are you also limiting your contact to his friends, etc, so she doesn't hear 3rd hand?

I don't necessarily have an issue with him feeling weird about his ex seeing his new relationship online, but that's why privacy settings exist, no?
posted by brainmouse at 3:25 PM on July 7, 2014

How long was he with his ex?
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 3:31 PM on July 7, 2014

This is not a thing. Okay, it is a thing, but it's kind of an immature thing that invites drama. If the ex hears that he's been deliberately hiding a new relationship, she's going to assume he was cheating on her, or that he thinks she's too unstable to handle the news, or something else.

Don't flaunt it, but don't go out of your way to hide it, either.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:33 PM on July 7, 2014 [20 favorites]

Three months is plenty of time.
posted by radioamy at 3:34 PM on July 7, 2014 [5 favorites]

That seems odd. If he didn't want her to see his stuff, then he should unfriend her or put her on the restricted list. That way when you post things to "friends of friends", she won't see it.

I think that it's silly to restrict your personal social media activities because of his ex, as long as his ex is not a mutual friend of yours.

Otherwise, I would allot maybe a month or two for every year they were together. But I mean, you can still post pictures of you two together (NOT making out) and check into the same places. Be circumspect about the whole "I love you" statuses (which are just tacky anyway) and posting pictures of you two kissing and the like.

Of course, my personal rule was no changing relationship status until engagement/marriage, since anybody who actually knows us knows we're together. And it shouldn't really matter to anyone else.
posted by ethidda at 3:35 PM on July 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

Now he has asked me to restrain from publicizing our relationship on his social media accounts (ie pictures, general mentioning, etc) for an 'appropriate' amount of time out of sensitivity to his ex.

Nope, that's weird. If this was a longtime marriage w/ kids or whatever ... maybe? But this is just people dating and my feeling is that this is more about his anxiety (where, often, there's never a "good time" the only good time is "not now) then any real waiting period etiquette. Maybe just try to have a conversation with him "Look I understand that you may have feelings of guilt about how this went down but I don't think an appropriate way to start out is by you asking me to pretend that what is happening is not happening. There are privacy controls, we can use them. I'm not comfortable keeping you out of my online life just because this got off to a sort of weird start."

Put another way, to me it's a red flag when someone you think you are having an above-board relationship with asks you to not be above board about it. It's been three months, that's a decent amount of time. Three days, maybe not, but certainly 3 months.
posted by jessamyn at 3:35 PM on July 7, 2014 [35 favorites]

This is such a cheater / serial relationship-hopper move. Keep your eyes open.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:39 PM on July 7, 2014 [43 favorites]

He can solve this with filters instead of asking you to stay mum despite an appropriate amount of time having passed.
posted by quince at 3:39 PM on July 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do not be in a relationship that you have to keep secret. There is something strange here, and I say this as a person who has never once mentioned my boyfriend or posted a picture of him or us or anything like that on social media at all, just because that's not my style - it's my profile, not our profile.

Your current partner shouldn't really be thinking about his ex's feelings at all if he's in a new relationship; if he is, he's not ready to date.

It sounds like he is not being above board here. I would keep my eyes wide open for other circumstances where the relationship seems to smell a bit funny, because this kind of request doesn't bode well.
posted by sockermom at 3:41 PM on July 7, 2014 [12 favorites]

This seems either silly or like he hasn't really broken up with her.
posted by mskyle at 3:44 PM on July 7, 2014 [5 favorites]

Also, is there something that you're not saying directly here? The title of your post indicates that maybe this relationship started in a questionable way - are you calling yourself a homewrecker? Did he cheat on her with you?

If so, my advice to keep your eyes wide open changes: just walk away.
posted by sockermom at 3:44 PM on July 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm intrigued by the "homewrecker" title as well; plus the somewhat contradictory statements that you were in contact with him throughout your time apart...yet you *weren't* in contact with him at the time he ended things with his ex...yet your reunion was "timed" to happen after their parting.

Any chance of giving us some clarification via a mod on all that? I think it will help guide us in our responses.
posted by nacho fries at 3:53 PM on July 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you block her Facebook account yourself then she won't be able to see anything you post (and vice versa) even when it's set to "Friends of Friends":

1. Go to her page

2. On/near the Cover Photo at the top click the "..." button

3. Select "Report/Block" from the dropdown

4. Select "Block [so-and-s]"

posted by Jacqueline at 4:04 PM on July 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also can you give a bit of an outline of what his relationship with his ex is like? Did she guilt trip him a lot? What exactly is he afraid will happen if she finds out?

The answer to your question is going to be different depending on the length of the relationship and on whether this is a relatively normal breakup versus if it's a situation where, like, they had a whole thing where she guilt tripped him a lot and/or was unstable or what have you and if they had a dynamic like this for a long time. Basically you need to find out from him what he's afraid of here, because those factors will affect how you should proceed.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 4:04 PM on July 7, 2014

Tell him to delete his social media accounts. That way you can talk about him all you want and it won't ever notify his ex. (unless you are her friend, that would be weird and wrong anyway)
posted by Megafly at 4:05 PM on July 7, 2014

This is the kind of behavior cheaters exhibit so they can keep more than one relationship going at a time. Not to say definitively that that's what's going on, but just, you know, watch out.
posted by thatone at 4:23 PM on July 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

Following on many others' comments here, I want to say that this is a thing, and it is 'a thing' for people who are dishonest. Not to say he's cheating! but that that is what should settle the discussion -- it is a recognised thing, and it is recognised in: cheaters.
posted by kmennie at 4:41 PM on July 7, 2014 [6 favorites]

This seems really weird. If the ex is going to be hurt by him eventually seeing other people, it's up to her to avoid him on social media. It's not really that hard to block someone everywhere. I'd have another conversation with your boyfriend about this and explain how blocking works (see Jacqueline's comment for an example). If he's still trying to censor you, then I agree that this is a telltale sign of a cheater. Sorry.
posted by desjardins at 4:53 PM on July 7, 2014

I know I would want to find out from my ex, and not my ex's new partner, and would find the latter hurtful.

Finding out from the new partner (even inadvertently) suggests at the least that your partner has serious communication issues and quite likely worse - it's an ability to doublethink the situation. If he's doing this out of a desire to spare her feelings, it's misplaced. If her feelings are more important to him than his happiness in being with you, that's a problem. If he's saying it's about her but actually has other reasons, that's also a problem.
posted by bile and syntax at 5:27 PM on July 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have been in your man's situation, and it's lame. I was dating someone while still harboring feelings for someone else. He suspected it, and then I confirmed his suspicions and got back with my ex very quickly after we split. In truth, there was some overlap in me re-connecting with the ex and me actually splitting with the guy I was dating. (For us, the re-connection went great. We're married, super healthy relationship and expecting our first child. This move isn't necessarily a cheater move. I was just a chicken shit about getting out of a relationship that wasn't working.)

I felt bad about this situation because I really really hurt the guy I was dating. We tried to stay friends, but it didn't work out. I think your man has to accept that he behaved badly and hurt this woman. No amount of time is going to make her ok with the fact that he probably told her numerous times not to worry about his feelings for you. And then he left her for you. That happened, and social media silence isn't going to give her time to be ok with that. It's just delaying the inevitable. If he does want to maintain a friendship there, it's going to take a lot of open communication and long talks, not hiding what's happening.

Incidentally, I ended up breaking off my friendship with the ex because it was making my new/current man feel like I was trying to play both sides. He never gave me an ultimatum or anything crazy like that, but given our history, he needed to know that I was really into him. I don't think it's unreasonable for you to, gently, nicely, let your man know that he can't be in between relationships and his actions need to prioritize your feelings over his ex's. Since there was such a short period of time, it's entirely likely that he hasn't processed all his feelings yet about the relationship that ended. You are not out of line by reminding him that he's with you now. Just give him some space to deal with any emotional complications that come up as a result.
posted by ohisee at 5:49 PM on July 7, 2014 [5 favorites]

Maybe I'm the most suspicious person in the world, but is it possible he's lining up other women or that they're not fully broken up? Three months is a long time to be clandestine.

If he's really worried about it and they're on good teams, then he calls and tells her he's dating someone. If they're on bad terms, then he just moves ahead with his life.

It feels disrespectful to you to ask you to hide.
posted by 26.2 at 8:01 PM on July 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

I've run into similar requests before. It could be lingering feelings, it could be overthinking the effects of even hearing he's moved on, or it could be that he hasn't stopped dating her/other people. He might not be dating her, or dating only you.

He's told you he ended this previous relationship because he still had feelings for you, after all this time. That shows some boundary issues, an inability to achieve closure on his own.

This whole situation is shady. Shine some light on it.
posted by RainyJay at 9:51 PM on July 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah, this seems a lot like "let's be secret friends" that small-minded kids try to pull in middle school.

You knew better then, you know better now. If this guy's not some sleaze trying to pull something like having multiple girlfriends, he's being cowardly for trying to make you hide your relationship.
posted by blueberry at 10:13 PM on July 7, 2014

Wow, i think this is deeply disrespectful to you. You would not be wrong in being super, duper offended by this.

The "hey baby, lets keep it a secret" thing is scummy for several reasons outlined above, but there's also a really basic crappy thing in of "i care more about not upsetting my ex than i do about my new partner".

You(and i mean him, but also just the general everyone of you) have no duty to someone, especially if they're the kind of weird possessive ex who would flip out about this sort of thing, to coddle them or go out of your way like this to not offend them.

I can at times understand the "I don't want my parents to know we're dating" thing, especially in LGBT/parents are still supporting them situations. But "i don't want my friends and my ex to know" is deeply disrespectful. What is the relationship then? some ala carte thing of convenience?

I just cant help but think thoughts like "Are they that ashamed of dating you?". Because the ex thing is an incredibly shitty excuse. And barring that, all the other reasons are even worse.

Basically what blueberry said above, but more.

I also think it's really silly to pretend that just because he hasn't been posting anything on social media that his ex wouldn't have heard it from someone gossip wise. That's part of what makes me think there's something more at play here, or at the very least something very cowardly/pathetic/disrespectful that points to larger issues with how this guy handles relationships in general.
posted by emptythought at 11:04 PM on July 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

I also think the longer he waits to go public with your relationship, the worse blow-back he might get from his ex. "You've been seeing her HOW LONG?! And you've been hiding it from me??!" etc. Not that it's really any of her business, but if there is genuine concern about doing the right thing, then being open and honest is the best choice.

I would be super creeped out if I found out an ex was trying to control my reaction by "timing" his reveal of a new relationship. It would make me very angry, in fact, to have my agency removed like that, with him tippy-toeing around purportedly to spare my feelings. Yuuuuck.

OP, three months in is a great time to sit this guy down and have the relationship talk. Make sure to ask him point-blank if he is seeing or attempting to see anyone else.

If you are a suspicious sort like myself, you might want to look on Tinder and OKCupid to see if he has a profile up -- he's being awfully dodgy for someone who has been carrying a torch for you for so long. He should be shouting his love for you from the mountaintops.
posted by nacho fries at 11:16 PM on July 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

He's asking you to hide your relationship, which means you're not really in a relationship. You're in a secret, shady situation. These two things are not the same.

It's odd that his concerns for his ex are at stake at all. IMO, it isn't an issue of when he should indirectly inform his ex that he's moved on -- he's directly telling you that he has not moved on.

Sounds messy.
posted by Gray Skies at 4:27 AM on July 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't think it's her feelings that he's protecting here. I think during his time with both you and her, she was voicing suspicions and he kept telling her she was paranoid, that nothing was going on, that he wasn't at all interested in you, that it was all her craziness talking. So every time she sees that you two are in fact together, it cements the fact that he was gas-lighting her. She was the one who knew the truth all along and he was a liar. And he's not ready to acknowledge that to himself and to process and deal with the whole thing. It gets under his skin to know that his ex now has confirmation that she was right. If he doesn't work thru this and if you stay with him, this is something you should be watching out for in your own relationship.
posted by marsha56 at 5:33 AM on July 8, 2014 [6 favorites]

Do some soul searching and trust your gut feeling about your boyfriend and how long you think is reasonable. Lots of people are piling on saying he's cheating or there's no reason to hide a relationship, but in real life things can be tricky.

My boyfriend and I coupled up not very long after he separated from his (now ex)wife. There were time issues that rushed us together faster than I would have preferred, and he asked to keep things quiet for a while. His ex is emotionally unstable and he felt a lot of guilt about being the one to end the marriage. We were also all in the same small town, incestuous social circles, etc. Because the marriage had been failing for some time and his ex loved to stir up drama, he was tired of his personal life being public drama fodder for all his friends and family and he just wanted a break. I agreed with his reasoning and we were "under the radar" for about 4-5 months until we both moved to a new city, and then he told his friends. I think it was about a year before he told his family.

Was it awkward? Oh yeah. Here's why I tolerated it:

- I knew when he separated from her that he meant business and they were done, done, done. I had no doubts about his intentions. He was very open with me about how the divorce was progressing and what contact he had with her.
- He was trying to spare his ex from some extra knife-twisting. We don't always get to be around to see how a partner treats his SO during the breakup, and there's always the possibility that we might be the next ex. Being with a guy who shows a little compassion for his former partner is not a bad thing, I think. (Plus his ex really did have some emotional problems.) He didn't want to put his life on hold. He just didn't want to rub his dating status in her face and possibly seriously set her off. (FWIW, she made it obvious to him that she was dating shortly after. I actually like that he wanted to take the high road and be discreet. I think it showed good judgement.)
- If things were going to crash and burn quickly between us, I would prefer it happened privately instead of being a short, ugly public rebound. After six months, things smooth out and it becomes more of a given this is a long-haul partnership.
- My boyfriend had just had plenty of relationship stress, been under lots of outside judgement for months. Giving him a chance to have some privacy and catch his breath seemed quite reasonable.
- I knew there was an end point. We were moving away, and then there would be no more weirdo sneaking around.
- I wanted to make a good impression on his family. They liked his ex-wife and they needed their own time to process losing her. I could not just barge in and expect them to be overjoyed to meet the shiny new replacement SO, you know? I trusted my boyfriend to know his own family and make introductions when the time was right.
- He did not forbid me from telling my friends or try to control what information I gave out. He trusted me to handle my end of things. I told a close friend early on and I picked the time to tell my parents.
- I really don't give a fig about facebook statuses. It wasn't a big sacrifice to keep any news off facebook - it might be very different for you.

Just listen to your gut about your boyfriend - which it sounds like you are already doing by posting this askme. "I suspect his judgement is clouded by guilt and not wanting confrontation" = you smell a weasel.

If you trust him to be true and to handle the situation with integrity for all parties, then it might not be a big deal to wait a bit longer to go public. However, set an end date. Maybe say, "Hey, I'd like to be able to tell our friends about "us" at my birthday party," or "Hey, I'd like to know if we're going to visit my family or yours for Thanksgiving." You may need to communicate bluntly that it's not fair to be kept in the dark with no end date. If the idea of having a direct conversation with your boyfriend about your relationship seems really difficult and uncomfortable, like pulling teeth, take that as a red flag.

If you trust him, relax and watch how he handles things. That'll tell you everything you need to know. Worst case scenario is that he is a weasel - if you pay attention to what he does and not what he says, that ought to become apparent without investing a whole lot more time. A weasel will tell you what you want to hear to squirm out of an argument, and then turn around and cover his ass. If he's not a weasel, he'll set a time limit without whining and happily share news of your relationship when the time comes with no prodding.

(The awesome thing about having a secret boyfriend is that if he does turn out to be a weasel, you can disavow the whole fiasco.)
posted by griselda at 7:29 AM on July 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

Is his ex still a close friend? I can understand some desire to be thoughtful in that case. But specifically, being thoughtful means telling her now that he's dating you, not hiding his new relationship from the world in fear that she might see it.
posted by capricorn at 9:41 AM on July 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you can't go tell it on the mountain, you are not in a real relationship. One exception: delay in introducing you to children.
posted by WeekendJen at 2:12 PM on July 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

From an anonymous commenter:
"I think your man has to accept that he behaved badly and hurt this woman. No amount of time is going to make her ok with the fact that he probably told her numerous times not to worry about his feelings for you. And then he left her for you. That happened, and social media silence isn't going to give her time to be ok with that. It's just delaying the inevitable. If he does want to maintain a friendship there, it's going to take a lot of open communication and long talks, not hiding what's happening." - ohisee

I was the ex in a situation like this; the "new" girlfriend was someone with whom he had shared a history, and who I had felt uncomfortable with, and he kept their relationship secret from me for two or three months. I later found out that he had asked her not to post pictures of them on social media. While I think this was ostensibly done to protect my feelings, ultimately it was a selfish act which allowed him to avoid confronting his mistakes, and caused pain and discomfort for both me and his girlfriend.

And, yes, while the damage had already been done, and I would have felt hurt and deceived regardless, the continued secrecy just compounded the damage, and led to harms separate and apart from the initial shady behavior.

I started to become concerned after learning that a female friend, who he had previously been involved with, was planning to move to our city and become roommates with my boyfriend. I expressed my concerns and was told that this girl was only a friend, and I wanted to trust him. Later, after he started withdrawing, I noticed other things that made me uncomfortable. I learned that he would call her, on a daily basis, and tried to avoid speaking with her when I was around. I overheard him saying "I love you" to her. During the few times I was present for a phone conversation, he bent over backwards to avoid acknowledging my presence (when I brought it up, he said he did it intentionally because of her "fear of abandonment," though he later claimed that he did it because they had agreed not to talk while I was there "out of politeness"). During our last month together, and shortly after he returned from a trip back home, he disabled his social media account, and I suspect it was because he didn't want people to see the pictures I posted of us.

Throughout that time, I expressed concerns about the girl, and he kept saying that she was only a friend. I was torn between what seemed to be shady behavior and my desires to trust my then-boyfriend and take him at his word. And, because it was my first real relationship, I was more willing to tolerate the confusing behavior while quieting my own discomfort.

We did keep a friendship after the breakup, though that began to unravel after the girl arrived in town. He still acted like they weren't an item, even though I would spend time with both of them. I think the girl ended up taking things out on me, acting in a way I found hostile and abusive, and my ex didn't really do anything to stop the hostility (she later apologized for the way she treated me). It allowed him to maintain the status quo for a while, but in a way that was hurtful to the other people involved, and which made me feel more betrayed and deceived than if he had been honest in the first place. When he finally told me, it was very, very, painful, but that pain was intensified because I could sense what had been going on for months, because I could tell I was being lied to for that period of time, and because I was being mistreated by the "friend."

So, as other people have speculated, the desire to keep your involvement a secret might relate to the ex's suspicions over the course of the prior relationship, and the likelihood that she will feel betrayed in some manner once she finds out. But, really, he is being a coward and not doing her any favors by deepening the "betrayal" and being "discreet." Even if there wasn't actually a betrayal, he is betraying her now by keeping secrets and lying to her, and is only confirming her suspicions by making it look like he has something to hide. Like ohisee said, their friendship will be compromised unless he can be completely honest and open about what happened, even if that leads to discomfort, and even if there's a good chance that the ex won't be able to look past what happened. The damage is already done no matter what. At some point, you do need to be firm about not keeping things a secret any longer. And, though this goes without saying, don't take out your frustrations on the ex.

For what it's worth, this doesn't necessarily mean that, after things are out in the open, your boyfriend will treat you in the same weaselly fashion. While I don't follow either of them, and can't know for sure, my ex and his girlfriend seemed to have a strong relationship when I was last aware of them, and I know their relationship has lasted longer than my relationship with him. I'm sure the situation is more complex than I know, but I sometimes wonder whether my ex really cared that much for me or my feelings; on some level, it feels like I was just a means to an end, or a source of easy company during the period when the other girl wasn't available. If your boyfriend does feel strongly about you, and you stand up for yourself, things could ultimately work out between the two of you. Still, it's probably a good idea to look out for shady behaviors, and refuse to tolerate them.

(As an aside, I am in a better place now, though the whole situation took a toll on me for a long time, and will probably always sting a little bit. I've been able to find someone else, and have gotten back to a place where I feel lovable and where I can trust. Obviously, this doesn't have much bearing on your question, but, since I gave a bit of a sob story, I thought people might want to know.)
posted by restless_nomad at 2:59 PM on July 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

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