When/do I tell my ex about my new partner?
September 15, 2014 3:04 PM   Subscribe

Earlier this year, my partner of 4 years and I broke up amicably. I'm seeing someone new. Ex and I both frequent some of the same territories in my city. Should I pre-emptively tell him about the new guy so that he doesn't find out from the grapevine, or seeing us out together?

This is new to me - I've never been in this position before for one reason or another. I feel like I'm pre-emptively beanplating, as I've only been seeing the new guy for a month, but I really want to not hurt my ex, and I wonder if finding out about this in the wrong way would do that.

Ex and I have been low-to-no-contact since breakup, to give us space to heal, but we have exchanged the odd text or email to see how the other is doing or for practical things. I hear from friends that he has seemed to be working a lot longer hours than usual, but seems to be doing ok. Our breakup was our mutual decision, and one which he instigated but which I felt was right.

So, should I tell him? If so, when? And how?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (29 answers total)
No, don't make a bfd of telling your ex. Presumably when you parted, it was expected that you'd each date new people. It's perfectly okay for him to find out you're dating, and it's perfectly okay for you to find out that he's been dating.

Stay no contact.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:06 PM on September 15, 2014 [32 favorites]

you guys are broken up. it's not really any of his business and you don't have an obligation to tell him.
posted by violetk at 3:09 PM on September 15, 2014 [16 favorites]

Ex and I have been low-to-no-contact since breakup, to give us space to heal, but we have exchanged the odd text or email to see how the other is doing or for practical things.

Given these parameters of contact, I wouldn't worry about it. If you guys were still talking quite a bit, and communicating regularly, it would make more sense to mention it. He will find out, probably in very much the same way you've found out he's working longer hours. The grapevine is a perfectly acceptable way to find out an ex is seeing someone else.
posted by furnace.heart at 3:10 PM on September 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

You are not responsible for how others feel in revelation to actions or events. Let this go.
posted by Hermione Granger at 3:12 PM on September 15, 2014 [6 favorites]


Forget that this is even something you wanted to do.

Please show yourself that your personal life is yours.

Also... Presumably, he's an adult human being? Right??

He doesn't need you to help him manage his feelings.

Let this urge go. Concentrate on your now relationship.
posted by jbenben at 3:18 PM on September 15, 2014 [15 favorites]

I would say if "earlier" this year is "July" then ... well, maybe drop him a line just in case you want to reassure him there was no overlap (assuming there wasn't, anyway). If it was more like January/February or such and it was mostly mutual ... nah, you don't need to tell him. People get with other people. It might be awkward if you run into each other in public, but well, I don't know. I think mostly we know once we break up with someone, they're free to see other people. You don't need to tell him. It's cool (and maybe better) if he finds out through the grapevine.
posted by darksong at 3:23 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's clear that you want to do right by your ex, which is awesome and very considerate; the romantic relationship may be over but you still care for him as a person. (I have to ask though, and I mean this in the best way, do you have any linger feelings for him? If so, it's natural and OK -- and not a reason not to date others, of course -- but it's something to consider when you think about your own motivations for sharing.)

Ultimately, you know your ex best, certainly better than any of us, and I think you should proceed accordingly: he may be sad to find out, relieved or not quite care. He initiated the break-up so technically he was ready to move on but it isn't to say that he doesn't still have mixed feelings. And please remember that you don't have to act yet, whatever you decide. Are you in some way seeking "permission" to tell or, conversely, "permission" NOT to tell? (If so, I'd grant you both!)

A good rule of thumb here is What would YOU want him to do were the roles reversed?
posted by smorgasbord at 3:26 PM on September 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

None of his business. If he finds out, and he's sad about it, then he needs to grow up. You're not the Feelings Police, and you don't have any obligations to him anymore.

If you're on good terms with him (to the point where you still talk frequently and are good friends), you might want to tell him about it. In my experience, breakups rarely happen that way. Of all my exes, the one I'm on the best terms with -- I speak with her MAYBE once a month on Facebook, if that. Most of them, the relationship ended on such poor terms that I really don't give a flying [bleep] at a rolling donut what happens to them in life, and I'm not going to keep them informed of what's going on in mine.
posted by tckma at 3:32 PM on September 15, 2014

[A quick follow-up to my earlier post: I asked those questions as something to think about. However, if you'd like to actually reply in writing, please feel free to MeMail me. Good luck!]
posted by smorgasbord at 3:34 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you don't know if this would hurt him, then I'd say you're not hurting him on purpose and are thus in the clear.
posted by bleep at 4:09 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was in a semi-similar situation recently and I did tell my ex about my new relationship, also about one month in, specifically wording it as "hey, I wanted you to know about this now even though it's still in the early stages because I care about you and don't want you to hear about it second- or third-hand".

But the main difference here is we were, and continue to be, frequently in contact and are very close friends. So, it depends on what low-to-no contact actually means for you. Do you think your ex still needs that space to heal? Maybe that's something to bring up with a mutual friend who is in contact with him more often.
posted by capricorn at 4:18 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, and to add to that, in the end it was definitely a net positive for our friendship that I did tell him.
posted by capricorn at 4:22 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Should I pre-emptively tell him about the new guy so that he doesn't find out from the grapevine, or seeing us out together?

No. It's none of his business. He has no right to know. You have no need to tell him.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:26 PM on September 15, 2014

Yup, on a need to know basis - he doesn't need to know. He probably doesn't want to, either.
posted by Pudhoho at 4:34 PM on September 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Most people in this situation only want to tell their ex about their new fling to rub it in their faces and/or to feel better about themselves. I'm not saying that this is your motivation, but just trying to make you aware that this is often a factor and you should make sure it isn't the one driving you. Also, even if you don't intend it this way, this may be how he perceives it, so you could be hurting him even if you really are trying to help him. Further, does he even want to know? Maybe he's just getting over you-- hence the working long hours-- and you calling to tell him you've found somebody else will just hammer home the finality of it all to him and make him feel worse.

Do you honestly want to tell him because you think he would be hurt by it? Obviously, none of us know his personality and if you truly care about him and actually think that he would be less-hurt to find out about it from you, then I could see why you might want to tell him.

Basically, I'm saying that there are about a million ways it could be a bad idea and only one tiny one where it could be good. My magic 8-ball is giving pretty clear indications here...
posted by atomly at 4:48 PM on September 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Why do you think this would hurt him?
posted by J. Wilson at 4:52 PM on September 15, 2014

And how might the new guy feel about the ex having such status that you have to inform ex?

You do not have any such responsibilities to your ex.

If i were in new guy's place, if you told ex for any reason other than it came up in a friendly conversation, I would be keeping an eye out for signs that you were using me to get over ex or to make ex jealous, or that you and ex had some kind of codependency drama. Any other signs of any of those, and I'd be out.

Just live your own life. You are a year or two away from the place where you and ex are just friends.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 5:23 PM on September 15, 2014 [5 favorites]

I wouldn't tell him. Somehow to me this feels like you're still not quite over your ex, in a way. Or even if you are, I feel that it could give him that impression on some level. If you know that you're both going to the same party, that's one thing. If you think that you might just happen to run into him at a bar, that's different...you should be expecting to see him with a new partner, and vice versa.
posted by three_red_balloons at 6:20 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm going to go against the grain and say...it depends. And I'm bringing my own baggage to it where my last two exes were people I'd known as friends for years and hoped to continue being friends with afterwards.

Like darksong mentioned, if you broke up a fairly short time ago, I would (in your ex's situation) appreciate a heads-up that this is a new-thing they might hear about (or see on FB) and there wasn't any overlap. I'd rather hear it from you with that footnote than simply wake up to couple-photos or a relationship status-change on Facebook (if you're still friends there) and wonder. If it was such a long time ago that the question of overlap wouldn't enter my head, then I'd just leave it alone. Up until the point where you know for sure you're you're going to be in the same social scenario where it might come as a shock to them to see you with someone else IF you've been keeping your new relationship low-key on FB and generally. Then a little "hey, I'm looking forward to seeing you again, not everyone knows but I am seeing someone new I hope it won't be awkward but I understand if it is" mssg is ok. And that's assuming you want to stay real friends with your ex, not just amicable acquaintances.

If it's been awhile (such that you seeing someone new shouldn't be a real shock), if you're not planning to be real friends but just amicable exes and do the slow-fade...then just let it go.By the time he bumps into you and your new bf he'll already know and have adjusted.
posted by K.P. at 6:58 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

No. If someone I hadn't dated for four years felt the need to break it to me softly that he was dating someone new, I'd wonder if I should be insulted that he thought I was so fragile, or if he was still hung up on me. Getting married? Yeah, maybe let me know. Dating? No big deal.
posted by salvia at 7:27 PM on September 15, 2014 [5 favorites]

Just to be clear, the OP has dated the person for four years, they broke up earlier this year, which isn't super clear how long, but at most the break-up was in January. I agree that with the idea that this isn't a necessary heads-up, but would be fine to do. I, too, thought the best test was for the OP to rely on their gut reaction to what they would want if the situation was reversed, with the caveat that they should consider if the ex-boyfriend would truly want a heads-up.
posted by dawg-proud at 8:37 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

No, don't reach out and break your minimal contact to tell him this. Only exception: if you find out at some point that you are for sure going to the same event, and you will be bringing your new guy, and you really think he hasn't heard about the new boyfriend yet. Then you can send a short friendly text, "Hey! I heard you're also gonna come to Sarah's dinner party. It will be nice to see you! Wanted to give you a heads up that I've been newly dating someone and am planning to bring him along. As always I really value your friendship and thought it might be right for you to know ahead of time." (Obviously, make sure to show even more consideration for your new guy!!! Make sure he knows the ex will be there, intro him proudly, give him some extra love.)

Now, if you run into your ex unexpectedly with the new guy, be friendly and cool! Don't be awkward, walk straight over to your ex and give him a normal platonic hug, intro him to new guy. Chat about the weather, politely keep moving. Text later to say, "Good to run into you at the party!" and nothing more, no need to explain the guy or anything at all unless asked.
posted by amaire at 9:26 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

so that he doesn't find out from the grapevine, or seeing us out together?

IMO - finding out through the grapevine is exactly how he should find out, and I might take a few (indirect) steps to make that happen via mutual friends.

I could see you being a bit concerned about him being shocked to see you together, but I don't think it is worth it to break "low/no contact" to make that announcement personally to him in order to avoid that.
posted by CathyG at 6:29 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

No. Even with pure motives as yours seem to be, unless it's a Big Deal Relationship, telling your ex will only appear mean-spirited.

Your romantic life is none of his business in the same way his is none of yours. Let him find out through the grapevine. If you two had broken up and still stayed close friends, yes pre-emptively telling them would be good--friends tell each other about things like this.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:46 AM on September 16, 2014

Don't do it.

He will find out, and it would be through the grape vine. If you were still close friends, I could see how you may want to drop him a line about it -- but being that you don't contact often, it's not something you should go out of the way to mention to him.

It may actually come off as mean or rubbing it in - which I know is not your intention.
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 12:29 PM on September 16, 2014

Beanplating. Maybe at month 3 you let him know, because that's about how long it will take to figure out if the new guy's going to be a long-term thing.

Your ex should expect you to be out there dating, no need to go out of your way to rub salt in the wound by declaring it.
posted by lizbunny at 12:36 PM on September 16, 2014

What's worse, finding out out of the blue, or having it thrust in your face? The latter is often a ploy used by people to continue to be a factor in the other person's life. If just to make sure the other person is miserable. That's just mean.

Leave well enough alone. Live your life and dedicate it to the new relationship you're building. Which should be getting the lion's share of the attention anyway.

Just how well do you think it'd go over for the new person to see all this energy being spent on the old relationship? Think of how folks might go about advising someone that came asking that question? No doubt it'd get a lot of negative responses. Well, don't set that new person up to have to come asking...
posted by wkearney99 at 9:40 AM on September 18, 2014

Well, now we've heard this question from the other side in this thread. If you think there's a likelihood of something like this happening, I probably would recommend letting your ex know.
posted by capricorn at 8:43 AM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Dont tell him till things are more settle down btw you and your new partner...if i were him i dont think i want to know that...it wouldnt make me happy unless he asks..
posted by Freyaaaa at 7:39 PM on October 15, 2014

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