Asking Ex About Why He is Using a Picture of Us on a Dating App
April 30, 2016 9:28 AM   Subscribe

I happened upon my ex's profile on a dating app and of course, I looked at it. I was completely shaken to see that he is using a picture of US as the last of his 6 pictures. I was upset and in a pretty passive way tried to ask him about it through text, which he has not responded to. We have plans to meet up next week and I'm wondering how to address this now.

My ex (32M) broke up with me (31F) the week before Christmas and 4.5 months on, I am still completely disconsolate about the whole situation. The breakup was a complete shock to me-- nothing had happened, no on had behaved badly, we were really at our most loving point, when he told me that he basically just didn't see a future for us and had a lot of negative feelings when he thought about this being his final relationship. We had been dating for 2.5 years at that point and I was 100% sure I had found my life partner, so I was absolutely sick with despair and shock to lose the most significant relationship of my life so suddenly. I am absolutely still grieving over the loss of the relationship and I know I still have not come to a place of acceptance about it.

I have not felt ready to move on with my romantic life at all yet, but I have been quite socially isolated and rather lonely and after hearing my roommate talk about meeting someone fun on Tinder, I decided to just check it out, really just looking for some lightweight social interaction. I quickly retreated from the whole experience and deleted the app because while I'd love some new people in my life to talk with and hang out with, I'm not interested in dating anyone new and certainly not interested in just hooking-up with anyone, as is Tinder's reputed specialty. Before I deleted the app though, I did run across my ex's profile and it was really painful for me to read in his bio that he is "looking to find some new and interesting people, with the hope of finding something special." It's so incredibly painful for me because I still want to be the special person in his life and I'm so sad that he wants that to be someone else.

Anyway, I was looking through the 6 pictures you're allotted to post on your profile, and I couldn't believe it when I saw this picture. This is a picture from at least a year ago that my sister took at her husband's restaurant opening when my partner and I were really in love. My sister texted me this picture and I texted it to my partner-- they are not facebook friends and this image has never been on facebook, so I know it wasn't just randomly populated from there-- he selected this image to use. I'm especially upset because when I texted it to him last year I said, "look at this cute picture of us!" and his response was, "it's not really a cute picture of us-- it's the back of your head." That was sad to me because I thought it was a really sweet moment of us and we have so very few pictures of us together-- largely because I hate having my picture taken because I have these horrible acne scars on my cheeks that I'm intensely self-conscious of, so this image was a nice capture of us without me obsessing over how my skin looks in it.

So I saw the picture on his profile, felt incredibly confused about why he selected that one, deleted the app, but then I just couldn't let it it go. When my roommate told me it seemed like he was trying to lure in other women by showing himself off as this lovable, great catch being embraced by a seemingly attractive woman, I was really upset. I mean surely, it can't be because he is feeling sentimental about us or about me, right, but of course that was the hidden hope for me, so hearing that this loving moment of me might be being used to that end of attracting someone else was devastating. I, probably unwisely, texted him the picture and said, "Well hey, I thought you didn't like this picture... Ha." and then I regretted it, so I followed up with, "Sorry, I'm not sure why I just did that. I was playing around on Tinder but got on and off pretty quickly but not before I saw that, it was just a little jarring to see I guess."

So that was two days ago and he has not responded, which I'm nor surprised by-- he is in the final week of his last semester of a pretty intense university degree and I'm sure he has very little breathing room right now. But we have plans next week after his last day of class to go to an event I invited him to, and I don't know how to approach this now-- push him about why he is using it, not mention it again (I am terrible at leaving concerns unspoken though), tell him I still really love him and want him back (awww). I think it's a pretty dumb thing to use a picture of yourself with another woman on an app like that and I can't help but hope it has hurt his chances more than it has helped them-- I know that wouldn't be an attractive thing for me to see-- so I really should have just left him to it, I guess, but since I confronted him about it I feel like a conversation about is imminent if we're going to remain "friends."
posted by cristalina to Human Relations (27 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Be honest with yourself about why, really, you want to talk to him about this. I'm guessing that what you're hoping for is for him to say something like "well it was a really special moment and you're in it and YES LET'S BE TOGETHER AGAIN."

That's not going to happen, right? So what purpose does it serve you to talk to him about this? It's a picture of himself, he looks good, those are the pictures people use on profiles. There's nothing more to it, I'm sure. Let it go.

With that in mind, it's probably a useful idea to ask yourself if hanging out with him is really an effective choice for you at this time. Take it from an emotional masochist: seeing him next week when you're still this hung up on him is not going to feel good for you. You're poking the loose tooth, picking at the scab, whatever metaphor you like.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:37 AM on April 30, 2016 [60 favorites]

Don't remain friends with the ex you're still pining over.

The picture seems irrelivant to everything else. But you're not going to move on until you're over him. You've been apart many months, and are still holding on to the "maybe we can get back together" feeling because you're still friendly. Move on, then you won't give two figs about the picture.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:39 AM on April 30, 2016 [17 favorites]

Yuck. It's completely inappropriate for him to use your photo without your consent (plus I agree it's counterproductive to use couple photos on a dating site, but that's his problem). You would be entirely within your rights to tell him (not ask him) to take those photos down. And after that, go no contact, and block all his social media profiles, because cyber stalking will make you crazy(ier) and slow your healing in the long run.
posted by ottereroticist at 9:40 AM on April 30, 2016 [22 favorites]

It's really super common for people to have pics with other people in them on dating sites. I think it's kind of tacky personally, but it's common. You are not identifiable in the pic and I don't think fretting over it is going to bring anything positive to your life. Let him go, cut off all contact, don't snoop around, and tell your friends not to tell you anything about what he's up to.

tl;dr there is no good that can come from continuing to engage with him.
posted by AFABulous at 9:41 AM on April 30, 2016 [17 favorites]

1. I would take the photo down or repost it with his face blurred if I were you, just on the principle of not putting identifiable photos of others on the internet without their consent.

2. However, having seen it, that is absolutely a "cute couple" picture, no question. I can definitely understand why this felt like a slap in the face.

3. Asking him about it won't help anything. Also, seeing him won't help anything. Also, "staying friends" with him won't help anything. People talk about "staying friends" like it's somehow mandatory if you're a good person, but it isn't. Needing some time off from your ex is 100% normal and reasonable.
posted by ostro at 9:44 AM on April 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

Mod note: Pulled the actual picture link; better to just describe it, yeah.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:44 AM on April 30, 2016

I am so dreadfully sorry this guy is still hurting you after 4.5 months. Some observations, is it OK?

#1 - Lose his number and do NOT see him next week, or ever again because...

#2 - I can't think of anything shittier than posting that pic. The good news is it's an accurate advertisement of his character, in other words, it's a real turn off to any woman. He's basically saying "It's all about me" with that pic.

How can I get you to Delete/Block/Run? You need to go No Contact immediately and forever. He's awful and even if he crawled through broken glass to see you you should Not Not Never take him back. That's how awful he is.

Your sister could contact Tinder with a copyright infringement complaint. That might be funny.

Seriously. Train yourself to see this guy as poison, because as far as you are concerned for the foreseeable future - he is.
posted by jbenben at 9:47 AM on April 30, 2016 [16 favorites]

He used that photo because he thought it was a good picture of himself. What more do you need to know? If you want him to remove it, ask him to, but I think you'd be better off if you let it go.

Also, Tinder only pulls photos from Facebook, so it IS on there. It's possible he downloaded it to a private album just to go in Tinder.
posted by metasarah at 9:49 AM on April 30, 2016 [10 favorites]

You're obviously still hurting a lot, and I think that this is causing you to obsess over this incident in a way that's not good for you. It's a way to stop yourself from letting go, which you really need to do.

(I mean, you say right upfront that it hurts you that he says he's looking for something special. But that's a normal thing for someone to put on a dating site. It's sad that he didn't find that with you, but it didn't work out; it's been several months, the relationship is over, and he's looking for a new one.)

Is it strange that he used this picture? I think it's a little strange -- but people often do strange things on the internet. They violate soft social norms, they pick pictures that might not be the best, etc. They often put less thought into these actions than we do while trying to figure out why they did it.

Since you already contacted him about it, it's not like you can just ignore it now. If he contacts you, you should be brief: "Hey, _____, I'm still hurt by the break-up, and that photo was special to me even if you didn't like it much. It was upsetting to see it in your dating profile. Could you use a different photo?"

Don't start a conversation about it. Don't start an argument about it. This is a relatively minor thing; it matters so much to you only because it's emblematic of a bigger hurt. If he tries to start a conversation, defend himself, etc: "I don't want to argue/talk about it, I just wanted to tell you why I messaged you. It would make me feel better if you used a different photo." If he refuses to change it, just drop it.

And then stop being "friends" because all it's going to do is make it harder for you to move on.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:51 AM on April 30, 2016 [10 favorites]

Yes, using a photo of you two is weird, but he is not showing a photo of you two to potential new girlfriends as a way to keep your image alive in his heart. He is using it because he looks cute and he looks like he can commit and be fun. He is USING your image, not preserving your image.

You are so raw and invested in holding on to him somehow - I strongly suggest you do not meet him. You need to go No Contact until you are past this stage and can accept that he isn't going to 'wake up' to losing you and come roaring back. What he does with those photos feels lousy, but it's no longer your business, you know? You two broke up. Let yourself feel awful about it and don't pursue anything with him. He is not your friend.
posted by Ink-stained wretch at 9:54 AM on April 30, 2016 [17 favorites]

I did run across my ex's profile

Most of us have probably been in your state of mind at one point or another. But seeking him out on social media ("run across") is not going to make you feel better, it's just not. Letting him know you've been seeking him out on social media is no good for your post-breakup dignity, either.
posted by praemunire at 10:20 AM on April 30, 2016 [5 favorites]

Also, you are clearly still in shock because the break up came from out of the blue with no warning. You are not thinking clearly because that's what happens when you experience a sudden and unexpected trauma.

If you were thinking clearly, you would feel disgusted and relieved upon finding that pic online. It's gross because he's gross and no one would think, "Oh, look! Here's a guy that knows how to commit and values women!" Posting an intimate moment he shared with someone else is 10000% proof this guy has no couth, poor boundaries, and he basically sees women as interchangeable and only valuable for how they make him look to others.

I'm so sorry for the way he broke up with you. I really do think this is all very shocking. If it helps, I think everyone has this experience where their perceptions get drastically altered. You thought he was amazing, and it turns out this is demonstrably not true. There's no way to sugar coat that, so I won't.

I think you are still in shock and haven't started grieving yet. Block this guy, go no contact, and start grieving. The sooner you process this relationship, the sooner you can truly move on in a much healthier relationship. It's kinda a blessing, finding that pic. Use this to help you move forward.
posted by jbenben at 10:33 AM on April 30, 2016 [10 favorites]

Also, Tinder only pulls photos from Facebook, so it IS on there.

This is no longer true, you've been able to upload photos directly from the camera roll for a little while.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:41 AM on April 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

your question isn't really about the picture. focusing on that is giving you a target to be legitimately upset - you don't need that target. you are allowed to be heartbroken, and upset, and think he has low character for how he's treated you. however, fixating on how he moves on, on him dating, on how his classes are going isn't healthy for you. i think you need to stop being in contact with him in any way, including any discussion of the picture. just move forward secure in the fact that he's shown him to not be the man you thought he was. this will pass, behave now how you'd like to remember it in 5 years.
posted by nadawi at 11:03 AM on April 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

I mean... the picture only 'crosses boundaries' (it doesn't; the OP is entirely unidentifiable) because the OP is still hung up on this guy. And I get that, I really do. Letting go can be really difficult, and there's one person in my life I'll never fully let go of. For my own sanity I had to excise him from my life eventually, but that doesn't mean he doesn't take up real estate in my head. I know how that goes.

But it's just a picture. It's not like it was something special or posed, it was a random snap of a moment like we all take unthinkingly every day. Continuing to imbue this image with Meaning is a symptom of the problem that the OP is having: not being able to let go.

Now, I'm not saying 'problem' as in 'you are broken for feeling this way.' It's 'problem' in the sense of 'a thing which is causing you distress.'
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:06 AM on April 30, 2016 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh my goodness, I have been crying my eyes out over here as I read all of your responses... it's just the reality of this tremendous loss that I have been trying so diligently to forestall all finally started to sink in, I think. You are all so right-- I really did want the fact that he selected that image to mean something special about his feelings for me, even as I had the awful feeling deep down that his intentions were far more self-serving than that. And I guess wanting to confront him about it was a way of hopefully getting to hear from him how special that moment was and that I'm still special, too.

Anyway, I feel a little sheepish for publishing this big post having a go at him for posting a picture I'm in online, when I then went at did the same thing here--I love what Kutsuwamushi said about how easy it is for people to violate soft social norms on the internet-- yes, yes, you are so right! So just as a quick description, the picture features my partner and I in a really cute embrace-- his arm is around me and while I am facing toward him and away from the camera, my profile is minimally visible. We are obviously looking into each other eyes and having a really sweet and special moment. He does look quite cute and fun and it clearly looks like the woman in the photo (me) is super into him.

Thank you for everything you have written, jbenben, you really did identify the underlying emotional trauma from the break up and how that is leading me to make emotionally unwise choices, like trying to confront my ex about this and trying to still be in his life.

And Kutsuwamushi, thank you for that perfect script if I ever have to follow up with him about the image-- although of course I recognize that it would be best to just let all of this go and move on. I'm so heartbroken and hurting and sad and lonely, it has been so hard for me to not try to keep him in my life, even when it hurts me this badly. Thanks everyone for your support though, I feel more sad but also more galvanized to get on with my healing.
posted by cristalina at 11:12 AM on April 30, 2016 [12 favorites]

I am absolutely still grieving over the loss of the relationship and I know I still have not come to a place of acceptance about it.

But we have plans next week after his last day of class to go to an event I invited him to

Oh buddy. You know you haven't moved on from him, so keeping in contact with him is the absolute worst thing you can do for yourself right now. Each time you see him online, see him in person, text him, etc., you are resetting the timer on your own healing back to zero.

I wish that weren't true, and I cannot tell you how many times I tried to make myself the exception to that rule, but it really is true. There is a time limit on this deep despair you are feeling, but you do have to go all the way through it to get to the end, and unfortunately, he can't be part of this process or it'll send you back to square one. You can't be in casual contact with someone you don't (yet) feel casually about.

Yes, the pic is a dick move and yes, it's to make him look cool on hook-up sites which is so UGH for you to see. But it's not something he owes you any explanation about.

I think it's time for you to go through your grieving process in earnest and go no-contact with him. Call in your girlfriends, download Beyonce's Lemonade, cry your eyes out, write angry letters that you never send, treat yourself to things that make you feel better, but don't find excuses to be in touch with him. Cancel your plans with him and do something for yourself that night. It'll hurt a lot right now but in the long run you'll feel better.

Sorry you are going through this and that you had to see that.
posted by kapers at 11:27 AM on April 30, 2016 [17 favorites]

sometimes people don't think when they put up pictures - if it makes you feel any better when i see someone in a picture with what is clearly someone they used to date, i swipe left. i'm not interested in seeing someone's dating history right before i've even met them! so tacky. surely there are other pictures of him alone that he could have chosen from.

anyway, i'm on the side of no-contact. he can do what he wants with pictures, but if you cut him off then you won't see it or hear about it and can work towards moving on.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 11:34 AM on April 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

Maybe he took the photo down after you texted him? I would have a friend check it out before you bring it up when you see him. If he took it down, let it be. If he didn't, just in a non-judgmental, non-emotional way, ask him to replace it.
posted by AugustWest at 2:47 PM on April 30, 2016

Honey. It is hugely symbolic and everything for you, but at the end of the day it is a photo of the back of your head. He in fact told you at the time that it didn't mean to him what it meant to you, and that he in fact didn't even consider it a photo of the two of you at all.

Let. It. Go.

Speaking of which, why are you making plans with someone you're not even remotely over? Why? Why are you making that choice to increase your own pain and agony?
posted by DarlingBri at 2:49 PM on April 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

Honey. It is hugely symbolic and everything for you, but at the end of the day it is a photo of the back of your head. He in fact told you at the time that it didn't mean to him what it meant to you, and that he in fact didn't even consider it a photo of the two of you at all.

Right, but that's exactly why it's so distressing for the OP.

I don't think it's ever right to post photos of yourself with exes on dating sites, or to post photos of other people without their consent at all, even if it is just the back of their head. Get a friend to check, OP, and if it's still up ask him directly and unemotionally to take it down: "Ex, please take down those profile pictures that have me in them." Email this message to him, and in that same email cancel your plans to meet him in person. "I don't think we should meet next week after all. I wish you well. Regards, OP."

But you know, OP, did you really "come across" your ex's profile or were you looking for it? Maybe you did come across it. But if you were looking for it, you know you were.

Either way, you have to go no contact. No. Contact. He is a source of distress for you and you have to wall him up in a social media and IRL oubliette. Disconnect completely. You will still think about him but you just have to tough that out.
posted by tel3path at 4:02 PM on April 30, 2016 [5 favorites]

This guy is a fucking asshole. He had feels when thinking about you being his last partner? That sounds like some super bro-y shit there, like "this is a great relationship and I enjoy it but it's not cool enough for the image I see of myself."

Fuck this guy. Fuck this guy! Seriously! Stop giving him free rent in your head, he is NOT worth it . Block him, do whatever it takes to get clear, or you are just going to keep wrenching your heart again and again.
posted by corb at 5:12 PM on April 30, 2016 [13 favorites]

Cristalina, I'm so sorry you're going through this brutal, painful loss and betrayal.

But I almost stopped reading the question at, his response was, "it's not really a cute picture of us-- it's the back of your head."

Even before a breakup where he was selfish and cruel enough to tell you, to your face, that he had bad feelings about this being his final and permanent relationship, that line right there is showing a really shocking level of callousness and either emotional illiteracy or just not giving a shit about your feelings.

I am with jbenben on this-- this guy is showing by his actions that he is garbage, that he is tacky and callous and self-centered and hurtful. I know you are reeling from the loss of what you thought was a life partnership but I promise you have dodged a bullet. Anyone who has an open discussion with their partner about how that partner isn't marriage material is too toxic to build a life with.

I also read all the casual negative self-talk in this Ask and just wanted to give you a hug. The stuff about seemingly attractive and insecurities-- I wish I could reassure you, and also have that sick gut feeling that a relationship where someone responds to such basic and trivial attempts at emotional connection as a "look at this cute photo" text with the totally invalidating to the point of gaslighting, "It's not really a picture of us" is one where your insecurities about your looks and worth were not being handled gently, if not reinforced.

Go no contact with this guy. He is poison. Hugs and good luck. I promise you're better than he's made you think you are.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 5:34 PM on April 30, 2016 [23 favorites]

What a dope. If I saw pictures like that on a guy's dating profile, I would assume he had problems. For one, being unable/too lazy to crop a photo.

I can understand contacting him to tell him never to use a photo of you in his dating profile. Because it's creepy. Other than that, cut this guy off! He did the worst kind of break up, IMO: not talking about problems in the relationship before dropping the bomb.
posted by Pearl928 at 6:52 PM on April 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

I saw the photo, it's of a very intimate romantic moment between two people - it's not an image that can be cropped - it will look exactly like his ex-girlfriend was cut out of the picture which would be true. The OP's description doesn't do it justice, it's all the feels in composition and face expressions and body language.

The worst part is that the picture was taken by his ex-girlfriend's sister. It's not even his photo to post!

OP - he hasn't texted you back because you caught him being gross. Expect a lot of lies and backtracking if you do ever hear from him regarding how that pic got on his Tinder profile.

Ideally this discovery has helped you see this guy for what he is, and you have already blocked him + made alternate plans for that day next week you were supposed to hang out. I hope!

Sometimes it's s case of two nice people who didn't work out romantically. But this situation really makes holding that perspective a stretch. Either way, it sounds like trying to remain "friends" is too much emotional work for you, OP, and I hope you're going to put down this awful burden.

For real. He purposely used a picture his ex-girlfriend's sister took of him with his ex-girlfriend on a website to get laid. I doubt when you were dating him you thought he was this kind of man, but there ya go.

I know the wounds are still fresh, but gosh was finding that pic a blessing in the long run. Bullet dodged.
posted by jbenben at 7:53 PM on April 30, 2016 [17 favorites]

If its any comfort, I find those kinds of photos gross in a dating site. Why would a prospective like to see a photo of the guy with his ex? Its off putting
posted by zia at 2:36 AM on May 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

a picture from at least a year ago that my sister took

Your sister can file a takedown request for her photos used without her permission.

When my roommate told me it seemed like he was trying to lure in other women by showing himself off as this lovable, great catch being embraced by a seemingly attractive woman

If this is what he's trying to do, he's failing horribly at luring in women with this picture. Seriously it could have "dating site fail" stamped on it and become a meme level of fail.

You need not explain this to him.
posted by yohko at 3:41 PM on May 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

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