Communicating with the Ex
October 30, 2007 6:39 PM   Subscribe

Relationshipfilter: How frequently is too frequently to talk to the ex?

Adam and Eve have been dating for six months. They are extremely happy with each other. Adam works three hours away, so it is a long distance relationship. Eve is still in school, so she cannot move closer to Adam. Adam works long hours which makes communication difficult. Before they started dating, Adam had previously dated another girl, Sarah. Sarah and Adam dated for seven months after he had chased her for three years. Adam has said that he and was obsessed with her for about a total of four years--while chasing her, while dating her, and for a brief period afterward. Sarah broke up with Adam in January, five months before Adam began dating Eve. Sarah broke up with Adam abruptly, “breaking his heart”, in order to have casual sex with other people. Adam now insists that he is completely over her and just wants to be friends. Adam has sent emails to Sarah over the last few months, exchanging as many as 20 in a three week period. Until there was a situation this past week in which Adam had to tell Eve that he was emailing Sarah, Eve was unaware of their on-going communication.

Adam does not discuss with Sarah the fact that he has been dating Eve, since that (1) they are Facebook friends so she has probably seen his relationship status, (2) it is awkward to discuss new girlfriends with ex-girlfriends, and (3) he does not want to give Sarah the impression that he is trying to make her jealous. He says that has mentioned Eve in at least one email to Sarah. This all makes Eve very uncomfortable, jealous, and anxious. Eve wants Adam to stop all regular communication with Sarah.

Who is out of line?
Adam wants to remain friends with Sarah because he has invested so much time into their relationship/friendship. Eve wants them to stop communicating (at least as frequently as they have been) as it makes her uncomfortable and nervous.

Possible options:
Adam stops all communication with Sarah.
Adam lets Eve see all the emails between himself and Sarah.
Adam limits emails to Sarah to X times a month. (1, 2, 5, etc?)

*This question was written by both Adam and Eve and it was intentionally kept as neutral as possible. The facts are the facts.

*posted anonymously because our mefi handles are known by friends IRL.

if you need/want to email:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (42 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
All depends on the situation. Sometimes, one time is too many. Other times, it's a thousand times. It pretty much comes down to, "does Adam want to keep Eve and keep her happy?"
posted by damnjezebel at 6:50 PM on October 30, 2007

Adam wrote more about Sarah in this question than he did about Eve. Adam should realize that it is impossible to not sound bitter when you say something like this: Sarah broke up with Adam abruptly, “breaking his heart”, in order to have casual sex with other people, and being bitter just means that you still care. TPS wonders why Adam kept the fact that he was writing to Sarah from Eve for so long. Eve is right that Adam is more invested in his thing with Sarah than he wants to admit. Adam should let the e-mail thing with Sarah fall by the wayside in a natural way (20 e-mails in 3 weeks is a lot), and put the woman who is his girlfriend first. Eve should watch Adam closely and break up with him if he's not willing to put her first.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:51 PM on October 30, 2007 [8 favorites]

Does Adam still want to be with Eve? If he has honestly gotten over her, and honestly has no desire to be with her, and if Eve trusts him when he says that, then it doesn't really matter how often he writes to her.

The fact that he hid the communication from her (or at least wasn't up front about it) suggests that Eve is right to be somewhat troubled by it. It's unreasonable to ask Adam to stop communication entirely with someone who is important to him, but it would be insensitive of Adam to continue speaking to Sarah this regularly if it makes Eve uncomfortable.

So, assuming Adam really is over this person, he should make a concerted effort to show this to Eve, not least by limiting his communication with Sarah (and increasing his communication with Eve).
posted by twirlypen at 6:51 PM on October 30, 2007

Does Adam still want to be with Sarah. If he has honestly gotten over Sarah, etc etc...
posted by twirlypen at 6:53 PM on October 30, 2007

Adam does not discuss with Sarah the fact that he has been dating Eve...

Everything following this is a rationalization. Let's pretend that Sarah, instead of an ex that Adam hankered after for years, is Ed, long-lost former best friend from childhood. Would Adam tell Ed he was dating Eve? Yes? Then why not tell Sarah?

he does not want to give Sarah the impression that he is trying to make her jealous.

Having Adam's motives questioned by an ex is the ex's problem, not Adam's. Adam's priority should be the relationship he's in - the one with Eve, that is, since Adam seems to be having a relationship with Sarah as well, though not a sexual/romantic one. Adam didn't tell Eve about re-establishing contact with Sarah. Why?

Eve has a right to feel anxious and need reassurance, because Adam is not being truthful, and he's prioritizing Sarah's feelings over Eve's.

Being in touch with an ex so soon after a breakup is rarely a good idea, even if you're single. No contact for at least six more months.
posted by rtha at 6:56 PM on October 30, 2007 [3 favorites]

Honestly, you both need to grow up.

Adam, quit obsessing over Sarah. She kicked you to the curb, there is nothing to be friends about. LET IT GO and move on. You're not going to have successful relationships if you keep hanging onto Sarah.

Eve, Adam's issues with Sarah are no reflection on who you are as a person. Quit trying to control or dictate what he does so that you don't feel threatened. Frankly, he seems like he still has such huge issues with Sarah and he's been lying (and he has no question) about it and do you really need that? You should be thinking very hard about dumping him.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:58 PM on October 30, 2007 [4 favorites]

I think that communicating with Sarah is not good for Adam. If he's worried about giving her the impression that he's trying to make her jealous or about her feeling awkward about his new relationship, he is putting too much stock in her feelings and needs more space away from her. He should distance himself from her to get some perspective on the relationship and to reassure himself that he's really over her. When he's actually over the relationship, he should be able to talk openly with her about Eve without worrying that she'll think he's trying to make her jealous, etc. But that will take a long time, months at least, years possibly. So Adam should stop communicating with Sarah, at least in the short term, mostly for his own good.

If for some reason Adam refuses to do that, Adam shouldn't keep secrets from Eve. The fact that he kept this communication from her means that she is justified in worrying. Not that he's doing anything wrong per se by having a friendship with an ex, but he screwed up by not telling her. The price he pays for that is that she's suspicious about this friendship. If he continues the friendship, she needs to be included in it. Adam needs to talk with Sarah about Eve and with Eve about Sarah. Adam needs to let Sarah know that he's not keeping secrets from Eve and that she therefore might see the emails they're exchanging, and then Eve should have the option to look if she wants to. If I were Eve, I'd read a few to make sure that nothing untoward was going on and then not read any more, but the fact that this has been kept a secret from her means that she has a right to be suspicious about it, and the way to assuage that is to shed some light on it.

Bottom line is that this friendship is a bit weird. I suspect that while Adam doesn't want to date Sarah and doesn't love Sarah more than he loves Eve, he is holding onto Sarah's friendship because he's still upset about the way their relationship ended. He invested four years of his life into pursuing her, and he's not ready to let her go. But he needs to let her go, for his own good. If I were Adam, I would tell Sarah that I can't see her or talk to her for a while, and then I would focus on my other friends and my current relationship. If I were Eve, I would do my very best not to be jealous and to support my boyfriend through the process of letting go of a formative relationship, which is like a mourning process not for an ex-girlfriend, but for the time and energy he poured into pursuing her when he could have been making his own life better. And if I were both of you, I would focus on one another and forget about this girl he used to date.
posted by decathecting at 7:00 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

(shouldn't Sarah be "Lillith"?)

20 emails in 3 weeks is about once a day, for a consistent period. That is more than I usually exchange with someone I'm not dating. Something else usually gets in the way so that the conversation dries up at some point, even if I have an intense back and forth for a little while with a friend.

How often do Adam & Eve email back and forth? How often does Adam email other friends or family? It all comes down to honesty and real self-reflection. If Adam might be kind of hoping to "keep options open" on some level, he should admit that to himself first of all. What is the future of the friendship with Sarah? Is Adam excited for Sarah and Eve to meet? Or is Adam sort of enjoying the fantasy of flirting with Sarah when Eve is gone, even though he knows nothing will come of it? If that's the case, he has to be honest about it, most importantly with himself - try to know your own psychological states, and then try to share them to appropriate degrees with the people they affect.

Or perhaps you guys need to address the issue more as a general long distance relationship problem than as a particular Adam & Sarah problem - is there more you can do to see each other or be in more contact so that old fantasies don't get reignited? More phone calls, more visits, etc?
posted by mdn at 7:08 PM on October 30, 2007

I would like to pick option 4) Eve should chill out a little and learn to trust her boyfriend, and Adam should limit his communication with Sarah to almost nothing.

I know you said that both Adam and Eve wrote this together, but come on. All of the possible options listed involve Adam doing something to change his behavior, and Eve doing nothing. Relationship issue resolution is all about compromise. You two are going to have to sit down and talk about this regardless, and Eve can't expect Adam to sit there and be told what to do when Eve isn't law unto him.

I'm not saying Adam's right; I know I'd feel odd if a boyfriend communicated with an ex 20 times a week. But, has Eve ever considered asking Adam why he communicates with Sarah so much? Is it a sense of obligation that he blah blah invested time into friendship/relationship blah blah kinda bullshit, or is it that he's just not over her? I'm willing to bet the latter.

Adam needs to severely limit his communication with Sarah. If not, Eve should dump him. There's no reason for that level of communication with an ex, especially if he's hiding it from Eve.
posted by Verdandi at 7:12 PM on October 30, 2007

I was in a similar situation pretty recently. I thought he was over his ex. Turns out he wasn't. And he didn't really know it until we started talking about how much they were talking (on facebook as well actually).

It came down to this, he needed to talk to her more than he needed to make me feel better. I'm not bitter anymore, but especially if this is a long distance thing, you BOTH need to trust each other and feel secure. If one of you doesn't feel secure, figure out what would fix it, and if the price isn't too high for you, do it. Sorry. That's a lot of commas.

My opinion, if Adam is talking to Sarah multiple times a week and it bothers Eve, then Sarah should go. Honestly, it's not an issue of jealousy even. Sarah didn't want Adam anymore, but Eve does. Simple.
posted by heavenstobetsy at 7:18 PM on October 30, 2007 [3 favorites]

NOTE: I'm not saying Adam is probably still in love with Sarah, just a personal anecdote.

Also, I'd also like to add that option B (Adam lets Eve see all the emails between himself and Sarah) is not going to work.

Eve either trusts Adam to email his ex all the time, or she doesn't.
posted by heavenstobetsy at 7:21 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

I get the impression from reading this question that Adam is still into Sarah and the relationship with Eve would end in a second if Sarah would agree take him back. Even seems like a classic rebound.

Eve might want to ask herself why she is consenting to be in a relationship with a man who is clearly in love with another woman. Wouldn't Eve prefer to be with a man whose world revolves around her as opposed to his ex-girlfriend?

All of the "possible options" listed above seem like band-aids that don't confront the real problem: Adam is still obsessed with Sarah.
posted by The Gooch at 7:22 PM on October 30, 2007 [5 favorites]

Eve is the rebound chick and should dump his sorry ass because he is still obsessing over Sarah. Eve can't compete with the image Adam has built up in his mind over Sarah. Eve will never measure up to that ghost and Eve should cut her losses and find someone who appreciates her for who she is.
posted by 45moore45 at 7:27 PM on October 30, 2007 [8 favorites]

Yup, what 45moore45 said. Also: they are only "extremely happy" with each other because they are both not being completely honest with themselves. This is not a post made by extremely happy people. "Adam works long hours so communication is difficult" What what what? 20 e-mails in three weeks = difficult?
posted by Eringatang at 7:37 PM on October 30, 2007

I never advocate bossing your partner around and controlling their behavior as a method of making yourself feel more secure - you'll never have enough control, for one thing. Reading his emails won't make you feel better in the long run.

But if I were the partner of a man telling me all this stuff about his epic love for a woman who dumped him to have casual sex with other people (oh boy) I would assume that:

a) I was Rebound!Eve
b) He would be leaving me as soon as Sarah indicated a desire to get back together
c) I really needed to get my act together and start dating men who would at least tell their exes that they were in a relationship with me
posted by thehmsbeagle at 7:37 PM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]

i don't think it bodes well. i always say that after a fraught relationship, or really any relationship, you need to be apart for at least as long as you were together in order to truly be "just friends."

the chemistry between adam and sarah hasn't had time to dissipate yet. even if his intentions are to stay with eve and make things work, adam is still jonesing a little for sarah, and these emails are satisfying that jonesing. for now. but obsessions can re-escalate, and that's where the danger lies. i don't think eve would have a problem with this if she didn't suspect that this could easily lead to something more.

so, i would go with eve and advise letting things go with sarah.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:39 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think that remaining in contact with an ex is just fraught with trouble.

First of all, Adam says he was obsessed with Sarah. That will not go away until there is some distance and time away from the relationship for both parties. Keeping in contact is delaying the moving on of both parties.

Second, the fact that Adam feels uncomfortable talking about his relationship with Sarah. That to me is not a true friendship. True friends are able to talk about their lives. Having to tip toe around certain issues means that the wounds have not healed.

I wish Adam and Eve good luck, and advise Adam to get Sarah out of the picture.
posted by reenum at 7:43 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

The clincher is Adam's secrecy about Eve.

I've had lots of relationships that have just grown out of relationships and into normal friendships. It happens a lot. But it's really not a normal friendship if you're keeping big parts of your life secret.
posted by roll truck roll at 7:44 PM on October 30, 2007

You need more options.

1) Is relatively unreasonable. Either Adam is willing to do this on his own or it's important enough to Eve to end the relationship it if Adam is not willing. If neither are willing, this is not a potential solution.
2) A successful relationship couldn't possibly be built on such a spectacular display of mistrust. You should sooner breakup.
3) Artificially limiting communication to a specific amount is patently ridiculous. Would Adam have to count the days to reply to a question? This is awkward at best as Adam would be like so many people who live paycheck to paycheck.

4) If Sarah is a friend, start treating her as such and not an EX. Eve is upset because Sarah seems to be much more of an EX than a friend of Adam's. Friend's mention their girlfriends to one another and aren't awkward about this type of thing regardless of their history, even if they don't start that way. EX's however get awkward and feel uncomfortable. Most importantly, while friends do hook-up rarely, EX-lovers reunite much more frequently.

Start mentioning Eve. She is apart of Adam's life. If in fact Sarah has noticed the Facebook status, she is likely to be more suspicious that Adam has not mentioned his girlfriend over the 6 MONTHS that they have been dating... It's time to turn Sarah into an actual friend and stop treating her as a potential mate. It's this behavior which is making Eve uncomfortable and which prompted Adam to not mention that he had been communicating to Sarah.

There is nothing wrong with maintaining an "EX" style relationship with Sarah, however with this level of communication, Eve would be fully justified in ending the relationship if Adam wasn't willing to convert his relationship with Sarah to just that of a friend.

To Eve: Please don't be hard on Adam. He didn't seem to have ill will, but he's obviously figuring out how exactly to maintain a relationship with an EX.

I don't mean to sound like a-know-it-all here, it's just I've had a lot of recent experience with it. So I'm opinionated (Old g-friends coming out of the wood works in the past year... damn Facebook...)
posted by JakeLL at 7:50 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think Adam does not discuss with Sarah the fact that he has been dating Eve since (4) Adam is hoping that Sarah will think he is available and want to get back together.

This would be the real reason Adam did not tell Eve that he was emailing Sarah nearly every day (on average), or every other day if 20 means 10 to and 10 from for three weeks.
posted by yohko at 8:00 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

  • I think Eve is insecure. It's a very common problem and I know from experience it feels terrible.
  • I think it is flat-out wrong to dictate to your partner who his/her friends can be and what the nature of their contact should be.
  • I think that though it's quite possible for Adam to be happy with Eve, he may be deluding himself that he is completely over Sarah. But I also believe that is for him to decide in his heart, and only he can know that.
  • I think that as long as the attempt at friendship between Adam and Sarah is mutual, honest and sincere, it is perfectly healthy and acceptable.
  • I think that if Adam does, deep down, still want to be with Sarah, it would be unfair to Eve to continue to date her until he gets clarity on his feelings.
  • I think it is vital that Adam is open with Eve, but it is completely inappropriate to allow someone else to read private correspondence, and it would be unacceptable for someone insist on being allowed to read others' correspondence.
  • I think Eve should not expect to be a component of all of Adam's friendships, and vice versa. I think it is clear that Adam is in a new relationship and there is no need for him to continually bring it up, nor is it necessarily better or more appropriate for him to discuss his relationship with Eve with an ex.
    • I think, in fact, that continually bringing up his new partner would be offensive to Sarah, as it would likely be received as an attempt to fend her off. (If one is not attempting to come on to another, it can be very arrogant and insulting when another insists on believing they are.)

  • I think that Adam may be rushing everything here: rushing into a new relationship; rushing into cobbling together a friendship with someone he was recently in love with and hurt by; rushing to expect everything to be copacetic. I think Adam should really search himself and be sure his motivations are right, and be sure that he is not going to hurt anyone else.

posted by loiseau at 8:08 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Adam is pretty obviously still fucking Sarah, or intends to fuck Sarah as soon as he can in the future. Hopefully Eve is cool with that.
posted by cmonkey at 8:27 PM on October 30, 2007

Adam wants to remain friends with Sarah because he has invested so much time into their relationship/friendship.

This is total code for wanting to get back together. And it sounds like a first and a second real relationship. Adam spent four years obsessed with Sarah, who coldly dumped him, and that is the "investment" in the "friendship" that he doesn't want to throw away? If the relationship were really over in Adam's mind, why exactly would he want to hold on to those years spent romantically pursuing her? That's not friendship-building--it's courting, flirting, seducing. And he just doesn't want to throw that away. Damn right his girlfriend's pissed.

Adam shouldn't want to stop communicating with Sarah to appease Eve--he should want to do it because it'd probably be the best thing for Adam, regardless of whether Eve were in the picture.

But communicating that often with an ex and never mentioning that he has a new girl? That is a big no-no. I'm surprised Eve stays at all, knowing that.
posted by lampoil at 8:41 PM on October 30, 2007 [4 favorites]

I'm still friends with my ex - we email and facebook, and I visited him when we were both in the same city. But neither of us keep it a secret, and he told me pretty much as soon as he started going out with another girl, like I would tell him - because the only people you don't tell about a new relationship are people who aren't really connected to you, or people where you think the relationship might change if they knew you were going out with someone.
posted by jacalata at 8:57 PM on October 30, 2007

Adam isn't being unreasonable to email Sarah. Eve isn't being unreasonable to be suspicious.

However, Adam should respect Eve, and Eve should trust Adam.

Once these two things are accomplished, Adam and Eve will know what to do about this situation.
posted by Pants! at 9:56 PM on October 30, 2007

It may be true that Adam is not completely over Sarah (only he would know that), but even if he isn't, that doesn't mean that his relationship with Eve is doomed. Also, it's completely unreasonable for Eve to ask Adam to break off communication with Sarah or to read his emails. On the other hand, it looks suspicious that Adam wants to communicate with Sarah this often.

How about a compromise? Adam emails Sarah and explicitly tells her about Eve. (He could mention that he is doing this precisely because Eve is uncomfortable.) Adam introduces Sarah and Eve to each other at the first possible opportunity. (If Adam is uncomfortable doing this, then that suggests that he is still hoping to get back together with Sarah.) Eve stops trying to dictate to Adam who he is allowed to communicate with and how often.
posted by epimorph at 10:52 PM on October 30, 2007

It's been said above more eloquently, but since I was in a relationship like this, I thought I'd chime in.

He's not over it - the emails are a way of pretending he's still in the relationship with Sarah. This article was linked the other day in a post about friendships that end abruptly, and contained this quote:

I began to understand that accepting Matthew's image of me as someone undeserving of forgiveness—and obsessing over that image—was playing into the same self-absorbed drama that drove that time in my life. It also let me pretend to continue to have a relationship with Matthew by making this story central to my self-image.

Also, the post says that communication is difficult because of work hours, but he's been emailing another girl just about every day - his actions are telling Eve exactly where his priorities are.
posted by lhall at 11:04 PM on October 30, 2007

Eve should dump Adam. He's clearly not over Sarah and would fuck or date her again in a heartbeat if given the slightest opportunity. Then she should find a relationship where there's enough trust that reading or limiting each others' emails doesn't even cross anyone's mind.

I don't know about Adam. Maybe Sarah can be his Annie Hall.
posted by 6550 at 11:22 PM on October 30, 2007

(shouldn't Sarah be "Lillith"?)
Damn straight. :)

Questions for Adam:
Do you want to marry/have children with Eve?
Can you get a job and accommodation near Eve? Why don't you?
Do you ever see Sarah face-to-face?
If so, how often, and how sexual or sexually-charged is your interaction?
Is Sarah herself in a relationship?
If not, why not?
Are you sure you know one way or the other (ie, for whatever reason, maybe she is also keeping her own relationship out of the dialogue)?
If she started telling you about this guy (let's call him Samael), who she'd met and was really falling in love with, how would you feel?
Supposing your friend Thaumiel, known to you and Sarah, said: "I think Sarah's really hot, do you think you could introduce us?", how would you react?
Is Sarah significantly more attractive than Eve? Vice versa? Much of a muchness?
Supposing you meet some un-named third woman (perhaps feeling as if she were created in front of your eyes, just for you) and you fall head-over-heels for her, to the point that you do break up with Eve; do you expect to continue to communicate with Eve? With Sarah?

Questions for Eve:
Do you want to marry/have children with Adam?
How soon will you finish school, and do you plan to move nearer Adam?
If it's at least a year to finish school, have you considered transferring?
Do you consider Sarah to be significantly more attractive than yourself? Why?
Do you consider that Adam thinks Sarah is significantly more attractive than yourself? Why?
Supposing you met some guy at school--very attractive, in a kind of serpentine way; you get to talking, and later on he emails you, wanting to talk further--what would you do?

I don't want to know your answers to these questions. I'd suggest you think about them privately rather than together. But they should lead to further questions, which should lead to a resolution.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:52 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Eve might want to ponder the following and discuss it with Adam:

Jealousy can be seen as fear of loss and/or fear that Sarah is getting something Eve is not.

Perhaps it is time to really asses how reasonable those fears are. If they are not likely, then let them go.

Adam likewise may wish to ponder the following:

If you're emailing an ex 20 times in 3 weeks, and not telling your girlfriend, you're hiding something. You've told us why you didn't mention Sarah to Eve. You better figure out why you didn't tell Eve about the renewed communication with Sarah, because that is the real issue here.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:40 AM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've been Adam, a couple of times. There's no two ways about it -- extensive contact with the ex plus not telling her about the current girlfriend is not cool. It is deeply disrespectful to the new girl, and sometimes not really respectful to the ex (who may be wanting the space to fully explore her new options, we don't know).

I would go so far as to say that it is almost never a good sign when you are combining flirting with not mentioning your partner. It's an easy situation to get into, because if you don't mention your wife/girlfriend/whatever right at the beginning, it just gets more and more awkward to do so. In the question above, Sarah/Lilith would have likely been totally cool with Adam telling her in the first or second email, "hey, I'm dating this cool chick, Eve; what's up with your love life?; and hey, did you see that new movie?" But after three months of deep and frequent communications, sharing feelings and experiences, saying "oh, by the way, I've been dating Eve all along" will sound very jarring -- perhaps like a betrayal, or perhaps manipulative ("Why did you wait until now to tell me?").

What to do next: If Adam wants to stay in touch with Sarah, he needs to tell her about Eve -- and not in those generic, wishy-washy terms like "my friend Eve." And he needs to learn that he needs to mention Eve pretty early on in situations that get a bit flirty. Either he is proud and honored to be dating Eve (and hence can tell people about her) or he needs to move on and find someone he is willing to be open about. On her part, Eve needs to chill out a bit -- this is totally normal, lots of men and women do it, it isn't ideal but it isn't the same as if he has been shagging Sarah in cheap motel rooms every afternoon for the last month, either. She needs to learn how to deal with the fact that she has a boyfriend who seems to like to have intense friendships and interactions with other women, and to not micromanage or be overly jealous of those interactions, and to trust that he has indeed chosen to be with her, not with these other women.
posted by Forktine at 5:11 AM on October 31, 2007

Who is out of line?

Nobody. You have the right to ask for what you want and he has the right to say it is a dealbreaker and vice versa. No objective answer here.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:28 AM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

To Adam, I'd say this: It's absolutely possible to have true, rewarding friendships with exes. But this can only happen if you're not *actively* in love with them. You clearly are still actively in love with Sarah. If not, you would be telling her all about Eve, and she would be telling you all about her boys. After all, that's what real friends do: they talk about their lives. It would be one thing not to mention Eve to Sarah if you only had a wistful check-in email with Eve once a year. But you're talking to Sarah daily. That's just wrong, and you know it.

So it's clear that you're not over Sarah. This may or may not mean the end of your relationship with Eve, but it certainly means that you cannot continue your "friendship" with Sarah and expect Eve to put up with that kind of utter disrespect.
posted by footnote at 6:47 AM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm with Verdandi's option 4 above: Eve should chill out, and Adam should limit his communication with Sarah—not only (or primarily) to appease Eve, but in terms of his own selfish interests, because it's interfering with him getting over Sarah. None of the three options given by the OP are viable.

I've been in a relationship and gotten dumped. And stayed friends with the ex—in fairly frequent communication as well. But even we had a 3-month silent period, and never communicated every day. It was still hard to get over that relationship for me.

Adam's head is still in the relationship with Sarah. That's unfair to Eve, and ultimately not in his own interest.

[note: this response may be eponysterical, but I am not the Adam in the question]
posted by adamrice at 8:46 AM on October 31, 2007

Adam introduces Sarah and Eve to each other at the first possible opportunity. (If Adam is uncomfortable doing this, then that suggests that he is still hoping to get back together with Sarah.)

I've been Adam in the past, and this is by far the most important advice in the whole thread.
posted by fuzz at 9:07 AM on October 31, 2007

Here's the thing: Sarah and Adam are either having sex, or they're not.

False dichotomy. Sex is not the only way to cheat on someone.
I agree with those who have said that if you can't talk about your girlfriend with your friend, then you have more-than-friendly feelings for your friend.
posted by solotoro at 9:21 AM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

I get the impression from reading this question that Adam is still into Sarah and the relationship with Eve would end in a second if Sarah would agree take him back.

Bingo. Adam, if this is true, you need to get out of your relationship with Eve and either get back with Sarah or get over her. If it's not, you need to prove it to Eve, preferably by deleting Sarah from your address book and not contacting her at all. This "I've invested so much" stuff is bullshit.

You people who are saying Eve is out of line are nuts. Adam is in touch with his ex constantly; this isn't a yearly "Happy birthday, hope everything's OK with you" message. Eve has every reason to be concerned, and if Adam doesn't knock it off she should head for the hills.
posted by languagehat at 9:22 AM on October 31, 2007

(3) he does not want to give Sarah the impression that he is trying to make her jealous.

Considering she dumped Adam to fuck other guys (and/or girls), this concern doesn't ring true. Nor does (2).

While it may be true, (1) doesn't seem like a reason not to discuss someone who is ostensibly a large part of your life.

Four year obsessions (your word not mine) take a long time to get over.
posted by probablysteve at 9:31 AM on October 31, 2007

If two people are good friends, how much should they be allowed to contact each other?

If it's too soon to feel comfortable talking to each other about new lovers without it being "awkward" or like he's trying to make her "jealous," then it's too soon to be "good friends."

You can be good friends with an ex, and you can be uncomfortable talking to an ex about your new girlfriend--both of those are fine and valid and totally natural--but you can't be those two things at the same time.

Thus they should choose (not be allowed) not to contact one another until enough time has passed that they can actually be good friends first, not exes.
posted by lampoil at 6:25 PM on October 31, 2007

I'm going to jump in here, because I have been in a similar situation.

I discovered, one day, a few months after I started dating my then-bf that he'd been talking pretty much daily to his ex. I didn't particularly like this person, because she was bitchy and nasty to me whenever I was around with my bf, but y'know, I wasn't going to avoid social functions just because a bunch of his exes were there. Incidentally, at the time we started dating, he was still a bit in love with said ex, and admitted this to me.

I think the sum total of my reaction was a raised eyebrow. Because, you know, he and I were madly in love, really good friends, and had mutual trust. I could care less if he talks to his exes. I'm the one he's with, not they.

We're happily married now (she was a groom's attendant). And they still go out for coffee and whatnot, and hug, and do all the things that friends do.

According to the responses here, I should be freaking out going omfg he's probably cheating on me onoz! or something. But I trust him, and his integrity.

I guess my thought here is: Is your trust so fragile, that mere email can damage it thus?
posted by ysabet at 12:09 AM on November 1, 2007 [2 favorites]

if a guy is emailing his ex and not telling his current, its natural to think whats he got to hide.

in my mind adam is disrespecting eve by keeping the correspondence secret and disrespecting his ex and eve by keeping eve secret.

it could still all be innocent, ppl have a habit of assuming what other ppl might think about stuff and getting it wrong.

assuming this is all innocent
adam ought to show the emails to eve in order to prove that it is. ie to regain honor.
eve lets adam email sarah as long as adam promises not to hide her from sarah anymore. preferably writes an email to sarah explaining eve and showing eve.

after that eve trusts adam

adam has potentially behaved foolishly and its in his power to make things right if he so chooses.
posted by browolf at 5:15 PM on November 5, 2007

browolf: eve lets adam email sarah

Wait wait wait here... how has Eve got the right to "let" Adam do anything? She's supposed to be an equal partner, not a parent.

I'd be more inclined to dump Eve if controlling is her goal. Sure it's natural to wonder in a situation like this, but it's not fair or right to assume or feel Adam has anything to make up to her. But in the end, as with any question like this: whatever floats your boat...
posted by loiseau at 5:21 PM on November 6, 2007

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