Ex-Files: Summer Vacation Issue
April 22, 2008 11:03 AM   Subscribe

RelationshipFilter: I told my boyfriend I was fine with him traveling in Europe for a couple of weeks with his ex-girlfriend. Now I'm having second thoughts. Help me figure out how best to handle this and get my confidence back?

Pertinent info: I'm 23, he's 26 and in graduate school. He has the opportunity to work in London doing research for several weeks this summer, which coincides nicely with a conference he was planning to attend in Paris. Since he's never been to mainland Europe (just UK), he wanted to spend a couple of weeks in between traveling, hiking, and seeing sights. Although he wanted me to go with him, my financial situation is such that there was just no way in hell I'd be able to afford it right now. He's booked his flights now, and he'll be leaving next month, returning in July. When his ex expressed an interest in traveling with him, I told him that was fine with me.

She lives in another state and they're still good friends. They dated for a few months a couple of years ago, and it was apparently understood to be a short-term thing at the time, although neither of them has dated anyone since then (until he started seeing me) and they continued to see each other as non-exclusive friends-with-benefits, and for all intents and purposes, still acted like they were dating. When he and I first got involved, he felt conflicted and had to break things off with her for good. At that point, she told him not to tell her if/when he was seeing someone else, until such a time as she started seeing someone. For some reason, he agreed to this (he hates conflict and didn't want to hurt her, etc.). I was pretty peeved/confused by this, but just went along with it and figured it really wasn't any of my business, although it bothered me a lot. He finally got sick of it and told her about me just a couple of months ago. According to him, she reacted okay. I met her for the first time last weekend, after much drama when she initially told him that meeting me would be "too stressful" and I took that pretty poorly. She later apologized for the comment and said that she'd be happy to meet me, and when we did meet, she was civil but didn't seem very interested in talking to me much or engaging in conversation.

After all of the drama about meeting/not meeting her last weekend, I talked the situation over with a few friends. The universal response from everyone I know is that a) he's an asshole for going with her, b) she's crazy, and c) I'm an idiot for saying I was okay with it. He's definitely not an asshole. He's a quiet, mild-mannered nerdy guy, who went two years without dating or sleeping with anyone when he first started grad school. The only people he's been involved with for the past four years are his ex, and me. We've been dating about 9 months or so, and I'm crazy about him. I trust him completely, and the ex isn't exactly seductress material. I'm going to miss him a lot while he's gone, but it's a great opportunity and I want him to have as much fun as possible, even if it's with her and not me. I'm coming in to this situation with my own baggage and biases. I've been burned pretty badly in the past by boyfriends lying to me, cheating on me, and even being involved with my family members. In each instance, I trusted the guy completely and never saw it coming or suspected anything. I know that sounds ridiculously naive, but it's true. I was pretty wary of getting too close to anyone too fast after all of that, so I've been taking it slow with this current guy, but I'm starting to get really, really attached to him. I've also been in controlling, co-dependent type relationships before, so I think I might be overcompensating to avoid that. As one of my friends just said, "there's a line between controlling and like, being fine with him travelling with the ex". Where does that line fall? Am I crazy? He's already bought his plane ticket to and from London, allowing for the extra two weeks of travel time, but she hasn't bought a plane ticket to meet him over there yet. Given that I want what's best for him and for our relationship, what should I do to deal with this?
posted by booknerd to Human Relations (68 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If I were you, I would not be cool with this setup at all. Letting my boyfriend go with his ex on a European vacation. Not gonna happen. Of course, I'm not you, and your relationship may be quite different.

If she still carries a torch for him, and is being somewhat dramatic about it, if he knows what's good for him he won't travel with her. Even if he is 100% not interested in her and loyal to you, he'll have to deal with her behavior of either making him feel guilty for being with you or trying to get him back.

I'm not saying you shouldn't trust him, but it sounds like you're trying too hard to be cool with this when you really aren't. You should at least express your concerns to him, letting him know that because of the way she acted when she visited, you aren't as comfortable with her joining him as you might have been before. It's as much for his benefit as yours. If I were him, I wouldn't want her coming, either.
posted by fructose at 11:09 AM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's impossible to answer this entire question, but here's my $0.02

just because he's a quiet mild-mannered nice guy doesn't mean he isn't being an asshole. he's juggling the emotions of both of you because he's too "nice" and wants to avoid the conflict.
posted by gnutron at 11:10 AM on April 22, 2008 [8 favorites]

Am I crazy?

If you think he's going to go travel around Europe with his ex-girlfriend for a couple weeks and nothing's going to happen?

posted by designbot at 11:15 AM on April 22, 2008

Tell him that on second thought, you are not ok with it. Explain that you are a human being and it is perfectly natural to be concerned about such a situation. Turn the tables on him by asking him how he would feel if you went on a long trip with an ex while he stayed home.

Let him know that if he goes with her it will be a dealbreaker and that you expect him to be 100% honest about her going with him and you are certain that he will be decent to you and straight up about the whole thing. Ask him to confirm this to you.

How he reacts should form the basis of your relationship going forward or not.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:19 AM on April 22, 2008

You should let him know how your feelings have changed. Obviously, it sucks for him to get permission to do something and then you retract that permission, but it's not going to come as a total shock to him, either. You will have to let him know, in no uncertain terms, that you are not able to deal with his ex accompanying him for several weeks in Europe. If he does it anyway, well, then that's probably a breakup right there, as what he wants to do will be more important than your feelings on the matter.
posted by Happydaz at 11:19 AM on April 22, 2008

Going on a European vacation with an ex–girlfriend? Look at the Eiffel Tower, look into my eyes...I think you're totally justified in feeling anxious about this.
posted by fantasticninety at 11:20 AM on April 22, 2008

Your boyfriend might be naive as well and have no idea that this is anything other than a fun trip with a friend. He may have no intention to do anything other than sightsee.


I would bet my last twenty bucks that they'll sleep together - how could they not? Sharing a great time discovering Europe? Former partners/fwbs?

You have to decide whether you can deal with the fact that they're goint to re-open their sexual relationship. If not, I'd suggest do whatever it takes to go on the trip with him.
posted by jasper411 at 11:20 AM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

a) he's an assholean idiot for going with her, b) she's crazyan asshole, and c) I'm an idiotcrazy for saying I was okay with it.

Fixed that for you, although the first two are probably interchangeable. You're not an idiot if you're asking this question. We all make mistakes.

Given that I want what's best for him and for our relationship, what should I do to deal with this?

What's best for your relationship is you being honest with him about how you feel. Tell him how you feel and leave the ball in his court.
posted by allkindsoftime at 11:21 AM on April 22, 2008 [4 favorites]

"Traveling together" - what exactly does that mean? Has he been able to provide solid details? There's a big difference between "She'll be staying at my hotel and will have my cell phone number in case of emergencies" and "We're going to do everything together and sleep in the same room for 3 weeks".

Would I be fine with my SO taking an extended vacation with his ex? Hell no. But I also wouldn't be fine dating a guy who puts me through all the drama you've listed in your question. Feel free to talk to him, plead with him, whatever, but honestly, it doesn't sound like this guy is capable of being fully honest with you because it doesn't sound like he's really being honest with himself. This vacation sounds like a perfect chance for the two of you to take some space from each other.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:22 AM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Something about Europe is inherently amorous. They're going to pound flesh. Alot.

You should do the same with someone else and forget about him.
posted by valentinepig at 11:23 AM on April 22, 2008

after much drama when she initially told him that meeting me would be "too stressful"

You have the exact same right, if not more, to "change your mind" and express your feelings about her. I hope that in writing this post, you've been able to organize your thoughts and feelings. Put that towards your discussion with your boyfriend that you should have tonight.
posted by spec80 at 11:23 AM on April 22, 2008

Bless you for your naivete. But perhaps you all are naive all around.

From my perspective, I would not be cool with this. As a male, if I was in your boyfriend's situation, I would not have even considered going with an ex, especially an ex like her; I mean, how awkward and uncool is that? In any universe, with any kind of relationship experience, this sort of situation can only cool in a statistically insignificant portion of the population.

Sounds like the flights are booked, travel arrangements are made, and he is going on a trip through Europe. But she may not go, and it's possible to prevent her from going.

So, you have to tell him that, actually, you're not cool with it; but you hope for the best and trust him; that maybe you don't trust her, and if he has an issue with that he should tell you now. Let him know that you actually would prefer that he not go with her; but if ultimately, he does go, tell him that if at some point in the trip, he decides that he wants to be with her, that means that he does not want to be with you, and he has an obligation to respect you and at least tell you before he acts on that decision.

Trips through Europe can be very romantic, if you didn't know that.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:23 AM on April 22, 2008

the ex isn't exactly seductress material.

where on earth did you get that idea? maybe you don't find her attractive, but your boyfriend obviously does, as evidenced by the fact that he was sleeping with her for years, only stopping nine months ago when he met you. he seems to not consider her girlfriend material - hence you - but she's seductive enough. and I think it's also clear that she's attracted to him, given the recent history, the fact that she forbade him to tell her about other women (i.e. you) and they're emotionally close enough (and not in a "just friends" way) that this arrangement made perfect sense to both of them. So now she hears that he'll be traveling without you and she "expresses interest" in coming along? and he said yes?
I think we should assume the best about your boyfriend - let's assume that he is completely devoted to you, and that he wants nothing more than to be faithful to you and to really just be friends with her. still... there's a catholic concept that I like where you have to take responsibility for creating "an occasion to sin". I think of it whenever someone posts one of those OMG I cheated posts. Where they say "this is horrible it's the last thing I ever wanted to do I can't believe I betrayed the one I love but both drunk and sitting on a bed in a hotel room and it just happened!!!!!" No, it didn't "just happen". And traveling through Europe together is a big. fat. occasion to sin.
posted by moxiedoll at 11:24 AM on April 22, 2008 [6 favorites]

If he is as nice and faithful as you say he is, my guess is that he's in for a pretty miserable trip. His ex doesn't sound as though she's let go yet. Has he? If he has, he might want to set up some contingency plans.
posted by Sara Anne at 11:24 AM on April 22, 2008

I don't think that you should be fine with this. At all.
posted by ob at 11:26 AM on April 22, 2008

You are well within your rights to tell him that you changed your mind and are no longer comfortable with them traveling together. As your boyfriend, he should consider your feelings above those of his ex. I can see where you might be scared to discover where he holds his priorities by asking him to make a choice, but you need to tell him. If your are agonizing over this now, it’s only going to feel a hundred times worse if they go on the trip together. Not to mention the nagging suspicions you’ll have in the back of your head when he returns.
posted by studentbaker at 11:31 AM on April 22, 2008

I'm in my 40s, so maybe I'm too far removed from 20-something relationships to say anything meaningful, but... Good God! Are you SERIOUS? No. He can NOT do this.

You'll probably have people here telling you that they'll definitely have sex with each other while there. Ignore those people. No one can predict the future. However, it wouldn't SURPRISE me if they did -- even if that's not your boyfriend's intention starting out. These are two people who have had a fairly recent sexual/romantic history, they get along well with each other, they'll be alone together, "you'll never find out..." What happens when they get drunk one night in Paris and wind up back at the hotel?

In your shoes, I wouldn't be comfortable, and I'd tell that to my partner. If he really cares about you, he'll quit following this course of action. It's NOT unreasonable to say, "I don't want you to go to Europe alone with your ex." That's a normal request, well within the bounds of a standard monogamous relationship. Even if you already told him you're okay with it, it's fine for you to say, "I'm sorry, I thought I was, but I guess I'm not." If he says, "You TOLD me you were okay with it" -- if he holds that over your head -- he's a cad.

(I must say, I don't really understand him even proposing such a thing. What's the deal? I would never say to my wife, "Honey, would you mind if I traveled around Europe with my ex?")

Look, if my wife asked me to give up something I really love, that might be a bit much. I love to read. I would be really upset if my wife said, "Honey, whenever you read a book, you're not paying attention to me. I need you to stop reading!"

But all relationships are involve reasonable sacrifice. If my wife asked me to give up reading a specific book ("We're on vacation, honey. We need to spend time together") then of course I'd do it.

Asking him to not to travel to Europe with his ex is not holding him back in any unreasonable way. It's asking him to do what people do in standard committed relationships. (No disrespect to people in non-standard relationships. I'm not against them. But if that's what you have, then all parties involved must feel comfortable with it and be honest with each other. It doesn't sound like that's what's happening here.)
posted by grumblebee at 11:32 AM on April 22, 2008 [3 favorites]

I hate to say DTMFA, but DTMFA. Not only should this not be okay with you, but the fact it's okay with him says that something is going on with the two of you that is flatly not okay. This is "Christ, what an asshole" territory if I've ever seen it.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:32 AM on April 22, 2008

And I quote:

I trust him completely, and the ex isn't exactly seductress material.

I've been burned pretty badly in the past by boyfriends lying to me, cheating on me, and even being involved with my family members. In each instance, I trusted the guy completely and never saw it coming or suspected anything.

posted by tristeza at 11:35 AM on April 22, 2008 [4 favorites]

Former lovers travelling together through Europe? Uh, they are going to be having sex like the energizer bunny.

Your big mistake was telling him you were okay with this setup. I'm not sure why you did that. The greatest guy in the world would be hugely tempted by this situation.
posted by Justinian at 11:35 AM on April 22, 2008

The main problem* as I see it is that he's already bought tickets giving him extra travel time, which originally was planned to be with her. If you tell him you're not okay with that anymore, then he has to rethink the whole traveling thing. It's a real bummer, and yeah, you should have told him before he got the tickets, but him traveling through Europe is just not okay. Waiting too long information that may cause him to rethink his whole itinerary, and possibly cost him money, is not exactly okay either, but your desire for him not to hook up with her definitely trumps that. You'll have to just be honest with him. Apologize for the late change of heart. Demand that he be honest as well about his expectations for traveling with his ex. Sure, he could be pretty clueless, but there absolutely is a part of him that wants to fool around while he's in Europe. It's not uncommon for exes to remain in casual contact, and continue being civil toward each other. Continued friendship, and traveling to Europe, are quite uncommon. There is always (always) the chance of hooking up, whether it's later regretted or not. And if it's not regretted, then there's always the chance of getting back together. It's the same for everyone. You not liking the situation doesn't make you an distrustful person.

*Of course, another potential problem is that he still has feelings for her and wouldn't mind getting back with her. Above I mostly assumed that not to be the case, and that he still wants to be with you, but like most people, has fond memories of sex with his ex, whether or not they were "right" for each other.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 11:39 AM on April 22, 2008

I'm sure your boyfriend, as a person, isn't an asshole. He is, however, a guy. So in a sense, yes he is an asshole. I'm not sure if doing anything now would be better or worse. But it's totally OK to be a jealous lover.
posted by dawson at 11:44 AM on April 22, 2008

I have traveled in Europe with an ex without getting romantic. But he is gay and I am a chick.

This may not be the best advice, but you could always just change your mind and invite yourself along. You'd have ease of mind, not trip up any of their already-made non-romantic plans, and bonus, you get to go to Europe.

The better advice is probably to talk to him about it and think hard about your relationship given all the things you told us above. Also, put yourself in her position. She's single, he's the last person she dated, and she was hooking up with him right up until you came along. If you were her, is there any possible way you wouldn't think this was the perfect plan to reconcilliation? Given that, the right thing for him to do, for the sake of all three of you, is not to put the three of you in that position. He should either be honest with you that he wants back with the other girl, or not lead the other girl on. He may not quite see that that is what this is, because you and she are both acting like this is no big deal. You may have to point out to him that it is a big deal for him to see that. From there you may be able to assess whether he's being naive or sneaky.
posted by lampoil at 11:44 AM on April 22, 2008

You should not be fine with this. This is not a matter of you having "issues" or "baggage". I kinda feel like we never really know people (though I am admittedly jaded at the moment) and I don't know if anything will happen between them on the trip (though it probably will), but I would be willing to bet that the speculation alone will tear you (and your relationship) apart.

Tell him it's not cool. Tell him right now. He's either with you, or he's not... He can't keep her on a string to save for later... and honestly, it really seems like he's doing that.

Stand up for yourself... You are worth more than someone who would put you in this position.

P.S. Please also forgive the overuse of parenthesis.
posted by Mookbear at 11:45 AM on April 22, 2008

I think it's fairly well established that you shouldn't have given this the OK initially, based on what you know and based on your past errors in judgement in trusting untrustworthy people. But I also think it's fine to say to your BF, "Based on the events of last weekend, I've changed my mind. I don't trust her intentions, and while I trust you, I'm not comfortable with you travelling alone with her." Explain yourself clearly and calmly, and do NOT accept blame or apologize for making this difficult for him. At the time he asked you, you were operating on one set of info, and now you have new info which changes things.

Ideally, he will understand, and will call her and tell her to forget it. If he doesn't do that, I think you have a problem on your hands.
posted by boomchicka at 11:46 AM on April 22, 2008 [6 favorites]

You know, I'm not so sure that I agree with just about everyone who has responded. I think that, yes, you should say "I'm now not ok with this." However, because you said yes at first, and that he thought it was an ok proposition to start with, he may be very confused at this turnaround. I have been in a similar position to the boyfriend's before, and I admit that I was very naive. I had NO interest in my ex but we still hung out alone sometimes and my current girlfriend was totally not ok with it. I was dumbfounded by this and it caused me and my girlfriend some problems while we figured it all out, but before she said something I would seriously never have guessed it was causing her as much grief as it was.

So, I don't necessarily think they will be having sex like the energizer bunny or at all, nor do I think you should DTMFA, but you do need to really let him know how much it upsets and make him truly understand that it isn't ok with you for him to go. My guess is he really is that clueless. I was.
posted by josher71 at 11:46 AM on April 22, 2008 [3 favorites]

And he can most likely change the dates on his ticket, for a fee.
posted by boomchicka at 11:48 AM on April 22, 2008

I wouldn't be fine with this, and I don't see why you should be. Unless, of course, you are ok with your boyfriend spending lots of intense time with his ex-girlfriend, almost certainly sleeping in the same room as her (because inevitably they will arrive at some cheap hotel to be told, "oh sorry, we thought the reservation was for one room") and possibly in the same bed (because cheap hotel rooms often don't have two beds). Even with no sex, that's a lot of intimate time together, very snuggly, very cozy.

And $5 says they have lots and lots of sex. You know how it goes -- one night they drink a few too many beers, she holds his arm for support on the way back to the hotel, they drink some more sitting on the floor of her room laughing about old times, and then he's resting his head on her shoulder, and so on.

Personally, I'm all for remaining friends with the exes. But they have to obey certain minimum standards of behavior -- being friendly to the current partner, no trying to get private cozy time, etc. An ex that isn't achieving those very minimal standards is bad news, whether or not your boyfriend understands what is going on. (In his mind, they may just be good friends, and he may be outraged at the idea that hanky panky could go on on the trip.)

But then, like TPS says, you are already putting up with some pretty so-so behavior on their parts, so what's one more European tryst vacation between friends?
posted by Forktine at 11:48 AM on April 22, 2008

Incidentally, I had a boyfriend once who was friends with a girl he had previously had feelings for... I was always really worried about something happening between them... TERRIFIED, in fact... He swore up and down that he loved me and that she was nothing and all of those wonderful things that boyfriends say.

After hearing him say it for a while, I really started to believe it...

And that's why it hurt even more when he cheated on me with her... We had been together for a year and a half when it happened. So again, do we ever really know anyone...?
posted by Mookbear at 11:50 AM on April 22, 2008

because you said yes at first, and that he thought it was an ok proposition to start with, he may be very confused at this turnaround.

Yes, but between that time and now, booknerd had a chance to meet the ex-gf, and the ex-gf acted bizarrely and in a manner that made it clear that she still has feelings for the boyfriend. So with that new info, this change of mind is perfectly justified.
posted by boomchicka at 11:51 AM on April 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

You should dump him for even suggesting it, let alone for going through with planning it. He knows full well what will happen, and he has the gall to clear it with you first so that he can use your permission in his defense after the fact? Don't tell him you changed your mind. Dump him.
posted by The World Famous at 12:42 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

the ex isn't exactly seductress material.

Cut the crap. She's obviously not too ugly for the bf to sleep with her repeatedly.

You should listen to your friends more. They know more about you and the situation than us, and they all seem to think this is nuts.
posted by quoththeraven at 12:48 PM on April 22, 2008

Going to chime in with the "not ok" crowd. The ex is in love with him, and they will end up in bed together. I would beg/borrow/steal the money necessary to go with him to Europe, without her involved in the trip at all. Repeat, SHE IS IN LOVE WITH YOUR BOYFRIEND.
posted by Koko at 12:58 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would beg/borrow/steal the money necessary to go with him to Europe

What? No. Booknerd should not have to take a trip she can't afford just to stop her boyfriend from cheating on her.
posted by boomchicka at 1:02 PM on April 22, 2008

Just to chime in that you really don't need to worry about his return ticket allowing him time for travel. He can, if he wants to, travel through spots in Europe alone. There aren't security issues; he'll probably be on the hostel route so he can find fun people to hang out with if he feels like it. Fun people who he has not, in the past, slept with. He *can* change his plans. Going without a specific traveling companion to Europe is not a disaster. He can have the holiday and the enriching experience, without her.

aand it is perfectly fine to feel not-great about him traveling with an ex. You're not being codependent, or unreasonable. I am not a relationship super-communicator myself. But if you're looking for words to say, look at moxiedoll. And allkindsoftime puts it better than I could:

What's best for your relationship is you being honest with him about how you feel.

posted by eponymouse at 1:02 PM on April 22, 2008

Reading this, it sounds like this question could come almost word-for-word straight out of my future (I'm the guy, though). The descriptions of your bf and his ex are scarily close to my situation. My ex and I dated seriously for four years but realized we're better as good friends. However, if I introduced her to a new girlfriend, I'm sure she'd pretty much handle it the same way.

If I was going to go on a trip somewhere, my ex wanted to join me, and a current gf told me she was okay with it, I would probably go ahead with it. It would be completely platonic; my ex just likes to travel. I'd like to think I wasn't being an asshole about it and no one was being crazy or an idiot. Now if the current gf then changed her mind and was uncomfortable about it, I'd of course have to reconsider. The dealbreaker/ultimatum stuff is a bit much, though.

What I'm trying to say is that while the circumstances are rare and it depends entirely on the people involved, a trip like that could be handled respectfully.
posted by Durin's Bane at 1:04 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Man, am I the only guy who hasn't cheated on a trip to Europe?

Due to the necessarily imperfect nature of relationship questions (I'm not you, I'm not your boyfriend), I can only speak to how I'd react were I your guy: I'd be pissed. Because, y'know what, I can take a trip with my ex and not have anything happen. Just like I can hang out with women that I'd love to have sex with and nothing will happen. Because despite the bullshit gender assumptions, not all guys are incorrigible horndogs looking to hump every leg around them, and Europe isn't fucking fait accompli.

So, where do you go from there? Well, a lot of the best advice above is for you to basically communicate. You should tell your boyfriend how you're feeling, he should understand (even if he disagrees with you, something that a lot of the above folks seem to see as evidence that he should be burned with torches). You might also want to broach the subject with the ex, because, well, she's a fucking adult and should be able to understand why you'd be uncomfortable about this. But that'd take being able to have a calm and rational discussion, and keeping your temper. If she's all dramatic, then it'd just back up why you'd feel uncomfortable about this.

But try not to make this an ultimatum right off the bat, and try not to freak out about it. Because the advice you're getting upthread is totally high school dramarama bullshit. Whether you want to buy into it is your choice.
posted by klangklangston at 1:08 PM on April 22, 2008 [6 favorites]

Sorry, because I almost want to say you made your bed and you have to lie in it, whether it's confronting him that you are in fact uncomfortable with the set up or just letting him go do his thing. Who knows how he'll take it. If the situation's in the past and done with he might be insulted you don't trust him, but the point is something's going to have to be communicated and it looks like not a lot of communication has been going on between you two regarding the ex situation and it's been more of a unilateral you go along with it type of thing, but that's just my impression from reading your side of the story.

HOWEVER, I just wanted to say that because he's "a quiet, mild-mannered nerdy guy, who went two years without dating or sleeping with anyone" doesn't *not* make him an asshole. Assholes come in all shapes and sizes and styles. An asshole isn't always the loud obnoxious bombastic jerk. An asshole can also be the oblivious quiet indecisive type who can't make a decision or put his/her foot down even it if means bringing harm to others with their indecision.

You trust him, and that's fine, but let's be honest, he's bringing unnecessary possible strife to two people here. Obviously you for one thing. I'm not saying it's because he's going on a trip with an ex, but more importantly that he's not being proactive at all about your feelings in this relationship. First of all, in going with his ex's weird demands about the relationship and now not being able to see how weird and awkward it can get for you to be at home while he galavants with an ex that he has a sort of sticky history with shows a severe lack of empathy and almost a weird stubbornness about wanting to keep up appearances with an ex/friend who made the relationship more difficult than it needed to be. It's a lack of respect for you really. Even at the start of the relationship he was being way more thoughtful of her feelings than yours. Also, he's not doing her any favors. He needs to either set the ex straight or cut things off with her for her own good. She sounds like she has issues of her own. You don't mention if there was any further discussion about this situation, but he's not helping by being the nice guy trying to make her feel better especially considering what went down between you two. Personally? If I had an ex do that, while I can understand the hurt, I'd be a little turned off. And if I was serious about the relationship I was trying to cultivate, I'd try to keep contact with this ex a minimum until I know they have their shit sorted out about their feelings towards me. This isn't just she dislikes you because you two don't have personalities that mesh, she had a problem with the idea of you being with him because she couldn't have him anymore. That's a horse of an entirely different color and if she indeed does still feel weird about you and has feelings for him all he's doing is keeping her hanging on.

I say assholes are sometimes oblivious, because no matter how nice or quiet or nerdy they may be, it comes down to not being able to show a capacity to think about other people and doing the right thing in a situation. I know people like this, blissfully causing havoc in their wake as they trip through life all sunshine, pie and kittens. They're even more annoying because you can't point it out and shout "There! THERE! See! they're an asshole!" because usually it's so couched in the niceness about them and it's hard to describe exactly why they are an asshole. And while this ex might be a good friend, sometimes friends need to "break up" too. I'm not saying he should stop having this person as a friend, but just illustrating that being nice isn't always the nice thing to do. Sometimes you have to grab a situation by the balls regardless of what the outcome will be because you just can't damn well please everybody. I've seen people causing more harm trying to avoid conflict than just butting heads with someone. And sometimes in certain situations you have to realize that wanting to please everybody is more of a selfish desire for everyone to ultimately like you.
posted by kkokkodalk at 1:21 PM on April 22, 2008 [7 favorites]

I trust him completely

If that were true, why would you need to ask us anything?
posted by juv3nal at 1:24 PM on April 22, 2008

The Ex has made it indisputably clear that she has feelings for your boyfriend. Given that, there isn't any reason for him to not understand why you have changed your mind.

Tell him how you feel and leave it up to him. I don't agree that they're 100% likely to shag; my money would be on her trying really hard to get with him the entire time though.
posted by miss tea at 1:28 PM on April 22, 2008

Is there some reason he can't go alone?

If she were a long-ago ex and she acted friendly to you instead of weirded out, this would conceivably be fine. But traveling with such a recent and obviously possessive ex is suspect. Also, his failure to break things off with her at the start of your relationship suggests that he has trouble putting your feelings before hers.

You're completely within your rights to explain your change of mind.
posted by PatoPata at 1:31 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

That he was willing to show a lack of respect for you and the relationship in order to protect her feelings (not telling her about you until a couple of months ago) is the big red flag for me. I had an ex who would not tell one of his previous exes about me for a long time, because he didn't think she could handle it. Gah.
I don't necessarily think he's a player, but she sounds like she has him twisted around pretty easily, and going along with things because he 'hates conflict' and 'doesn't want to hurt her' sounds like he can forget which one of you should be his priority. Please say something to him.
Good luck.
posted by 8dot3 at 1:42 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

This guy has historically been incapable of setting boundaries around his ex, and it seems he only set them after you were peeved/confused for quite awhile. What makes you think he will suddenly become Mr. Assertive thousands of miles away from you? He's a Nice Guy™, and that's why you like him, but remember he's also Nice Guy™ to everyone else, including his ex. He may or may not be a horndog, but he can't say no to a woman who likes him.
posted by desjardins at 1:57 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you are ok with them banging around in Europe, then you can be ok with him going on the trip with her. The fact that they've been friends with benefits, and lovers implies odds of about 99% for my WAG that they'll be fucking like bunnies. Ah, it reminds me of my vacation with Ms. nobeagle when she was still married to someone else, and we weren't even previous lovers/FWBs. They had sex before you started dating, and he won't be bumping you off of the schedule for the sake of sex with her, so you could possibly be ok with this.

However, I'd also give WAG odds at 70% that when he returns you find out that Dumpsville has increased its population by 1 (knowing the reason they broke up would help). She's not dating anyone else and hung up on him. You can say she's not seductress material, but you'd probably say that about Ms. nobeagle. I *really* did not want the drama of being involved with someone else's wife. Of course, considering my past, I might be off with my %age guesses. But consider that I'm a quiet nerdy guy who's had two sexual partners, and only single digits of girlfriends.

Ironmouth nailed it earlier. Let him know that you said yes earlier because you wanted to be able to say yes. You wanted to believe in ideals. However believing in ideals isn't always safe. If nothing else, explain to him that with your history of being burned by cheaters, that you don't think that you'd be able to honestly believe that nothing happened even if nothing does.

A psycho-crazy bitch checks her SO's email/mail/phone records and never lets the SO see any friends. Not wanting your SO to take an extended vacation in Europe with his previous girlfriend and friends with benefits is quite rational. Especially because he's had so few serious relationships in the last 4 years. Heck, if my old college girlfriend so much as entered Canada, Ms. nobeagle would be extremely non-plussed, and I won't go too far into what would probably happen if I were meeting her, much less a joint vacation. But then, I like girls who are a bit psycho ;)
posted by nobeagle at 2:04 PM on April 22, 2008

At that point, she told him not to tell her if/when he was seeing someone else, until such a time as she started seeing someone. For some reason, he agreed to this (he hates conflict and didn't want to hurt her, etc.).

He put her feelings before yours. 'Nuff said.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:10 PM on April 22, 2008

Ok. Very different take, maybe.

1) There's no automatic path here.
People who travel together? Sometimes hate each other passionately by the end of the trip. This is not a guarantee, but it's probably at least as likely as the "They will fall madly in love again and leave you out in the cold." scenario is.

2) Figure out exactly what concerns you:

How would you have handled it if she'd randomly happened to be traveling in the same area and you got a call from him one afternoon saying "Hey, I ran into ex-girlfriend, and I'm going to do some stuff with her tomorrow." (Would you be upset? Would you insist he didn't go anywhere with her at all? What makes Europe different than home?)

I'm not saying it isn't different - but figuring out why it feels so different for you in this setting is important for step 3.

3) Sit down and talk with him.

It is totally fine to be concerned. It is totally fine to say "I thought I was okay, but the way she's treated me directly, and the way this is set up really worries me. Here's the specific bits that do."

Point out your baggage. Ask *him* to come up with suggestions of what he's willing to do to reassure you in this situation. Ask what he'd do if the situation were reversed (and where - like this - recent contacts have not reassured you about her behavior/desires.)

4) Keep it about you and him - not her.
Based on what you say here, I wouldn't say she's crazy - just maybe that she still has a great deal of fondness for him (which does not automatically translate into mad passionate lust) and that she didn't want to lose a friendship - but also doesn't really know how to relate to you. Could be she's completely off the deep end about him - but she might also just be someone who doesn't know how to express what she wants, and who found you intimidating (hence, why you talking was weird.)

Making it about you and about him, and about you wanting some way to feel reassured leaves her - and her motivations, which you really can't tell from outside her head - out of the picture, so you're likely to get far more useful choices.
posted by modernhypatia at 2:31 PM on April 22, 2008

I also was this guy. I travelled with my ex, my current GF did not like it one bit, no sir. My ex and I stayed completely platonic, had a great time, are still good friends 15 years later. GF at the time thought she was fine with it, turned out she wasn't. Haven't talked to her in years.

It is ENTIRELY possible that both your BF and his ex are completely clean on this one. If my GF at the time had given me an ultimatum, we would have split before the trip rather than afterwards, and I would still have had a once-in-a-lifetime travel experience with a good friend.

Insisting that he can't go will put a big ugly elephant in the middle of your relationship for as long as it lasts.


posted by Aquaman at 2:41 PM on April 22, 2008 [3 favorites]

My girlfriend is friendly with some of her exes, especially the most recent one, with whom some of the circumstances are similar to how you describe your bf's relationship with this girl. For example, the fact that he's definitely still into her, and the way she hid that we were together from him for a while to spare his feelings. I'm not very comfortable with it, but that's how it goes.

Sometimes I think I'm ridiculously easygoing about this kind of stuff. I'm sort of OK about them still hanging out, going for drinks together, going to the cinema together. I'd rather they didn't do these things, and sometimes I'd like to insist that they couldn't. But I don't want to be that jealous guy, so, as I say, I'm easygoing. But going on holiday together? No, that would not be on. I would never agree to that.

If I were your boyfriend I wouldn't even think about doing this. I would not want to put you in the position you're in now. If I were your boyfriend, going on holiday with any woman I was attracted to, never mind someone I'd already had sex with and who wanted more of it, I am sure I would be open to temptation. I am a reasonably faithful person, but I would not do what he is going to do, because it would be likely that I'd be unfaithful, and I'd be flaunting this potentiality before you in advance. How will you sleep while he is away?
posted by cincinnatus c at 2:47 PM on April 22, 2008

This is bad on every level.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:09 PM on April 22, 2008

I think there's too much Jerry Springer going on in the above comments. There is no line. You're ok with it if you're ok with it. It sounds like you're not ok, but you want to be. You should be honest with him and tell him how you feel.

All the talk about Europe and romance and how men can't control themselves is irrelevant.
posted by specialfriend at 3:09 PM on April 22, 2008

the ex isn't exactly seductress material.

Have you seen some of the folks on this planet? One person Plain Jane is another's seductress.

Tell him you're not OK with this .... and then be prepared to deal with the consequences of his answer.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 3:42 PM on April 22, 2008

OP here. In the interest of brevity and trying to keep an already extremely long question from getting too much longer, I fear I might have omitted some key points. For one thing, I don't really think that communication is an issue in the relationship. I have been talking to him about how I feel and about the situation, and every time I express any sort of concern or doubt, his first, immediate reaction, is to offer to cancel the trip, change his flight, tell her not to come, whatever. He doesn't want to make me uncomfortable or unhappy, that much is clear. The real problem is that I don't know what I want, and I'd feel like an awful jerk if he canceled the trip on account of some misguided misgivings on my part, since I want him to go and have fun and take advantage of the opportunities afforded him, and I know if the situation were reversed, I'd want to do the same.

The ex has told him she doesn't have any lingering feelings for him, and he's told me the same (obviously), and moreover that they were never in love with each other, the relationship wasn't very serious, they broke up for myriad reasons including irreconcilable religious differences, etc., and I don't feel as though they're in danger of getting back together. He's also admitted that not telling her about me to begin with was a "huge mistake". I guess I was hoping that the wide variety of relationship-minded opinions of MeFites would help give things some perspective, and maybe a few of you could reassure me or provide ideas to help regain my initial confidence and okay-ness with the situation (that's since sort of waned into doubts and misgivings). I really appreciate everyone's answers though, and I'll definitely be trying to weigh all of this out and figure out what's bugging me before having a conversation with him tonight.
posted by booknerd at 4:06 PM on April 22, 2008

...they were never in love with each other, the relationship wasn't very serious, they broke up for myriad reasons including irreconcilable religious differences, etc., and I don't feel as though they're in danger of getting back together.

That's not the issue. I don't think anyone would accuse your bf of trying to get back together with her. It's that they obviously had enough chemistry to sleep together repeatedly and that could easily come back. If it all gives you a weird feeling, pay attention. I understand you're trying to be the bigger person, but listen to your friends and that weird feeling you have. It's called woman's intuition and it's often right. Let him give in to you and tell her not to come. If he's a good guy, he'll understand why.
posted by CwgrlUp at 4:35 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

booknerd, why not tell him what you just told us?

"Boyfriend, I feel uncomfortable about the prospect of the two of you travelling together. I trust you and I appreciate your willingness to respect my feelings, but I feel guilty asking you to miss out on an opportunity because of these feelings, which may not be entirely rational. Do you think we should try to work out some system (frequent calls?) of reassuring me? Do you have any other ideas as to how I might be able to feel better about this plan? What do you think you would do in my position?"

You don't have to figure it all out, then talk to him. You can figure it out with him.
posted by prefpara at 4:50 PM on April 22, 2008

The ex's behavior is not matching her "I am so over him" words. That is enough to not be okay with them traveling together. Some people and their exes could be trusted to travel together. But not if one of them still wants the other one. Which she does.

If your boyfriend is offering to disinvite her, TAKE HIM UP ON IT. You will be sorry if you don't, I think. He can still have fun without her or if he brings an actual platonic friend along.

I'm sorry, but this is not remotely okay. It isn't. I know you don't want to be the bad guy (obviously neither does he), or The Bitch Who Won't Let Him Do Stuff, but her behavior is so hinky here, it makes the situation untrustworthy.

Tell him she can't come. For your own sanity, do it. Better to be the bad guy now than to have another cheating/comeon situation on your hands.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:56 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

I still don't get why he can't travel alone. If you two decide that the ex shouldn't come along after all, why does that mean he has to cancel his trip?
posted by PatoPata at 5:08 PM on April 22, 2008

On the one hand ... If I were still hot for an ex-lover, I couldn't imagine a better way to get back in his pants than to spend some time alone with him in Europe. You may trust him, but I wouldn't trust her, and it really doesn't take two to tango. It takes one and a bottle of wine, which Europe has an abundance of.

On the other hand ... I appreciate that you don't want him to lose this great opportunity (and that's a very good trait in you), so perhaps you could come up with a compromise that doesn't involve him either traipsing about with an ex or staying home and moping. Perhaps you and he could spend that money traveling together somewhere less expensive? He will be able to get to Europe some day, really he will, and you'll celebrate and travel together which will be wonderful for both of you and for your relationship.
posted by Capri at 5:47 PM on April 22, 2008

You know, I don't think a boy and his ex traveling through Europe means inevitable sexing. However, this girl obviously still wants him. She has demonstrated that she is not okay with you. She does not respect your relationship. Your boy, sweet as he might be, has already demonstrated that he doesn't have much gumption by the way he flakily neglected to tell his ex he was dating you until two months ago. You have a history of unwisely trusting your bfs completely. This is a perfect storm my friend. Perfect storm.

As to how you solve the problem? As an outsider with just the bare facts, I would say you should tell him that he is free to go to Europe with her, but that you two are no longer a couple if he does so.

He sounds like a flake.
posted by sid at 6:09 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

he'll be leaving next month, returning in July

Talk with him, express your feelings. If he still goes with that ex, then you have all that time to get over him. Agree with sid - he *is* a flake.
posted by seawallrunner at 6:25 PM on April 22, 2008

Believe it or not, the same thing happened to me, except the trip was three weeks long. I was exactly your age too. Yet, I don't know what to tell you. You really need to rely on your gut and your relationship with him rather than what your friends or a bunch of Internet strangers tell you. Of course it's entirely possible for two people to spend time together without having sex, even if she wants to (which is not a given -- you really know nothing about what's going on in her head).

If you truly trust him, you've gotta let him do this without holding it over his head later.
If you can't do that, you should tell him now, because if you try to contain it you will eventually have to let it out, and if it has time to build up it won't be good.

Also know that if you choose to give him an ultimatum, as some above are suggesting, you will never be happy with the response, because an ultimatum is a question that can never be satisfactorily answered.

In my case, the trip made me crazily jealous and in retrospect he regretted going. In all truth I don't even know how I would deal with the same situation now. I'm sorry I can't be more helpful.
posted by loiseau at 6:49 PM on April 22, 2008

I was in this situation and I firmly believed and still do believe that my boyfriend at the time was not going to cheat and was not an asshole. He was nerdy and didn't have a lot of experience with women. He really wanted to have someone to travel with and she was free. She also still wanted him and was jealous of me. Remove that last sentence and I would have been OK with it.

But the bottom line was not whether I was crazy or not for being unhappy with it, it was that he was insensitive. Let him know how you feel, as I did, and see what he says. My BF was not happy when I let my concerns be known and he said I was "intolerant" and "possessive." We broke up, but honestly it was for the best, since this revealed that he was insensitive.
posted by melissam at 7:51 PM on April 22, 2008

Look, this is really simple. All this talk of crossing lines and you're crazy and he's an asshole really is just Jerry Springer bullshit you don't need in your head.

Just trust him. He will either live up to that trust, or he won't. If he does, he's a keeper. If he doesn't, he wasn't somebody you want to be with anyway. In either case, you win.
posted by flabdablet at 8:24 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

every time I express any sort of concern or doubt, his first, immediate reaction, is to .... tell her not to come

Oh good Lord. Yes, go with that then and your problem is solved. He doesn't have to cancel his trip, and you don't have to feel uncomfy about the ex-gf being there. And yes, omitting that part probably did make your boyfriend look a lot more clueless/creepy than he probably actually is. I'm glad to hear he's a nice guy and realizes this could be a weird situation. He's offering to fix it - let him do so by disinviting the ex-gf.
posted by boomchicka at 8:39 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

As always, the issue is communication.

Usually, one of the things you do in a relationship is lay down some ground rules as far as loyalty, security, and situations for possible jealousy. "Hey, I don't want you to do this, and I won't do this either, and that way we'll both be sure of each other and of our relationship. Agreed?"

Apparently, you've been together 9 months without doing this, and your nerdy boyfriend isn't sure what to do in this case because you haven't made it clear to him. If you had let him know that this kind of thing wouldn't be cool with you, it probably never would have become an issue.

Tell him what's on your mind. If he really wants to make you happy, and cares about you more than this other chick who's basically gearing up to sabotage your relationship... he'll get the picture and drop her on her ass.

That may sound unreasonable, but I know I would do that for my girlfriend without a second thought, if she needed it from me. What is an ex but an ex, really? It's not like this girl is his best friend.
posted by crunch buttsteak at 9:01 AM on April 23, 2008

...maybe a few of you could reassure me or provide ideas to help regain my initial confidence and okay-ness with the situation (that's since sort of waned into doubts and misgivings).

Booknerd, it sounds like you want people to confirm your hope that everything will be ok. AskMF is not that great a place if all you want is to confirm your own wishes/hopes. However, many of us here (including me) think that your doubts represent an accurate forecast of how things will go. Of course, that's just our own projections and all, but still...

I think my message to you is that you should trust *yourself* rather than trying to find a way to make it ok to trust him, especially given your history of being burned when you've trusted.
posted by jasper411 at 1:49 PM on April 23, 2008

I have just re-read this thread, and I think most of the advice given here is just awesomely bad.

It seems to me that everybody who argues in favour of you trying to pull the plug on this trip is either somebody who has settled for a partner they can't trust, or somebody who would do so. There is absolutely no need for you to settle for a relationship that poor. It makes me quite sad to see the evidence that doing so is apparently the norm in this community.

many of us here (including me) think that your doubts represent an accurate forecast of how things will go

Which is, of course, completely irrelevant.

If you trust your partner, it doesn't matter who he travels with. If you truly believe you have reason not to trust your partner, you need a better partner.

You've been burned before, not because you have been trusting, but because your partners have been untrustworthy. And as Aquaman points out, trustworthy people both deserve and expect to be trusted, and are unlikely to stick around if that trust is not forthcoming.

So, if you value trustworthiness in a partner (and I can't see why you wouldn't) then extending trust to your partner, and granting your partner the freedom of action merited by that trust, is definitely the correct strategy.

In each instance, I trusted the guy completely and never saw it coming or suspected anything

because you weren't wasting your life on suspicion. That's healthy, not naive, and you absolutely deserve a relationship that justifies that attitude.
posted by flabdablet at 4:31 PM on April 25, 2008

After six weeks abroad, he finally came home over the weekend. Hooray! Thanks to the wonders of PSP + Skype, he called me nearly every day and kept in touch. He ended up traveling with the ex with my blessing, and she brought another male friend with her. By the end of their travels, they were pretty sick of each other, and he's happy to be home. Thanks again for all the advice in a tough situation.
posted by booknerd at 8:58 AM on July 8, 2008

Good to know. :) I think a lot of people's advice would have changed had they known about the other guy, of course. (I'm guessing it's a guy she was dating?)
posted by timoni at 5:31 PM on September 30, 2008

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