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Tequila's avatar

Why does my boyfriend still talk to his OLD girlfriends?

Asked by Tequila (334 points ) March 3rd, 2013

My boyfriend and I have a great relationship overall but he still talks to his old girlfriends (the ones he dated 2–3 years ago) and claims they’re still friends. He talks to them through Facebook or text but he never tells me about it and he’s even met up for coffee with them behind my back. He does it behind my back because he knows I’d go crazy and my self esteem is crap. I’ve broken up with him over this issue and we’ve always gotten back together because he says he only wants me. I do love him but I am ridiculously insecure and can’t handle thinking he’d rather be with these girls. Any ideas why he feels the need to talk to them? What do I do?

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31 Answers

glacial's avatar

Do you have friends? Why do you feel the need to talk to them? It’s the same thing, really.

If you believe your boyfriend, and think that he is just friends with his exes (which is entirely possible), then you’ll have to get over your jealousy. If you don’t believe him, then perhaps you need to move on and find someone you can trust.

augustlan's avatar

People are allowed to be friends with their exes…I am friends with some of mine. Something you need to realize is that the jealousy is your issue. If he hasn’t actually done anything inappropriate (and talking to his friends is not inappropriate), you have no real reason to feel jealous. The fact that he met up for coffee without telling you is not good, but you may have put him in this position because of your feelings about it. Lying to you should not be an option, but neither should your telling him he can’t have these friends. You each need to own your parts of the problem.

Tequila's avatar

i understand what you’re all saying it’s just that i told him that i am uncomfortable with it and he said he’s sorry and he continues to do it behind my back

Sunny2's avatar

It may be that your insecurities mean you are not ready for a relationship with a boyfriend. In a good relationship, there is a sense of trust, not a demand of exclusivity. He’s a good man if he broke up with former girlfriends and remained friends with them.
Can you be as mature as he is?

Tequila's avatar

I don’t think I’m immature, maybe I am a bit… but I’ve been cheated on countless times and I WANT to trust him but I just find it so odd. He breaks up with them because they are incompatible and yet he can still be friends with them. And then not be truthful about it

mangeons's avatar

Even though you have told him that it makes you uncomfortable when he talks to his exes, that doesn’t mean he is obligated to stop, or even that he should. It is not up to you to tell him who he can and cannot be friends with. Just because someone is his ex does not mean that they aren’t still good friends. They may have been “incompatible” in a romantic relationship, but that doesn’t mean they cannot be friends. Would you necessarily be a good match with all of your guy friends? He may be seeing them behind your back because you have put him in the position of having to do so. How would you feel if he told you that he didn’t like one of your friends, and you weren’t allowed to talk to them anymore? Either way, the jealousy is something that you have to deal with, you can’t expect to control who his friends are just because you are unhappy with it. When he says he is sorry, I am sure he is sorry that it makes you uncomfortable. That does not mean that he is going to stop being friends with someone just because you say so.

CWOTUS's avatar

Welcome to Fluther.

This is the kind of thing that you’ll have to discuss with him to set and maintain boundaries that you can both live with. For example, would you be okay if he mentioned to you every time that he did contact an old female friend?

I think it would be unreasonable of you to expect him to cut ties completely with former girlfriends with whom he still maintains platonic relationships. (If he’s cheating on you, then that’s another thing entirely. But it’s not up to you to unilaterally define “cheating” as “having lunch with” female friends.)

Look at some of the other advice we’ve offered to women and men who ask “Is it too controlling for my boyfriend to make me cut contact with all my friends that he doesn’t approve of?” The answer to that question is nearly always, “Yes, it’s too controlling.” You’re close to the area of being “too controlling” yourself, but you seem to rationalize it as okay because you have “self-esteem issues”. That, unfortunately, is not something that we – or he – can fix.

Tequila's avatar

What makes it worse is that HE is the one who initiates, I’d say 90% of the contact. He is the one pushing to “get together” with the exes. Last time we argued about one of his exes he said he still talks to her because “she is helping him be a better person”. Shouldn’t that be my job? I know it’s unreasonable to tell him he can’t talk to people but really, shouldn’t I be the one to go to? I guess I just have unrealistic expectations :/

CWOTUS's avatar

Frankly, @Tequila, I think you do have unrealistic expectations.

My wife had sort of fairy tale expectations like that, too, that she would / could be “my everything”. It’s just not likely with complex people. That was one of the reasons why our twenty-year marriage foundered, and for the record I never – ever, not once – cheated on her. But her continual insecurity and nagging about “what I might be doing” and “who would I rather be with” made me realize when we had a short break one time, how much more peaceful my life was. I told her that we should keep the break permanent, and we have.

bigfootprint's avatar

seems like most of the responses are from less experienced people. tequila—i am experienced—very experienced and used to be a bit of a player (not proud of it)—i am an old guy and i know how guys think. your “boy friend“is keeping his options “open”. he is doing it behind your back—enough said—he is dishonest.get rid of the bum. one poster said get “over ” your jealousy… its not about your jealousy,its about an immature guy. PLEASE dont settle for a dishonest guy you deserve better. there a millions of guys out there—“trust BUT verify”..

Tequila's avatar

I see. I have to say though I don’t think I nag him about it… we’ve talked about this maybe 2–3 times over the past 2 years, and he always just says we’ll work on it but we never do, and then I just bottle everything up. He can never explain why he wants to talk to his exes, and usually makes up excuses that don’t seem feasible to me. He gets angry if I ask him to talk about it. I’ve been trying to deal with this for the past 2 years but I don’t know how to anymore. It seems to me (and yes maybe it’s my insecurities speaking) that he has unfinished business with them. That, or thinking his exes still talk to him or “still want him” stroke his ego. I love my boyfriend and want nothing but to be with him.. I realize that I will never be his “everything” – he has plenty of friends who are girls and I have no problem with—but I feel like I should at least be treated with more respect than his exes

CWOTUS's avatar

I certainly don’t think he’s blameless by acting in ways that you can’t accept. I think there does need to be some give-and-take. But if your consideration is that “there should be zero contact”, I think that’s unreasonable, and his attempts to keep the contacts hidden from you is somewhat reasonable consideration for your feelings – and maintenance of his own sense of autonomy and independence.

augustlan's avatar

@bigfootprint I’m 45 years old, have been married twice, and have plenty of experience in these things. Most of the people answering this question are experienced adults. We are not all on the same page, here, but it’s not due to age or experience.

@Tequila You need to have a frank conversation with your boyfriend, even if it makes him angry. Perhaps you will agree that he can keep his friends as long as he doesn’t hide anything from you. If you can’t come to an agreement, it may be time to let go of this relationship.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

I haven’t read the intervening thread. I’m starting with your question and going directly to my own reaction.

Your boyfriend has excellent taste in women. He doesn’t just love and lust after his girlfriends; he likes and respects them as well. When he ends a relationship, he continues to value his ex-girlfriend. The romantic aspects end, but the underlying bond and friendship stay strong.

You should be very flattered by this, because you’re one of those ladies. If he’s dating you, he considers you to be a woman of value and a joy to have in his life.

Shippy's avatar

Think of it this way. His exes hold no sexual excitement for him. He has been there done that. He chose you. If these women were new women, maybe he would fantasize about them? These women he probably doesn’t. Because there is no fantasy. Tell him you’d love to meet some and go out with him and ‘them’ a few times. You never know, I have a hunch you will enjoy their company and make a new friend or two.

A man that is respected by his exes is generally a man of good integrity. It shows he is a worthwhile person they want to keep around.

Paradox25's avatar

I’m going to give a dissenting opinion here, based upon what I’ve seen personally happen to other women, including my own sister in similar scenerios. You’re completely justified to see a red flag here. The fact that he seems to be going out of his way to initiate these contacts, and the fact that he’s going out of his way to meet them would make me raise my eyebrows to say the least. I’m not sure how many ‘ex’girlfriends that he’s had in a short time span, but he could be a player who could be playing you.

Players usually do make great partners at first, but he sounds like the type of guy that gets bored easily and is keeping his options open (at least). Keep on your toes here, and no you don’t sound immature to me, and you sound like you’re smart to me. Gut instincts occur for a reason, so don’t doubt your own here.

dabbler's avatar

You want he should be talking to his new girlfriends ?
Jealosy is one of those things that could make an old girfriend out of you.
Especially if he is seriously being faithful to you in all ways romantic, it can be frustrating and annoying for him if you don’t trust him.

Sometimes when people break up, even if it hurts they realize they don’t hate each other. They have shared things in the past and that’s part of who both of them are.
Being friends and mutually interested in some ways is usually part of what brought people together and it can easily continue.

If you stick with him a long time you’ll be better off getting to know his friends, all of them, whether or not you like them. And as some old sage says, it’s good to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Figure out what role these women play in his life and then decide if you should be jealous of those relationships.

gondwanalon's avatar

What do you do?

Look in the mirror for the answer to your problem.

filmfann's avatar

Welcome to Fluther.

I have been married for 28 years, and I still talk occasionally with several old girlfriends. There is nothing inappropriate there, just 2 people who still care for each other, even though we have found our happiness with others. My wife is secure with it. She knows I’m not going to wander.

pleiades's avatar

Probably they ended well and are just friends.

wundayatta's avatar

I’ve seen this pattern in other insecure people. You find one reason or another to start pressuring your love because you don’t truly believe you are good enough for them. You’re secretly convinced that they will leave you.

After a while, the pressure gets to be a bit much, and you are worrying more and more, so you find an excuse (and it could be any excuse, not just seeing old lovers), and you push him on it. Because if there’s going to be an end, you want to know when it’s coming. So you create the end by pushing him and pushing him until finally he gets sick of your pushing and he leaves, in this case, to go back to someone else, if any of them would have him.

You get to feel good about being right even as you feel bad about losing him, even as you feel relieved that the ax has fallen and the whole thing is finally over and you don’t have to worry about when that will happen.

This is a pattern associated with low self esteem. Sometimes the low self esteem is also associated with depression or other mental health issues.

The way to fix it is to learn how to cope with your low self esteem. Therapy can help. There are books about it. Meditation and yoga can help. But right now your mind is driving you nuts about this, and that cannot be comfortable, to put it mildly. You can learn how to tame your mind.

As to talking to him, the focus needs to be on finding out what he is thinking, not on blaming him. If you blame him, the conversation will continue to go nowhere. You must ask him to speak, and you have to promise to shut up and listen. You may not get defensive or say “but” or jump in to talk about your feelings. You have to listen to him and listen fully and deeply. Your relationship won’t go far, otherwise.

If things work well, he will talk, and then he will want to know how you are feeling, and he will give you a turn to talk. Then, when you talk, you must talk about how things make you feel. You must not say “you” to him. Only make “I” statements.

The idea is to listen to each other, and hear each other’s concerns and do this lovingly. Then, perhaps you will both me moved to take steps that might make the other one feel more loved. Or you might come to understand each other well enough that you don’t need these steps.

It sounds to me like you feel threatened by the others. Maybe you think he will go back to them, or is doing something with them he shouldn’t. You also don’t like the sneaking, although I don’t know if you would like it better if he tells you when he is going. I’m sure he wouldn’t like telling you if you get a hurt look and tell him you don’t want him to see them every time he tells you he’s made a plan.

I also think you should work on your insecurity on your own. Therapy would be good, if you have health insurance. Maybe a support group, if you don’t. I don’t know what you need from him or want from him, but I hope you get some of it, and I hope you learn to give yourself some, too.

SamandMax's avatar

At any particular point in this response I may be a little abrupt, probably rude – but that’s never intentional, so apologies in advance.
You are way too insecure. Your self-esteem is your own issue to fix, you cannot expect others to pussyfoot around you. Being in a relationship for anyone should never be about walking on eggshells and it reads like you’ve actually got a minefield all of your own that he has to work either around or through.
I can tell why he isn’t telling you anything that he’s doing, it’s not because he’s likely to cheat on you, it’s because you’d be the most likely sort to flip out over it. He doesn’t want the arguments that might ensue from you being told that he’s meeting someone.
If you keep giving him crap about who he meets and where and when and why, eventually he’s not going to cheat on you, he’s just going to drop you like a hot potato – regardless of whoever might take your place or even if someone takes your place.
I know, because I had a girlfriend just like you once and I had to let her go for the same reasons. It’s like being trapped in a relationship that you can’t move around freely in and it’s horrid. You need to sort out your issues from within, because it’s affecting what’s going on around you from the outside.
To that end I think @wundayatta‘s answer is worth noting, so too is @augustlan.‘s
I disagree with @Paradox25‘s answer because I don’t think it takes into account your own personal circumstances – nor your SO’s judging by the details you’ve provided. He doesn’t strike me from what little we know as being “a player”. It’s not really fair to condemn the guy before any crime is committed, so to speak.
You cannot maintain any kind of healthy relationship with any one person attempting to be all they will ever need and the only person they will ever want in their lifetime. It simply IS NOT POSSIBLE. You need to wake up and smell the espresso honey, because you’re lucky to be with a guy at all by the sound of things.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Personally, I would feel betrayed too, if you asked him not to do something like that and he did it anyway. The whole relationship is threatened when anyone disregards your feelings, be it your mom, your sister, or boyfriend.

When my ex contacted me after several years, and I was married, I discussed it with my husband and he was okay with us emailing occasionally.

There is no reason not to be up front with you and if your feelings are not important, or not as important as his friendships (which I’m skeptical of being 100% innocent at this point), then you have every right to feel disrespected and disregarded, and move on.

Right now, it’s your choice, but if you continue allowing him to disrespect you/ hurt your feelings, then you realize you are giving him the ‘control’ in the relationship and leave him alone about it. Who knows, perhaps it is just innocent friendship.

Paradox25's avatar

@SamandMax Most people on this thread are likely giving opinions based upon their personal experiences, and my opinion was no different. Almost every decent relationship that I know/knew of neither party retained contact with their ex, with the only exception being where having children to them were involved. Even with the latter scenerio, I’d hardly had considered those arrangements friendships. I’ve seen this happen many times before where an ex becomes either a standby, a fwb or where the ex tries to get back with that person once they’re with somebody else.

I hope that I’m wrong here, but there were a few details in the question which would make any person with common sense see a red flag here. I guess it could be a fair deal to say that I’m making unfair assumptions about a guy I don’t know, but I could say it’s unfair to criticize the OP’s ability to judge a situation as well. Most people, including myself, would not go out of their way to become friends with an ex. There’s almost nobody that I know of in a healthy relationship who stays in contact with an ex.

mangeons's avatar

@KNOWITALLPersonally, I would feel betrayed too, if you asked him not to do something like that and he did it anyway. The whole relationship is threatened when anyone disregards your feelings.”

So you’re saying that if you ask your significant other to not do something, you think they should feel obligated to listen to you and just do what you say, just because you don’t like it? That doesn’t sound like a healthy relationship to me. I don’t view this situation as him disregarding her feelings, rather that she is disregarding his. It’s not very respectful of someone’s feelings to ask them to just drop several of their friends just because you’re insecure and uncomfortable and jealous, now is it?

dabbler's avatar

I have to agree with @mangeons. Just because you say you’re upset that your guy is in touch with former girlfriends is not in itself a good reason for them to stop being in contact.
It’s a good reason for him to listen and be sympathetic, but if you care about him you should do the same for him.
People need friends, and who better than former S.O.s?

On the other hand IF the former girlfriend is sending to your guy her underpants in the mail, or sending sweet poetry in the email. or sending nudie pics to his phone, THEN you have a damned good reason to ask for this to cease and desist.

But the situation described in the OP does not include anything more incriminating that previous status as Significant Other.
He’s having conversations behind your back because you’ve made him comfortable being innocently friendly in front of you. Turn that around fast, I suggest. Get to know the other women, and be the one he keeps in Significant Other status.

SamandMax's avatar

Also agree with @mangeons.
It’s one thing to say “What about my feelings?”, but then what about his? Why is it he should be the one who has to do everything just to keep his SO sweet? Just cause the woman has the boobs she’s entitled to have everything go her own way? I think not.

Also @dabbler makes a good point.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@mangeons To me, it’s about respect as well.

I am trustworthy and have proved it to my husband, thus my asking him if it was okay with me emailing my ex occasionally to keep in touch, was a sign of respect to him. If he hadn’t been okay with it, I wouldn’t sacrifice my marriage for a ‘friend.’

She admits she’s insecure, and that he has repeatedly gone ‘behind her back’, which probably increases her insecurities and trust. So to me, he is the one being devious and hurtful. Obviously he is still doing whatever he feels like doing regardless of her feelings, so to me that is clear disrespect. I’d be out if it was me.

SamandMax's avatar

Ladies and gentlemen let me bore you to tears with a lot of waffling.

I think it’s safe to say regardless of which side of the fence you sit on with this one, the relationship is a doomed failure from the word go, if neither side puts work in to making it…work. Let’s assume it is doomed to failure, then the question would be why stay in a relationship for that damn long if this kind of thing has have been long term?

I think it would be a grave mistake to send someone off in the direction of “Look honey he ain’t no good for you. Walk away”, let’s assume and give benefit of the doubt that nothing untoward is actually happening with the guy going about doing his own thing here, “She ain’t no good for him neither.”

The pair of them have problems, this much I think we’ve all established. We know the OP’s is clear because it’s been the main point all along in this matter. The problem with the guy in this equation is he’s not got balls enough to say “Listen lady, I love you and that’s fine but why should I choose between losing friends and losing you just to ease your insecurities?” Friends don’t stick around forever whether they are old partners or not, but they stick around a damn sight longer than lovers do. So which role is the OP playing here? Is she the lover, the friend, or both?

It’s one thing to disrespect someone else’s wishes, but it’s another to avoid the constant bickering and hassle to save one’s own health. The arguments and fall outs that can ensue from doing something disagreeable in the eyes of another can be a long term stress issue the longer it progresses, and that in turn can end up translating into physical symptoms of stress, none of which are very pleasant at all for the longer it goes on.

I will refer to my own previous experience in a very hard fought chore-worthy relationship. You must bear in mind that my ex had the same kind of insecurities as the OP. Every day at the beginning of the relationship was fine. But when more people came into the equation, regardless of whether they were male or female, regardless of who they were or where they were from – they could have come from Australia and she’d still be pissed about it – she would get riled up, get all agitated and offended and with women she’d start thinking I was looking elsewhere. Then it was the secret phone checks, as a result of which, I now have a phone with a lock on it. A guy’s cell phone is as good as his own personal journal, doesn’t matter what the hell you stick in it, it’s something you don’t expect others to just pick up and read through behind your back.. and you certainly don’t expect a girlfriend to do that.

It’s a slight bug at first, then it’s a nightmare, then it becomes a daily chore. Then it starts affecting your health.

Now I don’t know which rule book some people read from, but I don’t see any rules that state you must or must not see men or women (dependent on your own gender) simply to satisfy your SO’s peace of mind. It’s not everyone else’s responsibility to fix someone else’s mess from within. Anyone with a mental health issue will know this and understand this (I’m one of them). You cannot expect one person despite their connections to you, to change their way of living to suit you because you’re own brain has the question sprinkler on full strength, and your suspicion meter is on Defcon 3.

Sure a relationship is about compromise but if it comes down to drawing lines in the sand and putting up signposts saying you’ll be shot if you do this or that, nope. Screw that idea. I think everyone has a different idea as to what really encompasses the ideal relationship and the ideal relationship imho is one where there are no restrictions placed upon someone else so long as everything is mutually acceptable. Where things are not acceptable that’s where the problems will begin. Changing a lifestyle, or a habit, or cutting ties with various people, are kind of major things to have to contribute to a relationship in order to make it work, and if someone is made to feel trapped into making that change or those changes then that relationship becomes more of a chore than something to be considered worthy of maintaining by any stretch.

If trust is likely to be an issue with anyone and there’s already been one break-up over it, with the exception of mitigating circumstances the kind of which completely evade my brain for this particular issue, then really there should have been no getting back together.

In effect, he needs to wake up just as much as the OP does.

Again, benefit of the doubt applied, with nothing going on, how long is he prepared to go on living the way he is, just because the OP has a low self-esteem and has been cheated on lots of times. The mere pressure alone of constantly worrying about what she’s going to be thinking about who he sees, when, where and why is probably going to be enough to push him away eventually.

As for the OP, she needs to realize that simply not having a good level of self-esteem is not reason enough to start placing unwritten restrictions on what any guy going out with her is allowed to do. There are unwritten rules, it’s a common understanding that if you’re in a monogamous relationship there can be no cheating, it’s counterproductive to the very idea of having – well gee let me think – a monogamous relationship!

Fairly give and fairly take. If you’re expected to make sacrifices, then surely it would be reasonable to be expected to make sacrifices of your own.
My ex made none whatsoever. I spent years – cause I’m an idiot like that – trying to make sure that everything was all swell with her, and even then at the end of the day we would still be arguing about something else completely different. Why didn’t I pick up the phone, where was I, what was I doing, who was I with. At one point it did cross my mind to jokingly say “Ah not much, just screwing the neighbor”. It goes very swiftly from loving someone and making the sacrifices, to thinking “Wait a minute, why am I doing all the hard work in this friggin’ relationship?” and eventually hating the person you’re in a relationship with.

If I were him, I would be out already, but he obviously still loves the OP. If I were her, I would work on letting things from the past go. Sure, being cheated on stinks, and there are plenty of people in the world that do cheat, but there are good people who don’t cheat because it’s not something they’d have any compulsion to do – but comparing all past relationships to the one you’re in now thinking it could happen again all the goddamn time is going to be like pinning the tail on the same damn donkey over and over and over again.

It’s entirely unnecessary and doesn’t really do anyone any good constantly living in the bad parts of their past.

Seems work needs to be done on both sides here – whether it’s done together or not makes no difference, it still needs to be done.

It seems feasible, so long as things ended on friendly terms, to have friends that are former partners.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

We don’t know why your boyfriend does the things he does for sure. We can only guess. It sounds like the two of you don’t share the same values on this, though, and that in itself is a red flag. It may be time for you to break up, go your separate ways, and find partners who are more compatible with you.

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