Ask A Woman: This scenario has all the makings of a country song.
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I have been together with my girlfriend going on four months now. It’s been going well and I believe she genuinely likes me, but as good as it is, I’m having issues.
Going into the relationship, she told me that she had had friends with benefits right up until the point we started our relationship. She promised that it would end with them, which I want to believe, but lately she’s been hanging out with these “ex-friends with benefits” alone, getting drinks, going to their places, watching movies etc.
It’s been driving me crazy. I know that she was close to these friends, not only sexually but on a mental/emotional level. For me to ask her to stop being friends with them or seeing them is likely asking for too much, but it gets so hard for me to trust her and these friends when I’m not in the picture.
What should I do?
I’m sorry you’ve been struggling with your girlfriend’s relationships with other men. Let me just validate your feelings right away—it would bother anyone who was in your position. In fact, it is highly inappropriate for her to continue hanging out with these men, alone, especially during activities like going to their residences and watching movies. (By the way, another word for these activities is dating.) Here’s why.
I don’t take the position that you have to give up friendships with exes when you begin dating someone new. I myself maintained a friendship with my first serious boyfriend for many years after we’d broken up, even when I was with other men. I’ve since lost regular contact with him, but for a long time, he was a good friend. After our history together, which was based first on a solid friendship, it was only natural that we both wanted the best for each other, in a purely platonic way. None of my subsequent boyfriends ever had a problem with it, probably because we kept it to the occasional email, the infrequent lunch out, so it never got in the way of my first priority, which was my relationship with the person I was seeing romantically.
What your girlfriend is doing is not the occasional email, the infrequent lunch out. She is meeting these men alone, in private, and doing so on a regular basis, after having pledged to you that she would sever ties with them. Your emergency radar is pinging because this is not right, not appropriate, not acceptable.
Boundaries are important in navigating the transition between love interest and platonic friend. Just ask the Flecks.
She’s also doing it under the guise of—oh, it’s not like I ever dated these dudes, they were just friends with benefits—as if that’s supposed to make it better. It doesn’t. She had sexual relationships with these men, that means she needs to take special care with establishing boundaries. This is not only for your comfort, but so that these guys understand that her circumstances have changed, thus they should not expect the same relationship they had with her previously. Further, it’s always best to put yourself in a position to make good choices. Sitting on your ex-friend with benefits’ couch, drinking, watching a movie alone–this does not make for a responsible outcome. Why even put yourself there if you’re committed to your boyfriend? Also, you mention that she was close with these men on a “mental/emotional level.” So she depended on them for emotional support and mental stimulation, while having sex with them? How is that not dating?
Really, distinguishing between having dated these guys and having “just” slept with them seems irrelevant because what’s most important is that 1) she had sexual relationships with these men 2) she’s dating someone new (YOU) 3) she’s continuing to see these men alone, in private. Whatever you want to call the arrangement she had prior to meeting you, the fact of the matter is that she is now committed to you, and that means she needs to give up these relationships because she is unable to establish appropriate boundaries with them. I hate to say this without knowing her, but I’m going to anyway–I don’t think it bodes well for her ability to be faithful or committed to you if she honestly thinks this behavior is acceptable.
Matt, I can’t tell you for sure what’s going on in your girlfriend’s head or what she’s doing behind closed doors, but this situation is super sketchy. This is not a case of a boyfriend being overly paranoid or controlling. Your reaction is totally justified. Trust your instinct here—if you think she’s messing around on you, she probably is. Certainly, if she won’t let go of these “friendships” I think you have to consider letting go of her.
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