Agony uncle: Rugby man Shane Byrne on the problem with exes
Q: I’d really appreciate a man’s perspective on this one. My boyfriend has stayed good friends with quite a few of his ex-girlfriends.
Is that normal? We've been seeing each other for a couple of months now, and we're getting on well. He's in his 30s and is a very good-looking, popular guy, so I was never under any illusion that he hasn't been around the block.
I noticed from the start that he had a lot of female friends, and when I asked him about them he explained that he'd gone out with several of them in the past. One or two were even quite serious relationships, lasting a year or longer.
It's a bit weird, isn't it? I've never had this before with a guy I was seeing, so I'm in uncharted waters. There are two exes in particular that he hangs out with regularly; they go for drinks or movies or to the theatre. He doesn't bat an eyelid about it, and says they're just friends.
But I can't help feeling jealous and wary about these friendships. He's a bit too close to them for my liking. On a recent night out, one of these girls was chatting to me about him and she seemed to be fully briefed on the ins and outs of our relationship.
I'm afraid to bring all this up with him because I don't want to come across as some needy psycho who doesn't trust him. But I want to be the special girl in his life, not these women. He's a great guy and I don't want to lose him. Any tips on how I deal with this?
A: There are lots of places we could start. We could go down the road of insecurities, egos, jealousies, men being oblivious to what's going on, or women over-reacting to something that isn't there. You could write a book about this — in fact, several have!
From a man's point of view, none of this counts for much. We're just not that complicated! But this can lead to circumstances where we completely miss the effects of our actions. First, this does sound a bit weird, but you seem a bit daft in the way you see him. Are you looking for a trophy fella for your arm, or a proper relationship? You basically describe him as a “very” good-looking, 30-something ex-playboy. Are you worried that a leopard never changes his spots? You can quote the common myth here, that no man can have a girlfriend that he wouldn't like to be with in that way, and there is some truth in that, but not for the reason people think. It's not that men just want to bed everybody, but rather it's about the familiarity. Getting to know someone breaks down more barriers than general attractiveness can account for. Knowing what someone is really like is one of the strongest attractions.
It's true that men will look at all women with that eye — all women! But we seldom act on it, thank God, or we would get nothing done. But yes, if the right circumstances happen and the feeling is returned, well… A lot of the time in situations like this, it's not the bloke you have to worry about. As I said, lads are just not that complicated. It is possible for a guy to have exes as friends as long as the ex no longer has any interest in the guy. And if that continues, long may they stay friends, but if it doesn't, I suppose the question is how serious this guy is about you. What if he is telling the truth — that they are just friends and he doesn't see what it's doing to you? In that scenario, yes, you run the risk of looking the way you don't want to.
That said, I think you have a way to talk about it with him and not sound “like a psycho”. He is WAY out of line discussing your personal life with these women. I would especially be worried about the one that knew the “ins and outs of your relationship”.
Now, I won't even pretend that men don't tell each other everything, but for him to tell an ex is wrong. That girl knew exactly what she was doing when she was telling you that. She is a worry. He clearly doesn't respect you the way a guy should, a guy who is settling into a relationship that he intends to make real and lasting. And here we finally have the stick you can beat him with — yippee!
You have every right to bring this up, and with a bit of womanly guile, a few well-placed tears, and a twisting of the conversation as only you ladies can do, you will be able to bring in the whole shooting match and he will feel as if it's his fault, even if he is innocent. And if he can't see that boosting his own ego by discussing your sex life with his ex is wrong, then he's a prat and you should dump the git. Best of luck!
What the readers say
I don’t think it’s weird that he’s still friends with his exes — if anything it should make running into them a lot less awkward! But it is weird that he discusses your relationship with them. It sounds as if that particular girl is a bit jealous too.
It sounds as if your fella is having his cake and eating it, or at least trying to show you that he can if he wants. If he doesn’t understand why you’re uncomfortable with him hanging out with ex-girlfriends and telling them all about your relationship, give him a taste of his own medicine and see how he likes that — start hanging out with just your male friends. He’ll soon get the message.