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#528 Reaching out (and coming out) to exes after a long time away.

Ahoy Cap’n,

This isn’t a particularly dramatic question, but I’m stumped. I’m a dude who would like to say he’s in his mid-twenties, but probably can’t anymore. For a long time, I would have said I was straight. I was attracted to women, dated them and had relationships with them.  Then, a couple of years ago, I randomly met a guy I knew immediately was going to be a huge deal to me, and I was right: Two years later, we’re getting married, w00t! I’m lucky in that I come from a really liberal, relaxed background, so it was more of a ‘huh, that was unexpected’ situation, rather than a cause for major upheaval.

My question relates to my high school girlfriend, and do I tell her anything (specifically that I’m bi, as opposed to gay, which seems to be what everybody assumes)? On the one hand I think not, because we’re not in touch anymore and I wouldn’t even think to ask this question if I were marrying a woman, but on the other, we were together on and off for almost all of high school, and were each other’s ‘firsts’ in every way that I can think of. I obviously don’t want her back, and I don’t for a second think she wants me, but she/our relationship was really special to me and I still look back on it fondly. I guess what I’m thinking is that I know she’ll find out through the grapevine that I’m with a guy now, if she hasn’t already, and I don’t want her to feel like our relationship wasn’t what she thought it was, if that makes sense? Like, if she’d come out as gay, I think I might be a little sad somehow, because it would mean that we didn’t have what I’d thought we had? I’d wonder if I should have known, and helped/supported her, and I’d doubt myself and the lessons I learned through that love. Also, I’d feel guilty looking back on it happily, because how can you, if you later found out the other person wasn’t as happy as you thought? I feel like I’d want to know, but I also can’t think of a way of telling her that doesn’t come across as horribly narcissistic, basically calling someone up and going ‘hey, getting married to someone else next year, but just FYI, I was totally into you back then’.

FWIW, Fiancé is totally cool with me potentially getting in touch with her, but doesn’t want to express an opinion either way as to what I should do, since he doesn’t know her/our situation.

Thanks!

We get a lot of “should I reach out to this person from my past and tell them something” questions here at Captain Awkward Dot Com Enterprises, and I am trying to develop a working framework on how to tell whether this is actually might be a good idea.

I think the questions to ask are:

  1. Who am I really doing this for?
  2. What do I want to happen after I reach out? I.e. Is this a beginning or an ending?

If this is just a drive-by, where you say your “Hey, I need to tell you something, bye!” and then ride off into the sunset again, then who is this really serving?

If this is about you reconnecting with someone who was very important to you once upon a time, great! As long as you are open to rekindling some kind of ongoing communication or friendship (even a very loose, casual, or even ambient Facebook “friend”ship). Track down her info. Tell her your good news. Introduce her to your dude. Ask about her life. Make plans to hang out for a drink if you are both heading to your hometown for the holidays. Most importantly, assume nothing about how she will react to your news or how it might change the way she saw your relationship. The fact of your upcoming wedding will come up, and you’ll probably have an opportunity to say “Yeah, after high school I figured out I was bi.” If she has the kind of feelings you are imagining, let her be the one to bring them up. But chances are that even if the relationship was an important & positive one, she doesn’t think about you all that much these days and her response will be something like “I did not see that coming. But I’m happy for you!” The goal is coffee, not FEELINGSCOFFEE.

Because I think you’re over-thinking this a lot! When you end a relationship, you don’t have to keep working through issues of how you felt about the person…with that person. One of the reasons that I advocate taking a no-contact break after a breakup, even if you do intend to remain friends, is to give everyone time to get past the need to solve or fix or analyze the problems of a relationship that is no longer happening. There are no clean slates, but there should be a “BYGONES” slate where former partners who are now friends agree not to rehash the past.

So that’s my advice. Seek your old friend for her own sake, for the possible pleasure of her company, or not at all. And if you do, assume nothing about what she feels or needs. She has her own story about what happened between you and the years you spent apart. Let her tell it clean.

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88 comments
  1. J.J. said:

    Nope.

    “I guess what I’m thinking is that I know she’ll find out through the grapevine that I’m with a guy now, if she hasn’t already, and I don’t want her to feel like our relationship wasn’t what she thought it was”

    It was what she thought it was – a relationship she had in high school with you. Any subsequent discovery or realization is really outside the realm of that relationship and time period.

  2. Congrats, LW!

    The Captain gives good advice here, and I will add a bit of a personal two cents: Around 13 or 14, I realized I was bi. Over the years, my attractions fluctuated – at times I felt fairly evenly drawn to men and women, and others was much more pulled to one or the other or to folks who didn’t fit neatly into either box. I had a couple relationships and a handful of flings with dudes and ladies. But in more recent years, as I thought more about what I felt inside, what truly might make me happy (eventually, as at this present time I have negative one million percent interest in any relationship), what really felt like my true identity, I came to a different realization. And earlier this year it was, “Yep, gay.” It feels nice to really be more comfy in my lived identity, but I would never say this upends everything I was before.

    You say that you’re worried if your ex-GF finds out you are with a guy now and thinks it means you’re gay, then she might take that to mean the relationship you had with her wasn’t real or meant nothing. Even if you were gay and not bi, it would not therefore invalidate your past feelings or identity. I did tell the couple of men I’d had relationships with and with whom I’m still close that it didn’t take anything away from what I’d felt for them at the time(s), and that’s 100% true. People change, sexuality is changeable and fluid and dynamic, and feeling This Way now doesn’t lessen the realness of having felt That Way at another time. If your ex does express doubt about your past feelings, hopefully you can help her see that new feelings don’t erase the old ones, they simply add to them. You were with her then because you wanted to be, because you cared about her. Now you are with this person because you want to be and you care about him. Nothing about either situation is a detriment to the other.

    Mazel tov to you and your beloved :)

  3. CL said:

    I came out as a lesbian in college, and my former high school boyfriend was very upset with me for “lying to him.” Years later, I still get the sense that he resents me, based on a little dig he made on Facebook about my sexuality. So, it happens. It’s unlikely that the girlfriend will care, but it’s possible.

    If it were me, I would leave the past alone. If she finds out through the grapevine and she’s upset, it’s probably better not to resume the friendship anyway. If she finds out and she’s happy for you, she might get in touch on her own, wanting to be friends — and at that point, you could clarify your bisexuality if she is curious.

  4. FlyBy said:

    Do you want to reassure your ex about your high school relationship, or are you looking to reassure yourself? It’s normal to look back at stuff from your past and see it a bit differently now, and sometimes it takes a while to process.

    If you want to get back in touch with your ex, go for it. If you’re just looking to talk about what your relationship meant, talk to a friend.

  5. I loved the Captain’s advice about this, and am just going to add some personal context because this is the internet and you can’t stop me.

    I received a message this year from my college boyfriend, a man I dated for 2.5 years and have not spoken to since 2005, up to and including not being invited to my college roommate’s wedding because he was in the wedding party.

    Him: “Hey, how are you, I’ve been thinking of our cats lately and wondering how they are.”
    Me: “Here is a picture of our cats with the dog I now have with my current boyfriend, things about them, blah blah.”
    him: “Oh yeah blah blah stuff about work blah blah MY BOYFRIEND.”

    I have to say, that this was not my favorite thing ever. I was the breaker upper for a variety of reasons largely not unrelated to our terrible sex life, so I’m not totally surprised. But we were together for a long time and I valued his support and our relationship, I just didn’t contact him out of respect for his feelings.

    I don’t think it would have been quite as weird if we’d made plans to hang out and catch up, or anything at all, but this was in April and there hasn’t been so much as a “like” exchanged on Facebook.

    Mostly this just introduced a lot of uncertainty and awkwardness for me. And I think if the conversation had been a bit more direct like “Awww kitties, also I wanted to add you on Facebook and thought you should know that I am now dating a man, stuff about my sexuality, something nice about us dating and how I didn’t want you to find out from my relationship status.” That would have been at least a little nicer and given me some context.

    I kind of feel like I had a cat covered emotional grenade dropped in my lap by a guy I haven’t seen in over 5 years as he rode past me in Grant park on a unicycle. (Sorry… that got away from me…)

    Anyway, it was weird. So I would say if you’re going to come out to someone you were intimate partners because you want them to know, do it in a direct clear way that gives them some context. Otherwise you might as well have left them to find out from their mom who found out from the bank teller. (Actual story about how my partner’s mom found out I’m bi.)

    • miss_chevious said:

      He wrapped a grenade in CATS. Not cool, dude!

    • Yep. I dated a man for 3 years. He was very secretive about his sexuality, and he didn’t really seem like he was into me all that much. The most difficult part was that he wouldn’t discuss it with me and acted like everything was normal. I broke up with him out of frustration and desperation, and find out from my mom 8 months later that he’s dating a man. It hurt a lot, and I still have a lot of feelings of hostility toward him.

      • Would it have been better if he’d told you he’d started dating a man?

        (If it were me, probably at 8 months after frustration and desperation, I still wouldn’t be talking to him, but that would be me.)

        • It honestly wasn’t much of a surprise, he was open about being bi with me, but didn’t actually seem very interested in sex, or sex with me at least. I don’t know if I would have been open to an email or a note even, but there was a lot of anger on my part that isn’t present in the LW’s situation. I would’ve liked to know if he wasn’t into me truly before 3 years had passed, but now I probably never will.

  6. Emma said:

    Huh, I think this is the first time I’ve ever disagreed with the Captain. A weird experience.

    It seems to me that the LW’s reason for getting in touch is to save his ex-girlfriend some potential pain. That’s totally reasonable. Staying in touch long-term doesn’t seem necessary to justify that.

    Having said that, I wouldn’t take the approach of “I’d like you to know I’m bi.” I’d take the approach of “I’d like you to know I’m getting married.” Even “I’d like to tell you myself that I’m getting married, instead of you hearing it through the grapevine.” To a significant ex where there are no hard feelings, I think that’s perfectly appropriate. The further details about the fact that it’s to a man and so on will then emerge naturally in the conversation.

    I’m viewing this partly from the perspective that my high school ex-girlfriend just got engaged to a man. I already knew she was bi, we’re casually in touch, the engagement came as no surprise and I’m also dating a man now, but even so, the kind of conversation that the LW is suggesting wouldn’t have been unwelcome.

    • RodeoBob said:

      It seems to me that the LW’s reason for getting in touch is to save his ex-girlfriend some potential pain. That’s totally reasonable.

      It sounds reasonable, as long as you squint just right and don’t look too long.

      His ex-girlfriend might find out he’s marrying a man, (through the grapevine) and that might lead her to question a relationship from more than 10 years ago, and that could lead to her feeling upset.

      So to prevent these possible consequences of possible news reaching her and one possible reaction she might have, the LW wants to absolutely, unambigiously, definitively tell her the thing he thinks will upset her and explain to her precisely why she could feel upset by it, just so he can assure her she shouldn’t be upset.

      We don’t get to manage how other people feel or how they choose to react.

      • ckilborne said:

        I don’t think he’d be telling her the thing he thinks will upset her. I don’t think the LW thinks his ex will be upset by finding out that he is somewhere on the queer spectrum. I think he thinks she would be upset if someone incorrectly told her he was gay, and that made her question her narrative about their relationship because it could imply that he is not/was never attracted to women at all, including her. (I’m not saying that’s necessarily what finding out someone is gay means, but since we don’t talk about fluidity of sexuality much in our society, it would be a pretty understandable assumption).

        I tried to say this in my long, rambly comment below (which will probably get caught up in spam filter/moderation hell because I’m a first-time commenter, alas), but I think this is about preventing a possibly really hurtful misunderstanding (“I was never attracted to you at all, because I am not attracted to people of your gender”), by providing the real facts (“I have since realized I am attracted to people of other genders as well as your gender”).

        • Indywind said:

          I assert that LW is not responsible for someone else’s possible assumptions.
          No one is responsible for managing others’ potential assumptions or the feelings those assumptions provoke. That’s basic boundaries. The support of a popular cultural narrative does not justify holding assumptions without, or against, good will and better evidence; there are many assumptions which are as popular as they are incorrect, unfounded, and damaging. Messed up assumptions don’t need the validation of being treated as if being popular makes them reasonable.

          • Well, yes, but (and this isn’t to argue either way about the LW’s situation) just because we’re not responsible for it and they aren’t reasonable it doesn’t actually mean we can’t think “a lot of people have these assumptions and I don’t want her to be upset even though it’s not my problem.”

    • Lisa said:

      Absolutely agreed, Emma. I am straight, and I have three exes who now identify as gay (um, go me?). Two were amazing about telling me, and the other was a twat (basically denied that he ever had feelings for me during our whole SIX YEAR relationship because GAY, fuck that we were ever friends, said so in public at a party). I didn’t expect, from any of them, that there needed to be a big conversation, but it was a really kind thing to hear about the new direction in my former BFs’ lives from them, rather than through mutual friends.

      • Erin said:

        That’s just heartless (the ex from the 6 year relationship). Even if it was true (which sounds a little strange), it’s really not fair to you to insist on it in public.

        • lisamedia88 said:

          Huh? No, you misunderstand. The EX randomly made a big pronouncement at a party that he was embarrassed that he ever thought he was straight, and that he never loved me. To all of my friends. Without it being a topic of conversation before that.

          • Erin said:

            Well … that’s what I mean.

        • lisamedia88 said:

          And we had already been broken up for eight years at the time of the party.

    • Guava said:

      I agree with you too. If this was just a regular old ex from high school or college, I would prefer to just hear it through the grapevine. But my first love? For some reason that feels different, and a phone call or email would be welcome in that instance.

    • miss_chevious said:

      I agree with you, Emma, assuming good faith on the part of LW that he wants to spare his first love pain, not cause an experience like Lisa had. If my first love were getting married now, I would be pleased to hear it from him, even if it were a heterosexual marriage. I agree, though, that it should be a low key conversation, not a FEELINGS BOMB, and certainly not one covered by cats (a la shinobi 42). Maybe just a “I’ve been thinking about you, lately, and this is why and I didn’t want you to find out secondhand because you were an important person in my life.”

    • Nichole said:

      I agree with you Emma – maybe it’s just because I have a high school boyfriend who I still think of quite fondly, and even though we haven’t talked in years and years and years I would still consider him a close friend. If I heard he was getting married to a man, I would definitely have questions/doubts about a past that I still hold in such high esteem. If he reached out to me to tell me himself, to explain things and open up a dialogue, it would be greatly welcomed and appreciated by me. Otherwise, the I’d be left to wrestle with my questions not knowing if it’s ok to reach out and ask them.

      I guess the LW should use his gut, he knows their relationship better than anyone. My high school ex could reach out to me for anything and I’d be happy that he did so, whereas other exes I would prefer to never hear from again. I’d feel pretty comfortable reaching out to him if I felt like I needed to.

  7. stentord said:

    I think it’s neither your responsibility nor your right to manage how she reconceptualizes her past in light of new information. Nor is it her duty to manage your past-concept (by assuring you that she too still remembers your relationship fondly etc).

    • Linden said:

      I agree. I’ve had a couple of exes and former potential love interests come out later in life. All I remember thinking about it was, “Hunh. That’s different.” I’m not sure this has to be a dramatic event, though of course the people involved would know more about that than I would.

  8. charmed.omega said:

    May not be relevant to you, but is it possible for you in your life to be out as bi on facebook? That way if she hears of your impending wedding and goes to look up anything about you/him that information will be available. If she cares. And if she doesn’t she won’t see it.
    It sounds like you’re not planning to invite her to the wedding, so I’m not sure if it’s weird to drop her a note about how you’re about to have one. If you do think that’s something you’d want to do, it might be easy to list yourself as bi on facebook and then drop a message along the lines of “I’m having a really great time in my life. I’m about to get married and it made me fondly remember the other wonderful people who’ve been in my life. No response required, but I hope you’re doing well in your life also.”

  9. Congratulations on your forthcoming wedding!

    I reckon, if she looks back on your relationship with the same happiness and affection you do, she hears you married a guy and that makes her question her perceptions of the past that much, she might get in touch with you. I’m not saying she’d ride into town demanding that you explain yourself and validate her memories, but if it really bothers her? She could find you, casually chat with you and maybe drop in something daft like the classic, “So, when did you realise you were gay?” which in this rare case, might give you the opportunity to clear things up.

    If you’re reasonably findable and contactable, then I really wouldn’t bother pursuing her. She probably won’t care and will be happy with you, but if she’s not, I’d leave it to her to ask you (or ask someone else who knows, for minimum embarrassment).

  10. PBnoJ said:

    I think it’s relevant that it’s been a lot of years since high school (LW is past his mid-20s at least) AND isn’t already in touch with the high school girlfriend.

    “we’re not in touch anymore and I wouldn’t even think to ask this question if I were marrying a woman”

    I think that last bit is telling…

  11. ordinarygoddess said:

    Oh, LW.

    I had a boyfriend early in high school (I was 13-14) who came out to me as bi, in a drunken and vulnerable moment long before he came out to the rest of his friends and family. It was something that my very young, conservatively-raised, sheltered and ignorant self was not ready to handle, and I handled it badly (in a Thank You For Sharing, We Shall Never Speak Of This Thing Again kind of way). We broke up a few months later for unrelated reasons, stayed casual friends for the next couple of years, he graduated two years ahead of me and moved away and I haven’t spoken to him since.

    Later, I did get past my upbringing and learn some stuff about the world and try to be an ally, in no small part because I wanted to do better than I’d done by him. And I learned to listen to myself too, and eventually came out, and went through a pretty rough time to a place where I’m comfortable and happy with myself and my relationships. But the way I treated him is lingering out there, one of my great regrets. The last couple of years, I’ve thought of him at least once a month, thinking about getting in touch just so find out what kind of person he grew into and whether he’s someone I might want in my life as a friend. To thank him for the role he played in where I’ve ended up. To apologize? I keep not doing it, for various reasons, but not least of which is that I cannot imagine what his version of the story of that relationship is, or if he remembers me with anything like the intensity with which I remember him, or if it would be any kind of kindness to stir up that history. Because I know that Boy-in-my-head and Boy-I-no-longer-know are two different people but I don’t have confidence in my own ability to separate the two, and that’s a huge red flag right there.

    I guess I don’t have any advice, just a whole lot of sympathy, and my best wishes for you and and your marriage and whatever choice you make.

  12. LW said:

    Wow, my letter actually got posted! Thanks CA, and thanks to everyone who is weighing in! It seems like there are a bunch of different experiences here of similar situations, which is really helpful. Based on CA’s advice, I’m leaning towards not saying anything right now, since I honestly have no interest in reconnecting with her in the longterm, and no reason to think she might with me. I’m going to sleep on it and see if any other viewpoints come out, though.

    One thing I’m a little surprised at is that the comments saying unequivocally No seem to be implying that I’m trying to control her feelings for me somehow, which to be honest I don’t really get? Maybe I’m reading it wrong, but for the record, I have no idea how she feels about me now, but I think it’s likely that she doesn’t feel very much at all, at least not for me in my present form. The reason I started thinking about this whole thing is because of something which happened to me several years ago: I’d gone out with a girl for a while in college, had what I thought was something good, and parted on decent terms. I found out some time later that she’d actually been sleeping with another guy we both knew the whole time. By the time I found out, I was completely over the relationship itself, but that knowledge kind of threw me for a little while afterwards, not in a huge way, but in a way that made me start second guessing a lot of little things in relationships. I obviously got over it, but still, it kind of sucked, and I personally would have appreciated it if I could have avoided that.

    CA is right, though, I do tend to overthink things sometimes, so maybe I shouldn’t be imposing that on other people. Or maybe it’s a false equivalency altogether?

    • rieux said:

      Hi LW!

      I’m giving an equivocal, but more enthusiastic than the Captain’s, “yes.” I (a woman) have had a conversation like this recently, although it was with an ex who was also still a close friend. He told me he was bi–and that he had always known he was bi and yet been wondering if he was just gay because he was so anxious around women, but it turns out he was anxious around men too. I had wondered myself if he was gay/not attracted to me because of all the things caused by his anxiety, and I might have kept wondering after he came out as bi for the same reason (just to be clear, I don’t believe in doubting people’s words on their sexuality, but this person was a special case because he had a general life habit of believing what he wanted to believe about his own feelings, out of sheer willpower/repression). And I appreciated the way he said it, because I felt like he knew I might wonder and was trying, without being at all presumptuous about it, to offer some knowledge that wouldn’t hurt me but could potentially help me. I thought it was cute and sweet, just like him, and not controlling or presumptuous at all. And that’s kind of why I think your urge to talk to her is cute and sweet. (Doesn’t my advice really depend, then, on whether she continued thinking you were cute and sweet post-breakup, in general? Probably!)

      Certainly it’s healthy for MOST relationship talk to end when the relationship does, and it MUST end if one person wants it to end. But I’ve also had some really good (healing or informative) conversations about relationships with the exes in question, years after the fact, usually initiated by them. I do think it’s your job to think really hard about whether you see any reason at all why such a conversation might hurt your ex, or might occur for unsavory motives you haven’t identified yet (even if it doesn’t actually “hurt” her). Or if you will be majorly disappointed should she turn out to NOT give a shit. But if it’s just out of genuine goodwill, I say go for it.

    • twomoogles said:

      That confused me about the responses as well, LW, so you’re not alone. I didn’t get that vibe at all from your letter, that you were trying to control her or her idea of your relationship. What you’re thinking of doing seems reasonable to me, anyway. No, you don’t know how she thinks about your relationship now, or how she will after she finds out about your upcoming marriage, but I don’t think you making contact and letting her know the full story would be controlling.

      The other thing I think of here is that the grapevine and gossip can be *terrible* about getting accurate and nondramatic information. She will likely hear about this at some point if you guys run in the same circles at all, even friends-of-friends on Facebook. (There are some of my exes i have literally no contact with, and no mutual acquaintances and don’t live in the same city. In those cases, I would not bother trying to inform them of something like this.) So I can see you wanting to make sure the information she actually gets here is accurate.

      I also think it’s interesting that most of the people who’ve been in your ex’s shoes (finding out about an ex coming out) say they would’ve appreciated what you’re thinking of doing, so long as you keep it casual and informative.

    • I think important thing here is that you don’t actually care so much about your ex. Do you know where your ex is, or if she’s married, has kids… or if *she* is straight these days? It’s okay not to care! It doesn’t make you a bad person. You’re exes.

      I had an ex (of sorts, we only sorta dated) contact me specifically to come out once. It was uncomfortable and awkward, even though I was pretty happy for him — because frankly, I didn’t care. It wasn’t about me, it was all about him feeling like he had to tell me. I was utterly unsurprised, wished him the best, and still I’d rather he hadn’t contacted me to give me a post-hoc “you’re the wrong gender, sorry” rejection.

      In your case, though, “You weren’t the wrong gender, really! I just like men too!” isn’t all that reassuring, since it still comes with the whole breakup and then no contact and no interest in future contact. If she’s still got pain from that history, you’re not offering anything to make it better — you’re just reminding her that you don’t want her.

      What are the possible outcomes, then? Best case? She says “Good for you. Take care.” Medium case? “Um, okay? Why are you telling me this? WTF? What am I supposed to do with that fact?” and you have a weird conversation about it that leaves you both feeling unsettled and strange. Worst case? You hurt her by reminding her of the bad breakup (“Why are you calling me? Don’t you know what you did?!?!”) or she hurts you by being unkind about your orientation.

      And then…. you never talk to her again? Even in the best case, that’s kind of rude, usually you have to put in at least the effort to slow fade, which is annoying because you don’t care, and might annoy her because she might not care, but it’s still insulting to drop in, say your line, and vanish.

      So those are things I see that might happen. What do you see happening, realistically, if you contact her? What do you get out of it, in any of these scenarios? And also… what does she get out of it?

      I see her getting something between confusion, annoyance, or renewed teenage angst. Others here seem to find some other value based on the “first love” thing, but I’m also guessing they’d want to hear if you were marrying a woman, too. You wouldn’t have done that, so I’m guessing the Magic of First Love isn’t what’s driving you?

      If you’ve got a therapist, talk to them about why you feel so strongly motivated to tell this specific person about your orientation. It’s probably more about your own feelings with yourself and maybe your upcoming marriage than it is about the possible “OMG my boyfriend turned gay!!” feels of of your ex who you haven’t talked to in ten years. I could be wrong,

    • I”m just going to respond to this part “One thing I’m a little surprised at is that the comments saying unequivocally No seem to be implying that I’m trying to control her feelings for me somehow, which to be honest I don’t really get?”

      It’s not that you’re trying to control her feelings for you, but that you’re trying to figure out how to make sure she doesn’t feel or does feel a certain way after she hears the news of your impending marriage. And the thing is, no matter how you tell her, she’s going to have some feelings and those feelings are going to be pretty independent of whatever you do. She might not care, she might feel upset or sad or annoyed.

      And it would be totally worth her working through those feelings if you were going to try to be her friend, or see her, like, ever. But it doesn’t sound like that is the case. So you’re basically going to be sending her a note and a mystery grab bag FEELINGSGIFT. Your intentions are good, but the outcome for her might be different than what you intend.

    • Gigi said:

      I don’t really have an opinion on what you should do, and I don’t have any kind of experience with this like other commenters. But you said you started thinking about this because of what you went through when you found out someone had cheated on you. I do know how that feels. I also overthink things. You go back over every little thing and say, When we said or did or felt this, this other thing was actually happening? And it tears you up and makes you second guess so many things. So I just want to be a person who says that you didn’t do that to your ex-girlfriend. Being bi, marrying a man, or really anything you do now in your life, does not compare to having cheated on her at all. She shouldn’t have those kinds of feelings. You don’t need to try to save her from that because you didn’t do that.

      I’ll add this. Since I also overthink things, there are a lot of relationships I look back on and think I’d like to contact the person just to clarify to them how I felt in case they didn’t know at the time. There are things I wonder about from the other person’s perspective, too, that I often wish I could clear up. But ultimately, I always decide to leave it in the past and remember what I remember and try to be as generous to the other person and myself as possible in those memories. I think that works out best for me and the other people who are now living their own lives.

      • apricity said:

        “But ultimately, I always decide to leave it in the past and remember what I remember and try to be as generous to the other person and myself as possible in those memories. I think that works out best for me and the other people who are now living their own lives.”

        Well said!

    • Gigi said:

      I tried to comment a while ago, but I don’t see it here. This is my first time commenting, so I’m sorry if I double reply or something. All I wanted to say is that your situation can’t be compared to when you found out you had been cheated on. I don’t have experience with your current problem like other commenters, and I don’t really have an opinion on what you should do now. But I know what it’s like to be cheated on and I also overthink things. You go over and over the past during the time the cheating was happening, and it tears you up. I don’t think you should compare that experience to what is happening now. You living your life now and being happy cannot be compared to that at all. You don’t have to save her from those feelings because you didn’t do that to her. So if you are worrying because of that episode in your past that hurt you, I think you shouldn’t let that be your reason for contacting her. It’s not that I think you shouldn’t contact her, but that maybe what got you thinking this way in the first place should be reconsidered. I know there is a lot more going on, but this part of your comment really struck me and I wanted to reply about it. You said the cheating made you start second guessing a lot of things in relationships. I completely understand that because I changed that way, too. That’s probably why you feel that if you found out now she were gay you’d start wondering and overthinking your past relationship with her. But I actually think that’s more about you and dealing with your own hurt and how it changed you rather than anything about her. If that makes sense. Uh I’m so nervous commenting and I think I’m rambling.

      • apricity said:

        Sometimes comments get caught in the spam trap for a while, so don’t worry about them not turning up for a bit. :)

        • Gigi said:

          Thanks for replying with a smiley :) I really thought I wouldn’t double reply because my wifi has been messed up. But I did it. When I saw that I did it after all, I was so embarrassed.

    • dov ber said:

      Yeah, I think there’s a difference between wanting to control someone’s feelings and wanting to let them have the feelings they’re going to have but based on accurate information. Unfortunately some nasty melange of patriarchy and homophobia that we all live with makes it really hard for people to make space for bisexual men as a category in their imaginations and mental maps. Wanting to put the brakes on people’s leaps from “dates men” to “is gay” doesn’t seem so weird to me (as another bi guy), especially if you think “is gay” might cause an ex some unnecessary grief.

  13. ckilborne said:

    Hmmm…I’ve been a lurker for a long (long, long) time, and this is the first time I’ve disagreed with the Captain. I would say a brief note to the ex is totally appropriate, for the purpose of avoiding potential hurt to someone the LW doesn’t want to see hurt.

    My opinion is definitely colored by my experience, which is similar to what the LW is talking about, but also a completely different circumstance with different people and so of course should be taken with a huge, huge grain of salt:

    The first guy I had a sexual relationship with came out to me as gay a few years after the fact (I’m a woman). This was someone I’d wished well after we parted ways, but had no desire to have any kind of romantic or sexual relationship with anymore. My immediate reaction when he told me was to feel like an awful, awful person. Had I somehow forced him into doing something he didn’t want to do? Had he been thinking “ew, gross” or worse the entire time? Had what I thought was a positive experience actually been traumatic for him?

    This dude and I didn’t really talk about the nuances of sexuality and how it can be fluid. I don’t usually put much stock in labels or trying to categorize things to rigidly, but in this circumstance, having someone come out as bi instead of gay would have made a huge difference to me. If he had said he was bi, I would have been like “Oh, great, you like guys too! Cool, I’m super happy for you! Continue on your merry way.” But his being gay implied that he was not attracted to women at all, including me way back when. That was the crux for me: feeling like someone I had had sex with was suddenly coming up and saying “oh, by the way, I wasn’t really attracted to you that time!” was really pretty hurtful for me. I think it could have been less hurtful if we’d been able to have more of a conversation about it, but unfortunately we didn’t.

    Again, my situation is different in a lot of ways from the LW’s. This was not a long-term romantic relationship, and I had/have a lot of hangups about feeling attractive to other people that certainly played into my feelings about the whole situation. So again, giant grain of salt.

    All this is to say, however, I personally in this situation would appreciate a message saying something along the lines of “hey, I know it’s been a while, just wanted to let you know I’m getting married, it’s to a dude, I realized I was bi after high school, hope you’re doing well, ok bye!” I wouldn’t FEELINGS into the message or say anything about how you think she might feel, but just stating the facts in a straightforward way like Shinobi says above could help avoid potential hurt/confusion.

    I generally agree with the Captain’s philosophy that it’s not usually advisable to do a lot of post-relationship analysis with someone. In this case, however, I don’t think that’s what the LW would be doing. He’d be preventing the possibility that she could receive some potentially hurtful and inaccurate information about the relationship from someone else, devoid of context. This isn’t about dissecting the LW and his ex’s relationship (or attempting to manage her feelings about it), it’s about preventing a possible misunderstanding.

    (Sorry if this is a double submission, I see an “awaiting moderation” note on my other comment but not this one. The perils of de-lurking!)

    (Also congrats to the LW on his engagement!)

    • lisamedia88 said:

      Agreed. I think you’ve said exactly what I said above in my response to Emma, but more eloquently!

      • ckilborne said:

        Aw, thanks! It’s kind of a thorny area to talk about, so I’m glad what I said made sense :)

    • I should clarify that I would be 10000% fine never having heard from my ex again. There is about a 0% chance I will ever see him again as we live on opposite sides of the country and I probably would never have heard about his new sexuality if he hadn’t taken the time to reach out. So now I have a non-0 amount of feelings about a person I will probably never see again.

      I would actually prefer he hadn’t said anything at all. But he said something in a totally shitty way and that made it just that much worse.

      • ckilborne said:

        Sorry, I hope I didn’t put words into your mouth or anything in my comment!

        I think this is a very context-dependent issue, and my comments are based on the fact that the LW thinks there’s a good chance his ex will hear about this through the grapevine, and possibly in an inaccurate way. If that factor wan’t there, I would probably change my mind and say it would be best not to say anything. A “hey, just thought I’d let you know this fact about my impending marriage just because I feel like telling you” thing is different from a “hey, I’m telling you this information because I think it might come up in other ways, so I just want it to be accurate/avoid potential misunderstanding” kind of thing. And depending on the entire situation, not saying anything might still be better (or it might not matter at all, since the ex might not even care).

        I guess I agree with the Captain’s two questions to ask when deciding whether to contact an ex, I just don’t totally agree with her conclusion about what the answers to those questions are in this case. (I also want to clarify that I don’t think the LW is obligated to reach out or anything, but that depending on the situation with his ex, it could potentially be a kind and considerate thing to do if he feels like it).

        I’m sorry your ex acted in a shitty way. Jedi hugs if you want them!

        • You’re fine,I’m not definitively one way or the other really. I totally agree about context, it is so important with this.

          It’s not that surprising. Though it’s good to know that World of Warcraft wasn’t the only thing that ended our relationship. Thank you for the jedi hugs.

        • twomoogles said:

          I really agree with the context dependent thing. I said above I’m sort of more on the side of ‘telling her would be OK’ but that’s because I’m thinking of my ‘type’ of social scene. The thing there is that even people who don’t talk anymore to each other will still hear about each other’s business even if it’s 3 or 4 steps removed. So if I were either the LW or his ex, I would rather have accurate information rather than possibly getting inaccurate gossip. Even totally nonmalicious information sharing–the type that happens among just about every group of friends–can get things wrong.

          If there’s very little chance of the ex hearing about LW’s marriage, I think telling her would be more self-indulgent, but I don’t see that here, personally.

    • ckilborne said:

      In light of K.A.’s post downthread, I just want to make clear in case I haven’t already that I don’t think identifying as gay at a certain point in one’s life/otherwise changing one’s label means that one’s past relationships were ‘fake’ or invalid. Some people have past relationships that don’t necessarily fit with the way they currently identify, and those relationships were totally great and real! Unfortunately, some people also sometimes feel pressured into straight relationships that they are unhappy or uncomfortable in, because of family/friends/society/etc. If it was in fact the former rather than the latter, I think it can be reassuring as an ex to hear that, to know that you didn’t inadvertently contribute to the unhappiness of someone you once cared about.

      • ckilborne said:

        Although I also don’t think the LW has an obligation to say anything to his ex, or that he owes her an ‘explanation’ of his sexuality! Just that if it’s something he’s thinking about and feels comfortable doing, I can see it being appreciated.

        (I keep leaving out the important bits; this is why I usually just lurk…)

    • Indywind said:

      “But his being gay implied that he was not attracted to women at all, including me way back when.”

      I don’t think it implies that, I think you inferred that. Just because it’s a popular idea that sexual orientation is consistent and monolithic and that choices and behaviors which vary over time are coerced or dishonest, doesn’t mean that’s true. You do not, in actuality, have any more or less reason to worry about your (now ID’ing as gay) ex’s consent or enjoyment of your former relationship, than you have to worry about the consent and enjoyment of any other ex who later lets you know they have realized they need or prefer something other than they had with you.

  14. Katamari said:

    My instinct is that you don’t owe her an explanation nor does she probably need one. If it’s been that long since you’ve dated, chances are she is WAY over you and really won’t care. It strikes me as a little self-flattering to assume she’ll get caught up in a spiral of sadness and anxiety over you even ~10 years down the track. Unless you have reason to believe she’s one of those super insecure and emotionally unstable types, her reaction will most likely be, “that’s interesting, on with my life now”.

  15. Anna said:

    I’d say write her a note, ask how she’s doing, tell her how you’re doing, mention you’re bi, maybe a short explanation on why you’re telling her this. The relationship has been over for so many years, I assume she’s well over it, rarely if ever thinks about you. Worst case scenario is that she thinks ‘Why the hell does he feel the need to inform me of this, not as if I care’ and throw the letter away. No-one gets hurt, no feelings lost or relationships damaged. Another likely scenario is that she might have been a little shocked on her ex marrying a man and is reassured by the fact that he is bi not gay, in which case mission accomplished: she won’t feel bad.

    In wondering how I would react, I realised it’s good that I am still in contact with most of my exes, even if it’s very, very occasionally (an email once every one-two years or so). If one of them (or I) would feel a need to explain their upcoming wedding to a man (or a woman in my case), at least there is already that very thin line of communication. And if I would get such news, I would probably appreciate the thoughtfullness of explaining it to me, wish them well and otherwise think about it very little.

    • How is this different from a bomb covered with cats, though?

      • Anna said:

        Because you get to the bomb right away, with as little cat-covering as necessary? You can of course start with the core of the message, but imo it’s polite to do a ‘how are you I am well’ first.

        • I’m not sure “here, have a bomb, I didn’t feel like disguising it, bye now” is actually better.

  16. K. A. said:

    Speaking as a queer who has ID’d as several things and counting…

    It seems to me that this is only an issue because we live in a homophobic, biphobic, heterocentric society that refuses to perceive sexuality as the fluid and changeable thing it is. If you wouldn’t have this conversation in the instance of marrying a woman after dating a woman, the fact you feel the need to have it now you’re marrying a man says a whole lot about how unusual our relationships are still perceived as being.

    (It’s not about you, LW. I struggle with the need to explain things that shouldn’t require explaining as well, especially with regards my gender.)

    I’m tired of the idea that a queer person’s relationships before each change in the definition of their sexuality must somehow be ‘false’ or ‘pretend’. (Note that it’s rarely the LGBT+ people who say this!) We shouldn’t have to reassure anyone about anything. What we do and feel and love at all the stages of our life is plenty real, and our changes in definition don’t invalidate what’s come before them – nothing we do or say gives anyone the right to think that.

    The people who do think that are the problem. If this girlfriend thinks this, that’s her problem. If she is shocked by your future husband, if she thinks you are a queer term that doesn’t match your chosen identity, if she is sad, if she thinks your relationship wasn’t real, if she needs an explanation, that is her misguided conception of sexuality at fault. Do we really have to accommodate something that’s so flawed and oppressive?

    You do what you feel comfortable doing, LW – because your comfort should come first – but please don’t feel like this is something you have to do. You don’t have to justify your choices and your loves and your words to anyone. You don’t have to explain that part of your life was plenty real (of course it’s real!). If she gets upset or doesn’t understand, that’s not your fault.

    I feel like it comes down to a reassurance that what you had was real because somehow the words you use now make it look like it wasn’t (not true, and not an idea that needs support), and you just don’t owe her that.

    • Katie said:

      Seconded!

    • ckilborne said:

      Thank you for sharing your experience. I know you were probably making a general comment and not speaking to anyone specifically, but after reading your post I appended my comment upthread. I agree that it’s harmful to portray sexuality as rigid and fixed, or to assert that if someone identifies a certain way now, their past relationships must have been fake or invalid. I hope I haven’t said anything in this thread to forward those harmful ideas, but it’s totally possible I’ve fucked that up somewhere along the line.

    • Laughing Giraffe said:

      I’m tired of the idea that a queer person’s relationships before each change in the definition of their sexuality must somehow be ‘false’ or ‘pretend’. (Note that it’s rarely the LGBT+ people who say this!)
      Not that I haven’t had my share of straight people saying various craptacular things about it, but I have *also* met people from all over the sexual map discount experiences and attractions (as in “You’re a betrayal to lesbianism because you’ve slept with a man” or “If you slept with a person of the same gender even once then you’re gay and have to agree 100% with all my ideas and arguments regarding sexuality.”)

      • Gold star lesbians. *sigh*

      • Mary said:

        Yes, I agree, I’ve seen that thinking reinforced by LGB people all over the shop.

    • I’m so glad somebody articulated this. I feel like a lot of the comments on this post are coming from (well-meaning, I’m sure) straight people who are just reinforcing this biphobic, homophobic stuff.

    • Indywind said:

      Thirded.

    • Tinea said:

      “It seems to me that this is only an issue because we live in a homophobic, biphobic, heterocentric society that refuses to perceive sexuality as the fluid and changeable thing it is.”

      Yes! Thanks for saying this!!

    • Molly Grue said:

      “I’m tired of the idea that a queer person’s relationships before each change in the definition of their sexuality must somehow be ‘false’ or ‘pretend’. (Note that it’s rarely the LGBT+ people who say this!) We shouldn’t have to reassure anyone about anything. What we do and feel and love at all the stages of our life is plenty real, and our changes in definition don’t invalidate what’s come before them – nothing we do or say gives anyone the right to think that.”

      Thank you, this is a lovely, lovely comment. Also, there is the possibility that L.W.’s former girlfriend isn’t going to make assumptions about the “reality” of their previous relationship. I mean, there is the hope that she depends on her experience of it instead of these cultural scripts. In any case, I think you put it best, that LW doesn’t have to *justify* anything.

    • dov ber said:

      “It seems to me that this is only an issue because we live in a homophobic, biphobic, heterocentric society that refuses to perceive sexuality as the fluid and changeable thing it is.”

      Definitely, it is. But, likewise, because we live in a homophobic, biphobic, heterocentric society, there are people out there with real feelings that are totally based on their unconscious, conditioned refusal to perceive sexuality as fluid and changeable. The LW’s ex might be one of them. I don’t think any queer person is obligated to take those feelings into consideration (or do gender-and-sexuality-fluidity-101 on demand) because they are oppressive and sometimes we’ve just had enough of that shit for one day or one lifetime. But doing so if and when you have the energy for it seems like a gesture of kindness and generosity.

      • I can see that. But I also think assuming that a current stranger from ten years ago will have those feelings and need to be saved from them is a bit high-handed, kind and/or generous intent notwithstanding. “Hey, honey, we don’t talk but I just wanted to make sure you didn’t think I was faking it with you, because you know that’s the kind of thing people are totally ignorant enough to think, and I wanted to help you in case you were a bigot.”

    • Zillah said:

      This is how I feel, too. Sexuality is a very fluid thing, and if she hears about your marriage and assumes homosexuality (as opposed to bisexuality) and that therefore your relationship with her wasn’t based on real attraction (as opposed to sexuality being fluid), I feel like that’s her problem.

    • TheNextRomana said:

      But at the same time, don’t we want to be trying to educate people when we can? In this case, if the ex-gf has good memories of LW, but is under the mistaken impression that a switch has flipped in him, or that he was lying to her/himself back then, or even that bisexuality is Not A Thing, then him reaching out to her and explaining, calmly and kindly, could well open her mind and gain us (the queer community) an ally.

  17. Anisoptera said:

    Congrats LW on your marriage!

    I don’t actually know what I think you should do – I just wanted to let you know I understand where you’re coming from. Bi erasure is a shitty sucky thing, and that some people will think untrue things about stuff that’s really personal and important to you is infuriating. I suppose it doesn’t matter if your mother’s friend’s postman thinks you’re actually gay, but it matters a great deal sometimes what more relevant people think.

    I understand why you might want to make sure an important ex understood the truth about your sexuality and that your relationship to her was exactly what it looked like and not some lie that she now needs to rewrite in her head.

    I don’t think it would be wrong to let her know with a brief note, though it might not work out how you expect, and hell she might decide you’re really gay even after you tell her you’re not.

    I feel like this question is more of a “people are telling lies about me how do I (should I) broach that with relevant past lovers?” than a “should I get in touch with my ex?” situation.

  18. I just did a quick run through in my head of every person I’ve ever dated: those I still like, those I now dislike, everyone inbetween.

    It would not make even a tiny bit of difference to me to hear that they were gay instead of bi or bi instead of gay. I understand this is something that definitely might matter to others, and I don’t mean to dismiss the sensitivity you are showing here by thinking about it! But it is not like a universal guarantee that it will matter to her at all.

  19. LW, congratulations, first off!

    It really sounds like you have the best intentions, but you’re not really interested in a deeper friendship with this woman. The question I have is less one of feelings, but of tactics: how well do you know the gossip mill and this woman’s relationship to it?

    You mentioned that you want to get her an explanation ahead of the news, but that you wouldn’t feel obligated if you were marrying another woman. Are you guys keeping vaguely in touch? Do you have Facebook friends with her Facebook friends? Do you come from a town small enough that folks still chat with one another?

    Because honestly, when I found out a guy I had a crush on in high school was getting married to another dude, it was because I had actually tracked him down and sent a friend request and saw his “THIS IS MY BOYFRIEND AND HERE ARE A BUNCH OF PHOTOS FROM OUR ROMANTIC GETAWAY TO ICELAND” updates. I don’t get a lot of news from my home suburb, or my high school! Not everyone lives this way, of course, but you might want to take into consideration just how likely it is she will get a lot of rumors or stories in the first place. If you really think she’s going to get an earful from well-meaning or well-gossiping folks (“Guess what I just heard about that LOVELY boy that you were in LOVE with once, oh my STARS…”) then yeah, maybe a quick note really is in order. If you’re not on each others’ radar any more? Your fears are probably overblown, and you can always send her a brief explanation if she reaches out with a question or a congratulation on her own.

  20. Carina said:

    I don’t know about you guys, but I’d be EXTREMLY skeezed out if one of my ex’es would contact me just to tell me they’re marrying someone else.

    I mean, I spent years not talking to them, and suddenly they pop in and pop back out, just to tell me they’re marrying someone else? Why? Gloating? That’s basically a feels drive-by shooting, I haven’t thought about them for ages. Even about the guy I was really serious about.

    If some of them wanted continous contact it would be quite differently, but then “hey, I marry then and then!” is not really a good openener.

    Why does it matter to the LW what the Ex things of him? Honest question, actually. Because the answer to that has the core of what the LW wants to do.

    (And is the LW prepared to deal with a potential “Please bugger off, you’re acting creepy?” response? Because, like I said, that would be mine.)

    • Zee said:

      I’m with you, basically. If the LW and his ex were in even the most casual of contact (mutual Facebook friends or something) then this would make sense, but…well, I don’t think I’d be skeezed out but if one of my exes with whom I’m not in contact got in touch with me to tell me, “I’m getting married to someone else but hey! that doesn’t me our relationship didn’t mean anything!” I would assume that my ex has some issues to work through and would be annoyed that they were trying to dump them on me. Because that’s how I would feel.

    • Mary said:

      I’m the opposite – I don’t want to be in regular touch with 2 out of 3 of my exes, but I’d love a bit of drive-by updates on big life changes (got married, emigrating, finishing my PhD, emigrating).

      For me, this doesn’t have much at all to do with queerness and everything to do with how happy people are be in touch with / hear from their exes, which it totally individual and unpredictable. So I’d say it’s like everything to do with weddings: there is no universally agreed etiquette, nearly everything is bound to offend someone somewhere, so just do the right thing by your own lights and be prepared to apologise if you get it terribly wrong.

    • Elikit said:

      I’m in the same camp as you that I don’t want drive by updates from my exes. But sometimes I do wonder what they’re up to – I just don’t want to have to interact with them to find out. If only I had the power of scrying!

      I’d be totally weirded out if an ex popped up after 10 years to update me on his marital status, but happy to read as a post on Facebook under public settings.

  21. wordum said:

    So it seems there’s conflicting opinions on whether people would want to hear this or not. Personally I’m in the ‘would’ camp, but I might be biased by being bi myself, so that as far as I’m concerned hearing that about almost anyone is good and interesting news that is likely to make me want to high five them :)

    I, like most other bi/queer/pan types, have also experienced similar reactions to my being in a long term relationship with a woman (I’m also female) – people reacting like ‘oh, I guess you weren’t so happy with [long term male ex] after all?’ kind of thing. It’s everywhere. And that’s actually what jumped out at me most from your letter. The question you asked was whether to contact your ex or not, but the fundamental problem I’m seeing is that you’re experiencing queer/biphobic blehiness which is hurtful to you and others, potentially including your ex.

    So then here’s an idea. Instead of concentrating on whether you should contact your ex out of the blue or not, which it seems some people would appreciate while others would not (and you’re not in a position to know what she might prefer), why not do a little bit of activism type thing, if you’re comfortable with it? For example, you could write on your social network of choice, and/or say in person when the topic comes up, something like:

    ‘I’ve noticed recently lots of people describing me as ‘gay’, which is a bit weird to me. I totally get that it’s the obvious word to describe my relationship with the wonderful Whatshisname (and is also firmly embedded in phrases like ‘gay marriage’), but it still doesn’t sit quite right with me. I’ve also had relationships with women and to me they weren’t a mistake or fake or anything like that, they were very real and important to me and I look back on them with a lot of warm feelings. If I wasn’t with Mr Whatsit, I have no idea who I would be with or what gender they’d be.’

    …Or whatever kind of sentiments suits you obviously.

    If it’s obvious to everyone that this is your attitude to things, perhaps it won’t actually run through the rumour mill to your ex as ‘LW is all gay now, omg, can you believe it, did you ever suspect’.

    Just a thought!

    • Indywind said:

      I really like this suggestion.

    • Concur! (Also this is why I insist on calling it marriage equality. It includes bi and trans people, as well as people who might be otherwise straight but met their exception or something like that.)

    • dov ber said:

      Yeah, this is clever. Seeding the rumor mill yourself does seem like a suitable workaround.

    • Aoife said:

      I love this idea.

    • WT said:

      I super love this idea as a way for the LW to feel proactive in heading off assumptions or hurt feelings without, as turtle mentioned below, potentially just creating a different situation for the ex to feel weird about. Great suggestion!

    • wordum said:

      Thanks all. I had to scribble that comment hastily while babysitting my niecelings so I’m glad it was comprehendible, and useful :)

  22. scribbles said:

    I think the Captain’s advice to think about who you are doing this for, and what you want the future of the relationship to be, is a good sounding board. Only you can decide whether contacting your ex is the best decision, based on the answers to those questions.

    I’ve been wrestling with a similar question, and I still don’t have a decision made. (It’s the second question that stumps me.) After a long string of selfish, controlling exes, I’ve realized how unusual and how awesome partner#1 was. And I want to say so.

    Before this sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, I don’t want to get back together! We haven’t been in contact in years, though from mutual friends I know zie’s doing well. I wish zim and zir current partner all the best. What I want is to thank zim for for having been consistently respectful of my boundaries even before I was able to think them through or articulate them, for checking in about my mental & emotional comfort level throughout the relationship, and so on. I didn’t realize at the time how rare that is in a partner! So now, even though it’s long after the fact, I feel the urge to let zim know I appreciate zir respectful behavior.

    I haven’t yet, though, because of the great potential for “Hey, I was thinking about how good you were to me during our relationship” to be misread as “Hey, I never moved on, here’s a big ol’ feelingsbomb for you and your current partner to deal with.” Which would be the opposite of cool.

  23. Indywind said:

    I’ve gotta say, this would not be an issue if we, as a culture, didn’t treat sexual orientation with so much more angst and gravity than other things about a person. We’ve got this cultural narrative where crummy boundaries that’d get a massive side-eye about something else are strangely understandable or excusable around sexual orientation (and gender identity, but that’s veering off-topic).

    Sexual orientation is going to keep being an Issue-with-a-capital-I as long as everybody keeps treating it like one. So how about let’s just …not, where we don’t have to, where we wouldn’t treat another element of identity or relationship as a big deal.

    Would you contact an ex you’re otherwise out of touch with, to tell them that,
    the person you chose to marry now is noticeably different from your ex in some significant way other than gender (think here, race/ethnicity/color, size/weight/shape, dis/abledness, big difference in wealth, native/immigrant/foreign) Or to tell them that something you’re doing differently in your life these days has nothing to do with them?

    If you have the sense to know you are not responsible for how your ex may feel about learning that your life has turned around ever since you became vegan or converted to Judaism, or that your current partner is different by 100lbs in weight or $100,000 in income from your ex, or is Black instead of White or vice versa… then you probably have the sense to see that you’re also not responsible for how your ex feels about learning that your current partner has testosterone-based rather than estrogen-based chemistry.

  24. turtle said:

    I really empathize with wanting to not cause her hurt, but I don’t think contacting her will necessarily preclude hurt feelings.

    Here are possible scenarios:
    1. You don’t contact her, she finds out through the grapevine that you’re marrying a man, and a) she thinks, “Oh, good for him!” and moves on, or b) she thinks, “Oh, good for him! But, huh, he sure didn’t seem gay in high school, I wonder if he really had romantic feelings for me? This makes me feel a little weird.”

    2. You do contact her, tell her you’re marrying a man, and tell her you’re bi, and a) she thinks “Oh, good for him!” and moves on, or b) she thinks, “Hmm, why is he contacting me out of the blue? Does he feel guilty or something? This makes me feel a little weird.”

    Either way, she might be fine with it, or she might feel weird about it, and you can’t know ahead of time which it will be.

    Like the captain said, you have to just make the decision on its own terms. Reach out if you want to reconnect with her, and don’t if you don’t.

  25. 30ish said:

    I’m trying to put myself in your ex’s shoes, and for me it’s clear that I wouldn’t be interested in being contacted in this situation, particularly if there had been no contact at all for years. I also can’t imagine second-guessing the importance of a high school relationship just because they guy ended up marrying a man. I would still assume that whatever we experienced together was ‘real’. Plus, even if the ex did change her perception of the relationship upon hearing the news of the marriage – is it a big loss, a misunderstanding that must be corrected? I don’t think so. If she hears it through the grapevine, let her use her own judgment to process the information. If she ends up seeing your relationship in a different light, it really is her problem.

  26. DameB said:

    As someone with a lot of exes, I’ve tried to put myself in your ex’s shoes. How would I feel if I heard through the grapevine that Dan/Karl/Steven/Andy/Jimmy wound up getting married to a man? And I realized that it would depend when in my own personal development I heard it.

    If I’d heard it when I was a young woman, raised in a conservative household, when I thought people were either gay or straight, I might have thought, “The dude was gay. Huh.” And yes, it might put our relationship in a (false) mental context where I’d change some of my perceptions about that relationship and maybe draw some (wrong) conclusions. Having dude call me and say “I’m marrying a dude but I’m bi, not gay,” might actually have corrected those erroneous assumptions. I think that’s what you’re going for — heading off erroneous assumptions.

    That said, if I heard it NOW, more educated, further away from that white picket fence, and with a deeper understanding of the complexities of human sexuality (including my own), I’d think, “The dude fell in love with another dude. Cool.” And it might add a few highlights or depth shadows to my memories of that relationship, but wouldn’t change it significantly.

    I don’t know much about your ex, obviously, but I’d do her the favor of assuming she’s in the latter camp, rather than the former. Give her the benefit of not thinking she’ll make erroneous assumptions.

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