39

I'm in my mid-twenties and I've always had more female friends than male friends. I was in 2 serious relationships (one 1,5 year long and the other one 3 years) and 4 or 5 small ones, but they can't really be called "relationships". I no longer keep in touch with a great majority of all the girls I've ever met.

But I did a lot of things with these female friends and exes: visiting restaurants, parks, cities, going abroad, etc. I know a lot of places that are worth a visit or things which are fun to do together because I was there or did those things with some other girl before. I don't really hide this.

I've been in multiple relationships now where I always have a hard time telling those stories or speaking about certain things, because to my girlfriends I always speak about other girls or, especially, my exes (just because I did more stuff with the exes, so they come up more often as an answer). My girlfriends sometimes feel like I am constantly comparing them to each other.

Usually, it goes like this: My girlfriend and I go somewhere together to someplace I know is fine. We talk and at one point in the conversation, sooner or later, this magical question appears: "Did you come here before?" or "Do you know this place?" or "How did you find this place?". Or we go to some new place and in the conversation, I mention a story where I experienced something similar but different in some aspects or totally different. The magic question comes again: "Who were you there with? Were you there alone?". I've never had a feeling that these questions were asked on purpose to test whether I'm a womanizer or something, rather out of pure curiosity, just like when two people are getting to know each other.

I fought long battles explaining that those girls don't matter to me, and I'm telling her about the place or thing because of the importance of it in this particular moment, and not because of the girl I was there with at that time.

Adding to that, whenever we talk about myself and my past, my exes may come up. An example: I can say that I like dancing and I danced ballroom dances for 2 years (which is quite obvious that I had to have a partner). Or (this is a big one) about something that I didn't like about an ex or generally speaking about women. I'm afraid that I can mention my exes in a more casual setting like "I'm glad that you're not like that one because she was always X and Y".

For my next relationship, how can I honestly address those kinds of questions without coming across like I'm always talking about my exes?

  • 16
    Hello network visitors! Please note that IPS is fairly strict about using comments as intended. Comments are only for clarifying and improving the question. Partial answers or general thoughts about the situation may be deleted without notice. If you'd like to write an answer, make sure to check out our posts on How do I write a good answer? and citation expectations first. Thanks! – Tinkeringbell Jul 15 at 10:54
  • 6
    Does the edited question accurately characterise the past encounters in that you talked about the place, and the girlfriend wanted to know about the people you were there with? If so, it should be pretty obvious you're not "always talking about your exes" - your girlfriends were always asking abut your exes! But if the recurring theme in your honest answers to these questions makes your girlfriend uncomfortable, maybe you have a closely-related, but subtly different, IPS problem - how to avoid the impression you're always revisiting the sites of old dates. – Will Jul 15 at 13:36
  • 8
    Is there a hidden x/y problem here, as in "how can I make my girlfriend stop freaking out any time she hears about one of my exes?" – Beanluc Jul 15 at 20:16
  • 1
    @Beanluc I think it's strongly linked to my question, yes – Colonder Jul 16 at 8:33
52

How to honestly answer questions from a girlfriend like “How did you find this place” without giving the impression I'm always talking about my exes?

You don't need to avoid mentioning them. Just talk about them the same way as you would talk about any other (male) friends that you might have done things with.

Much like your description of your background, I grew up with a lot of female friends, many of whom were among my closest friends. When I finally started dating, I remained friends with the majority of my exes after breaking up and one of them remains perhaps my closest friend some 25ish years later. On top of that, ballroom and tango dancing were my primary social activities for many years. So, yeah, girls/women were present and involved in a lot of the things I've done in my life, but I have never had a bad reaction when talking to a current girlfriend about places I've gone or things I've done with other women.

From the description in the question of how these conversations go, I think I can see why you might have problems: In your attempts to avoid mentioning who you were with, you come off as being conspicuously evasive. When people notice that you're trying to avoid telling them something, they naturally become suspicious and will frequently assume the worst because, if it wasn't bad, why would you be trying to keep it a secret?

This is why I talk about my female friends the same way as I talk about my male friends, and suggest that you should try to do the same. If I talk about Mary the same way (and as easily as) I talk about John, then it's generally assumed that I interact with both of them the same way as well. If, on the other hand, I talked freely about John, but became evasive whenever Mary came up in conversation, then that can be read as implying that I have a different relationship with Mary than with John - perhaps even that I'm secretly in love with her - which is just what you're trying to avoid.

  • Let's assume I do as you say. The other problem might be, that I did stuff with some girls more than others. Say, because I was in those 2 longer relationships, it's natural that (even statistically speaking) I experienced more with those 2 girls than others. What to do in THIS situation? In conversation, it will look like I always talk about only 2 girls which can be annoying to my next girlfriend. Especially that (I don't know how to express this) my "relationship experience and knowledge" comes mainly from them so I may come off (and I did in the past) as constantly comparing. – Colonder Jul 15 at 8:03
  • 23
    @Colonder - The update to the question doesn't really change my answer. But it does make me want to re-emphasize the "talk about female friends (even exes!) the same way as you talk about male friends" part. Would you compare John to your current girlfriend by saying things like "I'm glad that you're not like John because he was always X and Y"? I doubt it, so don't compare her to Mary in that way either. If you want to say something to your girlfriend about herself, as MlleMei said, keep the focus on her, herself. Don't do it by comparing her to Mary (or even to John). – Dave Sherohman Jul 15 at 11:00
25

I too have had my fair share of female friends. I've also had a couple of serious relationships before finding my wife. This answer is based on my discussions with my now wife when those other girls came up in conversation.

Using the following aproaches have either prevented my now wife from asking those questions in the first place, or if they did come up, allowed me to answer them truthfully without upsetting her.


Regular friends, non romantic context

I agree with Dave's answer about regular friends that happen to be girls. As long as you're honest about them being just friends and tell about them exactly the same way as if you would if they were boys it shouldn't cause much jealousy. The first time I mentioned a new girl my wife would also ask who she was. After explaining who she was and the rest of the friend group we were in at that time (sometimes consisting of only 4 girls for example) I could usually continue casually with my non-romantic story.


Exes, romantic context

What could be a lot trickier is talking about your experiences with ex girlfriends. If you revisit some romantic place and the first thing you talk about is how awesome your date with other girl was in this magical place then of course your current girlfriend isn't going to be happy. You're implying that she has to make this date at least as nice as the one in your memory. Even if you never intended to do so.

What I would do is mention the fact you've been there before with one of your exes when planning the trip/activity. Be clear that you enjoy the place/food/... and think your current girlfriend would enjoy it too, then ask if she would like to experience this with you too.

Now there's 2 possible outcomes:

  1. your girlfriend doesn't like going to said place because she doesn't want to be compared to your ex.

Just acknowledge this and try to find something else you both enjoy.

  1. You go to the place.

During the date (did I mention romantic place? I did right...) be sure to never mention your ex unless if explicitly asked. You're there to make fun new memories with your new girlfriend, not to relive your memories of your ex. Don't even talk about your memories of the place at all.

The only exception to this is when you suggest the next place to go. For example if you're on a city trip you can say something like "There's this nice view 2 blocks from here that you just have to see".

Of course she'll know that you've been there before with your ex girlfriend, otherwise you wouldn't know about the view. But by saying it like this, you make it about your current experience and something she would (/should?) like. Your attention at that time is clearly with her, not in the memories of the place.


Exes, casual context with current girlfriend (possibly about romantic memory)

In case you aren't planning to go somewhere specific but just happen to come across a place with a strong memory, like walking past your old dancing school.

There's nothing wrong with casually mentioning that you've learned how to dance there. During that explanation of course you're going to talk about your ex girlfriend. Don't lie about it, don't try to leave her out of it.

Oh look it's [dancing school], that's where I've learned how do dance about 5 years ago when I was still going out with girl X. Do you know how to ballroom dance?

You're just talking about something you experienced in the past. Don't try to downplay it as something not important. Don't lie about it. Just say it as it is. If it's the first time you mention girl X and your girlfriend wants to know who it is just tell the truth:

It's not a secret that I went out with girl X 5 years ago. We were a thing, we had many nice moments but it didn't work out in the end so we broke up after 1,5 years. One of the nice things about that relationship is that I'm now great at ballroom dancing, you want me to teach you?

This way, you show you have nothing to hide. That girl has been important to you some time in your life, but that's now in your past. The fact that you can now casually talk about it means you got over it and you can now focus on what your current girlfriend means to you. You should however try to avoid comparing your current girlfriend to your exes. Saying something like

"I'm glad that you're not like that one was because she always X and Y

means you are thinking more about "that one" than you are about your girlfriend. Instead, since you know what you want, word it in a way that doesn't compare her instead:

I like how you do X.

13

I think Dave Sherohman's answer is a very good one for part of your context (how to mention other girls when doing an activity with a girlfriend which you used to do with other girls). I want to address the other part, which you added later on.

"My girlfriends sometimes feel like I am constantly comparing them to each other."

"Or (this is a big one) about something that I didn't like about an ex or generally speaking about women. I'm afraid that I can mention my exes in a more casual setting like "I'm glad that you're not like that one because she was always X and Y".

You don't just mention your exes to provide information about how you found a place. You seem to talk about their character, their quirks, and to compare them to your current girlfriend. You responded to one of my comments (where I wondered if you mention your exes without prompting) by saying "If it's that I start a conversation myself from telling stories involving other girls, then no". But other stuff you said seems to contradict this (see above). You yourself say that other girls have felt constantly compared to your exes, I don't think they would feel that way if you were just mentioning stuff like that you came to this restaurant with ex A in the past.

So here's a couple of things that I would try if I were you :

Focus on the person in front of you

I know you say you don't mention your exes otherwise, but again some things you've said contradicts this statement. So if I were you, I would pay some attention to this in my next relationship. I've dated very little before my current relationship (which is now 5 years long) and only had one serious relationship (one year long) before this one. So it would have been very easy to fall into the trap of "Oh, B did it this way" or "I liked doing X with B, I miss it, are you interested in doing this ?". I also learned a lot of lessons out of my first relationship, so there are things that I do that are related to my first relationship. However, it's often not necessary to mention it to my boyfriend. My rule of thumb is: will mentioning my ex-boyfriend give any useful context to what I want to say/do? Often it's not the case.

For example, if you still say things like "I'm glad that you're not like my ex A because she was always X and Y", stop that. It maybe feels like you're paying them a compliment, but comparing them to another girl isn't a compliment. You can say the compliment without mentioning someone else ("I really like Z about you"). If it's something that is truly important to you or that you feel strongly about, you can do that without mentioning someone specific:

"I truly appreciate Y about you, it's not something I've had in previous relationships and I really cherish you for this."

By putting things this way, you put the focus on your current girlfriend and what you like about her (or don't like, the same principle applies, don't compare them to your ex who was so great at it). It also gives the impression you value her for the person she is, and not how she is or isn't compared to some other girl.

If you're still in the habit to mention your exes by comparing them to your current girlfriends, it probably adds to their irritation when you bring them to some place where you also brought your ex. It might also be why they grill you on who you were with.

  • Thank you. Regarding contradictory statements from my side... as I said, I never start speaking about my exes out of the blue, just because I feel like doing it, in a sense like "oh you know what, I recalled that...". I think what I wanted to convey is that I have a tendency to be a blabber in a conversation, going with the flow and touching topics I not necessarily should, without thinking this through in the first place. – Colonder Jul 15 at 11:38
  • Hi MlleMei! I'm sorry to say I had to pretty massively edit the question to narrow it down and focus on one specific issue: That OP has a problem with mentioning their exes whenever they come up in a conversation. That meant excluding some details from the question on 'comparing', and also the part about markers that can be used to recognize 'insecure' girls. I've given your answer an edit to contain the right quotes, and remove the part about insecure... I think the rest still stands, I hope you understand :) – Tinkeringbell Jul 15 at 12:11
  • 4
    @Tinkeringbell No problem for me, but I do think that the extra info OP gave is meaningful to give helpful advice to him. It wouldn't surprise me that the heart of the problem lies with OP comparing his dates to his exes (and stuff like that), and that the dates being frustrated when he mentions them more casually stems from this. If my answer no longer fits the question, it can be removed, Imus's answer covers everything I wanted to convey :-) – MlleMei Jul 15 at 12:18
  • 1
    @MlleMei I think your answer is fine as it is now: I left parts about comparing dates/exes too (see the new 'quotes') so it still fits as an addition to Dave's answer :) – Tinkeringbell Jul 15 at 12:20
  • 1
    @Tinkeringbell OK then, I quickly scanned it so I missed this :-) – MlleMei Jul 15 at 12:31
1

I go through these situations occasionally. Even now, I have a friend (girl, simple friendship only), to whom I do not want to mention that something happened while I was with another girl.

In these situations, I go with things like:

X time ago I was with some friends. And one of them... [bla bla bla].

It may happen that you slip (unintentionally) some information that one of them was a girl. That is OK, from my point of view, and you should not panic. Just go ahead with the story.

If you are asked (or even worse, cornered) with questions about the other girl, you have (at least) two options:

  1. Casually give some explanations about the other girl. Something like this should cover the subject normally:

She was one in our group. She was friend with...

  1. You may choose to deliver some (innocent?!) lie about the facts. Pretend she was the girlfriend of somebody else, or that she was actually a guy.

Personally, I never lied about things. If my current girlfriend cannot live with the fact that I did not grow up in solitude in a strict monastery for men, then I (most likely) do not want to continue a relationship with her.

Of course, you know your details better, and you will need to adjust the details according to the situation at hand.

0

Let's distill this into the fundamental issue.

questions from a girlfriend...without...talking about my exes?

I've always followed a very simple rule...don't talk about the exes. That's it, no reason to over complicate the situation.

In practice, it's usually that simple. You can talk about almost anything you've done by simple focusing on your personal experience, rather than the 'shared experience' with the ex.

I know it may feel more 'honest' to include the ex in the description, but...really no one wants to hear about them. No, it's not a lie to just omit the other person. If you're taking a stroll on a quiet river bank, they're going to assume you've done this before, no need to confirm it because that's what invites the comparisons. Same with ballroom dancing.

If asked specifically, you can try to be cute about it by saying something like "You got me, I bring all the [gratuitous compliment] ladies here."

Now, if they keep asking about exes, that's worrying and indicates some insecurity on their part. Just be mindful of that. Both of you are in a healthy position if you can talk about exes, but don't really want to.

Unless there is a very, very meaningful reason (baggage) to mention exes (acrimonious divorce, children, abuse), just don't. This is very common advice:

He Keeps Talking About His Exes!

Major Turn Offs in Relationships – Talking about Exes

  • 4
    Hi Johns! Can you do us a favour, and edit in the relevant parts of the pieces you linked, preferably in a way that shows which of the claims in your answer is supported by which source? Links can 'rot', and eventually end up in dead links. By editing in the quotes and attributing them, your answer can stand even if the links break, and people won't have to visit external sites to get their entire answer. – Tinkeringbell Jul 15 at 19:13
-2

"Who were you with?" is not really an obvious question unless you are specifically interested in who you were with at some place. The purpose of such questions is to put together a profile of who you are in terms of who you went to places with. Companies do that kind of thing in order to do targeted advertising, offering things you are likely to be interested in. A girlfriend or friend or buddy might want to do the same and figure out what and who resonates with you.

There are a number of disadvantages to that, of course. This does not just paint a picture of who you are, but also what kind of relations you enjoyed being in. Those relations are past relations, and quite often the reason they were past is that not everything was optimal, so one usually wants to start on a fresh leaf while retaining the option to pick up on some things that actually were pretty great. It also allows you to propose some activities which are likely to put you in a comfortable place you enjoyed with someone else.

It is an advantage of you, giving you a nice starting place. When you need to explain what brought you there, it becomes a competition. Which is bad since any single activity that was great once with someone else becomes a steep call to top or draw even. Which turns an advantage for enjoying a great day into a disadvantage for enjoying a great day.

If your current girlfriend semi-consistently comes in at second place to random other people at great places, that may make for a tremendous record (the overall Tour de France winner and/or yellow shirt carrier rarely wins more than one or two sprints if any). It may also make her feel inferior to almost everybody at random.

So this is a topic that you both may well be better off not to dig in too deeply, depending on how you and your girlfriend may attach meaning to it. Of course the best situation is where your girlfriend knows that she is not in a competition and does not ask such questions out of anything but interest in you rather than your exes.

The degree of such sovereignty is very different between people, and I don't think it is reasonable to make this the governing criterion of who you want to be with. So I would be very careful about taking advice in something where the validity of the advice very much depends on the person in question. Trust your own feelings, and possibly those of people who know her better than some random audience on the Internet.

Try not to appear hiding things, and try not to push her with them. Again, what other people feel "pushing" here depends on the person in question. For some, it is just revisiting places. For some, it is stressing the importance of who you were with at one time. Don't let yourself get carried away with what you tell until you have a solid grasp of how it may echo a few weeks hence.

"Just don't go there" is solid advice like "get a licensed electrician" is solid advice. Obviously, some people can go there and some people can do proper wiring, but discouraging a stranger will quite likely lead to less trouble for them than relating "I did this and that and it was fine".

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.