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Late, but still OK to ask about ex

Fri., Aug. 24, 2012

Dear Carolyn: After dating my girlfriend exclusively for 14 months, is it OK for me to ask the history between her and a male friend of hers? It is pretty obvious he is interested in her. He attends a class she leads that I often attend as well, and he and I are friendly. I just want to know if he is a former boyfriend, as one of her friends referred to him, but don’t want to come off as the guy who controls her or is psycho-jealous. I think it’s a fair question. I’m also curious if she still has contact with her ex, who lives across the country. – D.

Of course it’s OK to ask about both, as long as you don’t demand intimate details or an undying loyalty oath.

But it would have been more OK if you had asked her back when these questions first bubbled up. The mechanics of “psycho-jealous” aren’t just in the curiosity, but instead in the timing and tone of the questions, as well as your investment in one outcome or another.

When they’re part of the get-to-know-you process, such questions are a good way to learn about someone: “That guy in your class, is he an ex of yours, old friend, acquaintance from class … ?” Natural curiosity in its natural place.

When the questions come out 14 months into your relationship, on the other hand, and it sounds as if you’re trying to phrase them just so, they suggest you have issues with these men and/or your girlfriend’s ongoing contact with them.

Since you missed your opportunity to ask back when these men first entered the conversation, bring up the subject now by acknowledging that: “I should have asked this months ago, because I’ve been curious – (is Class Guy an ex)/(are you still in touch with Mr. Ex)?”

Straight questions and straight answers are rarely something to fear; dodging, from either side, is when alarms go into effect.

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