Guys: how do I tell my ex-SO I'm getting married, without hurting him?

My ex (“John”)and I had been together for 15 years. We met when I was 21 and he was 30. We weren’t married, but living together outside of marriage is very common here in the Netherlands, so for the sake of describing the situation, just read that as " married".

We parted, amicably, May 2005. We had no kids to fight over. John kept the (rented) house and all mutual stuff, and our cat. We had always kept our money separate, so we haven’t had a single row over money, either. He packed my stuff so he knew what I would take with me, and I was okay with his decision.

We had a kind of open relationship, so at the time of out break-up, we both had another relationship. It just hadn’t been the intention of either of us that I would fall in love with my current SO. But I did fall in love with Arwin, so much so that I decided to move out, and find a place of my own, and live with Arwin, instead.
John still sees his GF, (who, by the way, I’ve met and she is a very nice lady) and he has had a lot of female attention since I moved out as well. I’m glad, but not surprised; he’s just a really cool guy. :slight_smile:
I love, and like, my ex very much. He feels like my father and mother rolled into one. I owe him a great deal. But lately, our break-up feels, to me anyway, more like leaving the family house to go to college, rather then like a true “divorce” . But I dread his anger and I hate, hate to see him hurt.

My ex was heartbroken over my decision to move out. He knew he would be losing me, in many ways. Really heartbroken; I have tried to talk the loss down by convincing him everything will only get better for everybody, but he’s smart, and doesn’t fall for it. He knows what he has lost. Not so much me, but the relationship we had.
But all three of us have tried to be grown-up and civil and maganimous about the whole thing. Still, and unsurprisingly, my ex’s wound is still raw. I go see him for dinner one night every week, and while we talk pleasantly enough, I feel I have to tread carefully when it comes to mentioning Arwin or my life with Arwin. John hasn’t yet wanted to meet Arwin, either.

Now, Arwin and I want to marry. This should be an happy thought, but instead of jumping about for joy I find myself dreading to have to break the news to my John.

John knows, obviously, that I now live with Arwin. He also knows I’m seriously thinking of having children with Arwin. I have also told John that I want a more " traditional" (meaning: not open) relationship with Arwin then I had with him.
That hurt, because my ex had a contempt for marriage. He always said marriage amounted to signing a contract about what can only be given freely, and the ceremony amounted to spending money on a lot of hoohah to try to convince people who don’t really care of the fathomless depth of your love. I used to kinda agree, although I wanted to marry when we first started out fifteen years ago. In retrospect, at the time I wanted to marry John for the wrong reasons (securing him, feeling entitled to make demands).

So if I told my ex I want to marry Arwin, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise. But it will hurt him and make our (his and mine) “divorce” seem that much more final.

So guys; would you have any advice on how to go about telling my ex about my marriage plans as painless as possible? How long do I wait? I feel the pain lessens as time goes by, but the risk of him finding out on his own increases with time, as well.
Should I tell him in person or by letter or e-mail, or phone? How do I word the whole thing? Again, I stress that I feel awful, awful when I see him angry or hurt. I’m probably a big wuss that way, but that is how iI am.

Advice from a guys perpective would be much appreciated. Oh, and thanks for listening.

That’s a tough situation. But I assume, from your statements about maintaining a friendly relationship with him, that he knows the reasons you’ve moved on to a more traditional relationship.

You really have no option to break it to him over your weekly dinner. The fact tht he will freak is pretty much unavoidable. Doing it in a letter will only prolong the inevitable, as I assume you will continue to see him as friends.

I think you just need to do it. There’s nothing to do but ride it out. It sounds like once he gets past the initial shock he’ll come back down to reality and deal with it like people do.

Good luck in your new life. And good luck with “the talk.”

There is no easy way, so just give it to him straight.

Tell him up front as plainly as possible. I think most blokes are like me - we piss and moan, and make a big production about how put out we are but we quickly calm down and accept reality.

I don’t know how he feels about your other relationships but in 66% of my “failed” relationships I have been happy for my former partners good luck. The other 34% I wished painful death upon but that’s another thread.

Don’t catastrophize - assume that everything will work out well and make the first steps. In terms of sales technique contrast the fact that you two never wanted to get married but you and Arwin do want to get married. Isn’t life strange (Moody Blues).

I don’t care HOW good of friends you all are; I’d say you two need some serious time away from each other. I’m talking NO contact at all. It will be easier to heel that way. Otherwise you will only be constantly reminded of what you two had together.

I’d say for Arwins sake, you need to take that bold step and just cut yourself off from your former BF. If you don’t, it only screams to me that you’re not ready to move on. Your not ready as YOU say “To have a more traditional relationship”

Well, geuss what?

A traditional relationship means Arwin has to come first and YOU can’t have the best of BOTH worlds.

I’m not saying you should cut off all ties with your former BF indefinately; but do please give it some time, A LOT of time if you ask me.

I could go on about jumping from one relationship right into another but that’s another story.

Definitely tell him in person. I know it’s hard. It might be easier if you arrange to go for coffee and tell him there’s something you want to talk about, rather than use your weekly dinner. Different setting, and you can both escape quickly and think about what’s just been said.

If his regard for you is as high as yours is for him, he’ll bury any hurt he feels and be happy for you.

Also, don’t try and wait for the “right moment” or gradually steer the conversation into marriage territory, or you’ll end up putting it off for another time.

Forgot to add, I’m a guy BTW.

well, it sounds like you’re just going to have to buck up and do it. you’re running into the fun little problem of time. do you tell him now when he’s still “grieving” or wait until time heals some wounds and then risk opening them back up/looking like you were hiding something.
tell him now. get it over with. that’s best for everyone involved.

also, what unnerves me…is you’re talking marriage with some guy and still referring to your ex as “your” john. what’s the deal with that? he’s not yours. never will be again.

the nature of a relationship is thus: because feelings can’t be quantified, someone in the relationship inextricably loves/feels for the other person more than the other does. it’s just about how close you can narrow the gap. i have the feeling that you cared/care for john more then he cares/cared about you. this is not to say that he never did like you, but he did some amazingly nice things that a lot of guys wouldn’t do at the end of a breakup.

just tell john and get it over with…but then you run into the “how do i tell him” problem

I sorry, I feel really compelled to come back into this thread after reading Least Original User Name Ever’s post.

I see nothing but the onset of a trainwreck coming on here. I can’t help but to feel sorry for poor Arwin.

What an emotional nightmare. No human could possibly have their head in the right place for another healthy relationship after 15 years together.

You might want to take a deep look at yourself and ask:

“Am I codependent?”

Not trying to say anything less of you. I’m sure and you seem to be a good person. It’s just something to think about.


  1. Be grateful you are on such good terms with John after all the things you went through. ( I wish more couples were so civilised. I strongly suspect the media and movies help play a huge part in the viciousness of divorces over here in the states. People are programmed that way to try to decimate the other whom they once loved and respected and it is teaching their kids that it is normal behavior.

  2. Shoot straight from the hip in telling him. You’ve changed and you are happy with things and how they changed and have surprised even yourself. If he cannot accept that Things Change, he is in for a life of Rude Awakenings. How he handles the news is not your business. How you deliver it, is. (don’t try to convert him to the wonderfullness that is what you are going through, next to Religous Zealots, Romantical Zealots are the worst.)

  3. I don’t think you have to tell him that you can see kids in the future right now. If you do go on the path to motherhood, you can tell him you are pregnant and if he is mature enough about it, well see how happy you are with your decision. Measuring you up now of the person you were then is a mistake. People change.

  4. Don’t expect a warm welcome or the warm fuzzies over whatever you tell him. It most likely will be a bit of a cockpunch to him and it will probably sting like a mental papercut. Give him time, be gentle with the info, buy the wine or dinner.

  5. If you are still referring to him as ‘my John’, there is a sense of emotional attachment that really needs to be severed. He needs to be downgraded to ‘John’, just John. It will be hard the first time, but it gets easier.

  6. Have the guys meet over a drink or three. Make it brief, stating you have to meet somebody or going to the movies, wash your hair…blah blah blah. A time limit with an excuse is a mental port in a potentially rough waters here. The guys, being guys, will do the customary Guy Handshake thing and the " Pleased to meet you" ritual and it will be awkward, but at least guys have these rituals. Humor can come into play with " One day, the two of you can discuss what a pain in the ass I am behind my back!" and then they will laugh and you can go, " Oooh, look at the time!"

Whatever you do, do it with dignity and let us know.

/you really need a webcam for Those Who Have No Life. :slight_smile:

Very true. You don’t need to sell it, however, don’t swing to the other side and present it in the same tone as when your cat died. This is not a miserable, unhappy event, you shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells when discussing it, you shouldn’t pat him on the shoulder, look sad, and say you’re getting married.

What you have is GOOD news about your relationship with Arwin. If he can’t handle that, that’s just too bad for him. If he is your friend, he should be happy that you’re happy, even if you’re happy with someone else. It may sting for now, but if he refuses to get over it, I think his relationship with you is unhealthy, you don’t need friends who are upset when you have good things happen.

agreed. someone’s getting hurt and it’s not going to be pretty. sooner is better than later, however.

male or female, cheesesteak?

Thanks guys…I’ll guess I have to just do it. :: sigh ::

The idea of going for coffee is a good one. I just didn’t know if it would be better to give John the opportunity to “piss and moan” at me (I sure feel I deserve it!) or that it would be better to just tell him, scurry away, and let him work it out on his own. Our dinner would be suited better to the first, going for coffee would be better suited for the latter.

About the “my John” thing, that’s a typo. In the first draft of my post, I called him “my ex” but that made the text unreadable, so I replaced it with “John”. I just forgot to remove the “my”. I realised too late that it sounds like an emotional give-away peeping through.

SHAKES, thanks. ( IMHO, you’re the guyest guy I know on SD ! :slight_smile: ) It’s always good to hear other thougths. That’s why I asked advice. You say I’m still too much emotionally involved with John and that way I can’t give Arwin his due.
That could very well be true. OTOH, I sometimes think the last few years or so I was living with John, we were essentially friends, roommates with benefits, both looking out for another relationship. If you look at it that way, I’ve been single for five years, apart from one or two short rebound-relationships in between. I’m not saying that is the right way of looking at it. I’m not even sure anymore there is a right way of looking at anything. Maybe my views are just rationalizations for what I find myself doing. But IMHO, the view “I’ve been esentially single for a few years” isn’t necessarily less correct then “I’m jumping from one 15-year relationship right into another marriage”.

I have thought about scheduling some “away” time with John. Part of me would like a few months quiet. The problem with that is that our dinners together, while certainly more strained then when we were together, just aren’t unpleasant enough.
I really want to stay good friends with John, and somehow it seems weird to try to accomplish that by building in distance.

I thougth the distance thing was more for ex-couples who needed some time away from bitter rows; I’m starting to wonder if distancing is necessary for the kind or "rows"john and I had; occasional painful talks where I tried to balance being honest and not hurting anyone, and he balanced between wanting to extract the truth from me and trying anyone, either.
Perhaps I hope that John wil be the one asking for time off when he hears about my marriageplans.


YES. YES YES YES. A million times, YES. This is exactly right, word for word.

My current girlfriend remains good friends with one of her exes. Its tough for me to deal with. There’s insecurity and jealousy issues that I don’t have with other people and have never had to deal with before. It helps that she tells me regularly how much better I am than he is, and how happy she is that things between us worked out the way they did. But it drives me crazy when they go out for drinks and I’m not invited. I can’t imagine a weekly dinner that I was never invited to, and her referring to her ex as “my John”. Or being so worried about his feelings.

Listen, Arwin is your man now. Who fucking cares how “your John” handles the news? Its you and Arwin, not you and John. Arwin is number 1, and if John is number 2, he needs to be a distant, distant, distant second to Arwin. You only need to be sensitive to 1 person’s feelings in the situation, and that person is Arwin.

just wondering.

Make that…he balanced between wanting to extract the truth from me and trying not to hurt anyone, either… :smack:

Wasson, would it matter that Arwin has no problems with it? He says he lacks the jealousy gene, and I believe him.

Ding Ding Ding! We have a winner.

It’s not a big deal- we all do it. But you will need to suck it up and cut things off with him (I’m glad you’ve decided on the just coming right out and telling him).

My advice, for what it’s worth. I’m not ascribing any motives to you, but here’s a common scenario. Girl and guy break up. Girl moves on, but wants to keep the friendship. There is no time apart after the breakup. She really wants to be able to share her new life with her ex, but doesn’t get it that he finds it painful. She keeps the relationship going, and finally, the ex does something hateful or tragic to really end things. She can walk away now, feeling like he was the bad guy all along, and she was justified in leaving.

If you value your ex as a friend, let him go. Completely. If you’re meant to be friends, once you’ve both settled into your new lives, you’ll reconnect. But until then, it’s just you wanting the best of both worlds, and neglects everyone else’s feelings.
And, as someone posted earlier, I imagine your current SO’s feelings should come first. If you’re not ready to move on, you’re doing him a disservice.