Lesbian Problems: How To Deal When Your Girlfriend Is Still “Friends” With Her Ex

We’re girls! We’re smart; we’re complex—all of our relationships are nuanced.

“I like you….a lot,” the object of my obsession quietly muttered to me after taking a gigantic slug of her white wine. “But we can’t be together. I think we should just be friends,” 

My heart dropped onto the bar floor and made a loud proverbial BANG sound as it hit steel ground.

“What? Why?” I yelped.

I had been the throes of a two-week, intensely lesbian, dreamy, whirlwind, rapid-fire romances with a beautiful fashion designer named Lee.* From the moment we met each other on a rainy, booze-fueled Fourth of July weekend, we were wildly addicted to each other.

For exactly 14 days straight we had been sleeping with our bodies perfectly intertwined, gazing into each other’s eyeballs for hours and hours on end, passionately tracing the contours of each other’s respective face with trembling fingertips and hot breath. You know, all that nauseating LOVE, oxytocin, dopamine-inducing, shit we do when we’re getting high off each other in the honeymoon phase.

“I can’t handle how close you are with your ex-girlfriend. I don’t trust it. I’ve been down this road before, and it never ends well. Sorry.” Lee’s shiny eyes looked both wet and magnetic as she slurped up the remains of her wine.

“But—but—but, Sarah* is my best friend in the world! She knows me better than anyone! And it’s not like that! We are just friends! We were destined to be friends! That’s it!” I was crying now, thick black mascara tears running down my puffy face.

Lee looked at the floor. “Dating someone who is best friend’s with their ex is a surefire disaster. I can’t do it.”

“This is SO fucked!” I cried pounding my fist against the table, frightening the sweet, heterosexual couple to our left. Poor things. They were just trying to have a quiet, romantic night at a civilized wine bar in Manhattan and instead had found themselves in the company of a deranged lesbian, crying away her black shimmery eye shadow, flakes of mascara falling into her wine as she publically melted down.

Needless to say, Lee and I ended our electrifying, short-lived, lesbian love affair, right then and there, over two $16 glasses of Sauvignon Blanc at the straightest bar in the great isle of Manhattan. All because I was *friends* with my ex-girlfriend.

I spent the next several weeks getting really drunk, attempting to wrap my brain around the demise of my two-week romance.

“What bullshit!” I would huff at anyone who would listen, sticking a cigarette in my mouth dramatically releasing perfectly calculated gray rings of smoke into the air, as I’m wont to do in times of crisis. (I can’t help it. I come from a long line of actresses! I’m doomed to a life of melodrama.) “It’s just not fair!”

But of course, several months later, everything came full circle. I got a strong taste of my own fucking medicine, baby! The universe works in majestic ways, I swear to the Sapphic goddess up above. I started dating a foxy girl with sea-foam colored eyes and hair the color of beach sand. She was just my type: leggy and stylish and sarcastic and protective and business-oriented.

And like me, she was best friends with her ex-girlfriend. Finally, someone who gets it! I smugly thought to myself as she nervously broke the news to me.

Everything was all fine and dandy until several weeks later I caught a glimpse of her ex-girlfriend at a drag show in Brooklyn. Look, I’m not a particularly jealous creature, but there is one type of girl that tugs at all of my insecurities in the most profound way possible: The California Girl. And it’s deep-rooted as hell, honey. My mother is English, but a total California looking sugar blonde. Her freckled, tanned face has graced the billboards of Sunset Blvd. and Times Square as modeled Winston Cigarettes, her hair all blonde and wild, no makeup on her face, just freaking sun oil.

But woah, that’s not me. It’s what I always longed to be, but it’s Just. Not. Me.

I’m more of a heroin-chic, smudged eye makeup Snow White vixen. I have alabaster colored skin; naturally raven black hair, and cartoonish, honey-colored eyes. I’m the kind of girl who goes to cigar bars alone, paints her nails bright red and wears loads, and loads, and loads of makeup. 

My girlfriend’s “best friend” was blonde and makeup free and universally liked just like my mother. She was a cold-pressed juice bar in Santa Monica, while I was a whiskey haunt in Downtown Manhattan.

Suddenly I found myself obsessing over my new girlfriend’s ex-girlfriend and their “friendship.” And a dark, vile, ugly side of myself manifested in the thick of my fascination. Before I knew it, I became “that girl.” The social-media-stalking, mega bitch wracked with endless insecurities about this so-called “friendship.”

And yes, I made a total, textbook fool out of myself in the process (and yes we eventually broke up, probably because I acted like such a loon). I made every mistake humanly possible. I went through my girlfriend’s phone; I acted like a cold-hearted brat whenever her ex was around; and most of all, I was neurotic and snarky and paranoid all of the time.

But hey—through that experience I learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT, all, sweet kitten! I’ve been there! I now know how to deal when your girlfriend is friends with her ex-girlfriend.

I’ve been on both sides of the salty spectrum; I feel even more qualified to bestow you with my wisdom. So here are my personal tips on navigating this oh-so-delicate situation, without losing your mind or your relationship.

Photo by Shutterstock

Recognize that this shit is hard!

I come from a long line of female heartbreakers. I’ve never once seen any of my three sisters or my mother cry over a person they’ve dated. I’ve never seen any woman in my family show the slightest signs of jealousy, either.

“Jealousy is the ultimate sign of weakness,” my mother told me when I was a gum-smacking little kid. It stuck with me.

And so how did I now, in my mid-20s, handle my newfound feelings of envy? I stuffed them down, baby. I tapped into my British roots, and did what the Brits do– I numbed my feelings with booze and forced smiles. I didn’t even tell my close friends that I was insecure and jealous over this alleged friendship.

And herein lies the trouble with stuffing down your feelings, ladies. The more you repress your emotions, the more they grown. My feelings of jealousy swelled inside of me, until one day the poured out of my and I snapped.

“I don’t trust this shit!” I screamed. My poor girlfriend was shocked, I had acted so “cool” about the whole thing, and suddenly I was manic and crying.

Don’t do what I did. Communication is key, even if it can feel embarrassing to admit any feelings of vulnerability (I hate vulnerability too, but it’s a necessary evil in romance). Had I just said, “Hey girl, I get that you’re friends with your ex, so am I—but your ex is insanely gorgeous, and I’m feeling a tad nervous about the whole thing, can we maybe work through this?” I would have avoided the inevitable meltdown.

PSA: Always, always, always discuss your feelings of jealousy with your partner. If you don’t, they will manifest in weird ways, and before you know you’ll be having some kind of embarrassing breakdown, and act like a total maniac.

You’re under my protective big sister lesbian wing now, and I don’t want that for you.

Accept that romantic relationships can evolve into friendships

OK, so your girlfriend is friends with her ex-girlfriend, and you can’t fathom how it’s even possible?  Let me assure you; it’s entirely natural for lesbians to become friends after they break up.

Lesbian relationships can be so deeply intimate, so utterly honest that the two women who are tethered together, can easily become best friends while they’re still together, even. In fact, that’s why so many lesbian relationships exceed years after their expiration date. The romance dissolves, the two women become HOOKED together, they’re best friends, they stop having sex and being romantic, but they hold on to the relationship for dear life because they’re codependent as friends. They realize this, break up, and realize that they were destined for friendship. Not for a steamy, hypersexual, love affair.

You need to accept that it’s entirely possible for a romantic relationship to evolve into a friendship. And look, if she were still hung up on her ex-girlfriend she wouldn’t be dating you! She’s with you because she adores the hell out of you, wants to have mind-blowing sex with you all of the time and is totally and completely charmed by your intoxicating prowess.

Don’t make her cut out one of her best friends in the world because they have a complicated history. We’re girls! We’re smart; we’re complex—all of our relationships are nuanced.

It’s also not fair to put those kind of shackles on anyone.

So stop imagining your girlfriend and her ex having sex, stop letting your paranoia win the race, and instead start looking at the two of them as friends. Nothing more.

Because if there was something more, you would know it. Which leads me seamlessly into my next point:

Know the difference between your “instincts” and your “insecurities”

“There is still something going on between you two, I can FEEL IT!” I wailed to my girlfriend one Sunday morning.

Newsflash: there was nothing going between the two of them. I was confusing my instincts with my insecurities.

Instincts and guttural feelings are difficult, harrowing things to navigate when it comes to love. I mean how can you tell if that nervousness ticking inside your heart and that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach are your danger alarms going off, or just your fear and insecurity?

Don’t worry I’m going to guide you through this. We will do this together. I learned how to do this through a ton of very expensive therapy, and I’m going to bestow you with what I’ve learned at zero cost: Take a deep breath and analyze the facts. Feelings, my darling, are NOT FACTS.

Ask yourself: Has she been honest with you about everything else? Does she express her love and commitment to you, endlessly? Does she make time for you? Does she tell you when she’s hanging out with her ex? Is she affectionate with you in public?

You need to tap into your inner cold bitch and remove your “feelings” out of the equation. Your feelings are not reality. And it’s not fair to project your irrational feelings of jealousy onto your partner when she’s done nothing wrong. (In fact, it will most likely, drive them away).

Trust the person you’re with, or break up with her

In a way, I wildly respect Lee, the mesmerizing girl who broke my heart all those years ago, for breaking up with me over my friendship with my ex. At least she was honest, you know?

Lee had decided that for whatever reason, she just couldn’t trust my relationship with my ex and she broke it off. She could’ve stayed in the relationship (like I later did with my girlfriend) and tormented me with her wild jealousy and never-ending neurosis. She was real enough with herself to say “I can’t handle this, so I’m going to end it.”

So, it’s really that simple, babes. I want you to close your pretty eyes right now. Take a breath! Make a choice! Make a choice to trust the beautiful, wonderful, sexy woman that you’re with.  And if you can’t—-if the feelings of jealousy are too profound, or if every fiber of your being is telling something is wrong, listen to it.

And break it off. Otherwise, you’re going to get yourself into a toxic relationship that will be emotionally scarring to both of you. And life is too short (and too full of fab women who will bring out the best in you!) to get yourself into the suffocating throes of a toxic relationship, darling.

So spare her and spare yourself. Or trust her. After all, she’s with you, not with her, and that speaks volumes.