An Uncomfortable Conversation
After years of searching and going on dates that never should’ve happened, you’ve finally found “the one.” You hear wedding bells. You imagine what your children will look like. You see yourself dying old with a smile on your face. All signs point to a happy and secure future. The road is clear…. well… except for one, small patch.
Your boyfriend/girlfriend, for some unknown and frustrating reason, keeps bringing up their past loves and what they did to them. So and so had a pretty smile. So and so broke me down every chance they had . So and so made the best cake. So and so cheated on me with a total jerk. So and so’s voice was so melodic that it always lulled me into a peaceful sleep. So and so pointed out all of my flaws. So and so’s mother didn’t cross boundaries the way yours does. There are comparisons between you and every ex. There are reminders of them everywhere. It’s maddening and too frequent to ignore. Something needs to be done.
Understandably, there are some questions going through your mind.
- Do these references mean he/she is unhappy in our relationship?
- I would say that it’s very unlikely. However, the way they sound when they mention their ex is important. Obviously, if they sound in love, you’ve got a problem. If they mention their ex like they mention their friend, it's pretty tame and nothing to worry about. You have to remember that, like you, their ex played an important role in your lover’s life. There will be places that you go to or movies that you see that they experienced with their ex. Your partner may bring up their ex at this time and its pretty normal. As much as you would like to imagine otherwise, your partner had a life before you. It’s just sharing memories, a normal part of a relationship.
- Do these references mean he/she wants to return to their ex?
- Again, this is highly unlikely and dependent on the tone. Obviously, if they say, “I miss kissing (insert name).” then it’s their way of telling you its not going to work.
- Why does he/she keep bringing their ex up?
- I have some theories. The first is that your partner is just making conversation. I know you’re thinking that there are loads of things for us to talk about and their ex shouldn’t be one of them. You’re right. Still, there are many awkward people in this world who don’t understand that talking about your ex to your current girlfriend/boyfriend is uncool. These people don’t mean to hurt their partner’s feelings. They just don’t know any better. If they continue to do this even after you told them how you feel, they either don’t care about how it makes you feel or are too into their ex to care. In either case, out with them.
- Another reason is that their ex is still a friend or that they’re trying to keep the lines of communication open because they were friends before they got together. With this in mind, you need to be understanding. If you can’t handle it or if you feel that your special person is going too far, you need to either figure out a way to deal with this or opt of the relationship.
- A third reason is that your partner still has a thing for their ex. You need to ask them if this thing is worth ending your relationship over. When someone who is still holding a candle for their ex is addressed in such a way by their current person, they will either snap out of it and blow that candle out or, hopefully, have the decency to tell you that you should move on because they can’t stop loving their ex.
- A final reason is that they love you, but are so nervous in the relationship that they are using their ex/memory of their ex as a life preserver. It’s a scary thing to go from casually dating someone into the next level. You feel yourself aging and want to remain young. Even if their ex only became their ex a year ago, that year of youth is very important. They aren’t ready to grow up and have a long term relationship. They liked what they had with their ex because it wasn’t extremely serious and didn’t require them to give more than they could. Also, their ex is in the past and you are in the present and the future, two scary places because they are new and full of the unknown. The worst past relationship can seem ideal when you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.
As with every relationship issue, you must have a conversation. It will be uncomfortable. It will be awkward. You will cry. They might cry too. There could be some yelling. Undoubtedly, there will be some silence. You’ll be tempted to cut the conversation short, wanting rather to retreat to your own corner or cuddle instead. Don’t give in to this temptation. Putting off a discussion only adds stress to your life. Talk it through to the resolution. This conversation is a major risk, but it’s a necessary one to make sure your relationship continues to grow.
The bottom line is, are you willing to lose your boyfriend/girlfriend to their ex/their memories of their ex? Are you willing to spend your life overcompensating for what your lover lacked in past relationships? Can you spend your life being their personal life preserver? Clearly, their ex/ex's opinion still means a lot to them. If you’re nervous that they might return to them, chances are they gave you reason to think so. You have to decide if you want to keep things as they are (He/she continues to talk about their ex, making you feel like crap. He/she continues to bring you down with their sob stories. He/she indirectly makes you feel powerless for not being able to rid the world of scum like your lover's exs.) or if you want to try to make things better (You ask them why they keep bringing up their ex. You ask them if it’s their way of saying they’d like to return to their ex. You tell them how you feel and remind them that they can talk to you about anything. You remind them that life is what you make of it and they could lose you if they don't stop listening to the things their exs said to them.). While you may lose your boyfriend/girlfriend, if they are as hung up on their ex/remaining the person their ex saw them for as you seem to think they are, you never really had them to begin with. You can’t spend your life feeling insecure, worrying if you're being everything that your lover needs you to be. You need to consider your own happiness.
JADE on September 02, 2016:
BULLSHIT! He keeps talking about his ex because he STILL LOVES HER!
Ladynotforturning on March 25, 2011:
You can't move on with one foot in the door though. If your new partner is more imortant than your ex then don't keep letters and photos. You have memories, you don't have to rub it in. Move on and get rid! My ex has kept love letters, photos, the order of service from their wedding and news paper cutting - and one cutting was about them winning a competition as 'Married Couple of the Year'!!!! He said he'd never marry me - so why be so sentimental over his marriage with her. I'm hurt and I'll never trust him and I've lost respect for him big time. Don't risk that happening to you. I can't I give him all of me if I know there's part of her still in his heart!? I'm very, very hurt and I'll never forget or get over that feeling when I found them. I'll never trust him for being so secretive either. GET RID OF PHOTOS AND LETTERS!!!!!! It's destructive.
L.A. Walsh (author) from Lowell, MA on March 19, 2009:
I'm glad I could help. I completely understand your situation.
emsly85 on March 19, 2009:
seriously awesome, thorough advice...thank you very much for taking the time to answer me :) I know a lot of my feelings stem from my own insecurities with him....he's the first guy I've ever been in love with and I've always kind of played it safe...like a guy lol ....I never got too attached, lost interest quickly, etc...he is the first guy I've dated for more than 3 months...we've lived together for more than a year now....but for him, he's had relationships last 4-7 years...so we're just on different thought processes. He doesn't talk about them much until I start asking questions....they were a huge part of his life and a lot of the big life decisions he's made stemmed from being with those other girls. I think the biggest problem is with me...I love him and since this is my first intense relationship, I start thinking that it's too good to be true...and that something is going to wreck it. A lot of what you said hit home, and it made me feel better about the situation. Thank you very much!