We all move on in different ways, but it can be slightly concerning when your partner doesn’t seem to be over their ex.
If you’re wondering where things stand, here are a few things you can look out for, and what to do if you spot them…
1. He can’t stop talking about them.
Does his ex come up a little bit too often?
Maybe she’s dropped into conversations randomly, or maybe he steers conversations toward her.
Either way, it’s not something you want or need to hear about.
If you find that your boyfriend keeps mentioning his ex, it could be a sign that he’s not completely over her.
It suggests that she’s still taking up some space in his mind – space that should really be filled with something else (you, for starters!) now that he’s no longer with her.
How to combat this: it’s okay to mention to your boyfriend that you’re not comfortable with how much he mentions his ex.
This doesn’t make you crazy or jealous or any of the other words that are thrown at women for being not ‘cool’ about exes.
It just means that you see value in your relationship and would like to keep it just the two of you – no need for the ex to join you!
Rather than nag every time she pops up in conversation, have one honest chat about it and then move on.
He may be a bit upset or annoyed, but this will most likely come from a place of guilt.
He might take a little while to get used it, but he will soon start to realize how often he mentions his ex.
2. He carries a lot of anger toward them.
Residual anger is a big sign that things aren’t fully resolved between your man and his ex.
It may be that he gets angry about things his ex did or lashes out when something reminds him of her.
Again, this doesn’t mean he’s still in love with her or wants to be with her, but it might be a sign that he hasn’t fully moved on from the relationship, emotionally speaking.
We’ve all been hurt by people and it’s okay to carry that with us!
Think about it: if your best friend upset you or did something you disagree with, you’d probably vent about it and let some of your anger out.
If it seems like they’re still upset at the situation, that’s fair enough. If it seems like the anger is directed at his ex, there’s a chance he’s not completely over her yet.
How to combat this: it’s okay if he hasn’t 100% moved on, as long as he is committed to you.
We all carry some baggage. We all have some ties to people from our past. But we move on by being present with the person we’re with now.
Suggest that he has these rants about his ex to a friend as you’re not totally comfortable hearing them.
You could, if you’re feeling okay with it all, suggest he speaks to her to resolve the issues that are still causing him anger, which leads us on to…
3. He’s still ‘friends’ with them.
Being friends with an ex can be a positive thing, but it may also be a sign that he’s not entirely over her.
If they still spend time together, even in a friendly capacity, one of them may be clinging to their old feelings – and it may be your boyfriend.
If they still text and call, follow each other on social media, and keep up-to-date with each other, it’s okay that you find this weird!
Many of us never reach the ‘let’s stay friends’ stage of a break-up, so it can seem very odd.
If you think there’s a bit more than just friendly feelings going on, try not to panic.
How to combat this: it’s okay if they are still friends!
Remind yourself that you may still have feelings for some of your exes. It doesn’t mean you want to be with them, it’s just what happens in some intense relationships.
There may always be some feelings left there between you and an ex, and between him and an ex.
If it’s bothering you, consider why.
Is it because you think he may get back together with her? If so, have a serious conversation with him and do your best to establish a solid level of trust.
If that’s not the issue, it may just be some feelings of jealousy – this isn’t ideal, but it’s easier to deal with than a trust issue.
You can always ask him to spend a little bit less time with her, or text/call her less often.
Make it clear that it’s not because you don’t trust him, it’s just because it makes you a bit uncomfortable. He’ll understand.
4. He makes them a priority.
So, let’s say they are still friends. If he’s putting her before you, it’s a sign he’s not yet over her.
There may still be some feelings left, and this may be what’s driving him to prioritize her.
It’s unfair behavior and it’s totally natural (and normal) if it upsets you.
It could be small things like sitting next to her instead of you when you go out as a group, or it could be bigger things like cancelling a plan with you because she ‘needs’ him as a friend.
How to combat this: if you want your relationship to work, it needs to be just you and him. If she’s coming between you, you need to ask why.
Is it her trying to make a point by proving that he still cares about her? Hopefully not, but some people are insecure and manipulative like this.
Is it him taking an opportunity to put her first? If it is, you need to have an honest chat with him about how this makes you feel.
It may be that he doesn’t realize he’s doing it – if they were together for a long time, he may just be used to acting that way around her and may not even have considered that it’s now inappropriate.
If it’s been like this for a while, he may think that you’re okay with it as you’ve not mentioned it in the past.
Either way, mention it now and make it clear that, although you’re comfortable with them being friends (if you are!) and you’re happy he has people to spend time with, you want to be considered a priority in some (most!) situations – especially when it comes down to you versus his ex.
You’re not asking him to suddenly revolve around you and for you to be the only thing in his life that he can spend time on, but you do deserve to feel valued and cared for.
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5. He’s protective over them.
Does he regularly complain about the guys she chooses to date?
Is nobody ever ‘good enough’ for her?
Is he going out of his way to ‘look after’ her?
If the answer is yes, there’s a chance he isn’t over his ex.
Again, there may always be some feelings for an ex partner – it’s just how feelings work!
But, if there are feelings that involve jealousy or a little too much admiration, you need to think about what may really be going on here.
How to combat this: tell him that you’re happy he’s a good friend, but that you think it crosses a line when he’s overly protective of his ex.
It’s a good sign in some ways, as it shows respect and care, but that doesn’t mean it’s comfortable for you.
Again, try reversing the situation – if you were always telling your ex that no girl was good enough for him, your current partner would probably question why that was.
It’s valid and it’s normal, you just need to be honest about it and ask him to take a step back.
That leads us on to…
6. He’s invested in their life.
Have you noticed that he still seems to know everything about her life?
Is he weirdly up-to-date on where she’s been on holiday, who she’s dating, and what she had for dinner last night?
If he’s still invested in her life, there’s probably a reason for it.
This may be his way of staying ‘close’ to her – he has access to her through social media and likes to keep up with what she’s doing with her life.
How to combat this: this is a bit of a weird one and there’s no easy way to tackle it.
The advice is pretty much the same as it is for some of the other points – you need to sit down and have an honest conversation about how it makes you feel.
Ask why he feels the need to know everything she’s doing – is it because he misses her or because he worries about her?
Would he not find it odd if you were this invested in what your ex was up to?
Try to keep things calm when you have this chat, as you do risk sounding a bit too intense.
Don’t use specific examples – “I know you know what she ate last night” sounds a little bit childish, even though the feelings of upset behind it are very valid.
Rather, “I find it odd that you are invested in her life and it makes me feel insecure – why do you still wish to be so involved in her life?”
This shows that it’s affecting you as a whole, rather than one-off incidents that make you uncomfortable.
Hopefully, he’ll see why you find it weird and will start to ease off a bit.
After all, there’s no reason for him to be overly invested in her – if they’re still friends, they can be friends.
They don’t need to be best friends and you still need to feel secure in your relationship, and he has a commitment to do his best to make you feel that way.
7. He makes lots of comparisons between you and them.
Do you feel like he compares you to his ex a lot?
It may be in a good way, like “I love that you cook a Sunday roast; my ex never did that,” or it may be in a bad way, like “My ex never used to tell me off for this.”
There’s a big difference between these comparisons, but neither is ideal…
How to combat this: whether it’s a positive or negative one, it’s very valid for you to want the comparisons to stop.
It’s not fair to feel like you’re being measured against someone else, whether it’s for a good reason or a bad one.
It’s natural to look for patterns and to think that people will act the same in certain situations, but it’s important for him to remember that people are different!
Do your best to explain this to your partner and make him see that it can be upsetting to be compared to someone else.
Just because his ex cheated on a girls’ night out, doesn’t mean you will.
Equally, just because his ex did his laundry for him, doesn’t mean you will.
Remind him that he’s in a different relationship with a different person – this should help him let go of any comparisons he’s been making in his head and will help close the door on his ex for good.
8. He didn’t get any closure.
If there was no closure at the end of their relationship, it’s no wonder he’s not fully over his ex.
This is a hard one as it can be tricky to find out how things ended without digging around too much or upsetting yourself (or him).
Maybe things ended suddenly and he didn’t get a chance to find out why.
Maybe she cheated or lied about something important.
Maybe things ended because one of them moved away.
Either way, he may not have gotten closure on things.
How to combat this: think about how you’d feel if you didn’t have any closure from a previous relationship.
The door isn’t open to go back to each other, but it’s not fully closed either.
It may make you feel anxious or insecure to know that he’s not completely over his ex, in which case you should try to talk it over with him.
Mention that you’re not sure what happened (and don’t need to know!), but you want to help him get closure if he needs it.
He may not realize that he’s not fully over her and you pointing it out will help him realize that it’s affecting you.
He’s not being unfair on purpose; he’s probably slightly confused due to the lack of closure as well and he’ll do his best to help you feel secure going forwards.
It might help to point him to this article: 11 Tips To Move On From A Relationship Without Closure
9. He’s still got their things.
This can be a bit of a red flag, let’s be honest!
Whether it’s a few hair grips in the bathroom cabinet or her old sweatshirt, it can be unsettling to find things from an ex-girlfriend in your boyfriend’s home.
How to combat this: there are two things to think about before you act.
1) Maybe it’s a good sign? Some of us get very angry during a break up and throw away (or burn) anything our ex left at our house.
The fact that he’s not done that and not been spiteful could be a good sign.
He may have just forgotten to throw them away and has gotten so used to them being around that he doesn’t even notice them and/or realize it would be a big deal to you.
2) He’s not fully over her and can’t yet bring himself to throw them away.
If you think it may be the latter option, you need to address the issue, otherwise you’ll get fixated on those hair grips every time you go over.
Either jokingly ask if they’re his or be honest and say it makes you feel a bit weird that his ex’s stuff is still at his house.
This is totally valid – if he questions it, ask him how he’d feel if he found your ex’s clothes at your house. He’ll get rid of the belongings pretty quickly after that!
It may also help him finally move on – sometimes we all need someone to point out that our behavior isn’t very healthy for us to step up and make a change.
10. There’s a vibe.
Listen to what your body is telling you is happening.
If you think he’s not over his ex, make sure you sit on that feeling for a little while before you act on it.
It’s all too easy to accuse your partner of cheating, or having feelings for an ex, because of something you feel or think in a brief moment.
Rather than lashing out, think it through before you have a serious conversation.
If you get the feeling that things aren’t quite right, they may not be.
How to combat this: imagine you’re speaking to a friend – would they tell you that it sounds valid or that your ‘evidence’ is flawed and is just your anxious mind playing around?
Take your time as you could really upset them if you just pounce without thinking.
Instead, try to be measured and consider everything in an objective way. It may be that something else is going on to make you feel anxious or insecure, which you need to try to identify and address.
So, there are our top tips for dealing with a boyfriend who isn’t over their ex – and the signs to look out for.
Remember that, even if it hurts to think about them having some feelings for an ex, they aren’t with them anymore. For whatever reason, they aren’t together.
Sure, it may not have been their choice to end the relationship, but they have actively chosen to spend time with you now.
We all read stories about cheating partners and horrible people who hurt those that love them, but most of us are a pretty decent bunch.
Your partner wouldn’t be with you if he didn’t want to be!
If he’s really not over his ex, you will be able to tell.
If it’s a few small things from him and a lot of overthinking from you, try to calm your mind and remind yourself that, every day, he chooses to be with you.