A woman realizes her girlfriend follows her ex on Instagram.

Experts Explain What It Means When Your Partner Follows Their Ex On IG

It shouldn't be cause for major stress.

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Demetrius FigueroaLet’s all just admit something here: We’re practically social media detectives. And this means we have intel into each other’s pasts — potentially even years back. So it’s no surprise if you and your boo know each other’s romantic history before you’re even an official couple yourselves. Whether or not you've talked about your exes, odds are you know who they dated before you. And as long as your current relationship takes priority, this is NBD. But when you realize, “Um, my boyfriend follows his ex on Instagram,” or, “My girlfriend follows her ex on Instagram,” then things might get a little more complicated.

According to dating and relationship writer Demetrius Figueroa, this shouldn’t necessarily be cause for major stress. He emphasizes that every couple is different, and just because your partner is still digitally connected to their ex doesn’t mean they’re not committed to you now. “Many people can and do have healthy friendships with former partners, but your partner should be able to understand that their friendship with an ex shouldn’t come at the cost of your current relationship,” he tells Elite Daily.

Exes are an important part of many people’s histories, and it’s OK to want to keep in contact with an ex — as long as it’s at a safe distance. Here’s what you should know about an SO keeping tabs on their ex online.

Should You Be Concerned If Your Partner Follows Their Ex On Instagram?

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If your partner follows their ex on social media without engaging in much of their content, this probably isn’t anything that should concern you. The same goes if their ex follows them back. “If your partner’s ex still follows them on Instagram but they’re respectful of your relationship, there really isn’t anything to handle,” Figueroa says. These two are probably just trying to stay on friendly terms, or maybe they didn’t even notice they’re still connected on social media.

Things get a little trickier the more your partner chooses to engage with said ex, or if your boyfriend followed his ex on Instagram recently. As clinical psychologist Dr. Joshua Klapow previously told Elite Daily, "The frequent reminders of the person, the tracking of their lives, keeps us from mourning the loss of the relationship. The result is being stuck in between being with them and moving forward." Your ex might not even realize this, so it’s certainly within your right to point it out and see how your partner responds.

Should You Be Concerned If Your Partner Likes Their Ex’s Pictures On Instagram?

Following an ex on Instagram may be harmless, but things get a little trickier if you notice your SO actually engaging with their ex’s content. “If you see that they've liked each and every photo, commented on each photo, and generally seem to pay a lot of attention to their ex, call it out,” Figueroa suggests. If the situation makes you feel uncomfortable or jealous, it’s best to put your feelings out there from the start. And if for some reason you’re afraid that there might still be feelings between your partner and their ex, ask them about it! You shouldn’t have to fret in silence. A great partnership is all about the ability to work through each other’s feelings without blaming or judgment.

According to Clarissa Silva — behavioral scientist, relationship coach and creator of Your Happiness Hypothesis Method — the best way to address your discomfort is to be as direct as possible. "You might say, 'Hey, I wanted to let you know that I feel uncomfortable seeing that are liking photos of your ex on Instagram. It made me wonder if you’re not fully over your ex. Do you still have feelings for them?'" Silva previously suggested. She also noted it’s important to stay non-confrontational about your partner's intentions before assuming the worst. "Remember that what your partner thinks is acceptable [may be different than what you think is acceptable] or that they may just reflexively look at their ex because it was a habit. [Speculating] can create a cyclone of unintentional meanings to you," she added.

Should You Be Concerned If Your Partner DMs Their Ex On Instagram?

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If your partner and their ex are communicating frequently via Instagram DMs, this definitely requires your attention. Maybe you notice a notification pop up on their phone while it's lying in plain sight, or maybe you were snooping through their messages (which is probably a breach of trust — be careful!) “There’s nothing wrong with remaining friends, or just being friendly with an ex, but I’d be wary of any frequent communication between my partner and their ex, especially through Instagram DMs,” Figueroa says. “That’s the point when I’d recommend having a conversation with your partner about their behavior and their ex’s behavior.”

If they’re able to explain everything to you and things seem fine, all the better. But otherwise, it might be time for your partner to dial back the contact. Figueroa says it’s not unreasonable to ask your partner to limit communication with their ex if it makes you uncomfortable. “Whether that means not messaging an ex over Instagram DMs, or going so far as to block them because their ex isn’t respecting the boundaries of your relationship,” Figueroa says, you can express that you’d like them to take a step back. Your SO should want to make you a priority, so if you’re in a safe, loving relationship, you shouldn’t feel afraid to say what you need. Just make sure you aren’t doing so in a way that feels accusatory.

“If you’re uncomfortable with the level of interaction your partner has with their ex, there is nothing wrong with telling them that they have to change their behavior,” Figueroa adds. “The key thing is to stress your discomfort with their contact with their ex, and not to turn it into an accusation of any wrongdoing on their part.” Approach the conversation from a mature, understanding point of view to figure out what compromises the two of you can make.

If you address concerns like this as they arise, rather than letting your feelings simmer for weeks or months, you’ll build a strong foundation of trust and authenticity with your partner.


Demetrius Figueroa, dating and relationship writer

Dr. Joshua Klapow, clinical psychologist

Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist, relationship coach and creator of Your Happiness Hypothesis Method

Editor's Note: This story has been updated by Elite Daily Staff.

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