Does Your Partner Think Their Ex Was “The One”? 3 Signs They’re Still Hung Up
Real talk: One of the most difficult things you’re forced to grapple with in a relationship is the fact that your partner has dated other people (unless, of course, it’s your partner’s first relationship). Even more uncomfortable is the fact that they may have loved other people before falling in love with you. What if you get the sense that your partner still thinks their ex was “the one”? That's a completely different brutal ballgame. No one wants to feel like they're competing with the ghost of relationships past.
It’s totally normal to be reminded of an ex from time to time. Maybe a song comes on Pandora and it triggers a memory, or a scent reminds you of them, or you drive by a restaurant that was meaningful to your relationship. It would be unrealistic to expect your current partner to never think about a former flame. Still, there’s a difference between an occasional, fleeting reminder of the ex and feeling completely hung up on them. While quickly reminiscing is often triggered by a specific thing, being hung up on someone means having all-consuming thoughts about them that don't even need to be triggered by anything nostalgic.
Our partners' past is probably not something most of us like to think about, but we typically don't dwell because we trust that what we have with them now must be entirely unique from what they had before. So naturally, it’s incredibly difficult to move forward in a relationship with someone if you suspect that they believe their ex was meant to be their forever person. After all, how are you supposed to have your happily ever after if your SO is still fantasizing about theirs with someone else? There's good news: experts say there are certain signs you can look for that might indicate your partner is still hung up on their ex. Here are some of the most prominent red flags to keep an eye on, if you believe that your current love might still think that their former love is "the one."
They bring up their ex at inappropriate times.
It’s typical for your partner’s ex to come up in conversation every once in a while. In fact, It may actually be a positive thing — perhaps you handle a conflict in a healthy manner and it reminds them of how they weren’t able to do the same in their past relationship. You both have memories with your former SOs that are bound to arise at some point. However, according to board-certified psychiatrist Dr. Susan Edelman, it’s important to pay attention to when these mentions occur.
“If your partner brings up their ex at inappropriate times, like when you are planning your future together, it’s likely a sign that there is a problem,” she says.
If you’re trying to take a step forward with your partner, and the idea of taking your relationship to the next level immediately makes them think of their ex, you may need to consider the idea that they still are able to envision a future with that person.
Dr. Edelman says it’s also a red flag if your partner seems to get especially emotional when they bring up their ex in conversation. Of course, the frequency is key, too. A mention here and there is probably nothing to be concerned about. If it seems like you can’t get through a day or a conversation without the ex being brought up, that begs the question: why does your partner have their former love on the brain so often? It could be because they still have some pent-up resentment or negative feelings toward them — which ideally, they should work through in order to be the best possible partner they can be in their current relationship. On the other hand, if they seem to bring their ex up a lot in a nostalgic manner, that could mean they’re still idealizing that relationship. If that's the case, bring this habit to their attention and give them a chance to explain why it may be happening.
They frequently compare you to their ex — in a negative way.
There's a chance that at some point, your partner may compare you to their ex — but don’t stress, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Maybe they notice that you’re a lot better at staying calm in stressful situations, or that they feel a lot more comfortable being vulnerable around you that they did with their previous partner. As humans, we’re constantly comparing new experiences to those we've already had — we use this information to make sound decisions and evaluate situations.
In an ideal world, you won’t really know when your partner is comparing you to their ex — it’s a fleeting thought that will pass without you having to read too much into it. Or, they will bring it up, but in a way that allows you to see how the comparison is actually one that sheds a positive light on you. In other words, the comparison will demonstrate how your partner appreciates something about you that perhaps they were lacking in their past relationship. Conversely, if it seems like your partner’s ex is actually being idealized in these comparisons, that could indicate a deeper problem, according to Susan Trombetti, matchmaker and CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking.
"For example, maybe they'll say 'I love the way she barely wore makeup,' and sort of infer you should do the same," she says. ""You can't compete with this perfection that only exists in their head."
The bottom line is this, according to Dr. Edelman: “They might want you to change to be more like their ex.”
Take note if your partner compares your behaviors to their ex’s in such a way that makes you feel inadequate or less-than. It’s one thing for them to bring up something problematic that they noticed about your behavior. It’s another for them to bring it up in such a way that makes you feel like you’re in some kind of contest with their former flame. Let them know how ir makes you feel to be compared to their ex, and hopefully, they'll be more sensitive in how they confront issues with you in the future (and keep their ex out of the convo).
They seem obsessed with keeping tabs on their ex.
There’s no doubt that keeping tabs on exes via social media is pretty common. In fact, 88 percent of people who ended a relationship in the last year admitted to checking up on their exes on Facebook, according to a 2012 study conducted at the University of Western Ontario.
We know it’s potentially self-destructive, but sometimes curiosity gets the better of us. Unfortunately, this can obviously prove problematic when someone is in a new relationship. Checking up on the ex means a part of them still cares about what their ex is up to, and if they’re doing it frequently, they could be reminiscing about the positive aspects of their previous relationship and possibly even longing for that person again. Dr. Edelman advises that if you discover your partner is looking at their ex’s Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. on a regular basis, that could be a major red flag. “Maybe it's harmless, but it may be a sign of something more,” she added. Of course, just because they feel compelled to check up on their ex doesn't mean they believe their ex to be the one. The only way to find out, of course, is to ask them outright why they feel the need to keep tabs on their ex.
Ultimately, Dr. Edelman’s top advice for figuring out whether this is actually a problem in your relationship is pretty simple: “Listen to your gut.” If your instinct tells you that your SO still thinks their ex was “the one,” pay attention to that instinct — because even though it isn’t necessarily a guaranteed truth, it’s a feeling that’s worth exploring if it’s negatively impacting your relationship.
If you do notice any of these warning signs, the best way to figure out how to move forward, according to Dr. Edelman, is to confront your partner about still potentially having feelings for their ex.
“How they handle this conversation is important,” she says. “If they get defensive or angry, that is not the ideal response. It would be best if they can understand your concerns and take them seriously.”
Keep in mind that none of these signs on their own indicates that your partner definitely thinks of their ex as “the one” — they’re merely evidence that it’s a conversation worth having. It may feel uncomfortable to bring up, but voicing your concerns with your partner is the only way you can get to the bottom of whether they’ve moved on from their ex, or whether they still think they’re the one. The better you can understand your partner's feelings about their past relationship, the better prepared you are to pursue a lasting one with them — sans any suspicions that they're still hung up on someone else. Remember: You deserve to be with someone who's focused on you, and your shared future together.
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