If Your Boyfriend Or Girlfriend Still Talks To Their Ex, This Is How To Deal With It
Personally, when someone tells me they're still friendly with their ex, I can't help but be a little skeptical. I know not all breakups are dramatic, Bachelor-worthy blowups complete with screaming and crying, but they still signify the end of a relationship. Therefore, it's difficult for me to understand how you can be just friends with someone whom you were once romantically involved with. So, if your boyfriend or girlfriend still talks to their ex, I totally get why you might not be 100 percent on board with it. However, it is possible that your partner doesn't have any ulterior motives. Perhaps they're just genuinely interested in maintaining a friendship with a person who was once very important to them.
If you're concerned about your significant other's relationship with their ex, you're totally justified in starting a respectful conversation about it. There are effective and ineffective ways to have that discussion, although the way your partner initially reacts could tell you everything you need to know about who they are. Before you question your S.O.'s commitment to you, though, you may want to take a look at your own potential biases.
If you feel weird about the fact that your partner still talks to their ex, that's completely valid. You don't want to come off as accusatory (that won't help the conversation progress in a comfortable manner), so consider asking yourself the following questions before you sit down with your S.O. Once you know the answers, you can better assess how to deal with the situation.
1. Do you feel secure in your relationship?
Determining whether the communication between your partner and their ex is healthy depends on important factors, such as how strong the current relationship is (between you and your partner), how long it's been since the previous relationship ended (between your partner and their ex), and if there are any residual emotions (on your partner's part or on their ex's). "It may be more costly to your new relationship to keep in touch with a recent ex, even if that person has moved on, because there may be unresolved emotions there," says Dr. QuaVaundra Perry, a licensed psychologist specializing in relationship distress.
She explains that if your relationship with your partner is already on shaky ground, it may not withstand your partner talking to their ex —or you talking to your ex, for that matter. "However, if the current relationship is thriving, a sufficient amount of time has passed, and there are no romantic feelings involved, it may not be a threat to the new relationship," says Dr. Perry.
Before you approach your partner, you may want to think about whether your suspicions are warranted. Do you have a tendency to be jealous in relationships? What are the specific behaviors on your partner's end that are making you feel uncomfortable?
2. How often is your partner communicating with his or her ex?
"You should be worried about an ex when your partner is defensive or secretive about their communication or the nature of their conversations," says Dr. Perry. "If it's truly a healthy relationship with an ex, your partner should be willing to communicate with him or her in your presence."
She says that you also have a right to be worried if your S.O. is talking to an ex just as frequently or more frequently than they talk to you. In her experience, most healthy relationships with exes involve brief, infrequent messages or phone calls.
Also, if your partner's ex calls or texts at odd hours or makes inappropriate remarks on social media, these are likely signs of disrespect toward the relationship. "You may also be suspicious if the ex-partner seems to have unwarranted hostility toward you," says Dr. Perry. Of course, this could just be a case of a bitter ex, and may not actually have anything to do with your partner's current behavior.
3. How does your partner respond when you bring up your feelings about the situation?
Because exes are understandably a very touchy subject, it can be a difficult topic to approach. Especially in a new relationship, you want to be careful not to make unfounded accusations or appear unnecessarily jealous. Dr. Perry suggests you observe their communication pattern over a period of time, so that you can have examples to present to your partner, rather than just one incident.
Once you are ready to bring it up, calmly present your concerns and watch how your partner responds. "A caring partner will likely respond with an acknowledgement of your concerns and make an effort to work with you to set boundaries on the old relationship. If your partner seems defensive or dismissive of your concerns, that is likely a red flag that their relationship [with their ex] is a lot closer than you suspect," says Dr. Perry.
Just because your partner is in contact with their ex, that doesn't necessarily mean they still have feelings for the ex, or that they are being at all unfaithful. You can look out for red flags that something secretive is going on, but if it's a simple happy birthday text or a friendly Instagram comment every so often, you probably have nothing to worry about.
This article was originally published on July 19, 2018. It was updated on Feb. 25, 2020.