In the age of social media, it’s easy for us to know almost everything about someone before we meet them in person. It’s also possible to keep tabs on former loves or anyone else who is no longer in your life. Things start to get tricky, though, when your boyfriend or girlfriend’s ex follows you on Instagram. No matter how long you’ve been together, it’s never a great feeling to know that your partner’s ex is still invested in their life (and yours). But before you freak out, take a step back and think about the context of the situation.
Melissa Diamond, host of the dating podcast He Said What, acknowledges that it’s a stressful feeling when you get that follow request from someone your partner used to date. “Sometimes there is an ex that is still holding on to what was once theirs, or maybe they haven’t moved on yet,” she explains. “There could be a multitude of reasons as to why their ex started following you on Instagram.” You may not have full context for the situation, so it’s best not to assume you understand the reasoning behind the request.
You might be tempted to make a scene, but this usually isn’t your best move. Diamond says it’s best to remain calm and try not to fly off the handle. “I strongly believe you should not engage with your partner’s ex no matter what the situation is,” she says. “It may drive you up a wall, but you need to take a step back and realize they are not together for a reason.” Your partner and their ex broke up, which is a sign that their partnership was not working out. Your new relationship is the priority right now, regardless of the previous relationship that existed with the ex. And your partner cares about you, so they should understand and respect this.
If it’s really bothering you to see them viewing your Instagram stories or liking your photos, Diamond suggests making your profile private. That way you’ll have a choice about whether or not they can view your content. Try to put the situation out of your mind, and definitely address it with your partner if it continues to make you upset. Be honest about what happened and how it made you feel. “If the situation is upsetting you and you keep those emotions to yourself without being vocal to your partner, this could lead to serious issues in your relationship moving forward,” Diamond says. All great relationships require open lines of communication — otherwise, negative feelings can simmer for months without being addressed.
Of course, it’s possible that you have a reason for staying connected to your partner’s ex — maybe they’re a mutual friend, or you still go to school or work together. In this case, don’t think of this person as your partner’s ex, but think of them instead as a work or school colleague that follows you for unrelated reasons. The vast majority of the time, this is nothing to be concerned about.
Exes are never fun to deal with, but they’re a part of many people’s history and therefore something you may have to face in your new relationship. Try to address the situation with a clear head and rational mind, and always go to your partner with your worries if they get out of hand. Together, you can talk through the best way to handle things, and you’ll grow closer to each other by learning how to protect one another’s feelings.