“Nick always did the dishes for us when he came to dinner.” “Remember Kayla’s banana bread? It’s too bad Hailey can’t bake.” “What kind of a job is that? Mark had a real career.” There’s truly nothing worse than a family member pitting your current boo against your former, to throw salt in what you thought was a closed wound. When your family won't stop comparing your partner to your ex, it can feel next to impossible to nurture your current relationship. Not only are you faced with continual reminders of a love that’s no longer alive, but you’re also forced to grapple with concerns that your family will never accept your new SO in the same way.
According to licensed clinical social worker Melanie Shapiro, this is an especially frustrating situation because you’ve likely spent a lot of time and energy trying to get over your ex.
“It’s hard when family keeps reminding you of an old phase of life that may or may not have been good but you’ve moved on from," she tells Elite Daily. "Reminders do not make it easy to appreciate the great new relationship you’ve achieved, and makes it even more difficult to move forward.”
Licensed marriage and family therapist Nicole Richardson adds that these comparisons can suggest that your family thinks your current partner may not be as good as a previous one, which can leave you feeling judged for your choices. Not to mention, your family may not know the full story of why your last relationship ended, so if you still have any resentments about how your ex treated you (such as the manner in which they dumped you or the fact that they cheated on you), then hearing your family gush about them may feel particularly painful.
Not only that, but when your family keeps bringing up your ex in a positive light, it can feel like you’ve let them down in some way due to the relationship ending.
“There can be a sense of disappointment — especially if your family had an affinity for your ex,” says Shapiro. “Since you are no longer bringing them around, it can feel like you have done something wrong — even if it felt like the right thing for you!”
Most importantly, Shapiro notes that when your family compares your current SO to your ex, it can inspire new insecurities and prevent you from being fully present with bae, thus stalling the momentum in your relationship.
“Constant reminders can make you start to compare your new partner with your ex,” she adds. “Even though your previous relationship ended for a reason, reminders from your family can make you start to questions the reality. If people you trust shake your judgment, it may make it hard for you to fully trust yourself and your new partner. This may result in you not fully engaging in the relationship. By not being fully invested in your new partner, you are likely holding the relationship back.”
If your family’s comparisons are starting to take a toll on you, Richardson recommends opening up an honest conversation with your family about how their comments are affecting you. In order to avoid making your new boo uncomfortable in any way, she says it’s best to have this conversation with them privately, and not to mention it to your current partner at all.
“Politely and patiently explain that while you are glad they liked the last partner, that relationship is over and you would like them to give the new person a chance,” she advises.
Shapiro agrees that it’s definitely worth talking to them about it. However, she asserts that you may need to be sensitive to their own mourning process, especially if your relationship with your ex lasted a long time and the breakup happened within the last year or two.
“Give them permission to mourn the loss — it’s understandable and normal for them to miss them,” she says. “But it’s not OK if it’s impacting their view or feelings on the new person in your life.”
According to Shapiro, the best way to be accommodating to your family members’ feelings while also protecting your own is to set some guidelines in terms of what you are and aren’t comfortable with. For example, you may want to ask them not to talk about your ex in front of your new partner, as this can be detrimental for obvious reasons. And you may want to ask them to cut off or minimize their contact with your ex.
When your loved ones are making these constant comparisons, it’s easy for them to get in your head. After all, you likely trust your family members’ judgment, so when they idealize your ex or express concerns about your current partner in their comparisons, it can be hard to know when you should pay attention to their opinions.
Shapiro advises listening with an open mind while still remembering that they may have their own biases.
“Your family knows you, and they may see some qualities in your new partner that you may not see,” she explains. “But, if they are only seeing the negative in your new SO and positive in your ex, it may be because they are still mourning and they haven’t gotten over your last SO. Perhaps they have lost their ‘golf buddy’ or their ‘sous chef,’ but this is more about them than you.”
However, Shapiro stresses that it’s worth taking a step back to assess your relationship if your family is concerned about your SO’s character or more importantly, your safety — because at the end of the day, they usually do have your best interests at heart.
Ultimately, there’s really only one question worth asking, according to Richardson: Does your new partner bring out the best in you? For example, if a family member points out that you seemed adventurous and confident in your last relationship and more timid and afraid in this one, that is feedback to pay attention to. On the other hand, superficial comparisons shouldn’t have any weight.
“If the feedback is along the lines of, 'your last SO was so much more successful, handsome, and fun,’ then feel free to ignore that,” she says.
One of the harsh realities of dating is that your family may become rather attached to your significant other — so much so that when you break up, they feel the loss, too. That said, it doesn’t give them permission to make you feel inadequate or insecure about your current relationship. Unless they have genuine concerns about your well-being, they shouldn’t be comparing your current boo to a previous one. Once you find a way to express how their comments are taking a toll on you, you can work on helping your family to get to know — and appreciate — your new bae in the way that you have grown to.