Whether you’ve been dating your significant other for years, or you two just started a relationship, it’s natural to ask yourself Does my boyfriend still love his ex? Obviously, if you feel it in your gut that he does, or you’re simply not sure, the best thing you can do is to be honest about these feelings and communicate them to your other half.
To put things into perspective, we had a variety of experts weigh in including Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) Rachel Holzberg, Let it Out Iceland‘s psychotherapist and mental health specialist Zoë Aston, and founders of The Bevy— a bespoke matchmaking service — Nikki Lewis and Greta Tufvesson. Their advice spanned the gamut from pointing out obvious signs such as calling you by the ex’s name to possible scenarios in which you may just be a bit paranoid.
Among the various recommendations from these relationship gurus, you’ll definitely get the full spectrum and analysis on all sides. However, one thing they can all agree on is if you’re not feeling fulfilled and these insecurities are continuing to come between the two of you, then it might be time to explore ending things. Neither of you is doing the other a favor by staying put when clearly there’s something else still going on.
At the same time, we get it: There are so many factors. To help you calmly and rationally handle this troubling situation, read through the experts’ practical advice below.
Let’s start with the obvious
First of all, there’s a reason you’re feeling this way, and you need to get to the bottom of it. The Bevy’s Lewis and Tufvesson immediately point out obvious signs that your partner might still miss his ex, and unfortunately, if you recognize any of these scenarios, it could be time to rethink the relationship.
“Does he keep bringing her up?” the duo ask in unison. “Have you caught him scrolling through her Instagram? Has he accidentally called you by her name? Those are some pretty blatant signs.”
Worry about a change in behavior
If you sense any difference in his affection toward you, regardless of how long you’ve been together, feel free to question that. Whatever the cause may be, it’s certainly possible that he’s giving his love or attention to someone else.
“Notice if you have observed a shift in your dynamic between you and your partner,” Holzberg points out. “Whether this means he has been less affectionate or has decreased the amount of quality of time you typically spent together. Pay attention to the ways your partner has typically demonstrated love and care for you, since this can contribute to him thinking about past relationships.”
Do you sense some distance
In this case, distance doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. Growth and forward motion are the benefits of a healthy relationship, so if perceiving a sense of stagnancy or the feeling of going backward, perhaps there’s someone else getting in the way.
“Some less obvious signs are he’s keeping you at a distance in case she comes back,” Lewis says. “If you feel like he is keeping you at bay, it’s definitely worth it to find out why. If you two have been dating for a while and you’re not becoming any closer, this could be a reason.”
Consider intensity versus intimacy
Are there touchy subjects between you and your special someone? Does he have weird rules about not wanting to do certain things that you want to do? Quite frankly, that’s not a good sign.
“He might be unsure about committing to you, which is fair enough if his mind is still on someone else,” Aston explains. “He might not want to do certain things or go certain places because it brings up painful memories. His pining for his ex can also show up in what we call ‘Intensity Seeking.’ We create intensity to avoid intimacy. If he is avoiding creating intimacy between the two of you, look around for ways he might be creating intensity elsewhere.”
Previous betrayal may be to blame
Past infidelity could be a factor, especially if he was unfaithful before with his ex. If you two got back together after that and you’re still feeling insecure, let him know and prepare yourself for what he has to say.
“You can’t make a man love you if he can’t first absolve his past,” Tufvesson emphasizes. “In our business, we say that timing is everything. You could meet the most perfect man for you, but if he can’t get over his ex, it’s not your time and you need to move on. It’s not your job to be someone else for him, and it’s not your job to fix him.”
Then again, don’t jump to conclusions
There’s no harm in giving him the benefit of the doubt. Before you get angry and accusatory, breathe and take a step back to see if you can determine what’s really going on. For instance, could a new job or familial obligations be taking up his attention?
“Oftentimes we forget to take into account the external factors that may contribute to a change in our relationship, causing us to be more paranoid,” Holzberg says. “Your partner may be more stressed at work, lack energy that week, or is navigating through a family problem. Our mind typically jumps to the worst-case scenario and we can forget to pause to think about alternative components. If you notice your partner on his phone more, instead of becoming paranoid that he is reaching out to his ex, give yourself a reality check of alternative reasons he has increased the usage (dealing with work emails, reaching out to friends, and so on).”
Finally, feelings aren’t facts
For those who make gut decisions and rely on instinct, stop. Even if there are signs your partner is still into his ex, make sure you’re not seeing them due to your own insecurities. While we’re not saying you should make excuses for him either, relationships are a two-way street, so examine yourself equally.
“The truth is we could talk about ‘telling signs’ forever, but the main telling signs are based in your feelings,” Aston reveals. “You might have a repetitive feeling that you are ‘not enough’ or not fulfilling his expectations. You might find yourself preoccupied with pulling his focus and going beyond your means to please him, and ultimately feel disappointed and under-appreciated, because despite your best efforts, his focus is elsewhere. I have to say, it is possible to drive yourself crazy doing this. Your attempts to change him will be futile, hence we have to focus on you and what’s in your best interest rather than trying to change him.”