Boyfriend Still Hangs With His Ex

M* writes:

Now, at this very moment I’m overthinking the “my boyfriend still hangs with his ex” situation.

I’m aware I have some trust issues due to former experiences, and he gives me no reason whatsoever not to trust him, but we’ve been together for only three months so far and I still don’t know him that well, I guess.

Anyway, I’d like to hear someone else’s opinion on this subject. Should I just stay cool, work on my fears and insecurities and keep these thoughts to myself, or should I be honest with him and tell him how I feel about it.

His ex is not in his closest circle of friends, but not so far from it either, so there will be a lot of partying and just hanging together, and often I’m not included.

I don’t find myself a very jealous type of person, but it’s always been awkward for me to socialize with someone I used to have sex with, and I never wished to stay good friends with them, so it’s hard to understand a different point of view.

First of all, I understand the desire to “stay close with your ex”. I’ve been with quite a few women and am still close with several of them. I even still feel love for a few of them. Not the needy, attached kind of “love”, but the admiring, caring kind. I feel it because they’re incredible human beings.

They didn’t stop being incredible when we stopped sleeping together, and they didn’t stop being incredible when I started seeing other women, so my feelings about them didn’t change. Perhaps they faded a little, but they’re there.

If I think about my exes or spend time with them, the feelings come back. I admire them and care that they’re happy. Whether I’m with someone else at the time or not, I can’t control these feelings. Nor would I want to.

If I tried to deny or suppress these feelings it’d be like telling myself there’s something wrong with me. Likewise, if you were to force your boyfriend to stop seeing his ex you’d basically be telling him that it’s wrong for him to be feeling what he naturally feels.

I’m not saying that’s what you’re doing. The first point I’m making here is that your boyfriend probably still feels love for his ex in some way, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean he loves you any less.

You sometimes feel attraction for other guys, right? Of course you do. But it doesn’t mean you’ll sleep with them. Which leads me to my next point:

We can’t control our feelings, but we can control our actions.

The strongest relationships are the ones where both partners can share any of their feelings without judgement. You may not like each other’s feelings, but you don’t try to manipulate them. You make an effort to understand them and then decide together how to act, based on what’s best for each partner individually and for the relationship as a whole.

There’s no use wishing that your own feelings were different, or secretly wishing that your partner’s feelings were different… because they’re not. We become closest with our partner when we can work through our feelings together. And all hell breaks loose when we keep our true feelings hidden… like a cancer-infested ticking time bomb.

If you try to make your boyfriend feel a certain way, you push him away. Like trying to make him love you more by loving his ex less. If he enjoys spending time with his ex but knows you want him to stop seeing her, you’ll turn it into a negative experience for him. Then he’ll start looking for ways to make the bad feelings go away…

He could stop seeing his ex… but he may resent you for taking away something that made him happy.

He could stop enjoying seeing his ex… but how would he even do that?

Finally, he could push you away (by cheating, starting a fight, breaking up) so that he’s free to do the things he enjoys, without feeling bad. The worse you make him feel, the more attractive this option becomes. And it may not even feel like a conscious decision on his part.

So to answer your question, yes, work on your fears and insecurities. But don’t do it on your own. You won’t figure them out that way. You’ll have to understand his feelings before you can get to a place where you’re okay with the situation. So do it together, without trying to control how he feels.

Start with something like this:

“This is hard for me to get my head around. I want you to keep seeing your ex because I know it makes you happy. And I trust you. I just have my own fears an insecurities around it that I’m working through, and it’d help if I understood it from your point of view.”

How much do you want to be with someone who says that to you? Would you cheat on someone who gives you that freedom, who loves you for all the things you naturally feel, without trying to change you? No fucking way.

Don’t lie though. If you can’t get to a place where you actually “want him to keep seeing his ex”, don’t say it. But do your best to get to that place.

Shift the focus of your overthinking away from questions like “what if something happened between them?” and instead try to figure out “what’s good about the fact that he still sees his ex?” Does it make you happy that he’s happy, for instance? Does it give you an opportunity to know him better? To build trust that brings you closer together?

Now, on the flipside, assuming that you actually can’t trust him… overthinking it isn’t going to change that. If he’s going to cheat on you or leave you, he’ll do it whether you’re jealous or not. If anything, jealousy will make him more likely to do it, because wanting to change his feelings will push him away.

The only thing you can do is be open about your feelings and encourage him to do the same, by receiving them without judgement.

Let me know your thoughts. Leave a comment below.

Also let me know if you have any other questions about relationships, communication or people.

6 Thoughts to “My Boyfriend Still Hangs With His Ex. What Should I Do?”

  1. Hey Pete! Really nice article! I know that this article is for women, but i think that it applies in the other scenario as well.

    When a relationship achieves that kind of trust, that kind of no-judgmental pressure over the other, it’s really a fucking nice relationship. And your article made it very clear.

  2. Well, Pete, if a guy like you thinks it’s O.K.,
    than it must be, and that makes me calm. :)
    I was about to share my feelings with him, but I chickened out. I’m afraid he’ll start feeling guilty about it, and I really don’t want that.
    But if these feelings don’t go away I will definitely. We’re both kinda trying to overcome our egos, so I’ll take it from there, cause that’s what this actually is, my ego feeling threatened.
    Though I must admit, if he was meeting with her one on one regulary, I wouldn’t be able to digest that, it’s just how I am.
    Thanks for your thoughts on this.

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