My Boyfriend Won’t Stop Talking About His Ex-Girlfriend!

I am dating this guy I really like. We have been dating since November of last year. 

We both believe in being up-front about things so he made it a point to tell me he wanted to take it slow because he has rushed into relationships in the past. We do have sex and it is great!

The main issue I have with him however is that he talks about his ex-girlfriend a lot; I feel like he is still hung up on her. She is a drug user and he knows he’s better off without her, but is still drawn to her. Should I bail on this relationship or talk to him at length regarding this issue?

Lerene

Dear Lerene,

You’re probably asking the wrong person.

I’m serious.

I’m one of those people who doesn’t see anything wrong in dredging up the name of ex’s for one simple and obvious reason: THEY’RE EX’S!!! There’s a reason I’m not with them and whether they dumped me or I dumped them, it amounts to the same thing: the case is closed.

And if I’m in a committed relationship and I want my girlfriend to really understand me, she needs to hear my crazy stories. This is my history, this is my rocky path, this is my life. The mere concept that I shouldn’t mention how crazy this ex was, or how devotedly misguided I was to another ex, is silly. But again, I’m not pining for them, putting them up on a pedestal, or talking to them four times a day. I’m sharing a very important part of my past, like talking about the way I was in high school, or my deceased father. These are the facts; I hope you choose to accept them.

To my girlfriend’s credit, she is a virtual Rolodex of Evan’s ex- stories. And it doesn’t faze her in the least. Because she knows it has nothing to do with her. And I know, when she gets emotional or vulnerable when sharing the pain of her failed marriage, that it has nothing to do with ME. She doesn’t miss her ex-husband. She misses the innocence, happiness and security that she felt when she was in that relationship. As a result, I do everything I can to make her feel special, including not getting jealous if she talks about the good times she had before the marriage fell apart.

While it may not feel good to know that your guy has latent feelings for someone else, as long as you don’t think he’s going to act on them, you should probably get over it.

This is all about removing your ego from the equation and looking at the facts in front of you. You didn’t give me many details so it’s really up to you to decide:

Is he talking about her because he wants her back? Or is he saying that he really cared about her, but she was fatally flawed? Because those are two different things. While it may not feel good to know that your guy has latent feelings for someone else, as long as you don’t think he’s going to act on them, you should probably get over it.

 

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Comments:

  1. 1
    S

    I’m also dealing with this – my boyfriend has an ex-wife with whom he has two sons. So, of course, he is tied to her and talks to her and has to deal with her. He has the kids, so it’s different that way, but he’s still tied to this woman. I don’t feel at all jealous though because it’s obvious that he likes/loves me and it’s just not a factor. It’s just life – none of us are coming to our relationships a virgin – we’re in our 30′s and there is history. Evan is right, if he isn’t still swooning over her, I’d let it go.

  2. 2
    Selena

    I’ve always thought it was about the context when it comes to talking about ex’s. Early in a new relationship if someone goes on and on, in a positive, wistful way, or in a negative, bitter way it can be a red flag that-
    a) they aren’t over the person yet, or
    b) they are too immersed in the ‘baggage’ of the last relationship.
    Either way it can mean they aren’t ready for a new r’ship.

    It’s tough to try to extract mention of ex’s from conversation however, because so many of your memories are connected with them. The places you’ve gone, things you’ve done, people you’ve known. The longer the previous relationship, the more of these type memories there are. And they tend to come up naturally in conversation when you are getting to know someone new and giving them the sense of who you are, where you’ve been.

    For me, the *heavy* conversations regarding ex’s might happen after we’ve become close–not in the beginning of a new r’ship, where a certain amount of privacy should be respected. Lerene, if you think your guy talks about his ex “too” much, have you pointed that out to him? He may not even realize he’s doing it to such an extent after 5 mos.

  3. 3
    sara

    my ex told me countless stories about all four LTRs he had before me. Stories about what he liked about them, didn’t like about them, trips they took and many random conversations…even stories about their sex life. He told me everything. I was never threatened about the ex’s because he wasn’t in really in contact with them and was way to focused on me for me to have any concern. They were part of his life and he was just sharing his life with me.

    I wouldn’t think its anything to worry about as long as he’s just telling random stories in the context of a larger conversation between the two of you. She may have been an important relationship for him despite the drug use. I know I’ll be talking about my last ex for years to come just because it was a huge relationship for me and a major positive impact on my life. But I am not pining away from him. Its done its over.

    You can ask your bf about it since its bothering you, but don’t harp on it or it will undermine your relationship. If he’s focused on you, you have nothing to worry about. It may be just bringing up insecurities from your past relationships.

  4. 4
    Sarah G

    I’ve found that every guy I’ve gone out with has talked about his exes, and if he doesn’t that it’s a little weird — as if he never felt anything for anyone before. But there is a line, and I think it has to do with context, as most everyone so far has pointed out. I’ve gone out with too many guys who would go off on rants about their ex wives (usually there were kids involved), and say really awful things about the exes, and in general seem a little bit demented regarding their formers. It was really more than a little scary to think about being on the receiving end of THAT. And when I find that I start understanding the ex’s complaints about the guy and being more sympathetic to her than to him I know that it’s time to go. With guys who talk about their former girlfriends ad nauseum, I’ve most often thought that the guy still seemed hung up on her. In either case I think the guy is better off talking to a therapist to help him sort out his feelings. I mean, if you aren’t sharing some past relationship trauma too then there isn’t the kind of give and take that EMK describes — it might feel like he’s just taking advantage of your understanding and sympathetic self.

    Ugh. This post just reminds me how much I have hated dating divorced guys — esp. with kids — they just never seem to have it together. They just don’t seem to be present with you. Everything is at their convenience (which is very restricted) and you have to be someone they can flaunt in the face of the ex. Never again. Never never never again.

  5. 5
    Sarah G

    Oh, and the post also reminds me of how much I’ve hated dating guys who were dumped by the dancer/model/investment banker of their dreams. Never again. Never never never again.

  6. 6
    Hot Alpha Female

    I think evan brings up a great point. That your ex is part of your past. N that they don’t have any bearing on your current relationship.

    With that said, if he is constantly bringing her up and still talking to her .. and she is still a big part of his life .. well thats when you know that you have a problem.

    But from what it sounds like .. this doesn’t seem to be the case.

    I think that you need to be able to find the strength within yourself and know that when you boyfriend talks about his ex .. it is no reflection of how much he loves you

    Hot Alpha Female

    http://www.hotalphafemale.blogspot.com

  7. 7
    Steve

    Very good advice from Evan and very mature, insightful comments in this thread ( so far ).

    Lerene, if he doesn’t talk about the ex anymore than he would any other significant part of his past, go with Evan’s advice and let it roll off of you. If he is pining for her, or if he is endlessly festering over her like Sarah’s ex’s have a polite, nonthreatening talk with him about it. If he doesn’t stop consider whether or not it bothers you enough to find someone else.

    Venting to someone close is normal and healthy, yet if a person is venting ALL of the time s/he needs to improve the way they are handling a problem and should get some help if they can’t adapt well on their own.

  8. 8
    dadshouse

    I’m with EMK on this one – there’s nothing wrong with talking about an ex. It’s part of your history. Part of who you are. But, if someone compares their ex to you, watch out, especially if the comparison puts you down. Or, if they talk about their ex while having sex with you – run for hills!

  9. 9
    downtowngal

    I dunno Evan, I totally disagree with you on this one. There’s a difference btw discussing your ex because he/she was a part of your life history and obsessing over him/her to the point where it prevents you from moving forward with relationships. If I were dating someone for 4+ months and sleeping with him the last thing I’d want to hear is him carrying on about his ex; it’s disrespectful and shows that he’s not over her. In Lerene’s case it doesn’t sound as if he’s casually bringing her up as a point of conversation.

    Lerene, one question: have you spoken to him about this? called him on it when he speaks of his ex? because if it bothers you so much you should say something. just like anything else that people write about on this blog – communicate your feelings and see how he responds…then you’ll have your answer.

  10. 10
    Sarah G

    Thanks so much for the posts from the guys! Also, on a COMPLETELY

  11. 11
    Sarah G

    unrelated topic (hit the send button there — oops) — I have to share my utter embarrassment about something and I don’t know where else in cyberspace to turn. So here goes. Today my boss came by to decide on a day for an upcoming office thing and my calendar was sitting right there, so I opened it up to May and she looked at the dates. No, let’s see April, she said. So I turned the page in my calendar back and there was the full month spread out — including every astrological event that seemed significant when I read it on an online astro thing my sister sent me. So there I had it written — “full moon — good for romance” — “creativity=financial reward” — “mercury + uranus = something powerful.” She didn’t say anything, but I felt like an idiot. (She picked the “creativity” day for the big work thing.) I work with very serious people, and my astrological future is just TMI there. Thank god I didn’t have my period day circled.

    Nothing to do with the post at hand. So let’s just carry on, and I’ll try to put my humiliation behind me. Thanks for listening.

  12. 12
    Deathslayer

    Constantly talking about an ex means that you still have some emotional attachment or bond…so, unless you have developed an indifferent technique, those bonds are gonna be hard to sever with a quick slash. How many times have guys gotten calls from women who are their exes and the women said they let a good man get away…especially if the guy stopped thinking or caring about them?

    If he’s constantly talking to the woman about his ex, is it about behavior or the drug use? If it’s the former, then talk to him, if it’s the latter, he’s worried about someone destroying themselves.

    Again I ask…is this the WORST complaint you have about a guy…everything else seems to be hunky dory…he’s taking it slow, letting you know the terms…and of course the ‘sex is great’.

    So, he is still talking about the ex…has it been for a constant five-six months? Well, if he’s gonna vent, be there when it’s over IF you really care about him. Think about this, if you hade a male actor you liked and had the movies, DVDs and a fan club and you enjoyed talking about him and your man gave you the choice of your love of the actor or him, would you feel the same way you do in your letter?

    If you’d leave him for something like this, then if it your relationship was something more serious, like marriage, you’d probably falter at the vows, in sickness and in health, as long as you both shall live.

    These days, people get divorced for not even cooking a meal right…so, why not end a relationship over something like talking about an ex?

    Deathslayer

  13. 13
    downtowngal

    “Well, if he’s gonna vent, be there when it’s over IF you really care about him. ”

    huh?

    That would make her rebound girl because this guy would have been spending so much time complaiing about his ex instead of focusing on his current girlfriend. So once he’s over the ex he’ll move on to someone else and forget about the woman he took for granted while he was getting over his ex.

  14. 14
    Lance

    I keep a pretty strict policy of not taking about exes very early in the relationship, basically the “courting phase” when it’s still a little iffy which way it could go. I think it just kills attraction and it seems a bit inconsiderate. Although I can think of several circumstances where a funny ex-gf story would be appropriate on date #2, so who knows.

    After the relationship is established, I think you HAVE to talk about your past relationships. It’s like talking about family. Those experiences are what define you as a partner. The last thing you want is for your gf to say, “I’m really into you but I know NOTHING about your past.” You don’t want him or her filling in the blanks.

    I like what dadshouse said, tell your stories, but don’t do comparisons. That seems to me a good rule of thumb.

  15. 15
    Kat Wilder

    I guess I’d want to know what “a lot” means. Hourly? Every day? Once a week? Once a month? You have to put it in perspective; if it’s consuming a huge portion of the relationship, I’d want to check in about it, too.

    I do believe talking about former partners is a necessary and good thing, especially if your lover owns up to what he did in the relationship, good and bad (like, was he an enabler to her drug use? Good thing to know …)

    And, as others have mentioned here, how soon he started dating after that relationship would be pretty huge, too. There is a grieving process that needs to happen after a love affair ends, like a death, really.

    But Sarah G , your comments: “Ugh. This post just reminds me how much I have hated dating divorced guys esp. with kids they just never seem to have it together. They just don’t seem to be present with you. Everything is at their convenience (which is very restricted) and you have to be someone they can flaunt in the face of the ex. Never again. Never never never again.”

    If you’re dating a divorced dad, his kids DO have to come first, or do you want to date (and maybe marry and have kids with) a man who has kids but takes no responsibility for them and isn’t engaged and present in their life? That’s good character, right?

    It’s good you’re not going to date divorced dads anymore; they deserve better. It’s a package deal. (Can you tell I’m a divorced mom?)

  16. 16
    Sara M

    Two things.

    1) The post. In the beginning of my relationship with my finace he talked about all of his formers, but one in particular, a lot. I was as understanding as I could be because I get it, I do. But finally after about 6 months I just said: “You talk about X a lot. Was the relationship traumatic? Are you having a hard time letting it go?” I think he was suprised by what I said, maybe even embarrassed or offended, but I think it was good for both of us. I was able to say what I felt and he was forced to think about it a little differently. It’s been 2 years and now Ms. X doesn’t come up anymore at all. It just takes time.

    2) Sarah G.’s comment on the datebook. I say chalk that up to an embarrassing moment. Your boss has no right to judge because she was in your personal space. If she was on your Outlook calendar, well then that might be a different story.

  17. 17
    Jen

    …”were dumped by the dancer/model/investment banker of their dreams…” and “… if you aren’t sharing some past relationship trauma too then there isn’t the kind of give and take that EMK describes it might feel like he’s just taking advantage of your understanding and sympathetic self.”

    I’m with you there. I have been on the receiving end of the all of the above for the past 9 months. He was dumped by the love of his life. He spent many months calling me by her name during sex (and those were the good times, at least we were having sex). He also regaled me almost nightly with running commentary on other women- past, present, and “only in your dreams, pal.” And he compares me to his ideal. Guess what, I’m not it.

    I have listened and sympathized. He is sorry. He is not over her, he can’t get that close again, etc……. By his own admission, he is unable to move on. So, he doesn’t call me “Tracy” anymore, and now we never have sex.

    I think I made a big mistake.

  18. 18
    Steve

    Jen;

    Post 17. I feel like a hypocrite saying this as I have a problem with staying in bad situations too long …..BUT….why did you put up with that for 9 months? Why are you STILL putting up with it?. Do yourself a favor and move on.

  19. 19
    Sarah G

    Thanks for the comments — esp. the one about the embarrassing datebook moment. Ha!!

    To Kat: I am very close to my sister, who is a divorced and dating single mom. I understand the issues involved, believe me. I adore my nephew and his well-being is first for all of us. That said, my sister does not go on and on about her ex with the guys she is dating. She has moved on. And she does not fight with him constantly over my nephew and play all sorts of manipulative games, and she does not let her ex or my nephew know anything about her current dating life. In other words, they are divorced and she is looking for a new partner and she is an excellent parent. She manages her life to accommodate her romantic relationships and her son. I cannot say the same about the two divorced dads I dated, one of whom went out of his way to flaunt me and our relationship in front of his ex AND the kids (he was extremely inappropriate in that regard, I might add). The other was, it seemed, in constant competition with his ex for the affection of their daughter and the least little thing that he might do with me (or with me and the daughter) was subject to all kinds of scrutiny and involvement and manipulation from her. And this ex boyfriend of mind seemed to be completely into the drama of it — he could have taken action to stop it, but he didn’t. He loved ranting about her and told the same stories of stuff that happened 15 years ago (“Can you believe that she…blah blah blah….”). So, in sum, if the package includes the guy and the kids, I’m all for it. I love kids. If the package includes, the guy, the kids, and the ex — you’re right. Not for me in a million years. Never again.

  20. 20
    Jen

    Steve-

    I’m a slow learner.

    Now we live together, and he quit his job. He is looking, sporadically.
    I have talked to him about what bothers me. I’m not a good communicator but I am trying. He is sorry, but nothing changes.

    I’m afraid I’m going to have to get ugly with him. I don’t want to.
    He has qualities I admire, which is why I can’t bring myself to kick him out, which I think is what I will have to do.

    I now believe in very long courtships, tee,hee.

  21. 21
    Honey

    Oh, Jen! If this should end (and it sounds like you’re just waiting for the inevitable straw to break your back, to me) take it slow next time! I’ve been with the BF for two years and we are just now making plans to move in together. This was largely because he had things end badly with several girls he moved in with too quickly (not at once, haha) and learned his lesson. I’ve never lived with anyone but roommates so this was a fine pace for me.

  22. 22
    Jeannie

    Evan, writer of 4/10 poses an interesting problem – we all have “pasts” or we haven’t really lived:-). But how does one determine when talking about a past love is normal and information sharing, and when it is a red flag that this person still has issues?

  23. 23
    downtowngal

    Jeannie, I think it’s the WAY the person discusses an ex. If the ex is mentioned as part of history or if the person you’re dating is obsessing over him/her.

    Frankly I’d want to know about my guy’s dating history as it clues me in on his emotional maturity and how he’s handled past relationships. But this is the kind of discussion you have only a couple of times as you get to know each other, very different to obsessing over an ex and saying how much you miss him and how you’re afraid to move forward with the new guy because the last one hurt you so much.

    At the end of the day you have to go with your gut. And if your BF’s talking about exes bothers you, then communicate your feelings/call him on it. If he still doesn’t get it, then that’s your red flag.

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  27. 24
    LuvMyPrez

    I got my boyfriend to stop talking about his Ex after I gave him butt sex. He did stop coming around after that though.

  28. 25
    hunter

    to luvmyprez,

    that is some bizarre behaviour…..hmmhh…

  29. 26
    pericles

    I have to wonder if this is largely a function of maturity. The desire to talk about your past a lot, more than once a month, let’s say, stems from a variety of factors. One: you’re not particularly interested in your present, and whether you realise it or not, you’re comparing the present moment to the past and finding that there’s something missing from the now you had then–this is a negative comparison, usually. Another might be, you’re damned glad you’re no longer in your past, and you’re reminding the new person how wonderful they are (this is the only valid reason to bring up an ex, by the way). Another might be that you’re still fairly immature, and allow others, and your experiences with them, to define you. In this case, by talking about these other people a fair amount, what you’d be telling me is that you are carrying them around with you internally, like shadows or ghosts of the former you, and you’re unwilling to let go of the former you.

    In any of these instances, try living in the now. You’ll find you need to discuss people from your past less and less. Doesn’t mean you forget them; you just won’t need them so much. Developing a very strong sense of self helps too. You find yourself talking about others less, and living your life more.

  30. 27
    P

    I have read the earlier comments, and I both agree and disagree with Evan’s advice. We all have pasts, and it is important for our partners to understand our background, and our significant relationships, in order to understand us. We also want to be able to connect the dots and determine how our partners arrived at the point in time in which they are with us. It may be important to listen to what may have been good or bad about the former relationships, and especially why they did not work out.

    However, if I love someone, I want to believe that my relationship with that person is unique and special. I don’t want to share it with a former boyfriend, or feel that I am replicating an experience that my partner shared earlier with someone else, or that I am being compared to another man – except favorably. And, I particularly don’t want to discuss former sexual experiences. They are not very interesting to your partner, and you risk corroding the intimacy in your current relationship.

    So, while it is important for both partners to understand one another’s relationship history, they should use discretion. Both partners also should be sensitive to one another’s feelings about discussing former relationships. Some people or events you may not mind hearing about, and others you would rather not. Is it necessary to share that you went to the same four star restaraunt with another man last year?

    You also might ask yourself why you feel the need to discuss former relationships with your current partner. Sometimes our motivations in discussing former relationships also may not be apparent to us. We could be motivated by insecurity, or a desire to mold our current relationship into something else. Also, even though an issue involving a former partner may be on your mind, it might be better to discuss it with a close friend, rather than your current partner. You may, for example, not want to share your angst about leaving an earlier relationship if that former partner is still present in your life.

    Unless the former relationship was one of the very few that was significant to me, I would rather not share details about who I dated or whether we slept together. We should be honest with our partners, but I think it also is important to make them feel secure and special. I would prefer to minimize former relationships and focus on the present and future.

    1. 27.1
      Aly

      I agree wholeheartedly with this post. It’s the context. I don’t mind talking about my partner’s exes in a respectful way. In fact, I welcome it in private in order to get to know my partner better or work out any insecurities he may have related to the past. But if he compares me to an ex, I have no time for that. If he goes on and on about her at family functions, that is another red flag. And if he wants to casually share his sexual past, in any context, get lost, buddy (unless of course he’s respectfully sharing that he has an STD, so you can decide if you want to move forward, but no details about sex should be necessary, in my opinion). Talking about a past relationship and its issues, and any emotional pain incurred by an ex, etc., is different to me than sharing sexual history. What’s the point? Unless you’re into that of course, and that is okay. But it’s also okay to not be into it. For me, it’s not a matter insecurity or jealousy, it’s just that I’m not interested. To me, it’s disrespectful and destroys intimacy. And that is okay. We’re all different people and it’s really about what works for you. You just have to find someone who will respect your feelings and honor your request. If they cannot, then it’s time for both parties to respectfully move on and find a compatible partner. And if they belittle your feelings, you don’t want that person as your partner. Run. We’re all entitled to our individuality and no one deserves to be put down. 

  31. 28
    MR

    Some excerpts from the email the EX sent to my boyfriend few months ago:

    is that i get to feeling like i miss hanging out with you and stuff… and then i feel like i’d leave justin for you if i could…but i dunno… maybe it’s just that i miss the social aspects of dating you..

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