11 Things Your Partner Says That May Mean They Still Care About Their Ex
There are so many reasons why someone might seem to still have feelings for their ex. And not all of them are romantic or threatening to your relationship. If your partner still talks to their ex, mentions them, or follows them on social media, it could just be their way of moving on, recovering, letting go of baggage — or just being friendly.
And that's totally OK. "It's normal for some people to still be friends with an ex," Bethany Ricciardi, a sex educator and relationship expert with Too Timid, tells Bustle. They might even hang out occasionally, and as long as everyone's cool with it, it doesn't have to be a big deal.
There are other times, however, when it's clear your partner is too attached to their ex, in a way that isn't healthy for your current relationship. And it's in those moments where you might want to speak up and establish a few boundaries.
While it's fine if your partner wants to remain in contact with an ex, there are a few ways to know if they're crossing the line. Here are a few things your partner might say if they're still too attached to their ex, according to experts, as well as what to do about it.
1. They Say They're Doing A Favor For Their Ex
If your partner is always doing favors for their ex, or leaning on them for emotional support, it may mean they're just good friends. Or, it could also mean they're a little too attached, especially if it's happened more than once.
"It ... probably became a habit when they were dating, but if your partner and their ex still call each other when they need help with something," your partner may still have feelings for their ex, Ricciardi says.
While it's OK for the ex to be one part of a larger support system, it may still be necessary to set up boundaries as a couple, so that everyone feels comfortable. That way, you won't be left feeling like the odd man out in your own relationship.
2. They Always Refer To Their Ex By Name
If your partner isn't friends with their ex, it may serve as a small clue if they stop referring to their former partner as "my ex," and instead start referring to them by name.
"Saying someone’s name is a subtle way to show you still care about them," Ricciardi says. "They’re important enough to you that you still want to use their name, instead of labeling them an ex and making it clear they are someone of your past, not present."
So, if it feels like something's off, don't be afraid to talk with your partner to figure out what kind of a relationship they have with their ex. Because if they're still attached, you'll need to know.
3. They Follow Their Ex On Social Media
There are a million and one reasons why someone might follow their ex on social media, or simply check in on them occasionally. Curiosity is a big one. Closure is another.
But keep in mind, "if [your partner cares] enough to go out of their way to look at the page, there’s a high chance they’re still attached to their ex," Ricciardi says.
It's one thing to take a quick glance at an ex's social media, just to see what they're up to. But it's something else if they're liking all of their photos, or chatting with them frequently.
If you're concerned about any of it, let your partner know. In a relationship, it's important that both people feel safe and secure, which is why it's OK to bring up things like social media — and the types of relationships you have with exes.
4. They're Sad When Their Ex Moves On
It can be tough to hear that an ex has moved on, gotten married, etc. — even when you're 100 percent over the relationship and happily with someone else. So don't jump to conclusions if your partner seems bummed out when they mention their ex, or if they find out the ex has officially moved on.
There may be a few ways to tell, though, if they're reacting that way due to lingering feelings. To find out, "see how they react to [the news]," Ricciardi says. "Do they not care at all or is there some anger or jealousy?" Depending on what they say, you may be able to get a better idea. And it also may be time to talk about why your partner hasn't been able to move on.
5. They Say They're Nervous To Run Into An Ex
Does your partner get nervous when their ex is in town, or when they know they might bump into them at a party? This is completely natural, especially if their breakup wasn't the smoothest, or if it happened fairly recently.
Depending on how nervous they get, though, it may be a sign of something more. As Ricciardi says, "Just see how your partner reacts when their ex comes into the room. Watch their body language and see if they get flustered."
Again, it's not uncommon to feel uncomfortable around an ex. But if your partner gets tensed up, nervous, angry, or even jealous, you may want to ask them what's up.
6. They Compare You To Their Ex
If your partner compares you to their ex, it may be a sign they're still too attached — but not necessarily in a romantic way. It could simply mean they're attached through old baggage, possibly because the relationship wasn't healthy.
"When a person makes a comparison between their past and current relationship ... they are reliving what happened in that relationship," licensed professional counselor Dr. LaWanda N. Evans, tells Bustle. "When a person continuously compares their past relationship with their current relationship, the person is possibly stuck in the past and it becomes difficult to move forward in a new relationship."
You might notice this happens more often during an argument or disagreement, when "something happens in the relationship that triggers your partner or brings back ... negative memories of the past relationship," Dr. Evans says.
But by talking about it, you can help each other move on and feel more supported — regardless of what happened in the past.
7. They Complain About Their Ex
As Dr. Evans says, if your partner constantly complains about their ex, they "may possibly still be attached to their ex ... [or haven't] gotten over the breakup, or the loss of the relationship." So if your partner is complaining about things that your ex did, even though they're no longer in each other's lives, take note.
Of course, sharing the occasional anecdote from the past is OK, if your partner just needs to quickly vent, or simply wants to share a story. But if they've truly moved on, they won't allow these old moments to get the best of them.
8. They Have Commitment Issues
If they aren't willing to talk about the future or make any type of commitment, "it might mean [...] your partner isn't ready to get serious with you because they're still reeling from their last relationship," Amica Graber, a relationship expert with TruthFinder, tells Bustle. They might claim they have "commitment issues," or say they aren't ready to date. And, of course, that's completely their prerogative.
But if you've been dating for a while and would like to make things official, it can hurt to hear that your partner doesn't feel the same way. Again, the best way to find out is through a healthy conversation, where you can both talk about what's on your minds.
9. They Insist They're "Just Friends"
"If your partner and their ex are still friends, that's often a really positive reflection on your partner's maturity," Graber says. It shows they're respectful, and that their last relationship was likely a good one — albeit one that didn't work out romantically.
If your partner and their ex are truly just friends, it'll be obvious that's the case. But if they start insisting they're "just friends" — or have begun hanging out all the time — there may be something more going on than they'd like to admit.
"Does your partner talk about their ex and [their] problems as if they were their own? Do they seem moody if their ex starts dating someone else? Being too involved with their ex's life after the relationship has ended isn't a healthy environment for a new relationship," Graber says. So again, talking and setting up boundaries will be key.
10. They Tell You Way Too Many Stories
"If your partner takes you on a tour of their ex's favorite watering holes every time date night swings around, they're still too attached to their ex," Graber says. Sure, they may just be reliving old memories, or showing you parts of their past. But if they talk about their ex 24/7, and try to recreate their old life, you'll definitely want more info.
"Are they taking you to their ex's favorite bar because they're hoping to run into them? Or are they just looking to get a hit of nostalgia by dropping in? Either way, it's a sure sign that they're still hung up on their ex," Graber says.
11. They Don't Say Anything
Perhaps most telling of all is when your partner won't say a thing about their ex. As Graber says, "The obvious sign of your partner hoarding feelings for their ex may be a case of verbal diarrhea when it comes to talking about them. On the flip side, if your partner is really hurting from the breakup, they might not talk about their ex at all."
Of course, they aren't under any obligation to talk, if they don't want to. But if all you get is crickets any time you ask about their ex, Graber says it may be a sign they're still attached in some way.
This may mean they're harboring feelings, but it also may be a sign they're just hurting and need more time to fully get over the past. As long as you speak your mind and share your concerns, though, it doesn't have to impact your current relationship.
This post was originally published on 7/6/2018. It was updated on 6/4/2019.