9 Things Your Partner Might Do If They Haven't Moved On From Their Last Relationship
If your partner is showing signs that they haven't moved on from their last relationship, it will likely create some tension between the two of you. Whether it seems like they aren't quite ready to date, or like they're still hung up on their ex, it isn't a great way to start a new relationship. And it's why you'll want to talk about it as soon as possible.
Even if it's difficult, you should bring to their attention the various things you've noticed, and see what they have to say. "The best course of action is to talk to your partner about it openly," Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. "Your feelings might be misplaced. But, if you are correct, the situation could get complicated." So the sooner you can work through these feelings as a couple, the better.
It might even be helpful for your partner to go to therapy, Bennett says, so they can unpack whatever happened in their last relationship, and eventually move on. But while they're working on themselves, keep yourself in mind, too. If it seems like your partner isn't ready to be with you — because they're still stuck in the past — it may be time to reevaluate your relationship, including whether or not it's right for you.
With that in mind, here are the signs your partner might not have moved on from their ex, according to experts, so you can better assess the health of your relationship.
1. They Speak Negatively About Their Ex
Your partner certainly doesn't have to be ecstatic about their ex's existence, or even willing to talk about them at length, in order to be fully moved on. They may just be interested in leaving the past in the past, especially if they had a messy breakup or parted ways with their ex for negative reasons.
But if they seem to speak negatively about their ex on a regular basis, it's definitely a red flag. "Anyone truly over an ex can look at that person in an emotionally neutral way," Bennett says. "If your partner still hates an ex, you have to question why your partner is still attached in such a strong way. In many cases, extreme hatred of an ex shows that person hasn’t moved on at all."
2. They Follow Them Closely On Social Media
"It’s normal to wonder what an ex is up to. But, if your partner [checks up on] an ex on social media regularly it could be a sign [they are] still attached in some way," Bennett says. "This includes constantly checking statuses, liking photos, and commenting." Or any other habit that seems to keep them closely tied to an ex.
It might mean they aren't ready to be dating, which is something you'll obviously want to find out about ASAP. If they aren't ready to move on from the past and move forward with you, they need to let you know.
3. They're Holding Onto Mementos
If your partner is holding onto boxes worth of meaningful items from their last relationship, it may cause you to question whether or not they've truly moved on. And for good reason.
"Keeping mementos from past relationships isn’t unusual. However, if your partner keeps around a lot of items from an ex and uses them, especially personal items, it’s a red flag," Bennett says. "This includes articles of clothing, romantic gifts, and other more meaningful mementos."
It's one thing to hold onto a few photos or basic household items, but it's something else entirely to keep an ex's sweater, a piece of meaningful jewelry, and so on. If the latter seems to be the case, it's definitely time to have a conversation.
4. They Get Upset Whenever They Hear About Their Ex
"If your partner is incredibly interested in the details of their ex's life or if they appear to be angry or jealous if they hear that the ex is dating, this is a clear indication that your partner has not yet moved on," therapist Kryss Shane, MS, MSW, LSW, LMSW, tells Bustle.
It's fine if they feel a pang of sadness upon learning news about their ex, but they shouldn't get irrationally upset. If that's the case, therapy may be a big help.
While you can't force your partner to go on their own, you can suggest going to therapy as a couple, as a way of helping you both move forward.
5. They Insert Their Ex Into Daily Conversation
Does your partner talk about their ex incessantly? Do you hear their name every day? Or feel like you know them on a person level, even though you've never met? If so, it may be a red flag.
"Unless you are having a conversation about exes specifically, the person's name should not come up regularly when you are spending time with your partner," therapist Rachel Perlstein, LCSW, tells Bustle. "Often when we are still thinking about someone or they are important to us (even subconsciously) we bring them up more than we do others."
The fact your partner mentions them so often is a sign they've still got a lot of moving on to do, and it may be worth it to address that with them.
6. They Call Them To Catch Up
"While it is always a positive sign of emotional maturity when someone is able to maintain a friendly relationship with their ex and only says kind things about them, the desire to communicate regularly or see them in person can cross the line at a certain point," Perlstein says.
So if your partner texts their ex, calls them, or even goes so far as to ask them out for coffee — and it makes you uncomfortable — you'll need to let them know. It's so easy for this to become a toxic situation. And one you don't need to be a part of.
"The exception to this is when your partner is co-parenting with their ex," Perlstein says. "In this case, that type of relationship may be necessary for the well-being of their children."
7. They Compare You To Their Ex
The people from our past can certainly impact us in a variety of ways, so don't jump to conclusions if your partner mentions their ex on occasion, or points out something they used to do together.
Do, however, consider chatting with your partner if they begin to compare you to their ex — especially if they're doing so in a way that feels negative.
"These things may or may not mean that your relationship is doomed but these are significant red flags that you can't afford to ignore," Los Angeles-based relationship therapist, Dr. Gary Brown, tells Bustle. "It is perfectly normal if you find this behavior upsetting and you should absolutely express your thoughts and feelings about this to your partner."
8. They Haven't Made An Effort To Clean The Slate
It may not feel great if your partner is holding onto mementos from their ex, but there are other ways to cling to an old relationship — and none of them are very healthy.
You might, for example, notice that your partner has made no effort to "clean the slate," after their ex. As Perlstein says, maybe "their ex is still their screen saver or their ring tone is their song."
Beyond simply being strange, it's a sign your partner isn't ready to leave the past in past. But it might also mean they're still harboring romantic feelings, Perlstein says.
All you can do is ask about it, see how your partner reacts, and then monitor the situation moving forward. "If you can't shake the distinct feeling that something is amiss, it may be that the timing is not right," she says.
9. They Turn To Their Ex When They're Upset
While everyone needs a go-to person to call when they're feeling upset, it's not a great sign if your partner turns to their ex in these moments — but especially so if they're calling them to complain about you.
"If you find your partner confiding in their ex, they may still be wondering 'what if' about that person," Perlstein says. But you'll never know for sure unless you ask.
If any of the above is making you uncomfortable, set aside time to chat with your partner about it. "Everyone processes the endings of relationships differently, so what might seem normal to one person may seem outlandish to another," Perlstein says. Your partner might have a really good explanation for why they call their ex, or why they follow them on social media.
But if it still doesn't sit right with you, let them know. It may help to set up boundaries in your relationship — including what's OK and not OK to say to exes — so that you both can feel supported, understood, and secure.