We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions will remain anonymous. Please send your sex and relationship inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now, onto this week’s topic: what to do if you're obsessed with your partner's ex.
Q: “This is really embarrassing to admit, but I’m worried that I’m obsessed with my boyfriend’s ex. She’s a friend of a friend of a friend, so I knew a bit about her before I started dating my boyfriend. She doesn’t have any of her social accounts set to private, so I can snoop to my heart’s content. She seems so perfect — beautiful, ridiculous body, great job, lots of friends, successful, the list goes on and on. I can’t imagine why my boyfriend would break up with her in the first place. I also can’t imagine how he would be satisfied being with me after her. I can’t stop myself from comparing myself to her. I have so many questions I want to ask my boyfriend about her and their relationship, but I know I shouldn’t do that. What’s wrong with me? What do I do?”
A: Thanks for the question! Exes are one of the weirdest aspects of being in a relationship. It’s hard not to wonder about your partner being with another person. But spending too much time thinking about a partner’s ex can very quickly drive you crazy. Here are six tips for getting over a partner’s ex.
Know That Some Curiosity Is Natural
First of all, I just want to reiterate that it’s natural to be curious about your partner’s past. Of course you’re going to wonder what their relationship was like, what their issues were, and why they broke up. It’s OK to ask your partner some basic questions like, “what did you learn from your last break-up?” or “what do you want to do differently in this relationship?” The trick, of course, is in stopping there, and not letting yourself get too wrapped up in the past. Unfortunately, it seems like you’re well beyond that point.
... But That The Internet Makes It Worse
The internet makes ex-stalking so much easier and so much more painful. Whereas even 10 years ago, you might have been lucky to find out the ex’s last name, now you can find all of the most intimate details of their lives with a few clicks of a keyboard. You have way more access to strangers than you ever did, especially if they’re not careful with their privacy settings.
People are also shockingly talented at making their lives seem perfect on the internet. Most people spend obscene amounts of time trying to project their ideal image. It’s no accident that this girl’s social media accounts look perfect! Just think about your own accounts — there have probably been times you’ve edited your photos, or posted a gorgeous picture even when you were having a crappy day. When was the last time you posted a picture of yourself crying, or a picture of your belly bulging over the top of your jeans? When was the last time you wrote a post about cheating on an exam or getting a bad review at work?
There’s such a funny mental disconnect that happens with online personas — we all know the efforts that we personally go through to manipulate our image online, but we seem to think that everyone else’s lives really are that perfect. The reality is that your boyfriend’s ex is a messy, flawed, complicated person, just like the rest of us.
Realize That Stalking Has Zero Positive Benefits
Now, let me tell you what you already know: getting obsessive about your partner’s ex is unhealthy. Tracking down information about the ex only serves to make you feel horrible about yourself. It makes it too easy to get stuck in the comparison trap — judging your body, looks, personality, and life against hers. Then you feel guilty and self-conscious for even stalking in the first place. It also pulls you out of being present with your partner and your relationship. You may notice yourself feeling suspicious of your boyfriend, or wondering about the possibility of him still having feelings for his ex. Or you may even catch yourself thinking about the two of them during intimate moments.
Here’s the ironic thing about stalking — there’s absolutely nothing positive to gain. You can’t learn anything from your partner’s ex. You won’t get any magical insight, boost of self-esteem, or relationship-saving tricks. You’re only going to feel bad about yourself.
You also know the answer here: you have to stop. I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s extremely important. Your sanity and your relationship are at stake. Block her profile on Facebook. Take a break from your social media accounts. If you don’t trust yourself, you can always do things like set up a stalking fine — every time you look at her online, you have to donate $5 to a charity of your choice. Or give a trusted friend access to your accounts, have them change the passwords, and tell them not to give you access for a whole month. Whatever you need to do to stop, do it.
Don’t Bring Every Insecurity Up With Your Partner
You mentioned that you have lots of questions that you want to ask your boyfriend about his ex. You already know the answer here too, but don’t ask all those questions.
Like I said above, it’s OK to ask general questions about lessons he’s learned about himself, love, or relationships. But refrain from asking any questions about the ex directly. Asking these kinds of questions will only serve to stir up bad memories for your partner, push him away, and make you feel even more insecure. If you need to, you can always try writing down your questions or sharing them with a friend, just to air them out. But again, don’t share them with your partner.
Remember — They Broke Up For A Reason
The most important thing to remember about your partner’s exes is that they broke up for a reason. Break-ups are one of the most painful experiences we go through as humans. I can tell you from professional experience that most people will go to incredible lengths to avoid the pain of a break-up. You’ve probably had an experience yourself of delaying a break-up that you knew was inevitable. If your boyfriend and that other girl broke up, it was probably for a really, really good reason.
Address Your Own Self-Confidence
In my experience as a therapist, I’ve found that the people most susceptible to ex-stalking tend to have self-esteem issues. This girl might be getting under your skin so easily because you already don’t feel great about yourself. The things you see in her might be signs of things you’re conscious about in your own personality, body, relationship, or life. You said yourself that you can’t even imagine why your boyfriend would want to be with you, so it seems that self-esteem is a challenge for you. Self-esteem is a huge issue, of course, but check out this great guide to getting started.
Wishing you the best of luck!