Sex & Relationships

20 Signs Your Partner Isn’t Fully Over Their Ex

There’s a difference between a romantic history and lingering feelings.

FatCamera/E+/Getty Images
Updated: 
Originally Published: 

As great as it would be to start a relationship with someone who's a total clean slate, you're likely going to date someone who already has some kind of romantic history. Although the healthy thing to do would be to let the past stay in the past, sometimes people will enter into a new relationships without being completely over an ex. So, how do you know if your partner still isn't over their ex? According to experts, there are some behaviors you may want to pay attention to.

As a relationship coach, Jenna Ponaman, CPC, ELI-MP, tells Bustle that being with someone who's still hung up on their ex is never really a good sign. "Sure, we all have our moments where we may reminisce or think of our past partners from time to time," she says, "but if you are still at the point where your partner can’t let go of what was then, that is a sign that it’s time to take care of you."

When someone jumps into a new relationship before they're truly ready, it only sets both partners up for heartache. "You end up depriving your new partner of really getting to experience the real you," Ponaman says. Meanwhile, the current partner will end up feeling a bit cheated. Because of this, it's worth figuring out where your partner stands with their ex.

So, how can you tell if your partner still isn't over their ex? Here are some signs that you should look out for, according to experts.

1

They Still Keep Photos Of Their Ex

This one is pretty obvious, but if your partner still keeps photos of their ex around, they're not over them. "It might be in their wallet, on their desk, or somewhere more hidden than that, but it's something they'll refuse to get rid of because they're 'still friends,'" Baltimore Therapy Center director, Raffi Bilek, LCSW-C, tells Bustle.

Keeping an old photo of a past love around usually won't be appreciated by a current partner. More often than not, it sends the message that someone is still holding on to something there. "If you're in this situation, express your feelings about the photo's presence in a calm but firm way," Bilek says. You want to be direct in order to let your partner know that it's not OK with you. But it's also equally important to watch your tone. Refrain from sounding accusatory so it won't blow up into a fight.

2

They Suggest Doing The Same Things With You That They Used To Do With Their Ex

If your partner is still hung up on their ex, they may suggest doing the same things that they used to do with their past partner. For instance your partner may want to keep going to a restaurant that holds a lot of memories of their past relationship, or go bowling every other Thursday night because that's what they used to do with their ex.

"People that are still connected to their exes will still have emotional connection to the things and places they associate with them," Ponaman says. "If they start a new relationship, even if they're still connected to an ex, it's natural that they would want to re-visit these places and try to replace the old memories with new ones."

If you find this to be the case, it may be something to discuss with your partner.

3

They Bring Up Their Ex In Conversations Out Of Nowhere

This can be another fairly obvious one. If your partner is constantly finding ways to bring up their ex in your conversations, they may still be hung up on them. "This, of course, is unfair and uncool," Jeannie Assimos, eharmony's chief of advice, tells Bustle. "I would definitely be concerned if I had to hear about an ex constantly, and felt they still had unresolved feelings for another person."

If they tend to get heated or emotional when talking about the ex, this is also a sign that they haven't really let their past go. If you're in this situation, Assimos says, you have to protect your heart. "Be careful if someone has an ex that is still pretty intertwined in their life," she says. "Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and find out where the relationship stands. As the new partner in this person’s life, you should come first. Period."

4

They Make Suggestions On How You Should Act Based On How Their Ex Did It

If your partner isn't completely over their ex, they might make suggestions to you on how to behave in ways that are very similar to their ex. For instance, if their ex was more sensitive but you use humor to lighten the mood, your partner may tell you to be more sensitive.

"When you make suggestions to change your new partner's behavior, you’re trying to emotionally replace your ex by essentially replicating them into this new person," Assimos says. If your partner is trying to make you be someone that you're not, it's definitely something to talk about. It's important to be confident in yourself and don't allow anyone to change you. If this is the case, they're not really falling in love with you but the person they want you to become.

5

They Will Make The Effort To Reach Out On Their Ex's Birthday

If your partner still makes the effort to do something out of the ordinary for their ex on their birthday or holidays, that may be a problem. As matchmaker and dating coach, Stef Safran tells Bustle, "That might mean that they are too connected currently." Although she believes a "Happy Birthday" text is fine (given that they tell you and you're OK with it), anything else can be "a bit gray."

The same goes for staying in contact in general. For instance, a 2016 study published in the journal Personal Relationships found a link between staying in contact with an ex and commitment to their current partner. Basically, people who make an effort to stay in touch with an ex tend to be less committed and less satisfied in their current relationship. They were also more likely to view their current partner as a back-up plan.

6

They Keep In Touch With Their Ex's Family

If your partner still keeps in touch with their ex's family, that could be a sign that they're still holding on to their old love. As dating and relationship coach Carla Romo tells Bustle, "People do not change quickly over time."

If your partner was with their ex for a really long time, they may have developed a close relationship with their ex's family. It may not be a huge deal if your partner keeps in touch with them every now and then, but it can be an issue if they're keeping in touch just to stay updated on their ex's life.

If this is the case, talk to your partner about how you feel. "Ultimately it is up to you whether or not you want to be in a relationship with someone who may not be completely emotionally available for you just yet," she says.

7

They Will Avoid Talking About Their Ex If You Bring Them Up

If your partner has no problem bringing up their ex in conversation but refuses to talk about them if you bring it up, breakup coach Lee Wilson, tells Bustle, they might not have moved on. "This is a sign that it hurts too much to talk about and they probably still have deep feelings for the other person," Wilson says.

If there's anger attached to it, that can also be very telling. According to Wilson, anger comes from deep hurt. If you bring up your partner's ex and they snap at you, they may still be hurting over how things ended. This doesn't necessarily mean that your partner wants to get back with them. "It's natural for it to bother you, but just know that it doesn't mean that your relationship is doomed or that your partner doesn't want to be with you," Wilson says. "It's just part of being human." They might just need more time to heal.

8

They Make Excuses For Why They Don't Post Pictures Of The Two Of You On Their Social Media

If your partner never posts pictures of you two on social media even after dating for some time, that's something to be aware of, relationship therapist Dr. Alisha Powell, Ph.D., LCSW, tells Bustle. After all, if you've been together for a while, what's there to hide? Of course, you can't always rely on social media to give you signs on how your relationship is going — your partner just may not be very active on Instagram or Facebook. But if social media use is important to you, your partner should take that into consideration. As Powell says, "If your partner doesn’t understand your concerns or blows you off, then you need to realize that [they] may not truly be serious about pursuing something long-term with you."

9

They Always React To Their Ex's Social Media Posts

"If your partner constantly keeps up on their ex's social media, then I would question if they are truly over them," certified counselor and relationship expert David Bennett tells Bustle. It's one thing to remain friends on social media. It's another thing to constantly check on an ex's social media and then react emotionally to what they see. According to Bennett, if you're "over" someone, you ignore them. You may wonder if they're doing OK, but you won't make the effort to look them up on social media. While this, or any of the other signs, may not mean your partner wants to date their ex again — they may still have feelings for them.

"If their ex ever comes back or shows interest, that is when problems may arise," he says. "If my partner consistently showed signs of emotional attachment to an ex, I would insist on not wanting to hear about their ex constantly. It's more than fair to insist [that] your partner ... not constantly focus on their ex."

You need to do what makes you happy and what's good for your relationship.

10

They Will Make A Lot Of Excuses As To Why You Haven't Taken Your Relationship To The Next Level

If your partner is not over their ex, you may feel their lack of commitment in your relationship. "They are hesitant to commit to future events or activities, so they make up excuses in order to justify their behavior," dating and relationship coach Rosalind Sedacca, CLC, tells Bustle. "They don't use language that makes you feel special, so consequently you feel insecure in your relationship."

Someone who is ready to be in a committed, long-term relationship with just you will make that known. You won't have to wonder if they're still thinking about their ex because they put in the effort to make plans with you and show you just how much they care about. If you're feeling that lack of connection, Sedacca says, acknowledge it: "Ask your partner directly and trust your gut about whether or not you can believe them."

If you suspect your partner is still holding on to feelings they have for their ex, it can cause problems in your relationship even without you realizing it. That's why communicating your thoughts and fears, no matter how awkward of a conversation it will be, is important. If your partner is still talking to their ex and it bothers you, tell them. Don't downplay your feelings or write it off as jealousy. You deserve to be in a relationship with someone who's completely present and ready for all the great new things that come with being with you. Don't be afraid to communicate your feelings in your relationship, and hopefully your partner will see that the past really should stay in the past.

11

They Still Get Emotional When They Talk About Their Ex

The way your partner speaks about their ex will give you insight into how they may be feeling about their ex. "If they become emotional, it's likely that there are unresolved feelings that still need to be addressed," clinical psychologist Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, tells Bustle. Your partner may be in the middle of processing the breakup as they talk to you about it.

12

Most Of The Stories They Tell Involve Their Ex

It's a huge red flag when most of your partner's notable life stories involve their ex. As Cat Blake, LICSW, psychotherapist and divorce coach, tells Bustle, "This means that they have not emotionally distanced themselves. They also either don't have enough content of life solo, or they continue to interpret the world as if they're still in that relationship."

13

They Vent To You About Their Ex

Some people may still have to interact with their ex in cases such as co-parenting. But if your partner frequently vents to you about their disagreements, power struggles, and drama, this isn't a good sign. "Even if this person wants to move forward into a new relationship intellectually, they are not truly emotionally available if they are engaging in this kind of dynamic with their ex," Blake says. This could be a sign that your partner hasn't made peace with ending the relationship, or they still have more healing work to do before they're relationship material again.

14

They Still Have Texts From Their Ex On Their Phone

Even if your partner isn't actively texting their ex, it can be a red flag if your partner still has their ex's texts on their phone. "Not only is your guilty of keeping all the texts, but despite being with you, they may still find comfort in reading over their ex's texts from time to time," Julia McCurley, certified relationship coach, tells Bustle. Your partner may still hold a place for them in their heart.

15

They Make Excuses For Why They're Still Interacting With Their Ex

It's one thing for your partner to need consistent communication with their ex. But it's another to make excuses as to why they're still doing it. "Sometimes your partner might use phrases such as 'we are just friends, and I like to keep in touch,' 'I won't stop texting them. They are important to me,' or 'They helped me through some hard times, so I like to be there for them,'" licensed professional counselor Mark Shoemaker tells Bustle. "These phrases can be harmless on the surface, but could be red flags if accompanied with some worrisome behaviors."

16

They Can't Own Up To Their Mistakes

If your partner cannot own their part of why the relationship failed, this could be a problem for your relationship down the line. As certified divorce coach Andrea Hipps, LBSW, tells Bustle, "When we only see the other person at fault, we stay connected to them and trap ourselves and our future partners in the tired narrative."

17

They Keep Bad Mouthing Their Ex

If your partner has nothing but bad things to say about their ex, this is another sign that they're not completely over them. According to Hipps, a partner who's fully emotionally available "should be able to express gratitude for what they had and a future-focused approach to what they are taking with them from it." It can also give you some insight into how they might approach the relationship with you.

18

They Call Their Ex First When They Have News

Whether it's good or bad news, your partner should want to share it with you first. But if their ex is the first person they think of, their ex may still have a hold over them. As Susan Trombetti, relationship expert and CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking, tells Bustle, "Your partner may seek out their ex's opinion and validation first showing that they are not fully over them."

19

They Still Keep Some Of Their Ex's Things At Their Place

If their ex's toothbrush is still there or you always find some clothes left in the closet, this is something you may need to discuss with your partner. According to Trombetti, these are items that need to be packed up, returned, or tossed out, especially if you and your partner have been seeing each other for some time. If your partner can't part with items from their ex, they may not be over them.

20

They Brush Off Your Concerns

If you have a gut feeling that your partner still has feelings for their ex, don't ignore it. There's a chance they're saying or doing things that make you feel this way. But it's also a telling sign if you bring this up to your partner and they brush off your concerns. As psychotherapist Tess Brigham, the "Millennial Therapist," tells Bustle, "If you approach your partner and tell them how you feel and they dismiss your feelings and tell you that you're crazy, that alone is telling you something. It doesn't matter if your partner is swearing up and down they are over their ex; you want to focus on why you don't feel comfortable in this relationship."

Studies:

Rodriguez, Lindsey & Overup, Camilla & Wickham, Robert & Knee, C. & Amspoker, Amber. (2016). Communication with former romantic partners and current relationship outcomes among college students: Communication with former partners. Personal Relationships. 23. 10.1111/pere.12133.

Experts:

Raffi Bilek, LCSW-C, director at the Baltimore Therapy Center

Dr. Alisha Powell, Ph.D., LCSW, relationship therapist

David Bennett, certified counselor and relationship expert

Dr. Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, clinical psychologist

Cat Blake, LICSW, psychotherapist and divorce coach

Tess Brigham, psychotherapist

Sources:

Jenna Ponaman, CPC, ELI-MP, dating and relationship coach

Jeannie Assimos, Chief of Advice at eharmony

Stef Safran, matchmaker and dating coach

Carla Romo, relationship coach, author of Contagious Love

Lee Wilson, breakup coach

Rosalind Sedacca, CLC, dating and relationship coach

Julia McCurley, certified relationship coach

Mark Shoemaker, licensed professional counselor

Andrea Hipps, LBSW, certified divorce coach

Susan Trombetti, relationship expert and CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking

This article was originally published on