I received this question from a podcast listener a while back and I’ve shared my insights below: What does it mean if my partner still talks about their ex? They’re no longer in touch, but how do I know if they’re over them and should I bring it up if it bothers me?
My very brief thoughts: It’s not uncommon to feel threatened by your partner’s ex, but these feelings are likely unfounded — especially if they’re no longer in the picture. Ask yourself *why* the thought or talk of their ex makes you uncomfortable and be honest with yourself about these vulnerable feelings instead of running from them. It’s normal to feel weak, scared, insecure, jealous and/or threatened at times especially when you’re dealing with an unknown. Simply acknowledging these feelings gives you a chance to lean into them, understand them and learn from them. You can’t address insecurity (or any feeling) if you pretend it doesn’t exist, so focus on your own feelings first as opposed to analyzing your partner’s intentions and behavior.
If your partner talks about their ex often, it *may* be sign that they have some unresolved feelings about their previous relationships and/or breakup (or it could simply be a matter of being reminded of them often because they were a big part of their life). Having unresolved feelings doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re not over their ex — it could be that they simply haven’t fully addressed the relationship/breakup itself. For example, they may have moved on from a high school sweetheart from 10 years ago, but still struggle with the way they broke up (maybe they felt abandoned when their partner left for college); this doesn’t mean that they’re still in love with their ex, but simply that they might benefit from addressing the related feelings of abandonment. Of course, this isn’t for you to “diagnose” their needs. You can ask questions, share your feelings and offer support, but remember that you’re not their therapist.
If all the ex chatter bothers you, you are perfectly within your right to express how you feel. Ask them why they keep bringing up their ex. Ask them how they feel about their ex and if you need reassurance ask for that too.
And don’t forget that you can’t police your partner’s thoughts or self-expression. Attempting to do so will almost surely backfire. Best of luck and remember that if you begin with *your own* reactions and feelings, you’re more likely to arrive at a favorable resolution.