It’s Okay if Your Significant Other Still Loves Their Ex

It’s time to lay down some love advice. If you’ve read my blog for a while, you might remember that I spent a year of college working as a self-proclaimed dating expert for an online dating blog (self-proclaimed as in not really an expert). When I read Autumn’s post on her feelings about her boyfriend’s ex, it stirred the “relationship guru” in me. Ladies, we have to stop thinking about the people in our significant other’s past who aren’t a part of their present. It’s not healthy for the relationship and has the potential to destroy all we’ve worked for.

This is something I have experience with. I met D less than a year after he broke up with a long time girlfriend of five years. The man was prepared to marry this woman until she broke it off. I thought it was completely reasonable at the time to ask about why and how she ended things, but the pain was still fresh. He told me very little.

I let this eat at me for a long time. There were many nights I spent searching my soul and imagining horrid scenarios about why he wouldn’t share this information with me. If it wasn’t for the friend that introduced us, I would have probably ruined the relationship. She, however, had experience with a terrible break up of her own. In talking to her about how she approaches new relationships after heartbreak, I began to understand.

I was being selfish. Those ‘soul searching’ nights were all about my self-consciousness. I was the one making comparisons, not D. Moreover, D was the owner of the memories of his failed relationship. They were his to share if and when he wanted. I had no business asking him for details.

Here’s how I look at exes – especially exes of a significant other.

Do they still love that person? In most cases, the answer is yes.

We are always changing. Every day we are different from the person we were the day before. When we love someone, we love them in that moment. They, too, change into a different person every day. Maintaining a relationship requires two individuals to fall in love with each other again and again. They must always be present and work to love the new person their love has become.

Sometimes, people fail to pay attention to the changes until the person they once loved is dramatically different. Sometimes a person may change in such a way that it just isn’t possible to love them anymore. At those times, a relationship may end. The people who loved will always be in each other’s hearts. They will always remember the good times they had with them. Though people change and relationships fade, they will always love the person they were, the person they loved.

I don’t think it’s fair to ask someone about their past unless they bring it up. Moreover, I don’t think it’s fair to expect them to forget past love. Just because they have memories of a person they loved, a person who no longer exist in that form, does not mean they don’t love you. Love is different and unique for every person. No two relationships will ever be the same.

Jealously and curiosity toward a significant other’s exes are normal, but they are also a burden. They will ruin your relationships. Don’t let the past hold you back from the present. You are the one they have chosen for this moment. If you want it to stay that way, get to know who they are and how they change every day. Be ever-present, every supporting and leave the past in the past.

P.S. ...but please pay attention to red flags. This advice only applies to exes, not to other areas of a significant other's past. Lastly, nothing is an excuse of lying. If a significant other lies about their past, that's a bad sign.

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23 thoughts on “It’s Okay if Your Significant Other Still Loves Their Ex”

  1. Nice idea for a lost. Insecurity definitely leads to obsessive behavior and thinking about a current love interest’s ex. Funny thing is most men I’ve gone out with have volunteered that information. But the ones that don’t – I never ask. I don’t need extra information to obsess over.

    1. I was that girl that asked. Having never been in a serious relationship before, I thought it was abnormal for him not to be forthcoming about everything. In hindsight, I probably asked a number of inappropriate questions. Eventually I let it go. He told me what he felt I needed to know when he was ready.

      At the end of the day, nothing about his past relationship or breakup related to my own. There are probably exceptions, but as a general rule, I don’t think anyone has a right to dig into their significant other’s past relationships. Those are huge emotional wounds. I wouldn’t want someone picking at mine.

      1. I agree. I usually don’t volunteer unless guys ask (because bringing up the past is no bueno) but in that event, I just tell them – and omit painful things that may sound depressing!

        I feel like prying into their past takes the focus off me. Unless they’re still close friends, or there’s some ongoing drama (children from their relationship) it doesn’t matter. I get bored when men go on and on about exes.

        1. I used to think that everyone should say how they broke up. My logic was that I don’t want to deal with someone who assaulted or cheated on their ex.

          That’s stupid logic. A person could simply lie about those things. If such extreme events ended a relationship, surly there would be other signs. Starting a relationship is always a risk. You don’t know the other person and you don’t know if they are telling the truth. No story about an ex fixes that. Time and trust build relationships and there’s no need for the past to be brought up unless it effects the present.

        1. D was the first private person I ever met. It balances us out, but at the time it was so weird.

          But I was barely 19. It was my first serious relationship and I came from a pretty sheltered home. I had no idea what I was doing, but I am thankful for D’s patience and for my friend. They gave me the time and information I needed to see the fault of my actions.

  2. Really interesting post. In some ways maybe it’s good that they still love that person in that it shows their capacity to love. I’ve heard that when a loved spouse dies, the widow/widower is more likely to have a successful future relationship if they had truly loved this person from their past.

    1. This is true as well. I just don’t think people stop loving someone. Instead, that someone changes. They love the person they were yesterday, but not the person they are today. I think that’s okay, and, I agree, I think it shows their capacity to love.

  3. This is so true.

    A lot of people wonder why I am still friends with my exes, in fact I have my ex gf over a lot to cook for her and we hang out a lot.

    My reasoning? I still love them. They are beautiful people who I shared my life with and they shared theirs. They are now some of my very good friends. Just because our love relationship failed doesn’t mean that they are horrible people that I shouldn’t ever see again. Anyone that asks will hear how I still love my ex girlfriend. She’s such a wonderful person. She’s giving, loving, appreciates her partners and loves my cat. Why wouldn’t I want to keep her as a friend?

    There’s only a few exes I don’t talk to and that’s because their betrayal was beyond anything I had experienced and I’m not sure I can be friends with people that have a conscience that lets them do that.

    And I totally agree about the whole fluid loving thing. I’m a bit believer that we meet people that give us something that we need in that timeframe and us them. To keep that alive requires hard work, not everyone is willing to do that. Some are. I hope to find someone that will one day I guess.

    1. I don’t know if I could ever stay close to an ex. The ones I have were bad enough that I wouldn’t want to be friends with them.

      I would need some time to myself before I interacted with an ex again. I think it would be hard for me to move on otherwise.

      That said, we’re all different. Some people may be able to handle a friendship with an ex easier than others.

      1. That being said, I can’t be friends with them straight away. usually a year off from each other is required before we rekindle a friendship.

        Otherwise it just wouldn’t work. Too many mixed emotions.

        I guess we are all different, I fell in love with my friends mostly, who remained my friends afterwards too. It helps I think.

  4. 1) I totally agree; people shouldn’t ask about their s/o’s past unless they bring it up themselves

    2) i think it’s a lot “easier” to stay in love with someone from our past, or to simply “love” more than one person….this doesn’t mean we should be in polyamorous relationships(though I’m not not judging those who do, it’s simply not for me) but that I just think its not very difficult to realize that we have a lot of love in our heart and sometimes it overflows onto more than one person

    1. You can definitely love more than one person, although there will probably be trouble if a significant other is in love with their ex as they are now. I just don’t think we can ever stop loving the people we fall in love with. We love that person forever. If they change into a person we no longer love, we still love who they were when we fell in love with them.

      I feel like trying to explain this is really confusing. I’m glad it made sense to you, though.

      1. It is VERY confusing…..and I don’t completely understand it, for example one of my closest friends is female; weve never had sex, never kissed, nada….but I Love her…almost as much as I love anyone else, but we don’t have any desire to be together …does that make sense?

        1. It makes sense to me. You are such good friends you are practically family. I don’t see why two people of the opposite sex can’t be great friends.

      1. I’m such a dork; I actually thought about filling the damn paperwork out but I’m so against trademarking! What a bloody hypocrite I can be at times lmao…..besides, they probably would deny me the trademark, it’s too common

  5. Well thank you dear! I don’t think I’ve ever inspired a post before. I find this topic very interesting, and love reading both the comments from my post and your post. I’ve been really surprised at the variance of people saying “don’t ask” or “only talk about it if it comes up.” Until now, I have literally been asked about my past relationships by every single guy I’ve dated, so I thought it was normal!

    I think you raised a really good point about remembering how we change throughout relationships/time. Of course your ex might still “love” them, but both those people are not the same people anymore which is why they aren’t still together.

    1. I’m happy you enjoyed the post. There was too much I wanted to say that it seemed more appropriate to write a post than a comment.

      When I first started dating, I thought asking about exes was normal too. I think the difference comes when you encounter someone who has particularly painful memories of an ex. They aren’t going to want to revisit those memories with just anyone.

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