You adore the man in your life. But you certainly don't like his constant references to his ex-girlfriend. It may take the form of of a memory he's recalling or an anecdote about her or even a passing reference but it's all amounting to the same thing -- many more mentions of her existence than you're comfortable with. Though this is a definite signal that she's still on his mind, it's not necessarily a sign of greater trouble in your relationship. Do a little digging to find out whether this particular ex file is case closed. If so, it may be time to readjust your comfort level to the ex mentions and even open up about your own relationship history.
Listen To His Stories
Every mention of his ex gives you a headache. However, his constant chatter might actually be an attempt to get closer to you, not push you away. If a man is in a committed relationship he may tell stories about his ex in order to help his new partner understand him better, says dating coach Evan Marc Katz in the article, "My Boyfriend Won’t Stop Talking About His Ex-Girlfriend!" He may think that by divulging his history, he's giving you the full scoop on where he's been and how it's made him who he is today. That said, the conversations shouldn't reveal that he misses her, puts her on a pedestal, or is frequently in contact with her. If he's truly committed to you, he should be giving you facts about a part of his past, not a sense of lingering attachment that just won't go away. Your best bet if he's truly trying to get closer is to put your ego aside and listen to him. Remind yourself that these stories have nothing to do with you and your relationship and work on accepting his stories as simply part of his history before you.
Share Your Own History
Your boyfriend is sharing about his ex. Maybe it's time for you to open the ex files too. After all, keeping your sad stories from each other may be counterproductive, says Toby Salter, a marriage and family therapist in the article, "The Ex-Factor: Why Is It OK To Talk About Past Loves?" If you're dating or new to a relationship it might be good to have some discretion as you're just getting to know each other. But if you've reached a deeper level of emotional intimacy with your partner it can be healthy for both of you to be open and honest about your past relationship history. If you're listening to his sad stories and learning to accept him for who he is, do him the favor and open up about yours. You'll have the chance to be accepted for your past as well. A relationship should never be about walking on eggshells. The ex-files could be perfect subject matter to test your ability to share tricky subject matter and bond over the experience of acceptance.
Challenge His Topic of Conversation
You and your boyfriend can bond over the experience of discussing and commiserating about exes. That said, simple rules of politeness dictate that exes cannot be a constant preoccupation in a relationship, says The Guardian columnist Margaret Cook in the article, "My Boyfriend Talks About His Ex. Should I Mind?" A relationship is based on give and take and should not be dominated by his preoccupation with his ex. Particularly if the relationship ended a few years ago, he should have moved past the subject, to some extent. It may be that your boyfriend isn't a great communicator and is resorting to this topic of conversation so he has something to talk about. Don't be afraid to change the subject or gently tell him that though you want to understand his past, you also would love to learn about other aspects of his life or to talk about your relationship.
Decide If He's Not Over Her
While communicating about exes can be good about your relationship or perhaps he's a poor communicator to begin with, it's also possible your boyfriend hasn't moved on emotionally. Your next move depends on your particular scenario. If you detect yearning when he mentions his ex, it's possible that he has latent feelings for her. This may be a terrible realization, but hold tight. Try to decide whether he truly wants to act on those feelings or if he has realized that she's flawed and not for him. If it's the former, your relationship is in trouble. But if it's the latter, you will want to consider letting go of your concern. If your partner isn't going to try to re-connect with his ex it might be better to get over your jealousy and focus on building a future together.
Alana Vye is a Canadian writer living abroad. She had a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Toronto and has worked in online marketing and publicity. She's also an avid traveler who has visited Asia, Europe and Central America.
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