10 Signs Your Partner's Still Into an Ex

How to tell if your lover is hung up on a former flame.

From the WebMD Archives

Holding on to previous romantic attachments creates feelings of distrust and can stymie an otherwise promising relationship. So are you wondering if your honey's heart still rests in the hands of a past love? There’s no way to know for sure without talking to your partner about your concerns. But how do you know when you need to have that talk? Here are 10 signs that it may be time to bring it up.

1. Talking About the Ex Too Much

We all compare our current romance to ones we’ve had in the past, and an occasional reference to an old steady is no cause for alarm. “But," says marriage and family therapist Joan Sherman, "if it’s happening 24-seven, it’s a problem. It’s going to keep both of you from enjoying the new relationship.”

Sherman says if you're hearing every detail and story about the former relationship, it’s probably a sign that your partner hasn’t moved on.

2. Not Talking About the Former Love At All

Silence about a former lover can indicate lack of closure. Guilty feelings from carrying a secret torch often make a person not want to talk about an ex. If you notice your partner's afraid to bring up the ex or if your partner's tried and it's becomes a sore point, Sherman says, it’s time to ask why.

3. Online Stalking

Whether it’s with Facebook, a dating profile, or Googling the ex's name, relationship expert and author John Gray says, keeping frequent online tabs can be a red flag. Gray says, “If they’re spending too much time online following a past partner, it may make you feel neglected. Are you getting what you need from this person, especially when he or she spends two hours on Facebook after dinner?” If not, Gray says, it’s time to speak up.

4. Too Much Contact With the Ex

Frequent emails, phone calls, or online messaging with a past love can take away from a current relationship. But it’s a matter of context, says Washington Post advice columnist Carolyn Hax.

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If you're talking weekly emails and your partner is still fully invested in your current relationship, then it’s not a sign of anything. But if it’s weekly emails and you partner isn't devoted, then you have a legit concern, Hax says. Your partner may not have cut the cord

A new relationship is all about trust, Sherman says. If you’re not OK with your current partner’s contact with an ex, say so. Your partner and his or her ex should be willing to take a break from each other while you two concentrate on what you have together. It doesn’t have to be a permanent break, but it is the respectful thing to do.

5. The Ex's Name Slips Out During Sexual Climax

Talk about bad timing. During orgasm, the mind is totally uninhibited, making it easier for someone else’s name to slip out, Gray says. That kind of a mistake usually suggests unresolved feelings for an ex.

6. Keeping Mementos

Looking at souvenirs from a relationship is part of the healing process. But, Sherman says, it's time to let go of the reminders when the feelings are resolved. Your partner doesn't need to set the favorite sweatshirt and all those love letters out on the curb. But they should be out of everyday reach.

As for photos on display, it’s one thing to have a group picture that includes a past partner on the wall. It’s another to erect a shrine to that person or plaster the bedroom with a display of the glory days together. You can gently and tactfully suggest keeping those pretty frames and filling them together with new memories of the two of you.

7. Hot and Cold Romance

Watch out for a partner who turns affections on and off. Gray says it might be a sign of inner turmoil. Your partner may be cold and pull away when feeling guilty about not having given the same kind of love in the past relationship. Then the passion may get turned up again when your partner feels guilty for withdrawing from you.

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8. Your Partner Says He or She's Not Ready to Commit

One of the symptoms of not being ready to move on is the “I love you, but I’m not in love with you” talk. Or, “I’m into you, but I still want to see others.” If a longstanding relationship isn’t moving to the next level, then the roadblock could be another person from the past.

“When someone is wondering, ‘Should I go back? Why didn’t it work?’ it can build a barrier to moving forward,” Gray says.

9. Trouble in the Bedroom

Having problems keeping an erection or reaching orgasm can be a symptom of an emotional hang-up, Gray says. The guilt can create a sense of unworthiness and hold someone back from fully surrendering to a new partner.”

Gray emphasizes, however, that many other factors can affect bedroom performance, such as depression, high estrogen levels, excessive belly fat, and drug abuse.

10. You Just Have a Feeling

“Sometimes clients tell me, ‘I have this feeling in my gut that something’s not right,’” Sherman says. It’s a good barometer, she says. If you think something just doesn’t feel right, it’s probably worth bringing it out in the open. It could lead to a discovery about your partner’s feelings for someone else.

Also, if you feel a need to snoop around, there’s a good chance your relationship has trust problems, Sherman says. Try to get to the cause of the distrust, and hold off on the detective work.

How to Get Past It

As much heartache and headache as it may cause, couples can survive one partner being stuck on a previous failed relationship. But the longer you wait to speak up, the more likely you’ll be to resent the situation, Sherman says.

Start the dialogue with your hung-up honey with a “working together” approach instead of pushing the other person away with angry words. Use phrases like, “I need your help,” and, “I need your reassurance,” and, “I love you and want to work with you on this,” to get the ball rolling, Sherman says.

If you’re having problems addressing the issue but really feel it’s worth working on, it may be time to seek help from a couple's therapist.

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Jealousy: A Word of Caution

If you want to keep a healthy relationship with the love of your life, be careful about prematurely jumping on the jealousy train and making quick accusations. Short of a greater context, there’s no reason to hound your partner with a “how dare you” attitude at every little suspicion.

“Extreme jealousy is worse than having lingering feelings about someone else,” Hax says. “Often a hang-up is just feelings. But constantly being on the lookout for bad things -- that tends to be a deeper problem of trust."

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on November 08, 2011

Sources

SOURCES:

Joan Sherman, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist, Lancaster, Pa.

John Gray, PhD, certified family therapist, Mill Valley, Calif.

Carolyn Hax, advice columnist, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C.

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