My Boyfriend Won’t Cut Ties With His Ex
As a guy, I can’t tell you how many times I have heard women say, “My boyfriend won’t stop being friends with his ex, and I don’t know what to do about it.”
Or worse, my boyfriend has dirty pictures of his ex.
The answer that I give to this question is so profoundly simple, yet utterly complicated in the same breath.
You must be able to effectively communicate with courage and curiosity, both with him and with yourself, in order to understand why men so often fall into this pattern.
It is one that I have experienced time and time again in my relationships, and it took some deep unearthing to get to the roots of why I fell into it.
Allow me to break this down, and prepare yourself because this ride can be harrowing, but it will leave you with a fresh perspective and tools that will impact many other facets of your relationship.
Let’s dive in.
I don’t want my boyfriend to be friends with his ex
If you were to tell me this, I would first ask you these questions:
- What, if anything, do you know about his ex and what their relationship was like?
- Do you have reason to suspect he still has feelings for her or wants to get back together with her?
Rarely do we openly share the good bits, because this tends to make our partner squirm in discomfort; and boy do we hate feeling uncomfortable.
When a Man Can’t Get Over His Ex
The truth is, if you are able to be fearlessly curious about your partner’s dating history, you can unearth invaluable information on how to best navigate your relational future.
You do this by asking questions like:
- What initially attracted you to her?
- How did you start the relationship?
- What did you like about her?
- What couldn’t you stand about her?
- Did you love her?
- How and when did you first realize you were in love?
And most importantly for our current discussion,
- How do you feel about her now?
- How does she feel about you now?
The answers to these questions will give you a wealth of insight into your partner and their relationship norms.
However, they will by no means paint the full picture in technicolor.
As a man who is a seasoned veteran in the arena of not getting over exes, let me splash some vibrant color onto this canvas.
My first love was with a woman named Tina when I was 20 years old. It was the classic puppy dog love, full of immature, idealistic promises and fairy tale futures, and it went horribly wrong.
I turned 21, started partying, and drunkenly cheated on her. I called her the next day and confessed my transgressions, and then vomited.
How to get over your boyfriend sleeping with someone else? How can she ever?
This betrayal devastated her, and I spent the next decade unable to fully let go.
I went into new relationships with full knowledge that if she ever wanted to give it another go, I would drop everything for her.
For so long, I believed that this was because “we were meant to be”.I was finally able to move on when I dug deep to fully understand why I was unable to let go, and it wasn’t because I actually wanted to be with her.
What I wanted, or rather, desperately needed, was:
- To fix what I had broken.
How long does it take a man to realize what he lost? I was able to finally get over her when I accepted that my mistake could not be undone.
No amount of loving from me could ever wipe that slate clean.
The reality is that most of us men are entirely unaware of the deeper, subconscious motivations in regard to relationships, and this is why an inquisitive partner can help guide him into these revelations.
Some of you might be saying, “My boyfriend talks to his ex every day, so that must mean that he wants to get back together with her.
To that point, let’s dig into the male psyche on the topic of intimacy.
Most men are only capable of experiencing intimacy through the avenue of the physical. By that, I mean that they cannot experience intimacy without sex.
Their male friendships are usually surface level and their female relationships are generally with women who they have either:
Been physically with intimate,
Are currently physically intimatewith, or
Want to be physically intimatewith.
Ladies, we are starving for intimacy, so once we have achieved it with someone, we have a really hard time relinquishing it, not necessarily because we are holding onto the romantic version of it.
We just don’t know that one can exist without the other.Oftentimes, we stay friends with our exes because they are one of the few people in the world who have actually seen beneath our masks to our authentic selves.
My most recent ex, Ashley, was another one that I had a really challenging time getting over, even though she cheated on me and left me for her abusive ex that she never got over.
During our relationship, I had created this story in my head of what the relationship was, that was so far from reality.
I used my mastery of selective hearingto hear all the things I wanted and mute all those things that would have been glaring red flags to abandon ship.
When she broke up with me and left me in shambles, I continued to cling to any vestige of my fictional story still having potential.
I had wrapped up so much of my self-worth in whether she chose me or not, and so for four years I was unable to fully accept that she did not choose me, nor had she ever.You see, most of us men were never validated as men by our elders, and so we find our validation as men in the romantic love of a woman.
When that women leaves, she takes with her identity as men.
This is something we often can not stand for, and so we fight tooth and nail to retrieve that stolen identity, by attempting to revive the relationship.
Or, we take the route of “getting over someone by getting under someone else.”
Another thing I often hear from women is, “My boyfriend talks to his ex behind my back, so he must be doing something wrong because he is hiding it.”
To those women, I would pose the questions,
- What would your reaction be if he didn’t hide it?
- Can you allow for the possibility that it is strictly platonic?
- Are you expecting and anticipating infidelity?
I can honestly say that most of the times that I have hidden my ex-communication from my girlfriend was not because I was doing anything wrong, but because I knew that she would make something of it that it wasn’t, and I really didn’t want to deal with the crazy that would be unleashed if I told her.
I hid it because I feared the jealousy driven backlash of my girlfriend, or just didn’t want to create unnecessary conflict over something I believed to be harmless.
So if you are saying, “He is texting his ex and lying about it, I would ask you:
- Have you created a safe space for him to tell the truth without being met with accusations and assumptions?
- Can you honor his need for close and nourishing friendships in a world that offers him mostly bread crumbs?
- Does the fact that his ex still calls calls him bother you because she is able to meet a need of his that you cannot?
Here’s the thing; we men are far more complex than anyone gives us credit for, and it is rare that anyone woman will be able to meet every single one of our relational needs.God only knows that other men aren’t meeting our needs for depth in relationship.
By expecting that you should be his everything, you willingly choose an immense burden and set yourself up for failure and disaster, while also creating an environment that stifles your man.
If your complaint is that, “My boyfriend still helps his ex-girlfriend”, it is probably because it makes him feel valued and needed, in a world of women striving to not need a man.
Maybe you should ask yourself
- Do I make him feel valued?
- Do I make him feel needed?
- Do I express gratitude for him?
To sum this up, most men have no idea why they want what they want and do what they do, and most of us hate when a woman tries to tell us these things.
By communicating with that courageous curiosity and asking sometimes-difficult questions, women have the super power of guiding us into our subconscious motivations and creating a relationship that is not plagued by assumptions, fears and reactions.
His Ex Is Still Calling Him
Most men don’t actually want to get back together with their exes, nor do they want to excommunicate them from their lives, and that can only be acceptable to you women with authenticity and clarity.
Although, there are plenty of men who keep that communication open so that they have a lifeboat to jump into if their current relationship begins to sink.
If you are wondering if he is over her or not, and how he can get over her if he hasn’t, you can start by talking to him about her and their relationship…
and try to keep your jealousy on a leash when you do so.
Here’s a food for thought: Is it wrong to hang out with another guy while dating someone?