What Can I Do if My Boyfriend Talks About His Ex a Lot?

If your boyfriend talks about his ex, don't be afraid to speak up.
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Even the best of relationships can be tested when a guy continually brings up his ex. It's common to feel insecure, jealous and confused by this. Your reaction to your boyfriend's chatter about an ex-girlfriend will depend on how much he does it and how deeply it bothers you.

1 What's Normal

Consider that your boyfriend may bring up his ex because she's a part of his past -- and he wants you to know about the experiences that make him who he is, says Evan Marc Katz, dating coach and author, in the post "My Boyfriend Won’t Stop Talking About His Ex-Girlfriend!" on his website. He may categorize his ex-girlfriend along with his brother who passed away or childhood memories growing up in Florida -- simply an important part of his history. Your boyfriend may just bring her up because it was a painful breakup. That he may still love his ex on some level isn't necessarily a problem, notes Katz. It's normal to care about those you've had close relationships with, as long as those feelings aren't acted upon.

2 Red Flags

Talking about an ex is one thing, but if the references seem as though they're 24/7 and are coupled with other troubling behaviors, this is sure to drive a wedge between the two of you, says Joan Sherman, a marriage and family therapist, according to Shahreen Abedin's WebMD article "10 Signs Your Partner's Still Into an Ex." For instance, if your boyfriend seems to check up on his ex-girlfriend's online presence -- her Facebook page, dating profile, etc. -- this is a big red flag, indicating he's not over her. Also, keeping mementos, such as letters, concert tickets and photos, is fine -- but they should be away and out of reach. If they're prominently displayed, he likely has unresolved feelings for his ex, which will eventually get in the way of your happiness together.

3 Conversation Tips

If you feel your boyfriend's references to his ex are making you unusually anxious or uncomfortable, it's time to have a conversation, according to the article “Why Does My Boyfriend Talk About His Ex So Much?” on the GuySpeak section of "Glamour" magazine's website. Point out that his relationship represents the past and that you'd prefer to focus on the present. Don't wait and be secretly angry for weeks, says Sherman -- this will breed resentment. Frame the conversation in a positive light, emphasizing that you'd like to work together on this issue. Say things such as "I don't want to seem like I'm nagging you, but I really need to be reassured it's me you want to be with, not her" or "When you're always talking about so-and-so, I feel badly. Can we try to focus on us?"

4 Beware of Jealousy

As much as it hurts to hear about your boyfriend's ex, attempt to keep your jealousy in check. Try not to make accusations you'll later regret. Constant jealousy isn't healthy for a relationship, and it puts your boyfriend on the defensive. If, after you've had a heart-to-heart and he has assured you that you're the one he loves, you're still feeling jealous, this could be the sign of a more serious trust issue. Remember that if you're perpetually mistrustful, the relationship will collapse under that pressure. Decide if you can trust. If you can't, it's probably time to move on.

Jaime Budzienski has contributed essays and articles to the "Boston Globe Sunday Magazine," "Pregnancy and Newborn Magazine" and the "Boston Parents Paper." She holds a B.F.A. in writing, literature and publishing from Emerson College and a master's degree in education from UMASS Boston.