Help, My Boyfriend Won’t Sever All Ties with His Ex!

Dear Em & Lo,


So I’m recovering from a bad relationship and by luck, I just find someone new who is nurturing me to have good self-esteem and a good mindset and loves me and I love it. It’s more than what I could possibly ask for in life. Yet, he happens to have a past which worries me because:

1. He has this ex who he went out for 6 years who happens to love to say a lot of subliminal messages on Facebook.

2. He said her name in bed right after he had proposed to me.

3. He kept the conversation he had with her on Facebook (Yes, I snooped)

4. He still had her number on his phone and didn’t delete it until after I told him to do it.

He continuously keeps on saying that it was an accident, it’s all in the past, that she means nothing to him. Yet, I can’t seem to get over it. So, the question now is dump him or try to comprehend him? He claims to want to fix everything but doesn’t bother to really want to fix anything.

— I’m Sorta Lovin’ It

Dear I.S.L.I.,

We have a feeling you’re not going to like what we have to say, because we happen to subscribe to the school of thought that an ex should not automatically become persona non grata after the breakup. People can part amicably, they can remain friends — without any possibility of reconciliation. In fact, maintaining a positive relationship with an ex is imperative when children are involved. If exes with kids can do it, why can’t — and shouldn’t — the young and the childless, too?

Nothing you’ve written here convinces us that there’s anything to worry about. Unless he spends lots of time emailing with her or talking with her on the phone in a genuinely flirty or nostalgic way, especially when he could be giving you attention, then, purely based on the information you’ve provided, we think you may be overreacting:

  • You say he “has a past” — unless you’re dating a 13 year old, everyone has a past.
  • Maybe this ex is a flirt. Maybe she talks like this with all her exes on Facebook. Maybe your own paranoia is creating a green-colored lens through which you’re misinterpreting her messages. She is not your problem; your only concern is how he responds. If he’s not flirty back, if he doesn’t spend a lot of time on their friendship, then don’t sweat it.
  • We’ll admit, saying the wrong name in bed is really unfortunate. That can knock anyone for a loop. Not only is it humiliating to you, it’s embarrassing for them too, especially since more often than not it’s just a muscle memory mistake, a meaningless brain fart. Unless there are other huge red flags (and, again, we frankly don’t see any in your letter) or he keeps calling you whatshername, we’d try to give him the benefit of the doubt this once. (By the way, the fact that you wrote “he loves me and I love it” rather than “him” could be a more telling Freudian slip than him saying the wrong name simply out of habit.)
  • As for still having her number in his phone contacts, that’s totally reasonable if their breakup was amicable. Not burning platonic bridges just because the two of you didn’t work out romantically is not only karmically beneficial, it could have social or career-related benefits down the road. Maybe she hears about a great job opening that he would be perfect for and gives him a heads up about it. Would that automatically mean she wants to fuck him again? Not unless she forwards him that job listing along with a Snap of her boobs.
  • Regarding this Facebook conversation you mentioned: Do you mean he has a conversation in his old messages history from when they were dating? So what? It’s in the past. It’s a part of his personal history. It’s something that frankly contributed to him becoming the person you love today. Unless you’re a Kon Mari Method organizational freak who bans all previous clutter from your life, why would you expect him to delete every trace of his his past relationships and his exes’ existences? It’s like making someone get rid of all their baby pictures because they’re not young anymore. As long as he is present in his relationship with you, makes you the only romantic focus in his life, loves you, treats you well, and doesn’t cheat on you, then who gives a shit if he saves some old love letters?

Giving a shit about these kind of perceived infractions is more often  a sign of your own insecurities and jealousies than of your partner’s deficiencies in trustworthiness or loyalty. Has he really done anything to deserve you snooping in his private computer history? Of everything you’ve outlined in your letter, the snooping is perhaps the most disturbing, just because it betrays how untrusting and untrustworthy you are. Also, forcing him to delete her number seems pretty controlling. Could it be your previous bad relationship is clouding your judgment, making you assume the worst, and tainting how you perceive your current boyfriend?

If by “not bothering to fix anything” you mean he refuses to unfriend his ex on Facebook, delete all evidence of their previous relationship, and pretend she never existed, then we’re not sure he’s the one that needs to do any fixing, especially if they’re just fairly distant, platonic friends now. The “fixing” may have to happen on your end if you want this otherwise stellar-sounding boyfriend who’s “nurturing” and who “loves you” to stick around.

Take a chill pill and call us in the morning.

Your love doctors,

Em & Lo

Need help “fixing” things?
How to Conquer Your Jealousy for Good


  1. It’s incredibly hard to complete severe ties with an ex, especially if this is someone you once cared so deeply about and also if the relationship ended amicably. As long as the interactions remain PG, I would cut him some slack.

  2. “[he] loves me and I love it,” yeah, that stood out to me as well.

    Actually, if she’s not careful, she’s going to push him back to his ex.

  3. Johnny and Em & Lo are right. People really *can* be friends with their ex without it meaning something, and it doesn’t even necessarily seem like he’s friends with her. I think there’s nothing to worry about here– but you have to be ok with things, otherwise, your relationship is not going to work out. If it’s making you that uncomfortable, maybe you have to evaluate your relationship on other levels.

  4. I think everyone can relate to the feeling of not wanting your partner’s ex hanging around. And I too fundamentally mistrust an ex who’s still hanging around, even if I trust my partner. Like, “bullshit, buddy, we both know you’d bang my wife if you got the chance.” Fortunately my wife and I are on the same page where this is concerned. Neither of us have lingering exes.

    I agree with Em & Lo though. Your feelings of jealousy are just that – feelings. There’s no evidence of infidelity here even though you used the dark side of the force to try and dig some up.
    You engaged in unwarranted espionage, and you found nothing. Now it’s time to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    Still, even knowing that your BF is innocent, can you deal with those feelings? Or are you going to boil inside every time she tags him in a facebook post? If you can’t handle it, you can’t handle it. This is a deal breaker – or at least a huge-and-frequent-fight-causer – for lots of people.

    Maybe this jealously is a part of yourself that you want to commit to working on. Or if it’s a deal breaker, break the deal. Walk away. Don’t try to make him dump his friend. You only get to choose what you do.

    1. “You only get to choose what you do.” Truer words have (almost) never been spoken. 🙂

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