“I don’t know what to do!!! My partner and I argue non-stop about his ex. He told me that she will always be a part of his life and he continues to text her and message her several times a week online. He claims he’s doing nothing wrong, that he loves me and I should just ‘get over it’ and accept it. I don’t want to lose him, but I can’t stand how jealous I feel that she’s still in his life like this.”
Of all of the emails, Facebook messages and phone calls we get from people, exes are one of the most commonly cited reasons for jealousy and relationship conflict. Sometimes this is because a person feels inferior to her partner’s ex. Even when there’s zero contact between the person’s partner and his ex, it can bring up doubts and worries. This can cause tension, disconnection and suspicion…even if there’s nothing actually going on to warrant it.
And then there are the messier situations– as in the quote above– where there IS continued contact between the person’s partner and his ex. If there is shared custody, there is a certain amount of regular communication and time spent together that occurs. Even if the two don’t have a child together, they may have maintained a friendship and rely on one another for emotional support or turn to each other for advice on personal issues, career questions or home repair needs.
This can be confusing for all involved– especially the one watching these interactions who’s concerned that there’s more than just friendship going on.
Perhaps this is causing stress and heartache in your relationship too.
Maybe it seems like your partner’s ex is coming between the two of you (intentionally or unintentionally). Maybe it appears that your beloved is unwilling to fully let go of this past relationship and that he wants to “have it all” no matter how hurt and left out you feel.
When you try to talk about how bothered you are by his ongoing relationship with his ex, you get accused of being “jealous,” “paranoid” or “insecure.” Like the woman in the quote above, your partner might declare that, “This is the way it is and you’ll have to just get over it!”
Here are 3 tips to remember when you feel jealous of your partner’s relationship with his ex…
1. Stick with the facts.
It’s tempting to lay out what you think his ex’s real motivations are. You may believe you really know that your partner has lingering feelings for his ex, but, it’s not going to help him stay open and listen to your concerns if you launch into theories and guesses. Always talk about observable behaviors such as the frequency or topic of communication. You can even admit to feeling jealous as you also point out the factual things going on that you see as a danger to relationship trust.
2. Focus on what you want more of.
Identify what it is you really want from your partner. Is it more of his time and attention? Is it a closeness and emotional intimacy that he seems to have more of with his ex? Once you know what’s missing and what’s contributing to your jealousy, ask for what you truly want. Make this about bolstering the health of the relationship the two of you have and not about his ex.
3. Set healthy boundaries.
If you do have clear evidence that your partner and his ex are having an emotional or even a sexual affair, don’t ignore it just because you have a history of getting jealous. Decide if it would be wise for you to stay in this relationship or leave it and, if you do stay, set boundaries so that you know: a) That the affair has ended and b) That you can trust him again.
If he isn’t having an affair with his ex, you can ask him to create agreements with you to keep trust and your connection. These can be agreements about topics like: How often the two of them will be in contact, appropriate and inappropriate topics of conversation and transparency about their interactions.
As you communicate your boundaries and ask for agreements concerning your partner and his ex, it’s important that you also work to soothe any jealousy that arises. The calmer and clearer you are when talking with him about his ex, the more likely he is to really listen and work with you and to move closer to you too.