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Is my boyfriend still in love with his ex?


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I apologize for length, but I felt detail was important here. If you are short on time, you can skip down to the fourth paragraph.

 

 

Back story: I have been with my boyfriend (I’ll call him J) for about four months and, overall, things are going very well. We enjoy many of the same activities and we spend pretty much all of our time together outside hiking, fishing, bottle hunting, picture-taking, kayaking, etc. etc. We also have very similar views about life and relationships and, if things go well, we know that we want the same things as far as marriage, children and lifestyle. Basically, I feel connected to him in a way that I have never felt connected with anybody else and, in many ways, I feel like this is my first truly “grown up” relationship. It’s wonderful!

 

BUT (it seems like there’s always a but) I am becoming exhausted by his situation with his ex. September of 2012, J’s relationship of nearly seven years ended and he shortly thereafter began seeing a new girl that he worked with (A). From what he says, things with this girl were hot and heavy at first, but after about three months she became very cool and distant with him, didn’t want him around her friends, didn’t want him getting to know her family, constantly started fights with him, tried to manipulate him into breaking up with her, etc. Anyway, she finally broke up with him in March. I wasn’t in contact with J at this time, but apparently he was very in love with her and totally lost it when she left. Even worse, it complicated things for him at work and he ended up leaving the job that he loved because he couldn’t stand to be around her or their mutual acquaintances at work (hence why they say never date your coworkers!). Anyway, with a broken heart and no job, he ended up moving halfway accross the country to do his own thing for a while.

 

We started talking in roughly August and officially got together when he moved back home in October. The entire time we were talking he was completely honest about the fact that he was still very torn up about the situation with his ex. He said that he was no longer in love with her, but that he was still shaken about the way she had treated him and still harbored a lot of resentment that his relationship with her had ended the job that he had loved for so long. But, he told me that he really cared about me and wanted to make things work. And, I have to say, he has been a wonderful boyfriend to me – he is constantly doing sweet things, saying sweet things, going out of his way to help me, being extremely generous and kind with my family and friends, and being extremely understanding and helpful with my difficult family situation.

 

Still, I am exhausted about things with his ex. He brings her up quite often and is constantly comparing me to her, “I’m so glad I can do this with you, I could never do this with A,” “I’m glad we can travel together, I thought that I had that with A but I didn’t.” We got home from a wonderful road trip a couple of months ago to find that she had sent him a Facebook message with a video of a comedian he enjoys (after he had explicitly asked her not to contact him). He ignored the message but he was extremely upset with her – I have never seen him so angry. He shut down on me for most of the day. We did eventually talk it out, but it was still very upsetting to me to know that she still had that much power over him. He is also constantly having nightmares about their relationship and when I am staying over he will sometimes wake me up in the middle of the night to tell me this and ask me for a hug. I actually woke up to him yelling at her in his sleep one night. It was horrible. He has admitted that he looks at her Facebook sometimes and that it still makes him sad but “only because she is out West doing what I want to be doing” or something along those lines. He has told me that he thought they were basically the same person when they started dating but that I shouldn’t worry because that wasn’t the “real” her. He told me he is heartbroken over a girl that “wasn’t real.” I know he was trying to make me feel better but this really only made me feel worse. It made me feel like even though she was not kind to him, she gave him something that I can’t.

 

The other day we were driving home from hanging out with his friend and we passed a girl on the street that looked just like A. Five seconds later, we then passed a guy that had been their mutual coworker. J told me what had happened but then when completely quiet for about ten minutes until he said, “Why can’t the past just go away?” He also sometimes says things about how he is trying to give me 100% but he can only give me 95% right now because he’s still so broken. He is always begging me not to give up on him and that he will get there. Then in the same conversation, he tells me that it will always bother him and he will probably never get over it completely. Honestly, I don’t even know what all of that means, but it hurts.

 

At first when these things happened, I was very understanding and willing to talk with him about everything. I had known what I was getting into and I trusted him when he said that, despite everything, he really wanted to be with me. I still do believe that he wants to be with me. It’s just that the more I fall in love with him, the more it hurts me to hear these things about his ex. To be honest, I also didn’t think that I would be dealing with so much of this this far into the relationship. Even though he denies it up and down and tells me that I am the best girlfriend he has ever had, I can’t shake the feeling that he is still in love with her in a way. I sometimes have nightmares that she comes back and apologizes for everything and he takes her back. On that day we passed her doppelganger on the street, I ended up shutting down completely for a few hours. I wasn’t trying to punish him or anything, it just hurt so much that our wonderful day together could be ruined because of his past with another woman. I feel like there is a part of him that is still very much wrapped up in her and still very much in love with her, which in turn makes me feel completely inadequate.

 

We have talked about all of this at length and he says and does all of the right things to ease my fears, but I still can’t shake these feelings of pain and doubt. For all of those of you out there who have been heartbroken, is it possible for him to be this broken up about somebody and not still be in love with her? I don’t want to leave him, but I am falling for him very hard and it is breaking my heart to know that he still has one foot in the past. His ex feels like the third person in our relationship and I hate it. I just want us to be us. Will we ever get there??

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i don't know if he is in love with her... but he certainly is very much still attached to her. i say its not love because it seems their relationship went wrong after only 3 months so there was barely the time to establish a true LOVE connection. indeed they were just getting to know each other. however i think he's very affected by how she treated him, his ego took a bashing and this is whats eating him up. depending on where you are in your life you might be willing to see if this will change. i know if its was me i wouldn't waste time with someone that had another woman on his mind A LOT of the time. i think he's just not ready and didn't give himself enough time to heal.

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Hi Charity, thanks for the input. I see what you are saying about "love" specifically but I do believe that he actually loved her. They knew each other quite well and were friends before they started dating and, despite the fact that things clearly started to go sour for her after about month three, I think he continued to develop feelings for her throughout their entire relationship. Whatever it was, he experienced as love and it broke his heart.

 

I agree with you though that he didn't give himself enough time to heal before being with me and that concerns me. He was honest with me about where he was emotionally, but he was definitely pushing for a relationship and I guess I thought that once we were together I would be able to heal him simply by being there for him. I realize how silly that is, but I guess maybe I was in denial about the true extent of his "brokenness" when we started dating.

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Yep - he clearly hasn't let her go. This does not, at all, mean that he's in love with her - but it does mean that he isn't available to you right now.

 

Unfortunately, guys who get involved with a new partner when they're still healing from their previous ones often dump the new one once they feel better, too.

 

I'd take a hefty step back here - not easy when you've really fallen for someone, I know - but having to listen constantly about another woman, whether positively or negatively, at best is boring and repetitive. At worst, it will really chip away at your self esteem; I had a relationship with someone once who was still obsessing non-stop about his ex-wife when he was with me - and I hadn't realised I'd been permanently slightly sad throughout the relationship - until I finally ended it.

 

The longer you spend with this guy, the more deeply involved you will get and the more hurt you'll be. Let him know your feelings for him, but tell him that he clearly isn't over her, and that you think he'll need a bit more time to grieve his relationship and move on. And that's something he needs to do for himself.

 

Here's a really useful article on this subject: link removed

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It sounds like he got involved with you too quickly after things ended with his ex. It does sound like a rebound relationship and I agree he may only be wanting you there to ease his hurt while it exists. I know the comparisons he makes are trying to make you sound better than her, but that would still bug me. It's as though he is trying to convince himself that there is better than her out there. I have dated a guy before that would make those comparisons and I did feel that he was still very hung up on her. From what I see, I think you may end up very heartbroken if you stay in this. He is not putting as much into the relationship as you are because his mind is still with another woman. You're going to be several steps ahead of him the entire time you're with him. That's going to end up hurting you for every moment you're with him and even worse when it's over.

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Hare, that article was a wonderful read. Thanks! This especially resonated with me:

They thought they could handle this and didn’t want to miss out – sure you’ve met people when you’re not in the right place and been afraid of letting them go in case they get snapped up by someone else.
He has told me quite a few times, "You're not the kind of girl that you break up with" or "I know what I have with you and I'm not letting it get away." I feel like he genuinely wants a relationship with me despite knowing that he isn't 100% ready for it. I think he probably knows he is being unfair to me, but is afraid to let me go as he knows I probably won't be there when he comes back.

 

You are probably right, aristicone, that this is a rebound in some shape or form. I guess my confusion stems from the fact that I have been a rebound before and it felt nothing like this. That guy was secretive about his feelings about his ex and never seemed invested in our relationship. Current boyfriend is completely invested (or at least appears to be) and I feel like his honesty with me about his feelings is an effort to make things work. Maybe I am just in denial, however, and looking for positive signs where there are none.

 

I am struggling with all of this because I have never been completely heartbroken like that before. I don't know what the healing process is like. I don't have a personal point of reference when he tries to explain how he feels. He is acting like this is going to affect him for the rest of his life. To me, it seems like a painful but rather unimportant event in the grand scheme of life. I am frustrated that he can't just "get over it" even though I know that I am being unfair.

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The problem is J didn't give himself time to get over A before he got together with you. And that sort of speaks to an unhealthy need to have someone, anyone in his life no matter what. Also it's obsessive to keep going on and on about someone who only dated him for a short time. I think it's time you tell J to stop talking to you about A and start talking to a therapist about why the obsession and why he's so "broken up" over losing her. Let him know him carrying on about her all the time makes you feel like he doesn't love you plus you aren't his therapist.

 

Seriously nip this one in the bud, because I have been with guys who talked all the time about another woman and it's one of the most soul-sucking ego-bashing things they can possibly do. I'd be a bit harsh about it since frankly J continues to whine about it, because you let him. So don't let him, tell him to go get therapy and go get healed then come back. Otherwise you will forever hear about this A. I also do suspect there's a bit of a "I want what I don't or can't have" and it makes me wonder if he'd do the same thing to someone else if you suddenly broke up with him.

 

Also I'm not sure why you chose to talk to and engage in a relationship with someone who was in the middle of a breakup and who you can see by his actions and words that in spite of swearing up and down he's not in love with his ex, he still is. You knew he was going through it when he was in the middle of it and you've been there as his rebound all along. He can know you are a great girl, that you're not the type one should say no to, and still not feel for you what he felt for A. And what he should feel for you. My take on this all is that you should let J go and let him learn to deal with being out of a relationship and giving himself time to heal fully rather than jumping from relationship to relationship, which is what I see from your described history of him. And you should find someone who can give you that 100 percent, because it's what you deserve since frankly you don't have even 95 percent of what J really has to offer. You're his shoulder to cry on and his buddy to vent to about A with fringe benefits on the side and that's not really a relationship, not a healthy normal one anyways.

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This ^^^. Or you could be gentle with him, tell him you are very sorry about his situation and that you realise that it's painful for him - but that he needs time to heal himself. That's it's something you can't do for him, and being with him while he obsesses about another woman is making you feel used and sidelined.

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Have you at any time just come right out and told him that you don't want to hear is obsessive thoughts of her? Seriously, have you? Have you ever just said I'm not your best buddy who you can vent to about your past romantic baggage, I'm you're NEW girlfriend who doesn't appreciating constantly hearing how much she's still very much in your mind and thoughts?

 

You know you are not doing anything wrong by telling him that it needs to stop and that if he can't stop this OCD thinking about someone when he's in a new relationship that is good and you're giving him all of you, then maybe he's better off alone where he can sulk until he doesn't have to anymore.

 

You enable him to continue on being maudalin about her. You don't shut it down so he has becomed addicted to just spewing his ex-girlfriend-vomit all over you.

 

Give him ways to become indifferent to her by suggesting that he stop from stalking/creeping her facebook, by blocking and deleting her from emailing him/calling him/seeing his and he seeing her social media sights. He does nothing to get to that blissful stage of indifference and you're helping him to stay stuck by not shutting him down about it.

 

Stop allowing him to continue on in his obsession and if after you stop allowing it, he just can't stop then that tells you all you need to know and it's time for you to tell him goodbye because he's still in love with her and just biding time with you being his human bandaid.

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