Are you constantly comparing yourself to your partner’s past relationships? Do you often wonder whether or not he still loves his ex?
If you’re wondering whether or not he still loves his ex, this series of questions will help you discover clarity and hope.
Believing the man you care for still loves his ex is heartbreaking.
You become trapped in an endless cycle of questioning him and questioning yourself.
When our thoughts become consumed by our partner’s past relationships/sexual history, our actions follow suit. We become suspicious, petty, and distrusting. We are prone to conflict, accusations, and internet sleuthing.
Our relationships suffer. Our self-esteem suffers.
We threaten to destroy the very thing our jealousy seeks to protect.
If you are committed to getting to the source of your distrust, a bit of focused self-interrogation can help.
Here are five questions to help you get clear about whether or not he still loves his ex (or if your worry is needless).
Question #1: Am I Jealous of My Partner’s Present or His Past?
One of the most challenging things to deal with is a past relationship that remains in your partner’s present.
Sometimes our partners remain connected to an ex because they share children. Other times, partners maintain friendships with exes after the relationship has ended.
When there are children involved, you should do your best to let his past relationship go. Know that this relationship is possibly as uncomfortable for your husband as it is for you.
It is also essential for the well-being of his children.
I warn against inappropriate friendships with exes, but I know that genuine friendship is often possible with an ex.
In cases where a friendship with an ex continues, there are one of two scenarios at play.
The first: their friendship is genuinely friendly and platonic.
The second: one or both of them are not over the relationship.
If he still loves his ex or she cares for him, there should be limited communication between them.
If your partner is friends with his ex and they are genuinely platonic, your boyfriend or husband should have nothing to hide.
He should be willing to openly share their conversations with you and want to include you in their outings.
If he’s wanting to meet with his ex alone or is secretive about their conversations, you might have a right to be upset.
In this case, it is your partner’s actions and not (or not only) your jealousy that is the problem.
Communication is vital, and you will have to evaluate whether this is a healthy relationship you want to fight to keep.
However, for many of us, jealousy strikes even when our partner’s exes are firmly in their past.
If your husband no longer speaks to his ex, and you still find yourself thinking about her, you may be suffering from irrational retroactive jealousy.
Don’t worry; you’re not alone. Hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world have read these articles seeking the same clarity and resolution you are now.
For a bit more context on how jealousy works: social scientists have defined two types of romantic jealousy.
Reactive jealousy shows up in healthy relationships as a response to a particular situation. (For example: when you are out to dinner and an attractive waitress gets a little flirtatious with your husband).
This experience of jealousy passes quickly and doesn’t impact the health of the overall relationship (Consuelo Martinez-Leon N., et al: 2017).
The second type of romantic jealousy is obsessive jealousy.
Obsessive jealousy is compulsive and suspicious in nature.
Obsessive jealousy doesn’t respond to a situational trigger. Instead, it consumes a person and is triggered by real, perceived, and imaginary threats (Consuelo Martinez-Leon, N. et al.: 2017).
If you compulsively worry that he still loves his ex, you may be suffering from irrational RJ – a form of obsessive jealousy.
I don’t use the term “suffer” lightly. Trust me that if you are suffering from irrational RJ, your partner and your relationship are hurting too.
It is possible to heal from RJ and repair your relationship.
The next four questions will help you get to the root of your jealousy and pave a path forward.
Question #2: Can I Trust Him?
When I offer guidance on overcoming obsessive jealousy, I do it in the spirit of helping people–and relationships–heal.
Even if there’s been a lot of damage done, I believe that healthy, loving relationships can often be restored.
I believe trust is something that can be learned and practiced.
When I talk about healing obsessive jealousy, I talk about the work we need to do as individuals. I often tell people: your obsessive jealousy is your problem to fix, not your partner’s.
Sometimes, when I say this, I am misunderstood.
While all internal work is an inside job, we need to be sure we’re restoring trust for someone worthy of our trust.
This is why the question: “can I trust him?” is so important.
It’s important to tap into your inner compass with this question. Here are a few more questions to help you assess whether your partner is deserving of your trust.
Does he freely offer up information when asked? (Note: if you are continually asking him questions about his ex, he is allowed to shut down sometimes.)
Is he honest with you about other parts of his life?
Is he someone others turn to and lean on for support and advice?
Does he value and respect women?
Does he seem generally calm and content in your relationship?
Do you share the same values when it comes to fidelity, monogamy, flirtation, and friendships with the opposite sex?
If you answered yes to these questions at a gut-level, then it’s likely that you are in a relationship with a trustworthy man.
Tuning into your intuition as you start to heal will help you every step of the way. It will also help to have a clear picture of the man you are with and why he deserves the best version of you.
If he is a kind and decent man who you love and value, he is worth doing hard, healing work to keep.
Question #3: Is It True He Still Loves His Ex?
This is a simple question that can change your life.
This question is the foundation of Byron Katie’s practice, called The Work. The Work is a simple process that helps us examine our thoughts and separate illusion from reality.
The process is simple. It requires you to:
- Notice negative thoughts.
- Write them down.
- Isolate each thought and ask, “is it true?”
- Turn the thought around and examine it’s opposite.
Let’s play with this process using the situation you are facing right now.
For example, the negative thought you notice and write down might be: “He still loves his ex.”
When you question “is it true?” some of these thoughts could come up for you:
Is it true?: “I don’t know. When I ask him, he says he doesn’t.”
Is it true?: “Maybe not, he said once that his ex made him feel horrible about his career. He loves his job.”
Is it true?: “No. I know he said he felt relieved when they broke up.”
Now, turn it around and examine an opposite thought. In this case, an opposite thought could be: “He loves me.”
Is it true?: “Yes. He tells me every day.”
Is it true?: “Yes. I know he wants and desires me.”
Is it true?: “Yes. He’s been patient with me even when I’m hard on him.”
This process works because it exposes our negative thoughts for what they are: just thoughts.
Often, we confuse the stories we tell ourselves with facts.
If you’ve been convincing yourself that he still loves his ex, it’s worth exposing that this is a story, not a fact.
It’s equally important to turn this thought around and investigate it.
When “he still loves his ex” becomes “he loves me,” you should be able to feel the greater truth of that statement.
Question #4: If I’m Worried He Still Loves His Ex, What Else Is Going on For Me?
If you’ve read this far, two things are true for you:
1) You’ve identified irrational retroactive jealousy as an issue for you.
2) You know on some level that your husband loves and prefers you to his ex, even if you are not fully convinced quite yet.
This second point is important.
If the root of your issue is insecurity, you get to start making different decisions.
Obsessive thoughts are habits, in the same way, brushing your teeth is a habit. This doesn’t mean you chose these thoughts. It does mean you can change them.
To gain greater mastery over your mind, start by getting clear about the real problem.
The root of obsessive jealousy is different for everyone. Scientists have discovered that growing up in families where parental love was inconsistent or unavailable can make us prone to obsessive jealousy.
So can a past relationship that was traumatic or abusive.
Low self-esteem can contribute, as well. We can actively self-sabotage a good thing when we don’t believe we are worthy of it.
Does any of this resonate as true for you?
We must get clear on how our past is holding us back if we want to build a better future.
Author and psychologist Harriet Goldher Lerner writes in The Dance of Intimacy that “problems solve a purpose” (1989: 13).
When we confront a problem in our relationship, often, it is something from our past that is seeking resolution.
When I began to do the work to heal from retroactive jealousy, I overcame other problems too.
What’s more? I now had the tools to deal more effectively with issues that came up in the future.
It is possible to achieve true intimacy with your partner. To share yourself fully and in full trust.
It does take work. But you don’t have to do that work alone.
Question #5: Who Do I Want to Be in this Relationship?
I want you to take a moment and envision your life differently.
I invite you to imagine the type of relationship you dream of creating.
How do you greet each other when you wake up in the morning? Do you embrace after you’ve been separated? Do you speak to one another? How often do you have sex? How do you celebrate and make time for your relationship?
Creating a vision for what we desire is the first step in making it real.
Our minds work in pictures. Up until now, your brain has been creating mental movies about your partner’s ex.
You need to create a new video script for your mind to play.
One of joy, companionship, intimacy, and trust.
Intentionally play this mental movie for yourself when you wake up and when you go to bed.
Begin to behave like the woman you see in the vision. Kiss your husband when you wake up. Hug him when he comes home. Have more sex. Go on more dates.
When the urge to pick up his phone comes up, notice it, and release it. This is not what you do anymore. It’s not who you are.
When you start doing this, it might feel like acting at first. That’s okay. Persist.
If you’re not convinced, commit to trying it for a month. See what happens.
While you’re doing any healing work on obsessive jealousy, I recommend you limit your time on social media.
Why? Research has found that the more time we spend on Facebook, the more likely we are to experience obsessive jealousy.
By limiting your time on social media, you expose yourself to fewer potential triggers and opportunities to act on impulses.
By staying away from social media, you also avoid comparison–to your partner’s ex, or anyone else.
Comparison is a personal growth killer. If you decide to commit to healing from obsessive jealousy, you’re committing to personal growth.
It’s best to do this work with a supportive community & far from the real or perceived judgments of others.
Looking for things to do instead? Take inspiration from my Retroactive Jealousy Cheat Sheet.
I hope these questions offered you some clarity.
Loving, healthy relationships are always worth fighting for.