These tips on how to cope with jealousy when your boyfriend sees his ex-girlfriend are based on my experience, and inspired by a reader’s question:
“He assures me he loves me and he only wants to be with me,” says A. on How to Stop Obsessing About Your Ex. “Their relationship will never be romantic again. But why does he feel he needs to keep her in his life? Why does she not let him move on? It is starting to really make me crazy and I just need some solid advice…”
The first thing you need to do is deal with your own feelings of insecurity, fear, and jealousy. I wasn’t just jealous when my husband had lunch with his ex-girlfriend – I was insecure and scared he still wanted her! I was worried he wasn’t over her, that he and she would fall into their old romance (which was long dead) or even fall into bed (in the middle of the Starbucks?).
I let my imagination run wild because I was scared he’d leave me for her. I refused to admit I felt jealous and insecure – but I did.
If you feel the same way, read Relationship Saboteurs: Overcoming the Ten Behaviors that Undermine Love. That book offers great tips for identifying and stopping the behaviors and thought patterns – such as irrational jealousy – than can destroy your relationship.
How to Cope With Jealousy When Your Boyfriend Sees His Ex
Learn why your boyfriend needs to see his ex-girlfriend
My husband genuinely cares for his ex. He feels ever-so-slightly responsible for her, and wants to see her happy and financially stable. He meets her for lunch every couple of years, is still returning her books and random belongings, and updates her on the cat she gave him. He kept reassuring me that it meant nothing – she was a person from his past that he once loved, and he didn’t want to just cut her out of his life.
After six years of being happily married, I now see that it’s all true. His ex-girlfriend isn’t a threat; she’s just a part of his past. His purpose for seeing her is simple: she’s a fellow human being – someone he once loved.
Some boyfriends or husbands stay connected with their ex-girlfriends or ex-wives because they’re raising children together. That can raise its own problems – read about how toxic ex-wives affect new relationships.
But sometimes staying connected to an ex isn’t healthy…
Recognize when he’s seeing or talking to his ex “too much”
There’s a big difference between your boyfriend seeing his ex-girlfriend once every couple of years, versus talking to her on the phone every day. My reader says, “I saw on his phone that they spoke twice yesterday. He has yet to disclose this to me personally.”
She and her boyfriend agreed that he would tell her when they spoke or met – which is what my husband and I agreed, too. My husband said it was very difficult for him to tell me when he saw or spoke to his ex-girlfriend, because he didn’t want to hurt me. He didn’t want me to feel jealous, insecure, or scared.
I think A.’s boyfriend should NOT be talking to his ex-girlfriend twice a day. Even if they have kids together, that’s too much contact. I think he’s overstepping a boundary.
What are his reasons for staying connected with his ex-girlfriend? There’s a need that is being met.
Stand your ground – you are NOT crazy!
Some girlfriends feel crazy, often because their boyfriends tell them they’re overreacting, or are unreasonably jealous or insecure. If you’re confused about how you should feel, run your thoughts and feelings by someone you trust (not necessarily your mom who will side with you no matter what!).
Talk to someone who can offer an objective perspective – preferably someone who knows both of you.
Be honest, and insist on being treated with respect
Tell your boyfriend that his seeing or talking to his ex-girlfriend makes you jealous, uncomfortable, or anxious. Be as honest as you can – be more honest than I was with my husband! If you tell him how you feel, no matter how painful it is or vulnerable you feel, then you’re getting to the heart of the matter. That is very good.
If you tell your boyfriend that his actions make you feel jealous, insecure, or nervous, then you have every right to expect him to change his actions (especially if you are supported with an objective perspective!).
If he doesn’t change his actions, then you need to examine your relationship. I believe that if a man loves a woman, he will change his behavior to make her happy. You need to decide if this is a “make or break” situation – a deal breaker. If you can’t live with your boyfriend seeing his ex-girlfriend, then you need to be prepared to leave.
Trust God, your Higher Power, or the Universe
If you’re meant to be with your boyfriend, then you will be with him. My husband’s relationship with his ex-girlfriend was over long before he and I got married. I didn’t trust God that we were meant to be together – I believed my emotions! That was a mistake.
Don’t let your emotions ruin your love relationship. Stand back, get an objective perspective, set your boundaries, and be strong.
If you are confused about your relationship, read What is a Healthy Relationship? 5 Signs of True Love.
Do you get jealous when your boyfriend sees his ex-girlfriend (you must, or you wouldn’t be here!)? Comments welcome below…
I'm glad you're here! My name is Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen; my husband Bruce and I live in Vancouver, BC with our critters. We can't have kids, and are learning to accept whatever life brings - both good and bad. I have an MSW (Master of Social Work) from UBC, and degrees in Education and Psychology. I hope you say hello below - I can't give relationship advice, but writing can bring you clarity and insight.