How can my boyfriend love me, but still have feelings for his ex?

Dear Guys,

My boyfriend and I have been together for three months. We hardly ever fight. (Our first fight wasn’t until almost two months into our relationship.) Today he told me he still has feelings for his ex but yet he loves me. (His feelings for her aren’t enough to break up with me.) He was with his ex for  three years on and off they fought a lot.

How do I deal with this? He asked me if I was still in and could be okay knowing that he will always have some feelings for her. I said I was in if I could figure out how to deal with it. Now I feel like I’m in a competition for him. How can he have feelings for his ex but still love me? Is it possible?  How do I deal with this?

Jen

Dear Jen,

It can be difficult to compete with the past, but it’s especially hard when the person you’re with is still living there. Yes, it’s normal to have feelings for an ex, especially a long-term ex like your boyfriend’s. At the same time, until he understands that he should stop being sentimental about the past and focus on the present, things could be a bit rocky for you. What he’s not remembering is that his relationship ended for a good reason. (How old is your guy anyway?)

Since he hasn’t let go yet, he can’t even conceive of a time where he might not actually be in love with her anymore. It’s kind of like being a kid and wondering how your parents could choose talk radio instead of listening to music, because you can’t imagine how you might make the same choice some day in the future. The question we would ask him: How can you know how you’ll feel in six months, or a year, or five years? He might think he can, but he can’t.

That said, it’s understandable that he might feel this way. They were together a long time. We do think it’s possible to keep a special place in your heart for a past love and still be in a healthy, loving relationship with another person. That said, we can understand why you’re feeling competitive and unsure. He’s handling the situation poorly, almost giving you an ultimatum—”Take it or leave it”—and not allowing for the possibility of your relationship blossoming into something even stronger than what he had with her. Which begs the question: Why is he not willing to let go of his memory of her? Is it too soon? Is this a rebound relationship? What’s going on? (Clearly he’s got a wall up that will be tough to climb for the next woman he dates. And that would be you.) Of course, you do need to consider the possibility that he’s not in love with you enough to erase that memory. (Sorry, we had to mention it.)

If you love this man then maybe you need to let this unfold organically. It’s good that he opened up to you and that the two of you are discussing things. That should continue. The more information you have the better you’ll be able to make the right decision for you. But we don’t think you’re going to get the immediate answers you want. We think you’re going to have to have a “wait and see” attitude. Once you’ve gather all your intel, you should sit with it a bit. If in a month, or a few months, or whatever arbitrary time you pick, you still feel as if you’re competing with her, and that he’s not showing any signs of understanding how you feel, then you might need to reevaluate then. For now, try to have faith and see where it goes. You’ll have to be strong but you owe it to yourself and the relationship to see this through. (This the only way you’ll feel okay about leaving if that’s what you decide. Don’t you think?)

Let us know if you have any follow-up questions or comments. Leave below in the comments section. (You need to be logged in to do so)

Take care,

THE GUYS

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