Just found out—whether or not by his own admission—that your boyfriend still has feelings for his ex? You might be feeling a stinging mixture of hurt and resentment. But no, your relationship isn’t as good as over.
“Just because he still has feelings for his ex doesn’t mean that he loves you any less,” says Jean XM Chen, a psychotherapist at Relationship Matters. “His ex was likely an important part of his life for a period of time, so it’s not all that unusual that he harbours lingering feelings for her.”
“Besides, while he may have admiration for his ex and fond memories of their relationship, he may not have any desire to get back together with her.”
It’s OK to feel awful
But that doesn’t mean you can’t feel sh*tty. Most people in this situation would.
“It’s absolutely normal that you feel confused and insecure in this situation,” says Jean. “This knowledge can be disorienting and can prevent the two of you from developing a trusting and healthy relationship.”
To try and overcome this problem, she recommends that you and your boyfriend have a conversation where you both can share your thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or criticism from the other.
“You should make an effort to understand his feelings. He should make an effort to communicate what his feelings are for you, and how they’re different from those for his ex,” she explains. She adds that this will not only give you the answers you seek, but also prevent you from making assumptions.
Give him time
Her sentiments are echoed by Cindy Leong, co-founder and chief dating coach of Divine Connect.
“This issue is something that must be talked about,” says Cindy. “And there must be an agreed time frame for closure on this.”
She reckons that you should give him three to six months to move on from his feelings, and that you guys should split if he still hasn’t moved on after half a year.
However, if he does actually desire to be back with his ex, both relationship experts recommend taking time apart.
“If he still has romantic feelings for his ex, it’d be wise to give him time and space to figure things out,” says Jean. “There’s no point wishing his feelings were different, or trying to force the relationship to work if he’s not emotionally ready.”
Cindy agrees: “I would suggest to take space first, then come back and strengthen the relationship [if he wants to work it out].”
“You can’t be clearing the dirt and constructing the building at the same time! You have to clear the dirt first,” she adds.