Is she really over him?
May 30, 2011 8:01 AM   Subscribe

Why does my girlfriend still mention her ex-boyfriend and the life they shared together?

We have been dating for about four months. Prior to that, I was single for six months—my ex left for Europe and never came back (we had been together for four years). My girlfriend was single for three months before we met and started dating. She was with a manipulative, lazy, and jealous guy with a whiny temper when things didn't go his way for two and a half years. She lived with him in his house that he owned for two years of the relationship. At this time she was in graduate school and he was working full-time making significantly more money than I ever will given my career. She maintained a garden at his place and they had dogs. He kept everything in the breakup, etc. He regularly checked and read her email, SMS, and Facebook. She changed all of her passwords immediately after breaking up with him. They were not engaged. All of her family and his family were well-acquainted, and they all live very near to one another. He lives 15 minutes away from both of us, and his parents and her parents all live no more than 30 minutes from us. She frequently runs into his family and extended family, despite the fact that we live in a big city. One of my girlfriend’s best friends is her ex-boyfriend’s cousin.

And now
We are both in our late 20s with careers, have post-graduate degrees, and are employed full-time. We usually spend the night together, either at my place or hers, but we maintain our own apartments intentionally. Outside of this complaint, the relationship is perfect. We are reciprocal in every way, we usually eat breakfast and dinner together, we take turns cooking and cleaning, and we talk about any differences of opinion or taste that come up. I’m really easy-going and she can be pretty intense, but we find a happy medium. We live about 10 minutes away from one another. We both work out and are active—we rarely sit in front of our laptops or the TV at home. We pick out and read the same books before bed so we can talk about them.

Not a day goes by on which she doesn’t refer to her ex-boyfriend or the life they shared together. Whether it’s about “our” dogs or “my” garden (our=she and her ex and my=his, since the garden was at his house), or places they would go, things he would never do (laundry, dishes, take care of the dogs, etc), she always mentions it. Usually it is in response to something that I have done, such as unexpectedly doing the dishes, bringing her flowers, or tidying up her apartment. She has described him as obese, mean, and dressing like a schlub.

I do not speak about my exes. Happily for her, they live either in Europe or far away now and will never come back to our state, let alone to our region. I do not use Facebook and have no contact with them at all.

A test
For 15 days I kept a tally of how many times she mentioned her ex/past-life with him. It was over 100 times, mostly on the weekends, which is when we see one another the most. She talks about “our” dogs the most (again, our refers to her and her ex-boyfriend, not me). I am acutely allergic to cats and have no interest in dogs, although I would be willing to get allergy shots now and then if it would make her happy to have a pet and have told her so.

Most recently
We visited her best friend in a neighboring city for the long weekend. It was a blast and I loved getting to meet someone who has known her for most of her life…however they both talked about their ex-boyfriends, at length, in front of me. My girlfriend even accidentally referred to me as “Simon” (her ex-boyfriend and my name doesn’t begin with an S) a few times in conversation both to her friend and to me.

My reaction
I say nothing and do not react at all when she mentions her ex or her past life with him. I do not avoid subjects that might cause her to bring him up, but I do make a point not to engage her when she brings those things up. It is my way of passively ending the conversation without coming off as jealous or upset.

I have been cheated on once, but I was young and foolish and ignored glaring signs. My most recent previous relationship ended due to forces largely out of our control and amicably. Is it foolish of me to stop noticing these remarks and reminiscing on her part? Am I ignoring signs that perhaps someone with more dating experience might not?

posted by anonymous to Human Relations (47 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The problem here is more that you're trying to monitor her state of mind I think.

Of course she's not going to be "over" her ex after three months and with so much enmeshment. You can't expect that. You can expect her to stop bloody mentioning him all the bloody time, except you should put it a bit nicer than I did, of course.

I can understand why her shutting up about it might not be enough for you, because you'd know she would be thinking about it. But that's not your concern. If you concern yourself too much with what's going on in her head, it's not really any better than her ex checking her SMS, email, and Facebook history, so watch yourself and try not to cross any lines.
posted by tel3path at 8:09 AM on May 30, 2011

Why haven't you mentioned to her that this bugs you? Wouldn't that be a useful first step?
posted by fso at 8:11 AM on May 30, 2011 [30 favorites]

We talk about any differences of opinion or taste that come up.

And it seems you need to talk about this one as well. I'd say there's a good chance that if you said, "Girlfriend, you mention your ex a lot and and it bothers me. It makes me feel like you might not really be over him [or however it makes you feel]," she'd be willing to mention the ex a lot less. At any rate a discussion about this matter would be a good thing. Maybe she does have issues with her past that she hasn't really resolved yet. Sounds to me like she misses the dogs and and the garden and so forth. Or maybe she is basically over it and just isn't being sensitive to how you feel.

Either way, it bothers you and you need to discuss it with her. That's generally a good approach for any problem that might come up.
posted by orange swan at 8:12 AM on May 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

You've been together four months. The previous relationship lasted two and a half years. Talking about an ex does not mean anything more than it was significant to her in some way. The number of references will likely taper off with time. She's probably still processing stuff in her head. Just let her do that, and in a while you'll realize she's not talking about it so much anymore.
posted by ambrosia at 8:13 AM on May 30, 2011 [6 favorites]

She was in a controlling relationship for a few years that very recently ended. She left behind not only her asshole ex, but also the things she loved (garden, dogs). It sounds like she is still processing things, but not at all like she is still interested in him.

You can certainly mention that you wish she wouldn't just bring up her ex so often, but "wow, it's so awesome that you do thing, ex never would" is also pretty positive about you.
posted by jeather at 8:15 AM on May 30, 2011 [12 favorites]

Before my current boyfriend (of over two years) I was with my previous boyfriend for four. Four years was the entirety of college for me, the first years I spent in Chicago, my first (not with him, but still) apartments, and a lot of other major life experiences for me. Even if the ex wasn't necessarily an active part of every thing I did, he was always there. It's really hard to talk about anything I did in that four-year period without the ex's name coming up. I make a concerted effort not to (because he was a twat and I don't like talking about him), but sometimes it has to be done.

So, to a certain extent, you're going to have to tolerate hearing about your girlfriend's ex. Your relationship is new, first of all, and second of all, she spent two and a half years with him. Even lived with him and co-owned animals. His name is going to come up now and then. It doesn't mean she's still into him, it just means that it's difficult to refer to things that happened in her life, while she was with him, without also mentioning him. And sometimes, yeah, if her brain has been wired for a long time to speak "boyfriend" as "Simon", you might get called Simon a few times. That's just par for the course.

I'd give her more time to work it out on her own, but if it's still bothering you, the best thing you can do is talk to her about it.
posted by phunniemee at 8:15 AM on May 30, 2011 [18 favorites]

Dude, this was three years of her life that are still pretty recent and probably form the bulk of her memories post-college.

It's sort of like how, a year after moving apartments, I still talk about my old place, where I lived for four years. "At my last apartment, I painted the bathroom red and it looked so great... At my last apartment, we had these really huge windows..." It was a good part of my life that I look back on fondly, despite some obvious flaws that led me to move out and find a new place. It doesn't really occur to me that my new roommates might worry that this means I'm not really "over it" and might go back there. I'm just talking about 4 of the last 5 years of my life.

In any event, I think the "don't talk about your exes" rule is for very early on in dating, like the first couple dates or the first month or so. Once you're firmly in relationship territory there are no hard and fast standards about how much is too much.

Have you talked to her about the fact that this bothers you? Could you, like, ask her to stop?
posted by Sara C. at 8:16 AM on May 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Outside of this complaint, the relationship is perfect.

No, it's not. Relationships are never perfect. This one needs better communication before you can even call it "good." Sounds like she is missing the appealing elements of her life with the ex-, the ones that kept her hanging on. Why don't you ask her if she'd like to replace some of the things she is missing, with you?
posted by Scram at 8:16 AM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is it foolish of me to stop noticing these remarks and reminiscing on her part? Am I ignoring signs that perhaps someone with more dating experience might not?

I think ignoring her whenever she brings him up might not be the best route. On the other hand, I don't think you should respond every time either. It sounds like she's trying to process a harsh experience - she lost animals she loved, a home, and (presumably) objects she loved/liked/enjoyed. This happened to me as well; I broke up with an ex of 7 years who promptly decided everything we'd shared was all his... except for my clothes. Apartment, car, furniture, and cat. Ouch. It is rough. It's not just loss of a relationship, it's loss of an entire way of life that you thought was shared, and, well, someone decided it was actually all theirs. It's like getting slapped in the face and kicked to the curb, except you have no external wounds to show for it. Talking about it is a way to show "dang that was NOT cool and ouch it hurts."

Why not try suggesting that the two of you talk about it for a set amount of time? Allowing her to process her feelings with you will help, I'm guessing, and she may finally start mentioning him less once she feels listened to/validated (since it seems clear from your post that, in general, you agree with her assessment of the guy). If she keeps up with the same frequency for a while, let her know it bothers you and so that you might not be the best person with whom to process her emotions about the ex.
posted by fraula at 8:16 AM on May 30, 2011 [6 favorites]

She lived at that house for two years. It was most certainly "her" garden. And the dogs were, in fact, "theirs" so she refers to them as such. Yeah, she could say "my" dogs, but she said "our" for two years, so it's a habit. Either way, talking about her garden and her dogs does not equal talking about her ex. Relax.
posted by Ruki at 8:17 AM on May 30, 2011 [21 favorites]

If your relationship is so great, why are you terrified to let her see how you feel? Passively ignoring or not responding to this, while letting it bother you and bubble up inside, isn't a healthy way to deal -- if it were, you wouldn't be here asking this question.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:29 AM on May 30, 2011 [4 favorites]

Why don't you just talk to her about this? She can't know it bothers you if you never say anything. And if you can't learn to have difficult but honest and respectful conversations in your relationship, it probably won't work out.
posted by Lobster Garden at 8:31 AM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

She mentions him a lot, and it bugs you enough that you kept a list of it.

And yet your response response. This is not something you want to be passive about! Either tell her it bothers you and you really wish she would make an effort not to go into it while you are around, or take the opposite tack--you might want to talk *with* her about this so she can get it out of her system a little. The fact that you never engage her when she is reminiscing could be hindering her ability to move on from all her past relationship drama. Remember, her breakup is fresher than yours.

I think you feel that you are "healthier" because you have completely cut your ex and any mention of her or ties to her completely from your life, while your girlfriend still refers to hers. I think you see this as a weakness on her part. While I agree that she seems to fixate on her ex too much from your description, the fact that you never mention your ex at all is just as problematic to me.

These people were in both of your lives and influenced them over a period of years. Of course they have affected you, whether you choose to acknowledge that or not. I really think you and your girlfriend need to talk about this more. Part of the reason you are not living together now, in my opinion, even though you seem to want to, is because you have not really addressed these past ex issues together.
posted by misha at 8:31 AM on May 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

A test
For 15 days I kept a tally of how many times she mentioned her ex/past-life with him.

No... no. Don't do this to people. If you have an issue with someone, communicate it. All you're doing by running these tests on her is feeding your own rash speculative urges and storing up emotional toxic waste (which later you'll consider "evidence" at best, or "ammunition" at worst).

She probably thinks it's flattering to you if she mentions ways in which you're superior to him. She's wrong -- it bugs you to even hear about him -- so just pipe up and say so.

As to her referring to "our" and "we" when she discusses those times... all I can say is that a girlfriend is not an Etch-A-Sketch. She doesn't magically erase and reset when a relationship ends. She has a life, friends, belongings, and habits which she's used to sharing with other people. At four months in, you are a mere blip on the radar. The dogs were "theirs." The garden was "hers" (regardless of whose property it was on). These are the basic facts of her recent circumstances, and unless she's using them to needle you somehow, they should be accepted as merely part of her story.
posted by hermitosis at 8:32 AM on May 30, 2011 [40 favorites]

It is my way of passively ending the conversation without coming off as jealous or upset.

But ya ahhh, Blanche! Y'arrre upset!
Ahem. Excuse me. What is the use of pretending not to be upset? It might be nice if you weren't, but the reality is that you are, and here come a hundred comments telling you that you have to try a bit of reality-based communication. It's a good idea.
posted by robself at 8:33 AM on May 30, 2011 [4 favorites]

She ended a two-year (or longer) relationship seven months ago? Of course it's still in her head.

Some of the stuff might be worth trying to bring back into her life--does she miss gardening? does she miss having pets? Those might be reasons she brings up parts of her life with the ex. For the stuff specifically about him--why don't you ask her about it? Ask her if she needs time and space to fully process the breakup, ask her if she wants to talk about it with you (or a friend, or a therapist). It would be fine to say, "It makes me uncomfortable when you casually bring him up," but you have to consider that she may need something (from/with you or apart) in order to get to a place where that relationship doesn't still feel like part of her life.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:33 AM on May 30, 2011

You're sounding just as controlling as Simon. Maybe there's a reason she chose you -- she likes the type.

OK, OK, that's hyperbole to make a greater point. Dude, relax. It's four months. Some people don't operate their feelings with an on/off switch. Some people use a dimmer, where Simon gets harder and harder to see every day.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:34 AM on May 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

(This question is not anonymous if you have your gmail account at the end of the post.)
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:34 AM on May 30, 2011

On second thought--I should rephrase. The relationship will always be part of her life. It just doesn't have to be something she uses as a conversational reference point all the time.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:35 AM on May 30, 2011

I have been cheated on once, but I was young and foolish and ignored glaring signs.

Also, I think the question has far more to do with whether you are over this than it has to do with whether she's over him.
posted by hermitosis at 8:36 AM on May 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

She's likely just really happy that you aren't like him, if she's complaining about stuff he wouldn't do but that you do... and is venting.
posted by autoclavicle at 8:38 AM on May 30, 2011

Just something to think about:

If your girlfriend had posted this from her point of view ("My boyfriend hates when I slip up and talk about my ex somehow as a frame of reference, doesn't think I'm over him, and even once kept a tally for two weeks of how many times I did,"), people would most likely be describing you as controlling and some might tell her to break up with you because of that reason.
posted by autoclavicle at 8:46 AM on May 30, 2011 [7 favorites]

I'm with Ruki -- I don't think her talking about her dogs/garden/sofa/whatever is the same as talking about her ex. It sounds like you're interpreting her talking about this stuff as code for her talking about her ex-boyfriend, when (to an outsider, at least) it sounds like she's talking about elements of a life she used to have, and may well miss, but not about her ex per se.

Is it possible that she's the kind of person who tells more stories about their life, just anyhow? I have friends who are very chatty about their exes, not because they aren't over them or want to get back together with them, but because they tend to share more about their lives than other people.
posted by the cat's pyjamas at 8:50 AM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

This has fuck all to do with her being over him, and there are no actual indications that she isn't.

She was with him for a long time, they lived together and had a family (of dogs) together. There was a longstanding and completely legitimate "our" there that formed what everyday normal is for her. It takes a long, long time to adjust to the new normal when you move beyond that. You've only been dating four months and see each other mostly on weekends; you are not the new normal yet, and probably won't be until/unless you settle into a domestic relationship with her.

Note that by telling you about these things, she is telling you about herself. That's a good thing. Also please note that some people cut exes off like unwanted limbs and others of us carry them around fondly pretty much forever. (That would be me.) When it's done, it's done, but I have no compulsion to pretend it didn't happen or to banish my past from my present, nor would I want to be with someone who wanted me to operate that way for their own comfort.

It is likely however that she doesn't realise how often she mentions it; that's pretty common in the start of relationships. For the love of God, don't tell her that you calculated it because that is seriously creepy, but by all means tell her: "You mention Ex so often I can't help but notice it. I recognise and respect that he and your life together is a huge part of who you are, but the frequency honestly is bothering me."

This will work better if you are actually on board with that point of view.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:55 AM on May 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

Maybe she's just not over the dogs. Maybe you're right and she's not completely over her ex. I know she probably has a better idea than we do. It's okay to ask her, you know. Don't be afraid to let her know how it makes you feel.
posted by inturnaround at 8:57 AM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

There is the basic fact that she mentions him, and then there's the bigger question of what that means, of why she does so. It seems like you're counting comments to get at that bigger question, as though collecting data would reveal patterns and answer your more fundamental question: Is it foolish of me to stop noticing these remarks and reminiscing on her part? Am I ignoring signs that perhaps someone with more dating experience might not?

If you're asking me to guess, I'd say, it doesn't sound like this means she'll cheat on you with him. I'd guess that a sense of displacement from her old life, and grief at missing the dogs, are emotions that are very present for her. I don't think you'd be foolish to drop your vigilance here. In fact, I think she'd mention him less if she was likely to cheat.

But this is just me guessing. The only real way to know what someone is feeling and what their motivations are is to ask. "I've noticed that you talk about the life you shared with your ex or your life with him pretty often. Sometimes I wonder about what this means. I can even make myself kind of paranoid with things I imagine. So I thought I'd just ask: why do you talk about it like you do? I'm sure you have good reasons. Would you help me understand them?"
posted by salvia at 9:08 AM on May 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

You two have been together for only four months and she was only single for three months before you became a couple. That's less than a year since she had to walk away from what was her entire life.

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, it's springtime now and gardening season. And leaving pets behind is hard.

I was married for nine years, and left behind a house and a dog (who is with me now, but at first it was VERY hard and VERY sad to be without him). It's been five years since the end and I still miss my garden, my yard, and the neighborhood I lived in.

Bring it up to her if you don't like hearing about the ex, but please don't have her hide her memories of what was a significant part of her history.

And quit the tallying. That's creepy.
posted by ladygypsy at 9:09 AM on May 30, 2011 [6 favorites]

I do not speak about my exes. Happily for her, they live either in Europe or far away now and will never come back to our state, let alone to our region. I do not use Facebook and have no contact with them at all.

Do you KNOW that she's happy that you never mention you exes, or are you just guessing? Because not everyone is like you, not by a longshot. Lots of people have no problem with minor mentions of past relationships, like "our dogs" and "my garden". Seriously, if someone talked like that, I wouldn't even count that towards any sort of tally with regards to how many times she mentioned an ex.

You NEED to talk to her about this. The giant red flag isn't "Girlfriend says "our dogs" instead of "my dogs" ALOT", it's "Boyfriend is really hung-up on how many times Girlfriend mentions ex, and considers saying nothing instead of talking to her about it".
posted by 23skidoo at 9:32 AM on May 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

I would be concerned if someone I were with didn't mention anything about the previous nearly-three-years of their life prior to meeting me. My current SO talks about her ex on occasion. It's not complimentary. I talk about my ex, again not complimentary. We both talk a fair amount about things in our lives that were parts of those times. The places we lived, the things we had, the jobs we were working at the time. Exes are just one part of the history you have. I have no lingering feelings whatsoever for my most recent several relationships, but I do still miss the shared cats. I miss living near the coffee shop. I miss the used bookstore there. I mention these things because they were part of my life. Sometimes I will mention the things my ex sucked at that my current girlfriend is good at. This is what we call "a compliment". She does the same thing.

The place where she lived for two years, no matter whose name was on the title, was her home as well as his. The garden she worked with her hands was her garden. The dogs she loved and cared for were her dogs. Talking about those things, in the absence of accompanying talk about the actual guy in question, is not talk about her ex. It's talking about her life. If you want to stop her from talking about parts of her life that didn't include you, you're not doing any better on the controlling scale than her ex. If you'd just rather not be compared to him, even favorably, that by itself would probably not be unreasonable, but seriously, counting mentions of the place she used to live as mentions of him and keeping a running tally? Yeah, you're just being an asshole.
posted by gracedissolved at 9:42 AM on May 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

She's not talking about her ex, she's talking about her past. She's sharing her history and stories about her life with you because she cares about you and wants to be close. It doesn't mean she's not over her ex, it means that she doesn't feel like she needs to hide her past from you. That is should be a good thing-- and the reason it may not be is because you're being oddly obsessive and seem to be threatened by it. This girl shouldn't-- and shouldn't have to-- feel like she can't talk about her life before she met you. That's ridiculous (as well as being controlling and creepy-- a tally? seriously? no.). If you can't listen to this woman share her thoughts and feelings-- some of which will involve her past life, some of which included her ex-- without feeling threatened, that's your problem, and you need to think about that and deal with it, and not by forcing her to hide her past.

And in my opinion & experience, refusing to talk about exes isn't a good thing. You have a past, too, and there should be good things and bad things and neutral things in it, and you should have learned and grown from those experiences. That's not something that needs to be hidden, that's the way life works.
posted by Kpele at 9:57 AM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think you should try to reframe what's happening here: She is constantly telling you how much she appreciates you by telling you how difficult things were without you. She is also telling you interesting, important things about her life before you, so you can know her more completely.

If the discussion was of the variety of "look how he did X in bed with me" or "look at all the amazing places we went together", that's something where you should immediately call her on it and tell her it bothers you. But if it's more basic stuff, sharing her history with you, try to let it be. If you're at a breaking point, then you need to tell her how much it bothers you (but try to do so in a way that makes it about how it affects you, and not why what she's doing is wrong.)
posted by Happydaz at 10:14 AM on May 30, 2011

I'm over a year out of a just over 5 year relationship with my ex-gf. We had cats and a house and whatever else you want to name. I still say "we" and "our" and all that. It seems like that's just how it goes. I wouldn't sweat it but to echo everyone else, if it bothers you then speak up.
posted by rainperimeter at 10:22 AM on May 30, 2011

i was once in a relationship where i had zero freedom to talk about my past so now i'm in a relationship where he is part of the past i bring up from time to time with my husband.

also: this - and have no interest in dogs - makes me wonder if she brings up the dog so much because she wants another and wants you to want that.
posted by nadawi at 10:28 AM on May 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

For 15 days I kept a tally of how many times she mentioned her ex/past-life with him.

Eeeek. Scorekeeping like this is a pretty damn good indicator that your relationship isn't perfect save this one itty bitty thing. It suggests that you don't trust your feelings and discomfort enough to broach the subject without an arsenal of hard evidence behind you. For her, she is likely to bristle at the idea that you've been playing 'gotcha!' behind her back. If anything, keeping a tally like this points to a crack in your ability to communicate effectively that runs deeper than this issue with the ex.

So yeah, Nthing the others. You neeeeeeeed to talk to her about this.

You're likely on the right trail in thinking that her frequent invoking of the ex means she hasn't put that relationship to bed. However, you're perhaps a bit myopic in interpreting this as sign that she may cheat on you instead of interpreting it as a sign that she still has a lot of feelings she still needs to sift through before she can fully be at peace with that phase in her life. There are lots of ways one can not be "over" an ex - many of them do not include wanting them back, sleeping with them again or still being in love with them.

That relationship is her baggage to unpack. Filtering this through the lens of being cheated on is your baggage to unpack. This is where all that talking stuff comes in. This is where you shelve your desire to look a certain way (chill, not upset, not jealous) in the service of full honesty about who you are at this moment - bugged, uncomfortable, maybe jealous, maybe irritated at how much space ex takes up in your relationship. If you can't do this....well, file under not so 'perfect in every way but one.'

The other thing to bear in mind is that jumping into a new relationship three months after leaving a manipulative, lazy, and jealous guy with a whiny temper is very soon. Some people can truly heal in that amount of time, most can't (imho). Some folks can do the excavation necessary to figure out how they got themselves into that situation in three months, most can't. There is the possibility that she's seeking refuge in a new relationship to avoid doing this. Your girlfriend might simply be a bit too green for a new relationship. This could mean you're doomed, maybe not. It might simply mean that she has more work to do and needs a lot of patience and understanding to heal from old relationship while building the new one.

When you talk to her about this, I would strongly recommend that you do so with the spirit that you want to understand her better and for her to understand you...not for with either of you to change how you feel or what you do.
posted by space_cookie at 10:39 AM on May 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Something else is bothering you. You do not trust her. That is okay. We don't have the sum total of all of your interactions with her. And that total of interactions is making you suspicious.

For those who say keeping a tally is controlling--it is not. If he brought it up to her it would be, most certainly. Right now it appears to be only a very poor way of trying to guess if he can trust his gut feeling.

I'm gonna say you need a long talk with her. Sit down and tell her how you feel. Its okay to be vulnerable.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:41 AM on May 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

She's probably completely not over him. Now that I'm over my ex, I never talk about him and hardly think of him, especially when I'm starting to fall for a guy. Just my experience, though. If I were you, I would just ignore her remarks about her ex, and hope that sort of talk will peter out. She will probably get defensive if you bring it up and take issue with it. Just don't engage in talking about it with her, unless she wants to sit down and have a meaningful discussion about her feelings concerning her ex.

As she gets to know you better, she will likely stop talking about him so much. If she doesn't, she has her own unresolved feelings to work through.
posted by sunnychef88 at 10:48 AM on May 30, 2011

If it doesn't stop in another couple of months, I'd talk with her about it. IMO 4 months is not a long time to be dating her for you to be concerned about her referring to her ex.
posted by sunnychef88 at 10:51 AM on May 30, 2011

"I am acutely allergic to cats and have no interest in dogs, although I would be willing to get allergy shots now and then if it would make her happy to have a pet and have told her so."

I am sorry, it just would seem selfish to me if she actually accepted your offer to get allergy shots. There is give and take and then there is just take. I do not think you should have to go through getting allergy shots so she can have a dog. You do not have a dog now so I would not get one and then have to take shots to control allergies. Just my opinion...
posted by sandyp at 10:56 AM on May 30, 2011

My girlfriend even accidentally referred to me as “Simon” (her ex-boyfriend and my name doesn’t begin with an S) a few times in conversation both to her friend and to me.

Did she feel bad about this and apologize? If she did, then you should give her the benefit of the doubt.

If she didn't, it's a problem.
posted by storybored at 11:05 AM on May 30, 2011

"My girlfriend even accidentally referred to me as “Simon” (her ex-boyfriend and my name doesn’t begin with an S) a few times in conversation both to her friend and to me."

Did she feel bad about this and apologize? If she did, then you should give her the benefit of the doubt.

If she didn't, it's a problem.

Echoing everything especially this. I got out of a 7-year relationship with my last ex and moved on shortly to my fiancé 2.5 years ago. For the first several months, I kept nearly calling him by my ex's name. It was a difficult habit to break, having that mental reference automatically be "my boyfriend" is X when really it's Y. I felt fucking awful whenever it happened, even though I never actually slipped--it was all in my head. Does she seem flustered or embarrassed to have used the wrong name? If yes, just forgive her.

There's not a day that goes by that I don't miss some elements of the life I shared with my ex, but I have zero desire to be in that relationship. I miss living in that city, I miss my cat, I miss shared possessions that I gave up when I moved out. All of those things are "his" now, but when we lived together they were "ours" and so in my head they are still sort of "mine," just gone now.

If your girlfriend is explicitly mentioning her ex (HIM, not some element of that shared life) every single day, then you have every right to have a frank conversation asking her what's going on with her and maybe could she pull back on the constant comparisons, etc. Otherwise, given that they split a scant few months ago, I think maybe you could cut her a break for mourning the things that she's lost.

Just talk to her. My whole comment presupposes she's just grieving. You can't know without a conversation.
posted by asciident at 11:33 AM on May 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think 100 times in 15 days is a little excessive, but I do agree with what seems to be the bulk of opinion here, in that 2 1-2 years, at your age, does really represent a large percent of her adult life. I think you should raise the topic at a neutral moment, and gently ask her if she could scale it back a little around you. There´s got to be other things she could talk about, and if she knew it bothered you in a minor way, perhaps she´d be more consciencious about finding other topics.
posted by Ys at 11:55 AM on May 30, 2011

Yeah, this can be annoying. Go talk to her. Or it could be that she's just an annoying person.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:30 PM on May 30, 2011

I have been cheated on once, but I was young and foolish and ignored glaring signs ... Am I ignoring signs that perhaps someone with more dating experience might not?

My 2 cents: this doesn't sound like cheating warning signs to me at all.

Why does my girlfriend still mention her ex-boyfriend and the life they shared together?

My best guesses:

1. She thinks comparing him unfavorably to you is a compliment to you. She's awkwardly trying to tell you how much she appreciates you and how much happier she is with you than with him.

2. The drama of this relationship took up a lot of space in her head, and she hasn't gotten over the habit of devoting a lot of headspace to it yet. That doesn't mean she wishes she were still in it or anything. It's like when my dog was dying, I had to give him cancer medications round the clock on a 24/7 schedule, and for weeks after he died, my brain kept reminding me when it was time for his medications. And I know I talked about his illness a lot too, afterwards. Didn't mean I wanted to go back to that situation, at all.

3. As everyone else has said, she might miss the garden or the dogs. That doesn't mean she wishes she were with him or with someone rich with a ton of garden space, or she wants to leave you for someone with a garden or dog. Just she'd like to have a garden or a dog, simple as that.

I say nothing and do not react at all when she mentions her ex or her past life with him ... I do make a point not to engage her when she brings those things up. It is my way of passively ending the conversation without coming off as jealous or upset.

Dude come on!!! Being passive-aggressive like this is not a mature or healthy way to be in a relationship. Talk to her about this! And other things that bother you in the future.

You don't have to freak out in a jealous or upset way. Just tell her. "I have to talk to you about something. It seems like you mention Simon a lot. It makes me feel confused and sometimes insecure in a way, so I thought I should ask you why you mention him."
posted by Ashley801 at 1:10 PM on May 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

At one point in our early relationship, my now-husband told me that I talked about my ex a lot... and it amazed me. First, I absolutely didn't realize that I mentioned him a lot, and second, I was stunned, because I was (and am, and always will be) insanely in love with my now-husband. The idea that he was feeling bad because I was mentioning my ex completely horrified me. I never for one second of any hour of any day since I've been with my husband ever once felt even the tiniest bit like I'd like to be back with my ex. Never.

But I was with my first husband through all of my 20s. And I was also so fundamentally shaken by what happened in our relationship so that I doubted my own judgement and native trust. I also felt guilty, even though he was the one who fucked around, because I was the one who left. I left, and pretty much immediately I was with the coolest, smartest, nicest, hottest guy ever, while my ex was utterly distraught/pleading/suicidal.

I thought I was keeping references to him really down low. I thought I was presenting a much cooler and nonchalant front than I really felt. It was very, very good that my husband was up-front about feeling bad about it (though it was a good bit more that four months in), because I wouldn't have even realized that I was making that many references – but more importantly I got to seriously, heart-to-heart, face-to-face tell him what he meant to me... that he was rain on the desert. That he was the sun and the moon, and I never ever, ever had that giddy, crazy, delighted, satisfied happiness before.

I know that after that I still slipped up with more references that I realized, but that problem was cleared between us. The very idea that my husband could have ever worried that I was longing for my ex still blows me away (a million years later).

Advice: Forget about "we" and "our" words; those will be replaced by you-and-her words as time goes on. In another circumstance, she could be talking about her parents in the same way. Forget about "my" when it has to do with stuff that was hers before the breakup. Once you let those drop off the radar, does it still seem like a lot? Don't count! Does it feel like a lot to you?

If so, talk to her, and tell her that it feels to you like she mentions her ex a lot, and that makes you feel a little worried and a little bad. Don't be all giving her examples and stuff, just tell her that you have this feeling, and have a conversation.
posted by taz at 1:33 PM on May 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

When you tell her that it bothers you, be sure to say that the occasional mention is not a big deal. Otherwise she might get really paranoid about slipping up sometimes. You don't want her to be too terrified to accidentally mention him.

Is she young? When I was younger I did what she does a lot more than I do now. Sometimes it takes a higher level of maturity to realize that mentioning the ex excessively is inappropriate and painful for the new love.

I think it was okay to keep a tally, but you really shouldn't mention the fact that you did so to her. I think you were counting out of good intentions, trying to see if you were really imagining just how prominent it was, or whether it was really out of bounds.

Be gentle when you point out how it bugs you. It is understandable what she is doing, and it is reasonable to expect her to dial it back significantly once you tell her how much it bothers you (and it is totally reasonable and understandable to be bothered by this).
posted by marble at 6:20 PM on May 30, 2011

tl;dr - but here's a hypothetical thought for you. were you two ever to break up, would you want her to badmouth you to her next partner or to remember you well and the good times you had together? people's lives don't exist in vacuums. of course we live in the 'here and now' but we also have pasts, and a healthy person integrates past and present.

if things are as good as you say they are in the here and now, just relax and be happy in that fact. cutting out the attitude about past relationships will give you the chance to be present in the moments now and to create a good and happy life.

don't begrudge people's pasts. ever.
posted by kuppajava at 6:12 AM on May 31, 2011

Past relationships are a part of who we are. they are a part of our histories, a part of how define ourselves to ourselves and to others. Jealousy is one thing, but she is obviously still working through her issues with her past relationship, and to ask her to keep it to herself would be asking her to hide a part of herself that she is trying to share with you. It doesn't sound like she's still into the ex, or is trying to make you jealous. you could be taking this as a positive sign that she wants to open up to you.
posted by custard heart at 5:01 PM on June 2, 2011

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