5 Red Flags That Might Mean It's Time To Bring Up Your Partner's Ex

Depending on how a previous relationship ended, the ex talk can be one of the more uncomfortable conversations in a new relationship. And for the most part, it doesn't really have to happen. "If the past is in the past, and it's not affecting the current relationship, then there's no real reason to have to mention it," says Justine Shuey, PhD, a sexologist and sex educator. "It's expected that people have exes. You and your partner had lives before one another." So no need to quiz your S.O. on their little black book if things seem fine.

That said, there are a handful of red flags that might mean it's time to have a sit-down with your partner about their ex. There's no need to get accusatory, and it's generally not your place to tell your partner to cut off communication with their ex, Dr. Shuey says. But it's important to figure out where their relationship with their ex stands if something alarming comes up. This is your time to communicate to your partner how that relationship makes you feel ("I" statements can be crucial), and to workshop ways you can both be more comfortable with the situation.

Ahead, some warning signs to look out for. But remember: Just because something is on this list doesn't mean it's inherently "wrong." If it doesn't bother you, and your relationship seems to be chugging along just fine, it's best to let sleeping dogs lie. "If the past is in the past, it can be left there," Dr. Shuey says. Amen to that.

illustrated by Paola Delucca.
If your partner's social media activity is giving you pause...

"If the ex is posting photos of the two of them together — old or new — that look more like couple shots than friendly ones, and it makes you uncomfortable, then you might want to mention it," says Paulette Sherman, PsyD, a dating coach. "It can represent poor boundaries." Just mention to your partner that these public displays of affection don't make you feel great, and then explain why. "Your partner just may not see your side, so explaining might actually help fix the situation," Dr. Shuey says.
illustrated by Paola Delucca.
If your partner is sending or receiving inappropriate texts or emails...

Now, this doesn't give you free reign to snoop through your partner's phone (which is always a bad idea). But if your partner mentions an off-color email or overtly sexual text that their ex sent them recently, you might want to point out why this makes you uncomfortable. "Again, it can show that there's a lack of boundaries," Dr. Sherman says.
illustrated by Paola Delucca.
If the ex always wants to meet with your partner alone...

Now, if your partner and their ex have an established friendship that includes regular hangouts, then this can be something you overlook. But if you're never included in the plans, or their hangouts are interfering with your plans with your S.O., then it might be time to bring it up. "It's reasonable to assume that you would see your partner more than their ex," Dr. Sherman says. "It's also important to have these boundaries, because you both want the ex to move on and be more self-reliant."
illustrated by Paola Delucca.
If your partner is still the person the ex confides in the most...

"In order to be fully present and committed to a new relationship, it's important to leave the entanglements of a previous relationship behind," Dr. Sherman says. If your partner is still shouldering the emotional burden of their ex, then you might want to ask your partner to draw a tighter boundary. "[The ex] needs to move on," Dr. Shuey says. "And they might not be able to do that unless your partner makes it clear that they're broken up."
illustrated by Paola Delucca.
If the ex attempts to insert themselves into your relationship...

If their ex's behavior starts to border on harassment or stalking, then you might consider having a chat with the ex — after discussing it with your partner first. "If they're attempting to involve themselves in your current relationship by instigating fights or something, then you need to have a stern conversation with the ex," Dr. Shuey says. The goal, she says, is to set your boundaries and explain to the ex why you're uncomfortable with their behavior. "Be calm, but firm," Dr. Shuey says. If the ex is making you feel unsafe, then it's not unreasonable to explain that to your partner, and then ask that your partner stop talking to them.
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