Is He Still Not Over His Ex?



Name: Kate
Question: Hi Moxie,

I’m in a new relationship with a guy who I’m starting to believe isn’t over his ex. They were together, as he puts it “for a fourth of his life” (10 years). We’ve been running into issues where we don’t see eye to eye on things, because he thinks that since I’ve never been married or in a long term relationship (my longest was 2 years), that I “don’t understand” things…for example, the fact that the anniversary of their first date (OVER 10 YEARS AGO) is his birthday…and that the “significance” of the first date just doesn’t “go away” when you’re married (or apparently, divorced). He rarely talks about her, and I don’t know the whole story, but when he gives me these little details here and there, I can’t help but think he isn’t emotionally past it, despite telling me he spent over a year getting over it.

When he brought up the birthday thing in conversation, it was the first time I admitted “It sounds like you’re not over her…” to which he got really mad and said that it’s insecure and negative to jump to conclusions based on one comment, when I don’t know the whole story (and I shouldn’t need to), and the fact that I make assumptions like that is very “telling” about me. We’re on a break right now, per his request (this fight we had is the main reason in my opinion), because “our personalities are too different”…I think that learning how someone thinks comes with dating, it’s rare to find someone you just “get”…what do you think? He hasn’t dated a lot (maybe a handful of people before his ex, so I feel like he doesn’t understand that dating isn’t easy, and this isn’t something to end things over, if he truly is over his ex.

Also, should we end up breaking up, which I assume will be the case, should I rest assured that he ISN’T over his ex, and that whoever comes after me will have to deal with these same issues? He’s really great on paper, and we have a great time together, so I’m really frustrated by this; I’d like to give things a shot, but at the same time, maybe by ending things I’ll be dodging a bullet?
Age: 34


I can’t say if he’s over his ex or not. What I do feel comfortable asserting is that he’s still grieving the end of that relationship. A person can lament the dissolution of a union without still harboring romantic feelings for an ex. Ten years is a long time, especially nowadays.

The fact that he exploded when you suggested he might still be dealing with residual issues with his divorce/ex-wife is what’s telling. That and the fact that he bailed over something so insignificant instead of trying to have a rational conversation. He keeps trying to blame your “lack” of experience for why you two frequently don’t see eye to eye, which is also a pretty glaring red flag. Romantic relationships are no different than platonic relationships in terms of how we interact. There isn’t one set of rules for our partner and one for our friends. At least, there shouldn’t be. The way he appears to constantly deflect responsibility and shove it back over on your side should give you a peek into why his last relationship crashed and burned. Despite having those ten years of a relationship under his belt, he’s a lousy communicator and even worse at arguing. Someone with poor communication skills who can’t disagree without exploding or pointing the finger at their partner is a time bomb waiting to go off.

It sounds to me like this guy is still licking his wounds from his divorce and isn’t ready to be in another relationship. I’ll also theorize that he knows this, which is why he used your inquiry as to whether or not he’s truly moved on as an excuse to end things.  When people split up for seemingly bizarre reasons like this, it’s usually because the break up was always on the horizon and one or both people just needed and excuse to extricate themselves from the situation.

To answer your final question: yes, you absolutely dodged a bullet. This guy isn’t in the right frame of mind to begin another relationship.


Sometimes the love of your life is the love of your life. (R)


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28 Responses to “Is He Still Not Over His Ex?”

  1. CoolDude Says:

    I don’t understand this part:

    “Also, should we end up breaking up, which I assume will be the case, should I rest assured that he ISN’T over his ex, and that whoever comes after me will have to deal with these same issues?”

    IF you break up, you break up. What does it matter if it’s due to him not being over his ex or not?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

    • ? Says:

      I think OP is trying to get closure, to understand exactly what went wrong here, in order to take insights and experience from this into her next relationship.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

    • AnnieNonymous Says:

      She doesn’t want to feel like she was the rebound who had to feel the brunt of his baggage, only for him to move on to someone new who he treats better. She doesn’t want to be his stepping stone or learning experience for dating women who aren’t her.

      It’s a 100% valid and normal thing to feel, but there’s no way to answer it.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

      • DrivingMeNutes Says:

        Actually. I’d say that she doesn’t want it to be her fault that he was ended things. That’s why she (and others here) want desperately to believe that the boyfriend was “hung up” on his ex. Because that is actually easier to accept than the possibility that he just didn’t love her. She posed the question that way because she wants reassurance that his marriage was the reason.

        The cause and effect that is often taken for granted around here is usually more complicated. We have no idea why this guy wanted to take a break – I would venture it had very ittle to do with his marriage.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 6

        • Goldie Says:

          Even if “he just doesn’t love her”, how’s that her fault? Or his, for that matter. They tried getting together hoping there would be a connection, found out that there wasn’t, it’s no one’s fault, moving on.

          OTOH, next time she meets someone who proceeds to tell her “today’s the 15th anniversary of my ex’s and mine first date, oh and also my birthday”, she’ll know to run fast.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

          • DrivingMeNutes Says:

            I think you have it all wrong but that’s fine. When someone breaks up with us it’s less painful to believe that there’s something wrong with them than there may be something wrong with us. This story is just another version of this phemonenon. The whole “cottage industry” around people not being “ready to date,” etc are really just excuses people tell themselves and others to avoid the painful reality. This is a human thing – everyone does this to one degree or another. Some are just more “self aware” as they say. Your strong reaction to my comment is actually telling.

            The one silver lining about getting dumped is that you can sometimes learn something about yourself if you look in the right place.

            Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

            • Goldie Says:

              My version of why people break up is, most of the time, there is nothing wrong with either of them. They’re just not a good fit for each other. It’s incredibly hard to find someone you really connect with, and vice versa. If it wasn’t, the whole dating process would be pointless. We’d just spend a few years bettering ourselves, grab a random available person of our preferred gender who’s also spent some time bettering themselves, get together with them, and live happily ever after. It’s not a rejection, it’s not a judgment on ourselves, the person who broke up with us isn’t some kind of a human gold standard that we would’ve lived up to if only we’d worked on ourselves a bit more. They were just not the right person for us, and we for them, period, end of story.

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    • Parenting Says:

      Took the words right out of my mouth. Its like the letter writer just needs to be right and end on an upper hand. Rest assured that a relationship that ends does so for a good reason. Take solice in that.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 4

      • fuzzilla Says:

        This sounds like the type of breakup (referring to the OP’s) that’s extra hard to get over. Not because OMG, twu wuv but because he fucked with her head by turning all his issues back on her, so she’s sitting there like, “I am NOT wrong or crazy or the bad guy, God damn it…”

        Agreed that she shouldn’t dump her complaints on the next guy, but she’s still processing/not there yet (as far as we know from the letter).

        Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  2. Yvonne Says:

    In general, I don’t think a year is enough time to get over a decade-long relationship. Maybe if the person had been unhappy and wanting to leave for a long time, but it doesn’t sound like the case here. His telling you that you don’t understand because you haven’t had a relationship of the same duration is condescending and defensive. Plus, he should be able to take some responsibility for the issues in your relationship.

    Over the years, I’ve encountered numerous people who haven’t taken the time or done the work to get over their past relationships before dating again. It really doesn’t surprise me that the MORE times people marry, the greater the chance that they’ll get divorced. It’s not so much the experience that counts, it’s the ability to learn from past mistakes.

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    • Bill Says:

      “…it doesn’t sound like the case here.”

      Yvonne, you hit the nail on the head! He was the guy who was “surprised” when his ex filed for divorce (or he caught her cheating) and he’s still in the denial phase, and angry denial at that. Whether a year is long enough or not, in general, it isn’t for this guy: witness he is still holding on to “our first date was on my birthday” as something of monument. The day he can, instead, laugh it off is when he might be ready to seriously date.

      OP, this guy is still grieving the “death” of his marriage, and in that sense, he is correct that it is not something you can “understand”. He does still have feelings for his ex, whether it is purely anger over “killing” their marriage or hopes to reconcile really does not matter for you… your action is the same, you should leave this relationship until he is over her and the divorce. And, sadly, some people never reach that stage, they merely try to “redo” the failed relationship through someone else.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  3. coffeestop Says:

    They are not on a break, they broke up. And he is not over his ex. He is also quick to blame and turn everything back on her, so even if he is over his ex he is not ready for a relationship. He has decided the OP does not meet certain expectations so even if they reconciled, this theme would keep coming up. It is not going to work.

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  4. fuzzilla Says:

    I agree with everyone else, but I think the real issue is why she’s having trouble letting go of this. Is she competing with a ghost, thinking “if I were more this or that, he’d like me better”? Does she believe his gaslighting that she’s “so immature” rather than the truth that he’s a hot mess?

    **He rarely talks about her, and I don’t know the whole story, but when he gives me these little details here and there, I can’t help but think he isn’t emotionally past it, despite telling me he spent over a year getting over it.**

    Although, hmm…if he rarely talks about her, maybe the OP really is grilling him to death about his ex-, looking for trouble and constantly poking holes in his stories? Sharing little tidbits about an ex- here and there seems like normal behavior. If you tell stories about your past and you were with someone a long time, there’s a good chance you were doing travel/wedding/funeral/whatever with that person. I do agree that the “first date significance” thing is red flaggy. OP shouldn’t even know about that.

    But even if the ex- issue begins and ends with her insecurity, if he were serious about her, he’d be reassuring her, not getting pissy and asking for a “break” from a relationship that should be in the honeymoon stage.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 4

    • The D-man Says:

      He may just not have learned the trick of how to talk about your past without constantly mentioning your ex. I used to have that habit and only changed it after a woman I was seeing mentioned it.

      Initially I gave the same justification — “we spent a lot of years together” — but eventually I realized there’s very little upside to mentioning her specifically in every story I tell from that period of my life.

      So maybe he’ll meditate on this during their “break” and adjust.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

    • Kate (OP) Says:

      Thanks for the replies everyone! Fuzzilla – I guess I should have clarified this, but I never brought up the ex unless he did first, which he rarely did. Anytime he did though, it was something odd along the lines of her not being his favorite person, the first date anniversary thing, etc. I’ve been learning to trust my gut, but I was very unsure of whether to be “okay” with the first date thing, especially since I think it was really weird of him to mention. His defense for bringing it up was, he was trying to be open with me, so I didn’t really have a reply for that, aside from saying, “that’s not something to be open about” because then to him it sounds like I’m contradicting myself…either way, we’re over now, and I’m bummed, but I guess it’s for the better. These posts have made me feel like it’s the right decision to stop seeing each other.

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      • fuzzilla Says:

        I’ve definitely been the crazy girlfriend who was like, “Oh, I bet your mom made her Ritz cracker casserole for THAT BITCH, too, didn’t she??” so just acknowledging that that’s A Thing. ;o)

        **His defense for bringing it up was, he was trying to be open with me, so I didn’t really have a reply for that, aside from saying, “that’s not something to be open about” because then to him it sounds like I’m contradicting myself**

        Ugh, of course he did! He shouldn’t be open WITH YOU about that, because you’re not his therapist! Boundaries, people! My current BF was actually really bad about this stuff at first, so it’s a topic I’m a bit sensitive about. But when I confronted him he always had my back and reassured me, and he’s most definitely cut it out.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

      • Bill Says:

        Kate, thank you for reporting back… it’s too rare that we see that.

        It is sad and unfortunate that meeting the “right person” at the “wrong time” still adds up to the same as meeting the “wrong person.” While he still has strong feelings for his ex, it is the “wrong time”. Anger, and even hate, aren’t the opposite of love, dispassion is. So, yes, it is for the better and the right decision for both of you.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

      • Yvonne Says:

        Learning to trust your gut is just about the most important dating skill you can have. Unless you have a tendency to be irrational, if something doesn’t feel right to you, then it should set off an alert.

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    • Goldie Says:

      Oh thank you for the “sharing the tidbits”. I’ve been given a hard time in the past for my ex stories. (ironically, by a partner who was still in touch with his ex, and who would drop everything and talk to her for as long as she needed anytime she’d call, no matter if he was in my house, driving, in the middle of a conversation with me, what have you.) They’re just stories. I’ve been no contact with the guy for the longest time. It’s my past and the ex was a huge part of it. My judgement was a bit off when I picked him, so he was quite the character, so, they’re funny stories. The first date, though, ugh! Ten-year marriage is no excuse for this insanity. I was married for eighteen years, together for twenty-two. We’re on good terms, but it was an overall crappy marriage with a couple of good years thrown in, and I was over it by the time I told him I was moving out. I have no idea when our first date was and neither does my ex-husband. We both have a very vague recollection of our dates, period. (Not surprisingly, seeing as they took place in the 80s!) No, I don’t care what OP’s guy told her, remembering your first date anniversary ten years later, and sharing it with your new partners, is not normal!

      I tend to analyze my past relationships to death, too. Mainly because I want to figure out where I missed the red flags/flaws in our connection/other things that contributed to our demise as a couple, so I can be on the lookout for those things with the next person I meet. Hopefully what the OP is doing is just that, gathering information that would help her make better choices in the future, rather than being unable to let go of that guy.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  5. Tadpole Says:

    Bottom line is that the guy wasn’t ready to be in a relationship. It doesn’t matter whether he wasn’t over his ex or if he just wasn’t mentally there. I understand how that date would have been significant, but if he was ready, then he wouldn’t give it much more than a passing thought. I once dated a guy that shared the exact same birthday as me. When it was over, it made that first birthday feel a little odd, but that was it. It was just an odd feeling of knowing that someone I had been close with was also having birthday. Now, several years later, I still remember his birthday on mine, because it’s hard to forget that you share a birthday with someone, but it’s a brief thought of, “Oh gee it’s so-and-so’s birthday today too,” and that’s as far as that thought goes.

    He just sounds like he’s not ready on all fronts, because the whole part about her not having as long as a relationship just sounds like an, “Oh poor me. I was with her for so long so you just wouldn’t understand,” thing. I mean geez dude, yeah ten years is a long time but people break up. Anyone that’s been dumped has had to deal with those feelings. Yes, it’s get harder to let go the longer you’ve been with someone, but just because someone hasn’t been through that exact thing doesn’t mean they can’t empathize. People develop skills through different ways. Experiencing a horrible situation doesn’t mean they’ll develop better coping skills, or better communication skills through a relationship. Sure, odds are in their favor for that to happen, but people can improve them through different ways. If someone doesn’t want to accept responsibility for their failures, then no matter how many times they fail and it is obviously their own fault, they can still push it off onto someone else in their minds. It’s that reason that I think he has little self reflection. He didn’t hesitate to blame it on her.

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  6. Kate (OP) Says:

    @ Goldie – I definitely get the “poor me” vibe, because the reason they got divorced is because his ex decided (or finally admitted) to want to “switch teams”…that’s obviously a super hard thing to go through, since he thought everything was fine, so I get it, but at the same time, don’t gaslight me and make me question everything I do/say, ugh.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

    • DrivingMeNutes Says:

      Well now you have your own “crazy ex” story to share with the next guy.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 5

  7. AnnieNonymous Says:

    He sounds like a guy with more than a few “quirks” who was lucky enough to fall into marriage without having to learn how to put his best qualities forward by going on dates with different people. There’s a whole learning curve that he missed out on. I’ve known a lot of guys like this, and I won’t say OP dodged a bullet, but I’ll say that this dude isn’t worth the effort. This is someone who clearly needs to be walked through the niceties of dating and basic human interaction. He’s lacking general experience and he only has one parcel of very specific baggage; on top of that, he’s the one who thinks that his experiences represent the norm. Do you really want to have to help a grown adult navigate the greater social landscape? The things OP is describing are logical responses to a divorce, but they’re not normal when you add them up in one person.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  8. Jeff Smith Says:

    The real issue is his inability to communicate his real feelings.
    He attacked you so he would not have to deal with how he really felt.

    I don’t think that “being over someone” is really that black and white, but the real issue is the lack of genuine communication. He is surly not over the team switch aspect, and will not be until he sees it and is willing to discuss/deal with it (not necessarily with you).

    This will be a recurring theme on different subjects.

    Sadly, it’s more the norm for both sexes to not be aware of our true emotions, and to bite back over a contrived issue when they come up rather that deal with them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  9. So Says:

    I actually have sympathy for both OP and this guy. This guy was appearantly deeply wounded, and before he’s ready, OP should not have exposed him of his vulnerability and pain. You just don’t say. If you really love him and want to keep him, you protect his wounds and secrets as you would your own. But you’re young and inexperienced. So I guess, it’s just not the right time, not the right guy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 6

    • So Says:

      I see that at least three of you disagree with what I said… Would you please kindly explain why? I’d like to learn your views and the rationales behind. Thanks in advance.

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