Ask Wendy

How Do I Stop Comparing Myself to His Ex?

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Friday, May 26, 2017

knows too much about the ex

Hey Wendy

I am having trouble with comparing myself to my boyfriend’s ex. Before I ever met him, I knew his mother. She would show me pictures of him and his ex-fiancé, and she talked well of her.

They were together for six years. They come from a small town where they were treated like a celebrity couple. I see old photos online where it seems like hundreds of people were rooting for them.

When it comes to past relationships, the less I know the better, but I knew all about this other woman before I ever spoke one word to my boyfriend, so I’m having trouble feeling like I’m not as good and won’t measure up.

Hey Girlfriend,

You are not competing with her. He is your boyfriend. He is not holding her up in his mind while running an analysis against everything you do to see how you measure up. “Hmm…Margie kept a cleaner house than Carrie, so I still like Margie better.” This. Is. Not. Happening. He’s also not in bed with you comparing your body to hers—I can just about promise you that. Men tend to just focus on one thing, one person, one act at a time, and when he’s in the moment with you, he’s in the moment with you.

I hear you when you say it’s uncomfortable knowing all these details about your love’s past relationship, but here’s the thing: He had a whole life before you showed up (just like you did). There were people around—some of whom he loved, hung out with, drank beers with, flirted with, kissed, wished he could kiss—long before you. He is entitled to a history.

Don’t rip yourself off of the opportunity of getting to know who he is as a whole person, history and all. Since you can’t erase his past life, what might be more empowering is to welcome it. Be curious, because the choices he made then have shaped him into who he is today: the right man for you.

Without this ex, maybe you would have never stood a chance with him. Maybe the one you have now is Boyfriend Version 2.0. Maybe you would have hated Boyfriend Version 1.0. That’s the version she got.

When he was with her, he learned things that now let him be great with you. Maybe she taught him patience, or acceptance (of an annoying habit you have), or maybe he learned to be the strong man that you need him to be. Perhaps she contributed to that sense of humor he has that you like so much. Maybe he is who he is today—for you—partially because of her.

We are living a long-ass time nowadays, and most of us won’t be with the person we started with come the end. But instead of comparing yourself to and thus competing with the ex, why don’t you cultivate a little appreciation for what she contributed? You could think of her as your sister-girlfriend who helped “build” your boyfriend—through the good times and the bad. She just might be the heroine who made it possible for you two to stay together. She’s also someone who loves/d him very much, and I just can’t see how love is ever a bad thing.

Don’t let your inner critic make you feel insecure, judgmental, comparative, or unsafe about this, no matter how many cute photos his mom used to show you of them. She’s not with him now. She most likely doesn’t want to be with him now because they broke up for valid reasons. Six years or no, it’s done.

I am “the ex” for a certain woman, and I know “the ex” of my partner, so I not only see both sides of this issue, but live it—like most of us women do. While these two women may not know this, they are near and dear to my heart. I have mad love and respect for both of them. Not only are they awesome, beautiful, charming women whom if I’d met either of them at a cocktail party I’d definitely hang out by the cheese platter and dish the dirt with, but we all have something in common: We love that man (two of them in my case – still love my ex like a brother). And that’s a good thing, there’s no need for animosity.

I don’t compete with either one of these ladies because there’s not a scoreboard, a buzzer, a winner’s sash, a crown, or judges here. I invite you to come join my world. Instead of competing with “the enemy,” celebrate a life with an awesome boyfriend who’s probably all the more awesome due to the collaborative efforts between you and your essential soul-of-a-sister-girlfriend who has contributed to your life and relationship in ways you’ll never even know.

Now go on with that boyfriend of yours and play the game called “How great can we stand it?”

Good luck.

 

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