“My Boyfriend is Still In Love With His Ex”

My boyfriend and I have been together for three years and living together for 2 1/2. We have everything a married couple has — a house, the same bank accounts, all titles are in both are names. We have gone through so much together, but he’s still holding on to his ex for some reason. She lives with her boyfriend and they have a child, and she’s told my boyfriend numerous times that she is in love with her boyfriend and does not want to be with him. Six months ago he started talking to her again…about having sex with her and having babies and how beautiful she is — sharing everything he should have been sharing with me, with her.

I moved out of our house and into an apartment. Its been almost six months now and I thought things were going well. He even started talking to me about a wedding and we started making a few light plans. Well, her birthday was the other day and he emailed her and said that he needed her to say that she didn’t want to be with him and it was OK for him to marry me so he wouldn’t have second thoughts. I love him, but I’m beginning to question if he loves me or just love the thought of me? Is he only with me because he can’t have her? Should I leave and hope he runs after me? Should I stay and hope he changes? — Not His Ex

You’ve been with this man for 2 1/2 years, during which he’s been pining after his ex the whole time and you’re only now beginning to wonder if he’s only with you because he can’t be with her? Girl, RUN, run, run and hope he doesn’t chase after you, because the last thing anyone needs is to feel like someone’s condolence prize in the game of life. And as a general reminder to everyone: staying with someone and hoping he changes is a recipe for heartache.

I have been with my boyfriend for almost a year now and have been living with him for quite a few months. He’s introduced me to his family and we get along amazingly. I care about him deeply and I know he feels the same. The other night I was looking at my friend’s pictures and saw that she attended the wedding of one of my most valued friends. I didn’t know this person even got married and was visibly upset that I didn’t get an invite. My boyfriend, being the good man he is, tried to cheer me up by comforting me and saying nice things. However, one thing he said really caught me off guard and kind of offended me. He said, “Don’t worry, when I get married, I’ll invite you.” I didn’t know what to say, so I just didn’t say anything. We’re both in our early 20’s and we don’t plan on getting married (to each other or anyone) anytime soon, though I’m not ruling him out as a candidate. But now I feel like whats the point of playing house when there’s never going to be a real house? Do I have validation here or am I just being emotional? — Not the Bride

It sounds like he was trying to diffuse a painful situation (you feeling rejected/ignored by a good friend) by telling a joke and it bombed. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t offensive, but it could mean you’re putting a little more stock in his remark that it really warrants. Just tell him his comment hurt you, and if he’s a gentleman he’ll feel embarrassed, apologize, and reassure you that you mean a lot to him (even if he isn’t necessarily ready to walk down the aisle with you tomorrow).

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.


  1. LW #2: While I agree with Wendy that your boyfriend’s comment was probably a light-hearted joke that just came out wrong, I think that you can utilize how you feel at this moment to check in on your relationship. Your comment about what’s the point of playing house if there’s never going to be a real house really struck me. Maybe this is a time to think about why you moved in together and whether it was really the right decision or not. Did you do it out of convenience? To save money? While every couple is different, in my opinion moving in should be a sign that you are moving towards a future together, but for a lot of people its not. They move in together, stay together for 5 years, and then split. It just depends on your relationship. If your BF’s comment is such a big deal just talk to him about it, but I wouldn’t take what he said so seriously, he was just trying to cheer you up!!

    1. Theenemyofmyenemyisagrilledcheesesandwich says:

      I absolutely agree with your point about moving in together. I am one of those who will not move in with someone unless marriage is being discussed BECAUSE I’ve moved in with someone too early in a previous relationship and had it blow up in my face. Keeping separate living spaces with my current partner (who I would like to marry) hasn’t hurt our relationship at all. But as letter 1 gives ample evidence of, moving in together before being sure about each other can complicate things if it ever doesn’t work out.

      Until the marriage certificate is signed, separate bank accounts, please.

      1. SpaceySteph says:

        Completely agree with your last sentence. Living together is one thing.
        But once you start combining assets things complicate fast. Enough couples fight over who gets to keep the shared couch/dog/apartment when things go south…

        I can’t imagine giving a boy access to my paycheck until the marriage is binding!

      2. Theenemyofmyenemyisagrilledcheesesandwich says:

        I know! Just don’t do it! That’s what is so unnerving to me about LW1, and why I hope she utilizes Wendy’s advice SOON. I also think that entangled finances and legal obligations encourage women (and men) to stay in relationships that are really less than ideal because the process of disentanglement is so hard.

      3. Even after a marriage, I firmly believe (to riff on Virginia Wolff) a woman needs funds of her own – however that is arranged.

  2. To Not His Ex: why in the WORLD would you wish to stay with a man who ISN’T IN LOVE WITH YOU. Let us consider your hypothetical future. Everytime he makes love to you, he is wishing it is her. When you walk down the aisle to him, he will be imagining *her* in a wedding dress. When you have children together, he will think what children with her might have looked like. This is an emotionally abusive situation. You are a lovely woman who deserves to be loved for all you are. Go find a man who wants nothing more in the world than to wake up each day next to you.

    1. Right! I’ve been in a situation where I have been compared to an ex repeatedly and it is literally in your head ALL OF THE TIME. She is like “Rebecca” – running the entire household when she is not there! This poor girl needs to MOA and run like Wendy said, especially before they do get married or have children!

      1. I want to give you a billion thumbs up for referencing “Rebecca”!

  3. ArtsyGirl says:

    LW1: Ok so your BF has explicitly stated that he would rather be with his ex than with you. I mean, what if she said that there might be a chance of them getting back together in the future, would he then drop you on your @ss and run to be with her. Have more self respect, there is no reason to move forward with a guy that is still looking back.

    LW2: Settle down, if my BF had said something like that I would take it to mean that he was planning on marrying ME. Not necessarily now or even this year, but to me it would sound like a playful comment on our future.

    LW3: Wendy is spot on. Have a serious convo, maybe invite your mother out for coffee or lunch, and explain that you are uncomfortable with her comments towards your father. Also state that you hope that she would respect your choices and know that you are not planning on doing anything spontaneous. Good luck!

    1. I thought the exact same thing as I was reading the second letter! I took it more as “of course I’ll invite you, you’ll be the bride”…

    2. thats exactly what I thought about the second letter to! as in, being invited to your own wedding would be a funny thing because it would never happen, because its your wedding… i think she just took it the wrong way.

    3. Quakergirl says:

      Re: LW2, that’s exactly what I was thinking. Men often say stupid things that they think are funny and then can’t understand why we didn’t get the joke. For them it’s completely obvious that they were kidding, but we take them at their word. I think it’s just a fundamental difference in the way we’re wired. I can imagine my boyfriend of 5+ years saying something like that (even though we’ve lived together for nearly 2 years and actively discussed getting married in the next 2ish years). Usually I can identify the intended joke by the fake snare drum playing and/or goofy laugh/pre-emptive “I’m sorry I’m a doofus” kiss. It’s kind of adorable, once you see it for what it is.

  4. sarolabelle says:

    LW2: Relax! Your boyfriend sounds like he was being funny and the reason he will invite you is because you will be the one he is marrying! How exciting to have a comment like that said. I would love it!

    LW1: I don’t know how you put up with that guy. MOA.

    LW3: Listen to Wendy.

    1. SpaceySteph says:

      Exactly my thoughts on LW 2… If I heard that I would take it as “of course you’ll be at my wedding, because you’ll be the bride!”

      1. sarolabelle says:

        me too!

      2. TheOtherMe says:

        About LW2 : Also my first thought !

  5. LW#1: MOA!! This situation is damaging your self-esteem & once things blow up, you’re going to HATE yourself. You’re basically letting this guy know that you don’t think you’re worth being first, that you think so lowly of yourself that you are willing to stay with him even though he’s REPEATEDLY sought after his ex the whole 2.5 yrs you’ve been together. Come on, girl!! Love yourself, you are so much better than that! You deserve someone who only wants YOU. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE dump the loser!!!!

    LW#2: He was most likely kidding. My boyfriend & I are also in our early 20’s, have no intentions to get married any time soon, but do talk about how we would like to end up together. However, we make jokes like that w/ each other all the time. I’ll stay something like “haha if you’re still around…” etc… Wendy’s right. Talk to him, I’m sure he’ll clear things up. But def don’t hold that feeling inside you.

    LW#3: Wendy’s on point. Talk to your mom…She’s your mother, the person you can trust the most in this world. I’m sure she’ll understand & may even feel guilty. Good luck to you!

  6. ReginaRey says:

    LW1: My mind is blown. The fact that you would even *consider* staying with a man who asked his ex if it was alright to MARRY YOU because he can’t have HER is giving me brain spasms.

    Your boyfriend is walking through the grocery store aisle of life, and Rice Krispies are sold out. He grudgingly settles for the store brand “Crispy Rice,” hoping that he’ll get lucky and find a box of Rice Krispies. YOU ARE NOT CRISPY RICE! You are not someone’s back up plan!

    Leave him NOW, and do not expect him to chase you. If he does, it’s not because he came to his senses. It’s because he doesn’t want to imagine what off-brand comes after Crispy Rice, and he’d rather have his second choice than be left trying to find a third. Go find someone who wants you as their first choice, forever!

    1. ape escape says:


      <3 haha

      1. ReginaRey says:

        Haha, thanks! I’m sure I could have come up with better life analogies, but my mind is laser focused on breakfast at the moment, so I just went with it.

      2. I approve, particularly as I had Rice Krispies for breakfast!

    2. “YOU ARE NOT CRISPY RICE” – this is AWESOME ReginaRey!!! I vote for institutionalizing this one :).

      1. phoenix287 says:

        I second that! 🙂

    3. This comment is perfection.

  7. SpaceySteph says:

    I have to wonder though, about LW 2, how she could have not known this “valued friend” was getting married? If she talked to the girl in the last few months she undoubtedly would have heard about the engagement at least.
    You might think she’s a valued friend, but when was the last time you spoke to the girl? Saw her for coffee? Asked her about her life? It has to have been at least a few months if she had a chance to get engaged and plan a wedding. Even quick weddings take a couple months of effort. Or, if she really did get married so quickly that you spoke to her 4 weeks ago and she wasn’t even engaged yet, then the frenzy of planning a wedding so quickly probably caused a few details (like your invite) to be missed. It sucks that you couldn’t be there to share her day, but its understandable that something slipped her mind.

    1. It could have been a really small or really fast wedding, so not everybody was told. Or the LW could have not been invited so the bride did not mention it to her – a spare her feelings thing. Or they could be very valued friends of each other that live far away and don’t get to talk very often. Or the LW could not have been supportive or approved of the marriage/fiance for some reason. Numerous reasons why she might not have known and they are still valued friends.

      1. SpaceySteph says:

        I have to disagree that you could have a valued friend and not know about her getting married. If someone values you a friend, then even if you live far away in different time zones (even ones that are 10, 11 hours apart) wouldn’t she call or at least email and say “I’m getting married!”
        Yes there are many reasons she didn’t receive an invite but could still be a valued friend- quick wedding, small wedding, live too far away and they didn’t want to burden you with travel… I can conjure up many scenarios for the lack of invite.
        But I think there is no way that you value someone as a friend and don’t tell them you’re getting married. My best friend lives very far away. If she had a quick wedding I might not be able to make it on short notice and she might choose not to invite me because she knew I couldn’t make it and would feel very badly, but I would damn well know she was getting married.

      2. Maybe the friend called to tell her the news and the LW never called back… ahem.

      3. SpaceySteph says:

        Haha as I was typing this, I was totally thinking of that. What did you end up deciding to do about it, Wendy? Send emails? Call again?

      4. Let them find out through the grapevine or when the baby’s born, I guess!

      5. SpaceySteph says:

        Aw that makes me sad. I’m sorry some of your friends let you down. I hope it helps a little that all these internet strangers are really excited for you!

      6. Aw, thanks. I was hurt at first, but I’m totally over it now. Sometimes life gets in the way of our best intentions to keep in touch. It happens.

  8. LW2, how on earth did one of your “most valued friends” get married without you even knowing, let alone the invite to the wedding?

    My most valued friends are people I actually keep in contact with.

  9. LW2 – Your boyfriend could have been joking, as other readers suggest. But you really need to ask him directly what he meant by that comment. Clearly it hurt your feelings, and you need to resolve this with him. I understand you two are not in a place to get married, but this is the problem with moving in with a person when you are not on the “same page.” My opinion may offend some, but I’m just going to say it. In general, women view living together as a step towards marriage, men view it as a test drive. I have seen countless women have their hearts broken because they move in with their boyfriends, and their boyfriends have no commitment to marry them.
    This is why if marriage is your ultimate goal, living together is very risky. I understand you’re not looking for a ring tomorrow, but as you said, you at least see him as a candidate for marriage, and it would make you more comfortable if he felt the same. If he doesn’t feel the same, I wouldn’t give him much time to make up or change his mind. This scenario can only result in heartbreak for you.

    1. I gotta agree with you TECH. An ex of mine once said he always saw himself marrying a woman who already had kids when were dating & living together. It felt like he was dooming our relationship and it would go nowhere. Living together is another step in a relationship as well as a test-drive to see if you’re compatible in that situation.

  10. LW1: RUN RUN RUN AWAY!!!! That guy sounds like a HUGE loser. He’s been very obvious about pining after his ex (who, from what you’ve said isn’t interested in him anymore) and the fact that he basically harasses her even though she’s moved on is disconcerting. You deserve to be in a healthy & wonderful relationship. Not with some jerk (sorry but he doesn’t deserve anything better) who doesn’t appreciate who YOU ARE and what he has. Leave him and let him live his sad little life.

  11. Agree with Wendy about LW.
    After being divorced for over 20 years, my mom decided to start going over ‘what went wrong’ with my dad (something she didn’t discussed while we were growing up). I’d change the subject every time but, after a while, I had to put ‘my foot down’ and stop her and tell her to get over it; whatever happened was just too long ago and I really don’t see what good can come from rehashing the whole thing today, 20+ years later. She didn’t like it but she stopped. Our conversations are much better now. 🙂

  12. LW#3: I have been there with the mom treating you like her best friend, and yes, you need to talk to her. She may not understand and may even get mad about it (my mom did), but I learned that I needed to set those boundaries so that our relationship didn’t deteriorate into nothing. It did take some time for it to sink in, including me telling her, on several occasions, “I’ve told you I’m not going to discuss this with you anymore. I’m going to hang up the phone and call you in a few days.”

    Seems harsh, but worth it in the end, I promise!

  13. sarolabelle says:

    I think the rom coms have really done something to us women. We have this idea that if we love him enough he will eventually love us back. This is WRONG people. We can’t force love to happen. It just does. LW1: This is not love. The fact that he is still talking to the ex in such ways means he has no respect for you. He doesn’t love you. An no amount of love you give him will make him love you. Don’t waste your love on him.

  14. Nothing relevant to input really, except,

    LW1: SERIOUSLY?! MTFOY (move the fuck on yesterday)

  15. LW1: In like a weird way, I kind of envy you. I have definitely been the “second prize” girlfriend to a man who couldn’t have his first choice. It is the worst feeling in the world, but the worst thing about it for me was that he never told me that he wished we was with her until we broke up, I had just had to watch him fall all over himself while he was around her and change any of his plans to suit her to make up my own conclusions for myself. Luckily, your boyfriend has made it more than clear that he would rather be with this other girl. Dump his ass. Be really cold about it too. Do it for all the girls (me) who had to put up with boyfriends that preferred other girls too. Then when he begs you to come back (he seems like a guy that always just wants what he can’t have) turn his ass down again. Muahaha!! Ok, I may seem like a cruel bitch now, but in a few months when you do break up and you finally get mad like you deserve to, you’ll wish you were less kind about it, believe me.

    1. caramelpuff says:

      No it’s not cruel it’s fair. He didn’t have any respect for her why the hell does she need to do the same for him? I wish I was told too since he wouldn’t tell me that he was still head over heels for her I just had to figure it out. It came to light at a party that she was at. She treated me badly along with her friends (I swear I instigated nothing) and instead of standing up for me HE DID NOTHING! And yea when I broke up with him of course he tried to come crawling back when it was too late.

  16. Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com says:

    LW1: It will be VERY hard to do, but leave him now before he leaves you. He wants the greener grass and even if she gives him the greenlight, he’s going to keep that fantasy alive. Not until he’s really out on his own, will he understand what he gave up. But that’s not your problem and shouldn’t be your motive. Find someone who will love you back, who would be devastated to lose you, someone who’s faith in your relationship equals your own.

    And I could be wrong but it sounds like you may be hacking into his emails? I would urge you to do whatever you can to break this terrible habit. Too many times we read things that are not meant for our eyes and cause unnecessary damage. You can better address your doubts about him by judging his behavior toward YOU. The answers are right in front of you –no spying needed….

    1. That’s exactly what I was wondering… how does she know all this went on? Barring the possibility that her boyfriend told her (which would be messed up, and doesn’t change the fact that she should break up with him…) it sounds like she must be snooping. If that’s the case, LW1, you should try and break that habit ASAP; I know from experience how much unnecessary anxiety it can cause, besides that it’s completely intrusive and wrong.

  17. To Not the Bride – I wanted to say the same as ArtsyGirl – to me, “Don’t worry, when I get married, I’ll invite you,” would definitely come off as a super cute joke – you’re definitely getting invited, cuz you’re the bride!

  18. LW3 – Please please please sit down and talk to you Mom NOW. I feel like I could have written this letter myself 15 years ago. The circumstances were different, but for much of my childhood, all of my teen years, and into my adult life, my mother treated me much more like a girlfriend than her child in regards to what she shared with me about my Dad (before and after their divorce). I never said anything, even though I felt extremely uncomfortable, and it took me years to realize it wasn’t right. When I finally tried to tell her how I felt, years later, it was like a volcano. So much had been festering inside that it just blew up, and resulted in a huge fight with tears and screaming. It put a huge strain on our relationship, which hurts me to this day. Please sit your mom down as soon as possible, and explain your feelings to her. What Wendy advised is perfect, I have nothing to add as far as advice. I just wanted you to know that if you let this go on, it could hurt your relationship for a long, long time.

  19. napoleon1066 says:

    LW2- We men are stupid. Really. And we think we are funny, so funny in fact that our humor can diffuse any situation. Even when you’re really upset, and probably won’t find anything funny. Yes, we are hilarious. Especially when we need to go to the dentist because we’ve stuck our foot in our mouth one too many times.

    Shoe tastes awful, let me tell you. Not really nutritious either.

  20. Painted_lady says:

    LW1 – How do you know all this? Were you snooping? Did he tell you? Stop snooping, or stop dating a man who emotionally tortures you. And if you did snoop, tell him you did. And then leave him, because he doesn’t love you and you don’t – albeit with good reason – trust him.

    LW2 – My boyfriend says this to me all the time. It’s a funny way to say that he plans on marrying me. Lighten up.

    LW3 – My mom overshares too. I finally told her, jokingly, that I don’t let anyone talk bad about my family. She laughed and still got the point. But also be prepared that if you vent to her about your dad, she may hold you to the same standard. Also, my mom and I can get into venting sessions that turn into bitchfests, and one of us will eventually say, “Okay, now we have to be positive!” It helps.

    1. “Stop dating a man who emotionally tortures you”. I cannot agree with this more!

  21. LW 1 – You have your own apartment now. That is step 1. Step 2 is to take YOUR money and get your own bank accounts. Take YOUR name off of the joint accounts. If you can’t take your name off of the accounts, have them closed immediately. Divide up all joint assets. If you have vehicles in both names, I hope they are the “or” variety on the title rather than “and”. If they are “or”, then you can take your vehicle’s title to the DMV and have his name removed. If it is an “and”, then you’ll need him to sign his half of the title over to you.
    It is time to make a 100% break. Now. He has been using you as a life raft waiting for his ex. His ex is probably thinking he is a creepy stalker. Once you leave, he will probably do the same thing to you. He is a clinger. A floater in the toilet of life. You may even want to call a bunch of friends and rent a U-Haul in the middle of the night to do a 12 hour midnight move to ensure that he doesn’t know where you live. I wouldn’t doubt the ex has felt this urge a time or two.
    Flush him like a bad habit and go. Waste no more time, tears or toilet paper on this turd.

    LW 2 – Your guy meant the comment as a joke. Unfortunately, you weren’t in the best frame of mind (or emotions) to take it well. It is not your fault, nor is it his. My current SO said it to me once and I told him that I’d only go if I could be his best man, but he had to be my maid of honor at my next one (I’ve been married twice already). We both ended up in giggles. I fully expect you to tease him about this if he ever proposes to you. If he does, ask him if he’s still going to send you a formal invitation to the wedding 🙂

    1. fallonthecity says:

      “A floater in the toilet of life… Flush him like a bad habit and go. Waste no more time, tears or toilet paper on this turd.”

      Hah! I laughed so hard, but it’s true! RUN, LW!!!

  22. To tired of TMI from Mom –
    I had a wonderful Grandfather. He was a lousy husband to my Grandmother, however. He passed away when I was 14 and and I was too young to know how bad their marriage was. Years after his death, she would complain, about him, to me. I finally told her – “Granny, I realize that he was a piece of work while you were married – but, to me, he was nothing but a loving and kind Grandfather – so, please let’s just agree to disagree”.

    While my heart ached for her, I just could not listen to a continuing, posthumous, litany of the error his ways.

    1. SpyGlassez says:

      I had a similar situation – grandfather died when I was 13, and while I had loved him very much, he had been an alcoholic when my dad was growing up. I never knew that side of him, but after he passed away, that was what my dad and uncle talked about most. (In my case, it wasn’t my grandma; she might once in a while let something slip, but their later years had been happy and she wasn’t one to dwell in the past.) I too finally had to distance myself by reminding my dad that I wanted to remember the grandfather I had known, not the man he used to be.

  23. LW1 – Imagine if you called up your Mom and asked if you could take her out for dinner for her birthday. She responds “well, that sounds nice, but let me check with your brother first, because he’s always been my favorite, and I’d much rather spend my birthday with him, if he’s available, because let’s face it – he’s such a charming, successful, model son, and you’re just ‘meh'” Seriously, what decent mother would say that to a child? And what decent boyfriend would do all the crap that yours has done to you? You deserve so much better. MOA!!!

  24. caramelpuff says:

    LW1 I’m with Wendy MOA! I was in this situation and it took me 4 years to realize that he would never get over his ex no matter how well I tried to compensate for him not having her or how bad she treated him. You’re just playing second fiddle to another woman and you deserve better than that. Find someone who’s in a relationship with YOU and not leaving the back door open for some ex that doesn’t even care about him.

  25. SpyGlassez says:

    LW 2 – I wanted a male perspective, so I read your letter out-loud to the BF and asked him what he thought. His first offering was what several comments above said: he’s implying you’d be the bride. However, he did point out that if you are both clear with one another that you are not ready to get married – to each other or anyone – right now, then it probably IS overreacting to be hurt and upset over it.

    My honest take (maybe I’m cynical?) was that it was just a boneheaded thing to say; he said it as a joke, but it didn’t mean anything one way or the other. I would be inclined to ask him if he meant it as a joke, and perhaps tell him that you have been dwelling on it; but aside for that, I might just let it slide for now.

  26. I Hate His/Her Ex is a book for anyone having difficulty coming to terms with their partner’s past relationships – brilliant read! Available on Amazon or most bookstores – Download from Amazon or buy it on paperback!

  27. brokenheart says:

    i used to have a boyfriend, whom i recently had a break up with. The reason i broke up with him was because he still loves his first love. I found this out on his facebook messages. Now, we still chat in facebook and it realy hurts when he says that he loves her today, tomorrow n forever. Even his family don’t have problem with letting him marry his first love. I just pretend to be happy for him, while deep down inside i still can’t get over him and i still love him. Hearing him say all these, just breaks my heart and i break down in tears. Now, i wonder whether our relationship was even true or not. So, i m here for some advice of how i should talk to him in facebook

    1. iseeshiny says:

      Don’t talk to him on facebook. Make it so you appear offline whenever he’s on. In fact, don’t talk to him at all if you can avoid it until you are over him.

      I get the feeling he is your first love, so if you have classes with him in school or something you can say hi or whatever but don’t get into any kind of conversation with him. A clean break is the best way to recover as quickly as possible.

      You don’t have to pretend to be happy for anyone – it’s okay to be mad. I would be mad at someone who was dating me while he was in love with someone else. Breakups suck, so the best thing for you to do right now is focus on yourself – having fun with your friends and focusing on school or work. I promise you, you will start feeling better eventually. Good luck!

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