Shortcuts: “My Boyfriend Says His Ex is ‘The Love of His Life’ “

New readers, welcome to Dear Wendy, a relationship advice blog. Read some of the most popular Dear Wendy posts here. If you don’t find the info you need in this column, please visit the Dear Wendy archives or the forums (you can even start your own thread), do a search in the search bar, or submit a question for advice at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.

It’s time again for Shortcuts. For every question, I’ll give my advice in just a few sentences, because sometimes the answer to a person’s question is so obvious and the need to hear it so great, being as clear and frank as possible is simply the best way to go.

I have been with my boyfriend for over a year now, and last night we had a petty argument that turned into a conversation about his insecurities. I let him know that I would never cheat on him, and he said, “Well, the love of my life did” (meaning his ex girlfriend). I asked him to repeat himself, and he said the exact same thing. It was when I remained silent that he realized he probably shouldn’t have said that. He has told me that he doesn’t care about his ex anymore, but I still can’t help but wonder why he blurted that out! Am I over-thinking things?! It’s the most hurtful thing I have heard. Does he still love his ex?! — Not The Love of His Life

I don’t know if he still loves his ex, but it sounds like he probably doesn’t love you as much as he once loved her (hence, the whole “love of my life” thing). Sorry. It doesn’t mean his love for you won’t grow though, but you should consider this a red flag and proceed cautiously. (Also, needing to reassure him that you won’t cheat on him is red flag #2).

I am a 27-year-old who’s “dating” a 32-year-old. I started talking to him 2-3 years ago on Facebook. I finally saw him for the first time this past October. He only lives 20 minutes away, but he was always in and out of relationships. After I saw him, it was all sparks! We had a really great time. I couldn’t stop thinking about him, and he felt the same way. Now, this is the part that I’m confused about: I didn’t see him for three months after we finally met face-to-face. I recently saw him again a few weeks ago–but not since then. I keep asking him when I’m going to see him, and he says, “I’ll make time for you, baby, I’ve been busy.” We text on a daily basis and he has said “I love you” to me (I was shocked), but it’s all talk and no action. It’s too much for me with all these mind games. Please help me! — Tired of Mind Games

You are not dating — or even “dating” — this man. The fact that he lives just 20 minutes away and has only bothered to see you two times in three years speaks volumes. I mean, there are bartenders in other cities I visit more often than that. The guy has zero intention of ever making you a girlfriend — probably because he already has a few and maybe a wife, too. Regardless the reason, he’s not interested in you that way. MOA.

I have been with my high school sweetheart for eight years. He’s great and I love him so much, but he has never been able to please me in bed. We were each other’s firsts, so, while initially it seemed okay, after a while it got to be frustrating. I talk to him about it and he just says “sorry” and that’s it. I know I will spend the rest of my life with him, but the sex has to get better than this. What do I do? — Frustrated lover

Start communicating what it is that WILL please you. (Do you even know? If not, figure it out!) Show him yourself. Ask him to do what you do. Tell him it’s time to make your satisfaction a priority. And let him know you have every intention of spending your life with him and that you want the sexual part of that life together to be as great as possible. But, honestly, if he keeps saying “sorry” and shows no initiative, interest, or desire to please you, no matter how much you ask him to, you might want to consider that whole “forever” thing. People who are selfish in bed don’t usually make great life partners.


You can follow me on Facebook here and sign up for my weekly newsletter here.

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


  1. kerrycontrary says:

    LW3—what are you telling your boyfriend when you discuss this? Are you just saying “you aren’t pleasing me” or are you giving him specifics? He’s not a mind reader, you need to give him some specific instructions. Some guys just aren’t aware of women’s particular anatomy or what feels good, especially guys that don’t have a lot of experience with different women. Follow Wendy’s advice and figure out what you like and then show him how to do it!

  2. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

    LW2 sounds like an awful lot of LWs. … We need a rule that will help them. … Except my brain is fried on account of moving, cleaning, not sleeping, and being sick, so I need help. Except here I’ll give it a shot: If you’ve only seen your “boyfriend” twice, then he’s not your boyfriend. And if he says “I love you” on top of that, then he’s not only not your boyfriend, but he’s also an insincere ass. Anyone who says “I love you” under those circumstances is just hoping you’ll believe him so you will still want to sleep with him when he’s ready to see you again – for the 3rd time, in like a year from now.

    1. Avatar photo Moneypenny says:

      Yes to all of this!!

  3. ok i know we throw out the “oh well he probably has a girlfriend and/or a wife, so leave” but really… how often does that happen? i mean really? is this even a realistic option?

    1. lets_be_honest says:

      With facts like her’s, its seems really plausible.

    2. Well, I have a hard time imaging what else would keep those guys away. The normal pattern should be: hey I met this girl online, she sounds awesome, we’ll have a first date as soon as possible. And then from that we’ll have more dates in the following weeks. Then we will become exclusive and see each other at least once a week.
      I mean, what can go wrong with that? Long-distance? Sure, but here it’s not the case. Busy schedule? Sure, but even extremely busy people are able to see each other a few hours per week. Lazy people? Come on, love gives you wings.
      I just don’t see what could ever excuse not seeing your “date” for months in a row when you live so close to each other. I don’t believe those situations are common, but when they happen…

      1. Avatar photo LlamaPajamas says:

        Agreed. My fiancé and I live 35 minutes apart (until May, hooray!) and see each other almost every day of the week. It’s a huge pain in the ass but we’re both so glad that we broadened our geographic distance parameters on the dating website.

    3. I think it happens a lot, well a guy having multiple “girlfriends” not really as much as for married guys. I put girlfriends in quotations, because I think they are mostly just girls he is banging, and he really doesn’t have a real committed girlfriend.

  4. LW1 – ehhh, I don’t think the phrase “love of my life” is such a red flag *in itself* … BUT the reasons behind why that’s his go-to description of what happened in the past? IS a red flag. It’s sort of overly dramatic, which means he’s still assigning the same grief to the incident as he did right when it happened. He may not ~love~ his ex anymore, but he’s definitely not making progress in moving past what she did (as evidenced also by the needing-constant-reassurance thing)
    LW2 – a repeat, no?

    LW3 – “initially it seemed okay… after a while it got to be frustrating”. Okay, that sentence? should not be attached to a timeline of 8 YEARS. Maybe one year, 2 years. Eesh, 8 years is way too long for this not to be worked out. Work it out somehow (WWS)

    1. Maybe LW3 and her boyfriend were together for many years before having sex? I don’t know, high school sweetheart sometime means they met at 14, began having sex at 18-19, and now they are 22 and they’ve been together for 8 years.

      Still, I agree with you, 6-7 years of frustration sounds horrible, if that’s the real timeline.

  5. LW1: after a year, he might not feel as intense and deep a love for you that he felt for his ex; and as Wendy says, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for that love to grow. But what I think he SHOULD be able to realize, after a year of dating someone else, and especially after being cheated on, is that his ex was not the “love of his life.”
    First of all, what the hell does that even mean? Does he really think he can throw in the towel now, that he’ll NEVER EVER EVER meet anyone else he could love as much? In my mind, the “love of my life” is the love I want to spend my life with, so I don’t really get assigning that moniker to an ex.
    Secondly, it tells me that he’s stuck in the past. Don’t date a dweller. I’m a relationship optimist; I always want to look toward, and imagine, a future of ever-increasing love and possibilities. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you two are in your 20s or 30s, which is way too young to be dwelling on the golden promise of days past, as if that’s all you have going for you.

    1. Just to beat a dead horse: that really jumped out at me, because my boyfriend was left THREE DAYS BEFORE HIS WEDDING by a cheating fiance. We started dating about a year and a half later, and he showed some skittishness at the beginning of the relationship, he never took his insecurities/baggage out on me. In fact, one of the reasons I fell in love with him was for how positive and non-resentful he is. I know everyone’s different, so the comparison might be unfair, but still…a horrible breakup doesn’t have to haunt you forever. You do have the choice to move on.

      1. kerrycontrary says:

        WWS. My friend has been casually dating a guy who was left 3 weeks before his wedding. He’s…skittish about a new relationship and cautious not to jump into anything, but he’s never put his fears about being left at the alter on my friend. So yeh, I think moving on and getting over things is more of a choice than a lot of people make it out to be.

      2. Right! I think I often get into trouble for saying certain feelings are a choice, because of course a lot of times we don’t CHOOSE how we feel, it just spontaneously happens. But what we DO choose is how we react to our feelings. And I think that dwelling on certain feelings beyond a certain point when they’d reasonably be considered fresh and spontaneous DOES involve an element of choice. I’m not saying it’s easy to choose not to dwell on things; I’m just saying it’s possible.

    2. Agreed. I’ve been cheated on before. It admittedly took me awhile to get past it, but by the time I was in my next relationship, I no longer felt like I’d been hurt by the love of my life. Not even a little bit. Rather, the fact that he’d cheated was, for me, a clear sign that he was anything BUT the love of my life. Hopefully it doesn’t offend anyone to say this but I thought it spoke to my ex’s weak character the way he handled things. Sure, we were together for several years and had been very in love at one point — but he’s not the love of my life and it’s incredibly odd to me that after over a year in a new relationship, he’d still refer to an ex as such.

  6. Avatar photo LlamaPajamas says:

    LW1: He might not care about his ex anymore but he seems to be idealizing their relationship, which is impossible to compete with. I learned that one the hard way.
    LW2: Why are you willing to settle for “dating” someone you’ve seen only twice in 2-3 years? Do you have any idea how much fun you could be having with an emotionally available guy who actually wants to spend time with you?! SO MUCH FUN! What makes this guy so worth it?
    LW3: WWS – how do you know this is “forever” if you’re sexually incompatible? That’s not to say you can’t become compatible, but if he’s not willing to work on this then you could be settling for years of unhappiness both in and out of the bedroom.

    1. LW2 isn’t even “dating” him… she has a texting buddy who sometimes types, “I love you.” Maybe it’s an auto-correct?

      1. Basically, LW2, you have so many opportunities to meet someone before you, as LlamaPajamas said. Why waste your time on this guy?

  7. Avatar photo muchachaenlaventana says:

    LW1- I think you are reading way too much into his use of that phrase and agree with @ Fabelle so am not going to rewrite what she put so well.
    LW2- Was this in the forums? It sounds really familiar. But yeah WWS you aren’t dating. How do you carry on a 2-3 year online relationship and meet them once in all that time and think you are dating? Get onto a real dating site and start actually dating people, you will soon realize what you have been doing is nothing short of the 21st century equivalent of having a pen-pal.
    LW3- Maybe him saying “sorry” is because he is embarrassed and does not know what he is supposed to be doing. Have you told him what you like? Do you masturbate and know what turns you on and gets you off? Let him know, fill him in, if you can’t talk about sex openly with someone you don’t stand a great chance of making it long-term if sex is important to you in a relationship. If you have told him and he just doesn’t care then WWS about that. If he is willing, see if he will go to see a sex therapist for you, if you haven’t had good sex ever then I really think you are going to tire of the relationship (as you are what probably early 20s) and the sex and seek it out elsewhere. If you love your boyfriend figure it out before you get to the point where you don’t want to anymore.

  8. Laura Hope says:

    LW1-He is still in love with his last girlfriend. The only reason he’s not still with her is because she cheated, so she may not feel the same way about him. In any case, I’d walk. Because I would want to be #1 in someone’s heart. I’m selfish that way.

    1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

      That’s possible. I also think it’s possible that he’s not still in love with his ex but fights dirty. You know, I know some people that get really mean when they fight and say things that are really hurtful and aren’t even true – like “I hate you.” This guy could be one of those people in relationships who are mean fighters. Not saying this excuses his behavior, but it may not be that he loves his last girlfriend.

      1. Oooh, I hadn’t thought of that. But pretty much any way we slice it, this is a big big red flag.

    2. lets_be_honest says:

      Eh, I don’t think it proves he still wants the ex, but he’s obviously still bitter about the cheating.
      But to say since you aren’t #1 (yet), she should walk seems silly. Sure, walk if you don’t like that he’s bitter but not because she’s not #1. No one is #1 right away.

      1. Oh I don’t know about this. Sure, you are never totally sure of your status right away. Sure, everyone has a past, and we would want our partners to have loved deeply, because it means they can love us deeply. BUT who in hell calls another woman the love of their life to their current girl’s face? Seriously? There are only a few reasons why this could happen and none of them are good: 1) he still loves her (MOA); 2) he fights dirty (MOA); or 3) he is totally devoid of manners guile and game and doesn’t deserve a shot to be with anyone awesome (MOA). What’s he gonna say, “You’re number two with a bullet, so hang in there, kiddo”?

      2. To paraphrase Firefly, “We all get our heart broken eventually; I just carried the pickaxe for a while.”

      3. I don’t get the reference.

      4. It was a lame attempt of humor. Playing with “We all die eventually; I just carried the bullet for a while.”

      5. lets_be_honest says:

        Oh I don’t disagree that its a messed up thing to say to your current partner.

  9. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

    I totally have bartenders that are 900 miles away that I see more often than LW2 sees mystery man.

  10. WWS #1
    While I understand completely the LW feelings/shock, try to see it this way-the love we have for people is always different, IMO. While we love our exes and love is universal, the way we feel that love is not the same. For example the way you love your first love is not the same as the second, third, forth and so on boyfriend. Perhaps she was his first love, or first adult love, and therefore no matter how the relationship ended he will always see it has his “the love of his life” because of the certain intesity of those feelings at that time. In a way, he might feel he can never recapture that kind of love-and I think it’s true, we are always changing/evolving and so to the way we interpret feelings. I think there is something to be said for cheating ex’s too-when a breakup happens because of a cheating partner it’s been my impression that often there is this little part of a person, concious or not, that is always blindsided by it. You’re not milling on for months feeling the relationship slowly decline because you have just grown apart-you’re falling apart because of the biggest breach of trust…that’s hard.

    Anyways, totally agree that there are some red flags there. But don’t be naive and think that being someones “love of their life” means they are wholly attached to that person forever. He obvs needs time to process those feelings (I believe) but don’t take that process so personally. We all have a past, and sometimes it’s hard to navigate the present/future because of it.

    1. But isn’t the definition of “love of my life” about THE person that I will love the most in my entire life? Shouldn’t that person be my spouse? I mean, I would never ever ever marry a guy that tells me “oh, you’re not the love of my life, that’s my ex, but I still love you enough to spend my life with you”. Really ?! You would accept that as normal?

      I mean, sure, he might not love his new girlfriend as much as he once loved is ex, but… to say “love of his life” really sounds like “there no way I’ll ever love someone else more than I loved my ex” which is a huge red flag! Hey I don’t want to be second-best !

      1. With the heart, as with the bowels, “number two” is not a good thing to be.

      2. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        But who doesn’t love a good poo!

      3. That’s the breakfast burrito talkin’.

      4. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        Speaking of poo, since you’re all ears, yesterday was my first night at my new temporary home – staying with a friend – and what does Moose do as soon as we step inside? He shits the stinkiest, wettest poop right on her throw rug. Nice hostess gift, eh? Then, he pooped in the middle of the night and this morning. I need to change his diet.

      5. I don’t wish to know that.

      6. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        Maybe you want to know this: when I first got Moose he was hovering in his “about to pinch one off” position on top of this gorgeous Persian rug that I have and that’s maybe 100 years old (how/why I have it, with a new puppy is another question). So know what I did? I quickly stuck my hand under his butt and I caught his poop – it just spiraled into a pile of poop on my naked hand.
        Do you want another story?

      7. Wendy, make her STOOOOPPP!!!! Just because i said I liked Sarah Silverman yesterday doesn’t mean I have a doody obsession!

      8. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        Did I tell you about how Moose likes to eat his poo? He does. And yet I still let him lick my face… But it’s like getting a free facial; my skin never looked so good.

      9. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        Also, poo.

      10. Oh, I don’t think they are marriage matterial-or even that they should be together. I don’t think he’s over his feelings/baggage/whatever you want to call it. But I also believe that there is too much importance put on “the love of my life”. I honestly believe we put too much importance on the words. I’ve thought certain people were “the love of my life” before and you grow and you change and you accept. It doens’t mean you were wrong, for that point in your life. But also I don’t think it’s a race, or first place or second place.

      11. Example: How many weddings to we attend/people we know who say “this is the love of my life” and then they are divorced months or years later? I think it’s an empty title because it’s unattainable in my view. Haha it sounds so bitter, but I really am romantic at heart.

      12. So true, I have a friend who has had a couple “loves of her life” (thank goodness she didn’t marry any of them), but it was always some unrequited love interest that kept her from moving on, or someone she for some reason just couldn’t work things out with. And once she got back together with them, it went south in spectacular fashion. It was always this idealized view of her possible relationship with them that never worked out. So yeah, I also tend to mistrust people who say someone is the “love of their life” or “soulmate.”
        For what it’s worth, I don’t think you sound bitter!

  11. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

    Don’t we always say that when someone tells you who they are believe them? This guy told you his ex was the love of his life. Believe him. Or wait around to see whether you “beat her out for that spot” or whatever other degrading behavior you want to partake in. Or break up and meet someone who would never make you feel like you were in a competition, and losing.
    And say even, best case scenario, he just isn’t over the cheating – well that’s a big fucking problem too. Anyone that can be that bitter about cheating a year later isn’t someone I’d want to date. It sounds like he has issues seeing the positive in situations. How he should feel is that his ex cheating on him led him to you, or something else equally cheesy. At least that’s how he should feel if he wants you to bang him again.

  12. NOLA LADY says:

    Suggest she reads Tickle Your Fancy – figure it out & let him read it & start working at it together. She can read Tickle His Pickle & make it a couples effort!

  13. Bittergaymark says:

    LW1– he’s just not that into you.

    LW2 — he’s not even vaguely into you.

    LW3 — are you frigid? do you masturbate? can you get yourself off? can you just open your mouth and explain what you actually want? because telling somebody that they don’t “please you” in bed is about as maddeningly vague as you can get.

    1. Oh come on, Mark, LW3 has had only 8 years of bad sex. Do you really think she should just up and SAY WHAT SHE WANTS out loud? I prefer something more artful and subtle, maybe a mixtape of Beatles tunes that allude to her needs in a general way: “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” “Please Please Me,” “Why Don’t We Do It In the Road?”, and finally “Come Together.” I’m sure he’ll take the hint.

  14. findingtheearth says:

    It is hard to compete with someone else. I think LW1 needs to move on. Life is too short and too fun to worry about “winning.”
    LW2 needs to move on. Date someone who wants to spend time with you on a consistent basis. Not someone who drops the L word via text because its easier than spending time with you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *