Your Turn: “Am I Just a Replacement Girlfriend?”

In a feature I call “Your Turn,” in which you, the readers, get to answer the question, I’m presenting the following letter without commentary from me:

My partner and I have been seeing each other for about six months. The beginning was rocky and more like a secret relationship. For example, we held hands but he let go if anyone we knew could be around, and he wouldn’t tell friends if he had spent the evening with me, etc. Not until the past three months have we become more comfortable with the idea of calling ourselves “girlfriend and boyfriend” and not until two weeks ago did he tell his parents about me.

Three months before we started dating, he and his live-in girlfriend had a heartbreaking break up. They were soul mates, best friends, in love and meant for each other. They as a couple were loved and adored by everyone; they were cute and very likable. The reason their relationship ended was because she was dealing with depression and he could not give her support the way she needed. She felt he didn’t care, she projected anger and they both closed off from each other. He was passive and confused and she was upset and sad. They kept communicating after the break up and still ended emails with “I love you.” He stopped emailing her because he needed space and time to heal but intended on reopening their communication after a short time.

A few months later, we started dating, and about a month after that she emailed him asking what was going on with them. He didn’t mention me and just apologized for being busy and told her that he missed her. It’s been three months since that last email, and she tried getting in contact with him once more, but he avoided it. We talked about it once, and he said he didn’t know what to say to her or how to explain himself to her. I think that he felt like he let her down emotionally and failed to be there as a boyfriend and friend for her. Their relationship has no closure and still has emotions left and right.

Although I’ve never met her, it seems like she and I are fairly similar in interests and characteristics. Sometimes I think my boyfriend only sees the similarities of her in me, and not all of me. I did some internet snooping that I’m not proud of, but noticed a lot of things that scare me. First off, he still has photos of her and him in his Facebook and flickr — tons of them. There are none of me and him. Next, I noticed that he and I do the same things that they did, have the same cutesy nicknames and cutesy language that they used and we even do the same poses in photos that they did.

When I’m not thinking about this, our relationship is so great — lovely and ideal. But when I do think about it, I can’t shake this awful feeling in my gut. Is it out of line for me to feel a little crazy here? I wonder if he still misses her and still loves her. I wonder if he’s only dating me because I remind him of her and he wants to prove to someone that he can be a good boyfriend. It tears me apart to think about him still missing his ex and using me as some sort of coping method. Am I not being rational or understanding of his position here? — The understudy girlfriend


  1. Tell him to man up and make up with his future wife (the soul mate girlfirend I mean).

    1. I am fairly certain he is recreating his relationship with her with you. This just happened to me. What also happened to me was when she came back around he hesitated and then flew back to her. I would brace yourself as this is probably what is going to happen.

  2. Sounds like you are the replacement girlfriend :/ He might not even realize it but from your description it sounds like he might not be ready to commit to someone else the way he did to his previous girlfriend. I think it’s important you figure out what you want your relationship to be, if you’re ok with casual dating and can deal with the fact that he isn’t willing or capable of giving you 100% in the relationship, then that’s fine. But it doesn’t sound like you are. You said it yourself: ‘They were soul mates, best friends, in love and meant for each other’ and if you believe that then it’s obvious that you are not all that to him (and he isn’t to you either). Have you told him about all of those concerns?
    Personally, I’d bow out. You are obviously uncomfortable with the situation, and even though you say your relationship is great otherwise that doesn’t change that his ex is a huge factor when it comes to trust and commitment for the future, etc.
    You deserve a relationship in which you’re not constantly doubtful of your partner’s feelings towards you. Good luck!

  3. Skyblossom says:

    He may not be over his ex and the fact that the two of you have taken this relationship at a slow pace is probably exactly what he needed to do to heal. At this point he may still have feelings for his ex or he may just be afraid to upset whatever fragile mental balance she has achieved. He may know that he could never live with her because of her depression but at the same time not want to be the one to throw her back into depression. So he may not feel that he can post pictures of the two of you because she would see them. That leaves him in a bind where he doesn’t want to go back but is prevented from moving forward without being the bad guy who causes her to relapse. He may just be waiting until she is in a new relationship so that she isn’t harmed by his new relationship before he shows off his own relationship publically.
    The fact that you are similar to the ex may be his attempt to have a duplicate to her or just that he is attracted to certain personality traits. I think you need to talk to him about his feelings and about what he wants from your relationship. Be prepared to know that he may not yet know what he wants. I’d at least want my own nicknames, that came from my own relationship. Try making up a new nickname for him. Just let it roll out naturally at some time when you’re having fun. Let the two of you build your own special relationship but if it causes you too much doubt or stress then consider moving on.

  4. If you had to go snooping through Facebook and Flickr, obviously you were more than just curious about this relationship of theirs. And, to be honest, I’m not surprised that you found old pictures of them together, that you two pose the same, and he uses the same nicknames – he still loves her, and that’s not about to change any time soon. You mentioned he has no photos of you, yet by the sounds of it you have pictures together… well, I guess that can be a minor red flag (I’m not fond of pictures myself, so I honestly wouldn’t care if there were any of me or not) seeing as he still has his ex’s photos.

    But, really, LW, what was your first guess that he wouldn’t fully commit to you? When he hid you for 3 months from friends and family, not wanting to say you two were dating? Yeah, that should have been your first clue. He just broke up with his girlfriend, dramatically albeit, 3 months before you started dating him, and you still maintain that you were gf/bf since then. If that doesn’t scream rebound, I don’t know what does.

    I think the two of you are on a different page: You want a relationship with him, and he wants a relationship with his ex. He’s floundering because he’s caught between wanting his ex and dating you.

    LW, you don’t need drama like this. You said yourself that the relationship is “lovely and ideal”, but, if it were, you wouldn’t be writing to Dear Wendy about the crux of your relationship. No relationship is perfect because no one is perfect, you either make do with what you have, or you move to greener pastures.

    Talk to your boyfriend about this, and if he flounders and can’t give you a straight answer, then he needs to grow up and spend some time on his own as a single man. He can’t bounce from girlfriend to girlfriend and expect to be satisfied, or expect to get over his ex (if that’s what he indeed wants).

    As for you, if I were you, I’d find a man who would want to give his attention to me and not constantly worry about his ex-girlfriends or be involved in the drama of an old relationship. Bow out with your boyfriend gracefully and keep in touch from time to time. But find someone without so much drama in their life. 🙂

  5. One of the most basic characteristics of a relationship is commitment. That means you are committed to being with some to the exclusion of everyone else. Your boyfriend may not be cheating but he isn’t exactly committed either. And while he’s playing the coward and riding the fence he is doing both you and the ex a disservice. If it is truly done between them, he needs to be clear about that and set her free. If he is unsure about you then he needs to free you to date other people or let you go to find someone who won’t be ashamed to date you. And the way to get him to do this is to TELL him the current situation doesn’t work for you and he needs to figure out what he wants – as in by the end of the conversation. I’m so confused – this person is your boyfriend but you feel it is wrong to tell him treating you like this is unfair? If he can’t be open about your relationship to EVERYONE you have your answer. There is a certain truth in no one can take advantage of you without your consent. It’s more than a little odd you allowed the things you did – he was treating you like a mistress – maybe that’s something to put on a dealbreaker list for next time.

  6. This is pretty darn messy, LW. You’ve assembled an impressive dossier on this man, his long term girlfriend, their habits, the nature of their emails, their pet names, their community standing, etc. in order for – what? For you to pretend like you can’t add 1 + 1 and get 2?
    The girlfriend’s “breakup” was a posture since clearly she expected the relationship to continue, the guy’s waffling behavior has sent mixed-messages to everyone (and shown him to be quite spineless) and you have been willing to play the ostrich, sticking your head in the sand in order not to see that good, stand-up men don’t treat their new girl like a dirty secret or say “I love you” to someone else while they are with you or keep all their ex’s photos up on Facebook or…do I need to go on?
    Shake the dust of this guy off your Pradas or your Birkenstocks and move on. This mess is not for you.

    1. I’m essentially with MiMi here.

      I’ll only add that some ppl I know say things like “people come into your life for a reason.” I don’t usually buy that (however convenient it is to think so), but we do all need to a) learn certain lessons and b) sometimes we are that other person’s “someone” (who has come for a reason). It sounds like there is an awful lot of hurt on both sides of your bf and his ex. Depression sucks. Maybe you will end up with him and maybe not, but it sounds like if you don’t, at least you will have helped him move on or cope. There’s some silver lining there. It’s not in vain. Life is about what you give, isn’t it, or at least it makes me happy for you to think so. Good luck.

  7. I’ve decided to break your letter into different points rather than a cohesive all-encompassing response:

    He is hung up on this girl and still cares about her, but I wouldn’t necessarily say you are the replacement…depression can also include suicidal tendencies so he might be scared to tell her about you depending on the severity of her situation.

    Of course you have similar things in your relationship to his last one and of course you share similar personality traits…he isn’t a different person and the traits you possess that she possesses are obviously things he finds attractive.

    If the relationship is great other than when you think about this then I feel like you are projecting….

    He isn’t going to delete years worth of photos for you and if you have only been “out in the open” a short time you need to let your library of photos as a couple build up. I mean the worst thing you found were photos from his previous relationship?

    The only mistake you made in this was getting involved with a guy that has baggage….work through it if you want.

    I’ve dated someone with depression before and it sucks the life out of you if they want it to. He may care for her as a person, but if she was unwilling to get help on her own then it is one of those tough break ups where you know it isn’t going to work even though you still care.

    1. 6napkinburger says:

      This brings up a good point.

      I have no idea what you’re supposed to do with years worth of tags in facebook when you break up.

      Do you really have to go through and delete all those tags? Isn’t it just kind of part of your photographic history?

      This isn’t the same as having your own albums up; I get why a new person would want those taken down. But If I untag myself from other people’s pictures, I’ll lose track of them and never have any idea what pics are up of me. I don’t feel like I want to do that. Of course, a person could just make it so others can’t see those pics, but then some would argue that you are “hiding” those from your new SO.

      So what is the right way to handle YEARS worth and HUNDREDS of tags with an EX?

      1. oppositeofzen says:

        I think it depends on the break-up. If if was more or less mutual or done on good terms, I think it’d be ok to leave them. If it was bad, I’d just take the pics down.

      2. I asked this below. I say leave them. Unless it was a horribly traumatic, bitter, drawn out awful affair, leave them. The events still happened. It was still a chapter of your life. Maybe if there is and album of just you as a couple being all cutesy engagement shoot style, take that down. But otherwise, I don’t see why you should take down OBX2009 or Insert-Song-Lyric-about-nyc-that-I-am-totally-original-in-using-here . Or maybe you don’t name your albums like you’re still 12, but the principle applies.

      3. *is an album

  8. Tinywormhole says:

    LW, if after six months you are questioning whether he still loves his ex, then chances are he does. Your intuition is there for a reason and seems right on this one, so trust it. Besides, why would you want to be with someone you describe as someone else’s soul mate? Open yourself up to finding someone who is yours. Trust me, it will be MUCH more satisfying.

  9. silver_dragon_girl says:

    Personally, I think you should move on. The fact that you state the ex was your bf’s “soul-mate” pretty much says it all…go out and find the man who wants to be with YOU above all others.

    1. ReginaRey says:

      I know, I thought that was so sad! It should be a relationship rule of thumb that if you’re describing someone else as YOUR boyfriend’s soulmate…you aren’t in the right relationship.

      1. Anthrocuse says:

        this is exactly what I was going to post. That’s a bad bad sign.

  10. If their connection was as deep and meaningful as you say it was, 3 months isn’t long enough to “get over her”. He’s using you to fill the hole she left.

    Sorry 🙁

    1. Especially since, “They kept communicating after the break up and still ended emails with “I love you.”

      C’mon LW… this seems much more like “taking a break” than an an actual “break-up”. Sure maybe they broke up physically but definitively not emotionally…

      1. Shadowflash1522 says:

        “WE WERE ON A BREAK!”

        Sorry, couldn’t resist 🙂

      2. and look how well that worked out for the copy shop girl… 😉

  11. theattack says:

    I wouldn’t overthink things like poses in photographs. And activities you do together shouldn’t be surprising either. Just because I go through a breakup doesn’t change the fact that I like to canoe and hike, right? However, this “soul mate” business is weird. Did he tell you something along those lines, or did you make it up yourself? If he said that to you, move on six months ago. If you’re saying that yourself, think about why you’re saying it. It could just be insecurities, but most likely you know that he’s still grieving over her. Do you really want to be his second choice?

    1. Yea I didn’t touch on this on my post – I like your approach to it.

      To me it sounds like this LW is using words other people have used to describe that relationship which would further add to her insecurities….if the BF said it MOA.

    2. I think it’s weird that she is concerned with the fact that she and the ex pose similarly in photos and then causally mentions “oh fyi he never posts any photos of us in public”… WAY TO BURY THE LEAD, LW

    3. I don’t know…. I *kind of* got the idea she snooped in his email (thus the “soul mate” terminology & knowledge of “I love you” sign-offs) since she said she did some internet snooping (& as others have pointed out, checking out your boyfriend’s Facebook is not “snooping”)… Just the vibe I got.

  12. ReginaRey says:

    The part of this letter that stood out the most was this: “When I’m not thinking about this, our relationship is so great — lovely and ideal. But when I do think about it, I can’t shake this awful feeling in my gut.”

    Basically, you just said: “When I deny that this is going on, I feel great!” Well, of course you do! But the fact that you have to actively deny this in order to enjoy and appreciate the relationship is a huge red flag in and of itself.

    The other red flag is, of course, that you’re DEFINITELY a replacement girlfriend. This guy needed to be single in order to get over his girlfriend, and to work out his perceived failings as a boyfriend. Instead, he rebounded with you in order to avoid some of the hurt and to soften the emotional blows he’s feeling. Make no mistake, he’s using you as an emotional cushion right now, while he pines away for her.

    Move on, right now! This guy wants to be with someone else, he just can’t figure out how to do it. You’re not his girlfriend – you’re a stand-in.

    1. Right- relationships should *not* give you awful feelings in your gut.

      They should make you feel good.

  13. atraditionalist says:

    He’s a coward who can’t figure out what he wants. If you want drama buckle up and enjoy the ride because that’s what he’s going to bring you. Also: what kind of guy lives with a woman, calls her his soul mate and the one he wants to marry etc and then balks when he finds out she’s depressed? He’s given you two examples of how cowardly he is. Do you really need a third?

    1. I think you’ve made a lot of assumptions on this post.

      Someone that wants to wallow in their depression is impossible to be with…they drag you into the dark with them…until you’ve done it I wouldn’t throw stones.

      1. honeybeenicki says:

        I agree with you. Living with (or even just being around) a person with depression can be very draining. Depression does not just affect the person who has it, it affects everyone else around them.

      2. Shadowflash1522 says:


        There are people who are depressed who manage it–nobody’s perfect, but they’re doing their damndest to be happy–and then there are people who wallow in it. The former can be lived with, but there’s no reason to feel obligated to stay with the latter.

    2. I said he was a coward in my post too – but I attributed that to his being unwilling to effectively choose between the two women – I think he is most likely a nice guy who doesn’t want to hurt either woman and so remains indecisive…ultimately to the detriment of both. Saying he is cowardly for not being able to be in a relationship with the ex because of her depression isn’t fair at all. Everyone is entitled to their personal thresholds to manage whatever life throws their way. If you know that you are not the type of person who can be strong enough for both people all then time then you owe it to yourself to remove yourself from that situation – as kindly as you can.

  14. atraditionalist says:

    If he really loved this woman he wouldn’t run away at hardship. I think this guy doesn’t know what he wants. I’ve been depressed before and I have family members who have been depressed. I know what I’m talking about

    1. As much as I believe in sticking it out when the going gets rough, and kudos to those that do, I dated someone who had depression and it was exceptionally difficult. For someone who has never had depression and has a difficult time understanding it, it was always a really difficult thing for us to get over and in the end it was better for both of us not to be together, or for him to find someone that could handle it more. So I don’t think that the BF is a scumbag for not being able to deal with it. It can definitely take a toll on a relationship.

    2. Shadowflash1522 says:

      Respectfully, I disagree.

      Everyone has different tolerance levels for different kinds of hardship. It’s built in, not something you can change if you love someone “enough”. Plus, who are you to tell him what he’d do “if he really loved this woman”? Love comes in all shapes and sizes. If he truly isn’t built to handle someone with depression, then the worst possible thing he could do is stay.

      I can appreciate your sentiments, but I too have lived with severe depression in someone I am very close to. There is a world of difference between living with a wallower and living with a fighter.

  15. WatersEdge says:

    Given your boyfriend’s ex’s depression, it doesn’t really come as a surprise that he’s been so secretive about your relationship. And after a few years together, ending emails with “I love you” doesn’t strike me as that big of a deal. Especially considering that they seem to have ended on good enough terms. And it makes sense that you’re a lot like her. They lasted for years. As for the similarities in pics and pet names, some guys seriously just aren’t that creative.

    I think that what you have here is a serial monogamist. I think this guy wants a girlfriend and is happier in a relationship. He’s probably a great boyfriend! It’s what he’s good at. Yes, your boyfriend is probably not completely over the breakup, and yes he probably still feels sadness that he couldn’t work it out with her. He probably still feels love for her, too. But I don’t hear any signs that he’s being disrespectful of you, such as calling her or insisting on maintaining a friendship with her. It sounds like he wants to move on, and he wants to be with someone else. AKA you.

    I don’t think you’re a replacement girlfriend for her in the strict sense, meaning I don’t think he’s dating you to ease the pain of missing her. He could have her back. But I do think you’re a replacement girlfriend in the sense that he wants to have a girlfriend and he likes you a lot, so you are now slotted in. I don’t think it’s the worst thing in the world, and I don’t think you’re doomed to relationship failure. But I think that’s where your gut feeling comes from— knowing that he is the kind of guy who could make a relationship work with lots of girls, not the kind of guy who waits for that “perfect fit”. It’s kind of a trade-off… guys who are pickier about who they’ll date are often less of the relationship type, while guys who genuinely want a relationship are great at it, but you can get the sense that they’ll date most anyone. If he’s a good guy and you guys work well together, that’s all that really matters IMO.

    BTW- “snooping” on Facebook and Flickr is not a real thing. Those are public websites, and you have every right to see what’s on them. “Snooping” is for private things that you should not see, like his email inbox or the box at the back of his closet. Don’t feel bad about looking that stuff up. And also- she was NOT his soulmate! Believe you me, a great relationship with someone with depression is actually a terrible relationship. Maybe they could have been great if she didn’t have depression, but she does. So get that thought out of your head.

    1. WatersEdge,

      I liked your response. Very thoughtful. It was also non-judgemental to all parties involved.

  16. I haven’t read the other responses yet. LW, if there is one thing I learned in this last few years is this:

    Listen to your gut. I understand it’s easy to ignore because of the good times, but it’s telling you something isn’t right. In this case, listen.

    Also, know this:

    That everyone deserves to be in a mutually respectful and loving relationship. If you’re not getting what you want out of the relationship, move on. Find your soul mate, your best friend and the person you were meant to be with. It might take a few months, or a few years, but I promise you’ll be happier for it.

  17. Girl, you are totally and completely a replacement girlfriend. Move on from this guy who obviously isn’t emotionally ready for a relationship.

  18. GertietheDino says:

    You are his security blanket, a place holder – not his girlfriend (she’s over there somewhere). Talk to him (he won’t open up about it, you’ve been “together” 6 months and it’s gone nowhere and now your snooping around). But it’s probably best to move on, tell him he needs to be single for a while to get his head right and most likely go back to the other girl.

  19. MOA. There are so many red flags here. Of course, the fact that he was so secretive of you and the fact that so many things in your relationship are just copying theirs. But someone who is that in love probably can’t move on so quickly from a relationship. Especially if it ended because of something like depression, and not because he’d just lost the spark. This is a really sad letter to me. The LW sounds like a very nice girl, and it sucks that this guy couldn’t just realize that he wasn’t ready. But people often don’t know that about themselves or they don’t want to admit it, so we have to realize it for them.

  20. LW, I will lay out the clues that prove you are a replacement girlfriend.

    1) Your boyfriend hid you from his friends and wouldn’t even hold hands with you in public for 3 months. When a guy meets a girl he likes, and especially if this girl is his soul mate, he does not hide you. Maybe it would take him 3 weeks to introduce you to his friends, not 3 months. Telling his parents about you so late isn’t such a huge deal. It depends on someone’s relationship with their parents. My sister hid her boyfriend for months and then popped up and said “we’re engaged” one day.

    2) Your description of his relationship with his ex. I hope to god he’s not the one that told you all this stuff. It would be very rude and insulting for him to talk about a past girlfriend in such an affectionate way. As other commenters said, if you don’t believe you are his soulmate and someone else is, why are you dating him?

    3) Your gut tells you that you are a replacement girlfriend.

    LW, I do feel for you and I’m not trying to be overly harsh. In college I dated a guy casually for 6 months. He behaved similarly to your boyfriend. He wouldn’t call me his girlfriend that often, took a while to be introduced to his parents, and I could just tell that he wasn’t over his ex (who was his big college love). The crutch was when a girl called on Valentines Day saying “thank you for the flowers” and I could hear her through the phone. I was like “oh, ok, that’s how it is”. Thankfully I wasn’t too emotionally invested in the relationship so it wasn’t a huge blow. But truthfully, if your gut is telling you that something is wrong then your gut is probably right.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about the similar activities/nicknames. I always call boyfriends the same pet names etc…everyone has a relationship style. A guy isn’t going to call one girl “babe” and then start calling another “kittybutt” (well…I hope not).

    Sometimes we are just the casualties of other people’s relationship mistakes, but one day you will find someone who calls you his soul mate. Your current person just isn’t that guy.

    1. Thumbs up for kittybutt. And you might be pleased to know when typed that in my iPod (that I’m currently using) it tried to correct it to kitty utter. Oh humor.

    2. Definite thumbs up for kittybutt! Love it!

    3. Thank you for “kittybutt.”

  21. “more like a secret relationship” <— What is that? That's not a normal thing, LW.

  22. I don’t understand why this whole thing about not immediately shouting to the world that you are seeing someone is a red flag. I’m being slightly facitious about the whole world thing, but seriously.

    This guy didn’t want their friends to know they were dating for a while. So what? There are plenty of people who want to make sure the relationship has sticking power before they tell friends and family. Also, maybe he does still care about his ex. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s pining away for her, but maybe that he is conscientious of her depression and wants to respect her feelings. Again, not a bad thing. A very good thing in fact. I honestly think this dude is trying to respect all parties involved, which speaks to a very good character.

    I do think that if the LW’s gut is telling her something isn’t right, she should listen. But I don’t think the boyfriend is a jerk, the ex is crazy or the LW is a replacement girlfriend.

    1. I’m one of those people that makes sure a relationship is going to last before I tell people….well, by people I mean my family. I didn’t tell my family that I was seeing someone until we’d been dating for two months. But that was just dating, we weren’t even official yet. It think it depends on the relationship status as well. I did tell my friends about him, but I was cautious enough to be like “well, I like him, but we’ll see what happens.”

  23. I feel for you, LW. The first red flag I see in your letter is that you refer to his ex as his “best friend, soulmate, in love and meant for each other”, and I’d have to guess that these are his words for describing their relationship. If a current boyfriend I had described his ex in this manner I’d run for the hills. Not only that but calling you the same nickname or acting the same way with you? Not the most healthy way to have a relationship.

    I’m not saying your boyfriend is a bad person, he’s just truly not ready to give you (or anyone else for that matter) what they need to feel safe and happy in a relationship. You will always be looking over your shoulder at his “soulmate” and it will slowly tear you apart.

    I would leave this relationship as soon as you can. This situation is clearly not making you happy, and you deserve a relationship where you won’t be followed around by the ghost of the last one.

  24. First of all, you sound like a highly compassionate person, and I really like how you aren’t very judgmental toward your boyfriend for this complicated situation. That being said, you need to take the same approach with yourself as you are taking with him: treat yourself with kindness and compassion and do what feels best for you.

    Break ups are hard, and you seem to understand where he is coming from. And you are picking up on some things that maybe give you pause. But you also say that you enjoy the relationship… it’s hard to say whether or not you are a replacement; that may be going a little too far.

    Before you throw in the towel, though, perhaps you should suggest doing things outside of what he and his ex used to do. Try mixing things up–using different nicknames would be a good start, and establishing your own rituals.

    And while I’m on it, let me say a thing or two about being with someone who is depressed because my husband suffers from depression: it can be really difficult. So while he may have feelings for her, might have loved her a whole lot, living and being with someone who is depressed is a lifelong struggle. Maybe he just wasn’t up for it. Indeed, this has been something in my own relationship that has taken a great deal of work to sort through, and my husband and I have been together 8 years.

    All of this being said, don’t sell yourself short…. maybe this relationship ultimately won’t be right for YOU. Who knows. But I say give it a little time and attention and see where your line needs to be drawn. And be open with him, as you have been in your letter… who knows what may happen.

  25. LW, it sounds like your boyfriend has not recovered from the breakup. Sadly, it does sound like you are a “replacement” girlfriend. You should talk to your boyfriend about your feelings on this, and encourage him to seek therapy (common refrain on DW). “Three months before we started dating, he and his live-in girlfriend had a heartbreaking break up. They were soul mates, best friends, in love and meant for each other.” Those sentences worry me. It sounds like you feel like you cannot compare to what he had with the other girl. But LW, if their relationship was so perfect, then why did they break up?

    If the relationship couldn’t continue, then it was better for him to end the relationship. I’ve seen a relationship like that. My best friend was in a relationship with a guy for the longest time that was very volatile. They loved each other and adored each other, but they fought a lot. He was very depressed most of the time and had a lot of issues that he had never really dealt with. She was so in love with him that it was hard for her to detach herself from him, even though she knew (once they broke up) that they shouldnt have any contact at all. It took a complete change of her life – changing schools, moving back to my home state – for her to be over him. And even now she still isn’t really over him. Relationships like that you don’t just get over in a few months. He (and you) will be dealing with the aftermath for a long, long time.

    If he really likes you and makes an effort to be with you and you really like him, then you should talk to him about your feelings. If you feel that he’s worth it, then encourage him to seek closure, to seek therapy and counseling. Encourage him to deal with everything rather than trying to hide it. If it isn’t going to work out, then there’s nothing wrong with ending the relationship. Nobody wants to feel like the second choice in a relationship, anyways. He may not have even realized you felt like this.

    Just don’t jump to conclusions or be rash, alright? Be calm, and talk to him. Figure out what will make YOU happy.

  26. lemongrass says:

    Yikes! If your gut feeling is that this isn’t right, then listen to your gut! Guts always know best. They are our inner mom’s.

    1. Addie Pray says:

      “inner moms” – i like that. 🙂

  27. AndreaMarie says:

    This is a complicated situation. Clearly your BF went through a break up that contained alot of heavy emotions and one that was different from the whole ‘I don’t feel the same” or “we are on different pages” sort of break up.

    First let me say that I think, in this case, him not publicly displaying you as his GF in the begining might not be the usual red flag. LIke many have said, maybe he was worried how it would affect his ex’s depression. Also, I’m sure he is feeling a lot of guilt for pulling out of a relationship bc he couldn’t handle her depression. Maybe he was worried that others might judge him. Like “wow look at how heartless he is. running out on “insert name” when things got bad with her illness and getting a new GF right away”. This could also apply to him not putting up pictures of the 2 of you.

    Also he’s dealing with unresolved feelings from how the relationship ended. I’m sure he didn’t just fall out of love with her. And if their relationship was as strong as you say then I’m sure he wanted it to work. Unfortunately do to something out of his control it just wasn’t meant to be. And I’m sure he’s struggling with the fact that he truly loved her but knows he can not be with her. And he seems to be acting in a way of moving on from the relationship and figuring out how to put him in his life while not being in a relationship anymore.

    I think you really need to talk to him. Sit down and ask him how he feels. Ask him exactly how he feels about the breakup and the future nature of his relationship with his ex. Ask him what he expects out of his new relationship with you.

  28. LW, I think you need let this guy go so he can figure out/grieve his prior relationship. He is clearly still emotionally attached to his ex and it’s not fair to you to serve as his rebound or as a continuation of his fantasies. Let him go and save yourself the heartbreak when he wakes up one day and tells you he isn’t ready to commit to you. You are setting yourself up for heartbreak if you stay with him. Just re-read your letter and you will realize that 90% of it is about the relationship between him and his ex rather than him and you. Things shouldn’t be this hard when you first start dating – there should be fun and laughs and sweet moments, not torment, doubts and broken hearts.

  29. atraditionalist says:

    I think I jumped the gun in calling the guy a coward – I read others’ comments and I see that I was wrong. However, I do think that there are ALOT of guys out there who are not dealing with drama with an ex girlfriend that you could potentially date and I think you need to have a conversation with this guy and let him know that it doesn’t sound as if he is over the relationship and maybe you guys should part for a while. If you’re fine with the way things are going with the two of you then by all means stick it out however I sense that you’re not happy… If the situation doesn’t feel right it ain’t right.

    I also completely agree with Tanya-the beginning of a relationship should not have you doubtful and heartbroken.

  30. bittergaymark says:

    First, yes, I think this guy should be dumped! But not for the reasons most of the other commenters have point outed (although many of those reasons are perfectly valid, too.) My “soul” reason is that this guy sounds like a real cad due to the circumstances of his break up. I mean, c’mon! This girl is supposedly his “best friend,” his “soul mate”, they were oh so destined to be together and blah blah blah. And yet, he can’t deal with a little bit of depression? Seriously?

    I’m not trying to downplay the severity of dealing with depression, no, trust me, I would never do that. But it doesn’t even sound like the Ex really had that bad a case of it. More than that, she was even dealing with it, working through it (and NOT in denial about it.) And yet he still couldn’t handle it. So he rushed right out and found a depression free clone of his Ex.

    Meh. This is all so very icky, LW. MOA. I don’t blame you for falling into this situation, but the writing is very much on the wall here! Meaning there is only yourself to blame if you decide to stay in it!!

    You deserve better. The Ex deserves better, too. And the guy? He deserves to be alone for a while as he simply is not mature enough to handle a REAL relationship.

    1. Not sure I agree with this. It’s not clear from the letter whether the guy dumped the girl because he didn’t feeling like dealing with her depression, she dumped him because he wasn’t jumping through whatever hoops she had in her mind, or some combination of the two.

      Rather, the part of the letter that jumped out at me was this:

      “A few months later, we started dating, and about a month after that she emailed him asking what was going on with them. He didn’t mention me and just apologized for being busy and told her that he missed her. It’s been three months since that last email, and she tried getting in contact with him once more, but he avoided it. We talked about it once, and he said he didn’t know what to say to her or how to explain himself to her.”

      This is world-class, Grade A chickenshit behavior on the part of the guy. It should be a huge red flag when a partner treats an ex this badly, for obvious reasons.

      So I guess I do agree with your conclusion in the last two paragraphs; I just get there by a different path.

      1. bittergaymark says:

        I think the reason I was so turned off by the guy is that he obviously has gone on and on and on about how perfect this girl was. They were fated to meet! It was destiny! She was the perfect match! They were to be soulmates together for life…

        Um, really? Dude, you dumped her at the first sign of trouble and now instead of moving on, you seem to be secretly mooning over her. Worse, you’ve gone and pulled a “Vertigo” by rushing out and finding yourself a clone so you can go out a recreate earlier photos of you and your precious soulmate… Hell, you even go one more than Jimmy Stewart though, you literally even call the LW by the same nicknames… Yikes! It just strikes me as all very creepy.

        Had they just started dating, and had he not romanticized the shit out of her I would very much have been more understanding about the break up. But somehow, anybody who is “destined to be together for life” should be able to weather a common enough problem like depression.

      2. All the soul mate, perfect match stuff came from LW. Maybe the guy has been going on about it, maybe it’s LW’s impression from Facebook, flickr, other third parties, etc.

        And we still don’t know that the guy dumped her at the first sign of trouble. Frankly it sounds to me like a half-assed, mutual quasi-breakup by two immature people who didn’t and don’t know what they’re doing. The other woman’s repeated attempts to “find out waht’s going on” wouldn’t be needed if the guy had well and truly dumped her.

      3. bittergaymark says:

        Okay, even if that is true, the whole thing about the photos is pretty creepy. And I don’t see any reason in the Letter to doubt that the info about how perfect the other girl was just is something that she made up out of paranoia.

        My best bet is that it is info she gleamed from reading the captions to all those oh-so-perfect photos that she found on facebook and the like. Either way though, be it from the horse’s mouth or the horse’s past life on facebook, it is all really oft putting to me as it shows he was more in love with the idea of his last girlfriend than the actual reality of her.

      4. But without more info it´s impossible to know just what the photos are like… there is only a certain amount of ways you can pose before they start looking alike.
        I know I would be weirded out if I saw a photo of my husband with an ex in the same pose as one of the (very few) photos we have together, but I´m sure it would be more for the fact that it was with an ex than for the pose. Unless it was something very unusual.

      5. bittergaymark says:

        To me, the fact that she called it out made me pretty sure it was unusual… I mean, I think it wouldn’t be the kind of thing I’d even notice unless I saw it happening again and again in photo after photo… And as a amateur photographer, I can tell you that there are countless ways you can pose. Seriously, the possibilities are endless.

      6. Shadowflash1522 says:

        This is true. I would like to add that there’s a big difference between a generic pose (arms around each other, cheeks pressed together) that a zillion couples use all the time, and somebody’s “signature move”. For example, my family has a superhero-type pose that we use that is more or less unique to us and our friends. If I stopped dating someone and later found pics of him with his new gf using my “signature move”, that would be beyond creepy.

      7. Well, there’s a giant difference between captions on old internet photos saying “my current gf is such a wonderful, perfect soulmate!” and a guy telling his current gf “my ex-gf was such a wonderful, perfect soulmate!”

        Like I said, though, I still agree with you on the overall picture.

      8. I also do agree with you that IF the guy is going on and on about how perfect and wonderful his ex was, that’s a very, very bad sign.

      9. Painted_lady says:

        LOVE the Vertigo reference. Kudos.

      10. bittergaymark says:

        Thanks! It’s such a great flick and it so fits here!!

      11. Painted_lady says:

        I LOOOOVE Hitchcock, and Vertigo’s close to the top of my favorites of his.

      12. bittergaymark says:

        I love Vertigo. Plus, Rope. Lifeboat. Notorious. Psycho. Rebecca. & Shadow of a Doubt are all VERY amazing in my book…

  31. I’m not sure that he is still in love with his old gf, but he is certainly still feeling guilt about not being able to help her and was not finished getting over that relationship when he started dating you. That strong and long a relationship is not something you recover from quickly, nor is it easy admitting to all your friends that the model couple is no more and that you were unable to help her through her problems. If she is seriously mentally-ill type depressed, there likely wasn’t anything he could have done to get her through her problems — that is the province of professionals, but there will be guilt and a sense of failure.

    That you have a lot of similarities to his ex is not surprising. Guys don’t just date random women. There are certain physical, mental, and personality attributes that are particularly attractive to each of us and we will continually gravitate toward partners having a large number of those characteristics. That doesn’t mean he’s looking for a clone replacement for his ex, he just has a type. You are his type. Unfortunately, your relationship began too quickly after his last one ended. That makes things difficult. It doesn’t sound like he wants to return to his ex. His heart is still partly there, but his head says it won’t work, because she has problems that he can’t fix or live with.

    The advice to MOA may be appropriate. You know whether things in your relationship are getting better or worse. Whatever happens, know that this is in no way your fault, or any purposeful fault of your bf. Most rebound relationships don’t succeed, because the rebounding partner, even with the best of intentions, is unable to focus all of his emotions and energies on the new relationship. He is still healing and searching for comfort as much as love. He may be past that stage, but having started off on that foot, you have more of a challenge. Have an honest discussion with him.

  32. landygirl says:

    The question isn’t what are you to him but what is he to you? If you’re unhappy, discuss this with him and let him know what you’re feeling. He did seem to move awfully fast but again, you were aware of his situation and moved forward anyway. The only actions that matter are yours and you need to decide if this is what you want from a relationship…if it isn’t then move on.

  33. LW, it’s interesting that you describe these two as being perfect for each other. Admittedly, my first thought was that they evidently weren’t perfect for each other because the relationship ended. (The “right” relationship is a mix of right person+right time+right place).

    Regardless, you apparently feel like second best. You may want to tell your boyfriend how you feel, but I’m not sure this is something you can talk out. If he removed the photos and put up pictures of the two of you, would you still wonder? It sounds like you would.

    I’m sorry, LW, truly. Regardless of your boyfriend’s intent, this is a relationship of three people, and you’re already looking for the door because you don’t seem to feel you belong there. I wish you well.

  34. Shadowflash1522 says:

    My gut reflex says MOA, but it’s worth a closer look.

    First off, I would give your boyfriend the benefit of the doubt. He could have his ex back if he wanted her- she’s clearly still interested, to the point where she may even think they’re still together – but he doesn’t want her. Or, more accurately, he doesn’t want to want her (for whatever reasons). He seems like he’s trying to do the right thing by himself and her, but love isn’t a switch you can throw on and off at will.

    With that in mind, I wouldn’t say that you are the replacement girlfriend in the usual sense. He’s not kidding himself that he’s madly in love with you so he can pretend to be over his ex (if that were the case he’d be parading you instead of hiding you). He is, however, using you as a shield against his ex. As long as he’s with you he can’t in good conscience go running (or crawling) back to her. He’s buying time to get over her by dating you. Is that right? No, not really. But the alternative for him, and her, might be worse.

    That doesn’t mean you have to play along though. If you can manage to treat this as a fling, a temporary relationship for both of you, and you’re OK with it being that way then I would say stick with it. It doesn’t sound like you are OK with things though, so I would still advise you to MOA because this relationship doesn’t have what you’re looking for. But I wouldn’t hold his past or his preferences (for personality traits, nicknames, poses, etc.) against him.

  35. a relationship that was hidden from his friends for months, one where he doesn’t say that he is over his ex but instead that he just “doesnt know what to say to her” and one where he calls you the same nicknames as his ex is “ideal”? I think you’ve mixed up “ideal” with something else… I’d ditch this guy and find someone who’s not stuck on an exgirlfriend.

  36. Hmmm. This one is iffy.

    I personally don’t think that anything the LW mentioned as “evidence” that she is a replacement girlfriend is really all that red-flaggy. The fact that they waited 3 months to call each other girlfriend-boyfriend, the fact that he waited a while to be “out” with their relationship among family/friends… none of it bothers me in this situation.

    What bothers me is that 3 months isn’t very long of a “mourning” period after ending a relationship as serious as the one he ended. I worry that he’s not completely over her.

    HOWEVER – sometimes when relationships end, one or both partners have already “checked out” by the time it officially ends. And it sounds like they broke up for solid, legitimate reasons.

    Have you discussed your concerns with him? Don’t be afraid to bring it up; you won’t come off as “crazy” since so far you’ve been so accepting of his situation and non-judgmental. You also come across as pretty levelheaded in your letter. I think you just need to have a heart-to-heart with him, and don’t hold anything back. Pay close attention to his responses, and if anything he says leaves you feeling on the fence about his commitment to you, then you should probably consider ending it.

  37. spanishdoll says:

    Of all things in this letter, I find it most alarming that your boyfriend talked up his previous relationship so highly (“soul mates,” “meant for each other,” etc). Even if he was not or is not completely over his ex, it’s beyond cruel to talk about your previous relationship in those terms. How is the LW *not* supposed to feel insecure in this relationship?

    If he still has baggage to work through, fine! But don’t drag your new girlfriend through it and make her miserable as well. Doesn’t sound like he’s ready to be a loving partner to the LW right now.

    1. That’s the part that bothered me most about this letter. I really don’t think it’s something LW decided for herself, I think the boyfriend framed his old relationship in this dreamy sense, which is a huge alarm. Guys sometimes don’t have a great filter on what they are saying when they are getting over an old relationship and it can really cause some damage.

      My now-husband referred to his ex-girlfriend as someone he would just “go and get a fancy hotel with and have sex all day because he couldn’t stand talking to her” when we first started dating as an extremely weird way for trying to say it was easy to talk to me. Let’s just say it took him months to live that one down.

  38. LW it sounds like you are just a stand in for the woman he wants to be with, but he can’t due to her issues. He is probably lonely without her and your are filling that void. YOU DESERVE BETTER! Please for yourself get out of this relationship and find someone who wants to be with you.

  39. Painted_lady says:

    My biggest concern, and therefore the determining factor for what you should do, is this: how do you know all this stuff about your boyfriend’s last relationship? The bare bones of who she is, why they broke up, and when are all things that you have a right to know and he has a right to tell. How perfect they were together, how in love they were, and how much everyone loved them as a couple are not. Did you infer all this from snooping? If so, quit snooping FOR GOOD, tell your boyfriend what you did and why, and then ask him to forgive you. Perhaps this will create more of an open dialogue between you because it sounds like – if you snooped – that you’re insecure and he may not be especially demonstrative toward you. Needing that is not something to be ashamed of, and if you can’t get that from him, it’s time to move on. Many guys move slowly in telling people they’re dating someone, and navigating exes is awkward, but then again, if you’re *too* needy, it could be you need to work on trust and self-confidence. If there’s nothing in the world he could say or do to reassure you, then it’s time to work on you.

    Alternately, is this something you’ve inferred from stuff your boyfriend says? As in, he doesn’t say specifically that they were perfect together but he’s telling all of these amazing stories – not comparing you, but bringing her up all the same – that caused you to create this ideal past relationship in your imagination whenever you hear her name? In which case, tell your boyfriend what you’re feeling. If you’re a particularly tough lady, your boyfriend may have just assumed – either based on experience or based on knowledge of you – that you know he loves you and if he wanted to be with her, he would be. People here have heard about my boyfriend’s nutjob ex-FWB and her passive-aggressive attempts to mark him as hers. In the past month she moved away, but then from afar started escalating her BS, so I finally told him that she wasn’t making me insecure, but his passive “it’ll pass” attitude really left me feeling like it should bother him more, especially since letting it pass was making it worse. He felt awful; he knows I’m tough and just assumed since I hadn’t said it was bothering me that how he was handling it was fine (and also conveniently non-confrontational). Not everyone knows when to draw the line, and they may not see your distress, especially if it involves something that makes their lives easier – willful ignorance isn’t always malicious.

    If, however, you’re constantly hearing things about how great the ex was, how amazing their relationship was, how much he loved her, GTFO. He is either not really over her, or he’s a manipulative prick. What he’s saying amounts to “You’ll never be as awesome as her, but you’ll do.” And if he really feels that way, who wants to be second place? If he doesn’t, sounds like he’s using the ghost of the ex as a veiled threat, “See what happened when she became too much trouble? See how much you have to live up to?”

    One more thing: I would still be very, very wary of him if he has told you that they broke up over her depression. There’s the real possibility that it just became too hard for him to stay, but then there’s also the possibility that he either bails when things get a little rough or that he wants you to know exactly how quickly he can dump someone who’s taxing to him – even someone who was so “perfect.” I would pay very close attention to how he acts when you’re down or when you’re making requests of him because if he makes you feel guilty for asking for very reasonable things or having a case of the blues every so often, RUN.

  40. I *had* this relationship. I could have written this letter, three years ago, with only minor changes in details. He dumped me for her, and in fact, I later learned he’d been seeing her again behind my back (and me behind hers) for some time before the breakup. They are still together and I imagine will remain so for the long haul. I was gutted by the breakup and swore off dating…and two months later I met my current BF. We took it slowly, largely because I was afraid of the whole rebound thing, but we are still together and happy. And he loved me, not an ex that I kind of look like.

    MOA. There’s a guy out there who will love you.

  41. This isn’t really advice for the LW, but I have a question about the facebook photos thing. Why is it weird or bad that he has a ton of photos with him and his ex still on facebook? If my boyfriend and I were to go on, say, a trek through Tuscany or whatever, and then broke up, I wouldn’t feel like I had to take down my album of my trip to Tuscany just cuz he’s in them. It still…happened. It wouldn’t even occur to me to take them down. Or I started dating my boyfriend my sophomore year in college. I wouldn’t take down half my pictures from college just because he’s in them if we break up (unless this hypothetical breakup is like horrible and dramatic and traumatizing. Maybe then) So now I have a hypothetical trip to Tuscany and a hypothetical breakup…what was I talking about again?

    Is this like some facebook etiquette thing I totally missed the memo on? Or is it a generational thing, where I see nothing weird about my entire life being on facebook but people even a couple of years older do?

    The whole thing with him not posting pictures of the LW and him is maybe a bigger issue, but he could just not ever post pictures to facebook. I know the only reason my boyfriend ever puts pictures on facebook is if I bug him about doing it. Maybe all those pictures of him and his ex only made it on the internet because of his ex. Have you tried posting pictures and tagging him in them? If he immediately untags, that would be a bigger red flag, to me.

    1. Really good points. I know a lot of people that are horribly lazy about putting photos up on facebook….we are talking several months after the fact.

  42. Sue Jones says:

    Women mourn, men replace…. it is not so unusual for a guy to go out and get into a relationship really quickly after a breakup. We women tend to want to over analyze it to death and the guys just want to move on. It sounds like he is trying to move on from that bad breakup. The song “Someone Like You” comes to mind. I would try to enjoy what is and be patient with the guy and give it some more time. If, after 3- 6 months he is still all secretive and tentative about you then I would call him on it and MOA, but it is really early to tell. Perhaps it was a bit early for him to get involved with someone new, but, face it, most people who enter the dating pool are still getting over someone…

  43. I’m not even going to bother picking this apart. I doesn’t really matter whether he still is in love with his ex, whether you’re a replacement, or any of that.

    What matters is that you *feel* like a replacement. He could have all the best intentions and be a great guy, but if your gut is making you uncomfortable over this you are going to continue being uncomfortable, whether those pictures are out there or not. You’re always going to doubt yourself. Good or bad on paper won’t make a damn difference.

    If you don’t *feel* like his girlfriend, his REAL girlfriend, ALL the time (or, okay, 94% of the time where the other 6% are those random awkward times that every normal person has) then you aren’t.

  44. so i think that none of your problems on their own would be cause enough to say that your a replacement… but when you put them all together, then it seems like it to me, atleast a little. but, the real problem is that you feel it. it doesnt necessarily matter if you are or you arent- you FEEL you are.

    i think that you need to have a very serious talk with your boyfriend about this. a conversation that includes a lot of things about his past relationship, which might be hard for you hear, but it may shed some light about what he is feeling and dealing with. like, you need to approach him with almost zero girlfriend feelings, and just listen. then, take what he said, put on the girlfriend hat again, and then decide.

    when my boyfriend and I first met, we were just friends in college, both in long distance, long term relationships from high school. we spent so much time talking about our failing relationships, and i learned a whole lot about him. it was kind of weird, having all those coversations with him about another girl, but at the time it wasn’t- we were just friends. thinking about it now, its a little odd. but i did learn a lot about what he wanted in life, how he acted in fights/difficulties in relationships, ect…

    having a talk like this might give you the other perspective that you need to finally make a decision about this relationship.

  45. DudeInChicago says:

    Got nothing to add except… Keep us posted, girl!
    *snicker snicker*

  46. I suggest you pick and choose your advice wisely since there’s a lot of it coming your way on this page! I think that despite your problems with your boyfriend, the two of you seem to have a healthy relationship at this point in time. I suggest you talk it out with him and let him know that you saw the pictures of the two of them on facebook and everything else you know or feel at this point in time. Put him on the spot. There’s no harm in it. Now that the two of you are in a relationship and he has gone so far as to tell his parents about you, you have every right to know if hes over his ex. Whatever his response may be, i say go with your instincts (not your heart cos your heart might deceive you) and decide whether you are going to remain in this relationship or not. If you decide to stay in it and months from now your instincts still tell you that hes still not over his ex or that its just not going to work between you and him, i think you should call it off without any delay. Cos like you said, you don’t want to be the replacement.

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