Boyfriend Emotionally Attached to Ex-Wife – Survival Guide


Setting healthy boundaries with an ex-wife who seems to still pull at the heartstrings of your boyfriend is hard. The new relationship is going to take an unnecessary beating if you don’t get this part dialed in.

At least that was our experience. There is a lot going on after a divorce, child support, custody, property in the ex’s name, divided family members, and annoying phone calls. It’s hard to make a new relationship work when your boyfriend has one foot stuck in old emotional ties to ex wife and possibly the mother of his kids.

As the new partner, you may want to offer emotional support, but just how supportive and understanding should you be?

Why is my boyfriend still emotionally attached to his ex-wife?

I was sitting in an Ale House talking to a new acquaintance of mine. We were having a good old fashion guy sesh.

You know the scene. We both had a drink in our hands. We talked about the fun things in life; we also talked about the not-so-fun things in life. 

That was when he mentioned that every morning when he wakes up, he thinks of Jennifer. 

I didn’t know Jennifer all that well. (AND) I thought her name was Tonya. Whoops, my bad, I thought.

I think we said hello to each other from a distance one time. I thought that was pretty cool. Jennifer is the love of his life.

Then, he dropped the big one on me:

He said Jennifer wasn’t the woman he was with. The woman he was with was Tonya. 

Jennifer was his ex-partner.

Unrequited love and a new relationship

Jennifer was the one that got away. She was the one that he probably should’ve stayed with. But she left. Now he was relegated to thinking of her every day when he woke up. He had since moved on, and there was no hope of him getting back with Jennifer. But he was stuck on her. 

All I could think of was what Tanya might think about all of this if she knew.

So I asked him what do you think she would say? He said he thought she would be really upset, and it would be damaging to their otherwise good relationship. 

There is really no point in discussing it with her because nothing could be done about the situation.

So what should Tonya do?

The reality is that human emotions are all over the map. You can’t control how somebody feels about something. 

The one thing that I know about guys is that we are pretty good about categorizing and compartmentalizing our issues. 

So just because he wasn’t over Jennifer didn’t mean that he didn’t love Tonya. 

We all grew up in a fairytale culture where we believe that this person will love us unconditionally and stick with us through and through no matter what.

But feelings can change. They normally fluctuate over time, and you can’t do much about how someone else is feeling. 

In this particular situation, Tonya and he have kids together.

So the romantic relationship will remain just as it is.

The only thing that Tonya can do is spend time working on herself.

I’ve discovered an irony in the idea that the less that you need someone else, the more appealing you become to them.

Think about it for a moment. If you’re needy and clingy, high maintenance, and need reassurance all the time, it can be exhausting for a new partner.

If you have ever heard the concept of the lizard brain, you’ll understand that your gut will tell you when something isn’t quite right. 

What studies show about gut feelings -worth noting

Studies show that people who see a split second of a frown or a smiling face before asking whether or not a person is a nice or happy pick it up with incredible ease. 

If your gut is telling you that something is off, the next thing that you need is to verify. Generally speaking, you can trust it. 

Are you simply jealous and making a big deal out of nothing?

Jealousy can be a real doozie, and where it can get complex. Your boyfriend may be completely over his ex. It may be your insecurity or jealousy driving the bus on this one. You’ll need to check in on this before you decide what you’re experiencing versus what is going on.

It’s important to enlist the help of people you know who undoubtedly care about you.

Ask them whether they think that your boyfriend is over their ex-wife.

Get a sense of whether or not you are reading into a situation or whether your boyfriend is still hung up on his ex-wife.

What do you do if you discover that he Is still emotionally attached to his ex-wife?

It’s important to understand that it isn’t your responsibility to try to help him disengage or detach from his previous relationship. Your dog is to manage your experience of it and your responses and reactions to the situation. Further, your job is to determine whether or not it’s a dealbreaker for you. 

There’s an important grieving try to go through after a failed serious relationship. Even if the relationship wasn’t on good terms when they went their separate ways, it’s important for them to grieve the idea of the relationship.

When I got divorced, I needed a lot of time to grieve the hope that I had for what our relationship could have been.

You also have to grieve the time that you invested in that relationship.

None of us have unlimited time, and depending on the length of the relationship, it can be quite a journey process to untangle the mess that you built over the months, years, or decades.

There are some studies that show that for every year that you were married, you will need a specific time to go through the process of healing from the loss of that relationship before getting starting new meaningful relationships. What makes matters worse is that you may also need to heal from emotional abuse or specific traumas related to that relationship.

A good rule of thumb is that if your boyfriend is not actively working through the therapeutic process of freeing himself from his ex-wife, then you may want to take a harder look at whether or not he is ready to be in a relationship with you.

This may be especially difficult for you to determine if you are a rescuer.

The best thing that you can do to help your boyfriend get over his ex-partner is to be supportive.

What telltale signs and things should you be on the lookout for to determine whether or not your boyfriend is over his former wife?

I have a couple of good friends of mine that got divorced (amicably), and I am pretty sure they are still best friends but are both happy to be with other people. Further, they are respectful and mindful of how their conversations could impact their former spouse’s new romantic partners.

So, it can work. However, I think they are the exception. Here are some signs you might want to pay attention to.

Obsessive Thinking

I had another friend of mine who wasn’t over his ex-wife. He used to call me up and ask me if I’d be willing to drive by your house to see who’s car might be parked in the driveway. 

I respectfully declined. But, he was obsessed. If he’s constantly stalking her on social media or bringing up her name when you’re around, it is a good sign that he isn’t over his past relationships.

He Won’t Take a Detour from Memory Lane

If you notice that he’s going through old memories of the good times that he was with her or listening to music that they used to listen to together, this can also be a huge red flag.

Really anything that stands in the way of your making new memories with him could be considered a red flag.

It’s important to realize that your boyfriend’s ex-wife was more than likely a large part of his life, and so it’s really not on him to never speak her name at all. It’s important that he also have freedom in your relationship. Pay close attention to whether the mention of her name is a trigger for you. That might be a signal that you actually have more work to do in this arena.

Wants to Play Barbie, and You are Barbie

If he constantly asks you to do things that would remind him of his former spouse, like wearing her perfume or dressing like her or maybe doing things in the bedroom that he was used to doing, let that be a solid sign that he has work to do.

Constant Contact (especially odd hours and he initiates) -not just for the sake of the kids.

If he is constantly having conversations with her or texting her and it is not related to the kids, this can also be a red flag. It may simply be a signal that there’s not room enough for you in that relationship. You may want to reconsider whether or not the timing is right.

Deeds Do Tell

You may find it helpful to really look at his actions rather than listen to his words. In other articles, I’ve discussed that people make decisions and act based on how they feel. Their feelings come from their thoughts. Their thoughts come from their beliefs.

You may find it helpful to ask yourself the question, what kind of person would do this. This can actually be helpful for you to discover what is driving your emotions as well.

Further clues he’s stuck on his ex-wife

I think you have seen from above that there are many reasons that he can look like your boyfriend is still attached to his ex-wife. The reality of it is that you always have a choice in your relationship. You may need some help navigating and figuring out just how difficult the situation is and what it means for you.

But the most important thing is that you continue to work on your ability to deal with your concerns.

If you find that he’s constantly lying about this stuff, make sure that the reason why he is lying is not that you freak out on him. If you were triggered by his bringing up his acts and you give him a hard time about it due to your own insecurity, then you can actually create a scenario where he hides stuff from you. He may be hiding it from you because he’s trying to protect and preserve himself from your reaction rather than actually still being emotionally attached to his ex-wife. 

Next time her name comes up, record the conversation. Pay close attention to what you say in the conversation and how it could be interpreted. Pay close attention to your tone and how you speak about her.

You may discover that you should be blamed (at least partially) for creating a scenario where you think he’s not adequately moved on from his previous relationship.

What should you do if you determine that he is incapable of ever detaching emotionally from his former spouse?

This is not a hall pass.

My wife and I often joke that there are a few Hollywood actors for whom it would be OK for us to leave each other in favor of that person. For example, I wouldn’t blame her for leaving me for Chris Hemsworth, and she might not blame me for leaving her for Emily Blunt. But those ideas are based on fantasy. When you’re in a situation where there is a real and present danger that your boyfriend will leave you for his ex-wife, it can make you crazy.

I remember my wife. I used to think that I took a shortcut to get home that happened to drive by where my ex-wife worked. I assured her that that wasn’t true. It really wasn’t until she stopped working there and I kept taking that shortcut that she realized that I wasn’t lying to her. Be careful with your mind will make up. Often our hearts and emotions are unpredictable and create ideas that feel very true that, in the end, aren’t.

Remember that thoughts and ideas or actually chemical impulses in your brain. Those chemical impulses in your brain give you the thoughts and ideas that you have. So just because those are triggered doesn’t mean it’s actually happening. One of my counselors taught me to try to separate fact from feeling. I learned they are two distinct things.

Trust your gut but recognize that you can also be mistaken. Lean on other people to give you clear guidance. Make sure the people that you listen to don’t have any agendas of their own. For example, make sure that your best friend doesn’t also like your boyfriend.

If all else fails, create some space between you and your boyfriend. Take some time off. Take a vacation on your own. Go spend time somewhere else doing other things with different people. Allow your mind to decompress and process everything that’s going on.

Journal when you can. Get in the habit of setting aside ideas that feel toxic. In other words, if you are having ruminating thoughts. These are negative thoughts that you can’t seem to shake or get rid of. Write those down and say I am willfully setting this idea aside.

This is your life. You get to choose how you spend it and who you spend it with. 

One of my favorite sayings is, don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. This means that you should harvest the good, remember the good times and lessons pay attention to it, and make a conscious effort to release the negative impact as best you can.

Why can’t my boyfriend move on?

Breakups are never easy. No matter how amicable the split, there’s always going to be some emotional fallout. And, even if both parties have moved on, it can be tough to let go of the past completely.

If your boyfriend is still emotionally attached to his ex-wife, it may be because he hasn’t had the opportunity to properly grieve the loss of the relationship. He may also be worried about how his children are coping with the divorce. Alternatively, he may simply have unresolved feelings for her.

Whatever the reason, it’s important to have an honest conversation with him about how you’re feeling. He needs to know that you’re not comfortable playing second fiddle to his ex and that you’re not willing to share him with her.

Once he understands where you’re coming from, he’ll be able to better deal with his own emotions and start to move on.

Just make sure you aren’t projecting something on him that isn’t there. Consider you may need to deal with your own feelings of jealousy. A counselor can help you navigate the emotional terrain.

What can I do to help my boyfriend move on from his ex wife?

Remember, it’s not really your job, however, here are a few things you can do to help your boyfriend move on from his ex-wife:

-Encourage him to talk about his feelings. It’s important to process what happened in the past before moving on. By talking about his feelings, your boyfriend will be able to work through them and start to move on.

-Help him create new memories. One of the best ways to move on from the past is to create new memories with the people you care about. Try doing something special with your boyfriend that he’ll always remember. It’s a healthy way to inspire new love. The mind works like a lens, so get your minds off of the bad things and bad days from the past.

-Be supportive. It’s normal for your boyfriend to feel sad or angry after a breakup. Be there for him and offer your support. Let him know that you’re there for him and that you want to help him through this tough time.

The first thing you need to do is give him some space. If he’s constantly talking about her, or if he seems like he can’t move on, it’s going to be hard for him to truly get over her. Just give him some time and space to work through his feelings.

Secondly, you need to pay attention to his behaviors. Does he talk about her fondly? Does he go out of his way to avoid her? If he’s truly over her, he should be able to talk about her without getting emotional, and he shouldn’t go out of his way to avoid her.

Finally, you need to trust your gut feeling. If you feel like there’s still something there, then they probably are. Just be patient and understanding, and eventually, he’ll come around.

Is it normal for my boyfriend to still be emotionally attached to his ex-wife?

It’s normal for your boyfriend to still be emotionally attached to his ex-wife. Here’s why: when we form attachments with people, we create emotional bonds.

These bonds are based on our need for connection, belonging, and love.

When we lose someone to whom we’re attached, through death or divorce, those bonds don’t just disappear. They remain a part of us, and it can take time to heal from the loss.

If your boyfriend is still emotionally attached to his ex-wife, it means he hasn’t fully healed from the loss of that relationship. It takes time to mend a broken heart, move on from a past life and focus on the current relationship.

That doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. It just means he needs more time to work through his grief. Be patient with him, and be there for him as he goes through this process.

Face it, there was a point at which he was in love with his ex-wife, but that doesn’t mean you need to suffer unnecessarily.

How can I tell if my boyfriend is truly over his ex-wife?

It’s tough trying to figure out whether your partner is really over their ex. After all, if they’re still thinking about their previous relationship, it can be a major source of insecurity for you.

However, there are a few key signs that can help you tell whether your partner has truly moved on. First, pay attention to how they talk about their ex.

If they’re constantly bringing up negative memories or speaking in a bitter tone, it’s a sign that they haven’t been able to let go. Second, take notice of their body language when they’re around their ex. If they stiffen up or avoid eye contact, it could be a sign that they’re still feeling uncomfortable and awkward around them.

Finally, trust your gut. If you have a feeling that your partner isn’t over their ex, chances are there’s something to it.

If you’re concerned about your relationship, don’t be afraid to ask your partner directly how they’re feeling. Communication is key in any relationship, and it’s the best way to ensure that both of you are on the same page.

What are some signs that my boyfriend is still emotionally attached to his ex-wife?

If your boyfriend is still emotionally attached to his ex-wife, there are some signs you can look out for. First, he may constantly talk about her or mention her in conversation. He may also get defensive if you bring up her name.

Additionally, he may go out of his way to do things that he knows would upset her. For example, he might buy her favorite coffee mug or listen to her favorite band loudly on purpose.

If your boyfriend is exhibiting any of these behaviors, it’s important to have a conversation with him about his feelings. Otherwise, the emotional attachment could begin to damage your relationship. Healthy relationships should be a safe place to discuss your true feelings. If that is missing, it is cause for concern. You may need to seek out professional help.

He may also get defensive when you ask about her or try to avoid talking about her altogether. Additionally, he may continue to show financial support for her or stay in contact with her more than is necessary.

Paul Clukey

Paul is an author, business owner, online blogger, kite surfer, fitness enthusiast father of three, who loves personal development and spends his free time learning and implementing new concepts to grow personally and help others achieve success.

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