What to do when you’re irrationally afraid of your partner’s ex

Awerpia asks:

I’m so confused Shirelle. I can’t seem to get my girlfriend’s ex out of my mind. The thought of him seems to haunt me and I wish I never knew of his existence. I know we have spoken at length about this issue but I don’t know how to get over it. I really regret ever laying eyes on him and I regret the day my girlfriend brought him to see me just because we attend the same church. I can’t seem to imagine my future with the woman I love without him popping up in my mind. I really feel anxious. I feel like one day he will return to the country to lay claims on her again. The worst part is any time I see violence I just feel like this guy is going to shoot me dead one day over the lady. I know it sounds funny but that’s how I truly feel.  And I can’t also imagine my life without my girlfriend. I love her so so much!  The guy still has old pictures of both of them together on social media and I really feel like even after all these years he still hasn’t gotten over her. Because there’s no new girl on his social media walls either. The worst part is that he had a good relationship with the girl’s family, especially her teenage brother. I feel like I don’t have a future with the woman I love without interference from this guy. And unfortunately I attend the same church with him, though we are in different congregations and he’s way out of the country. He lived in the same neighbourhood with my girlfriend before leaving. And because of his friendship with the girl’s family, even after breakup he would intentionally visit the girl using her little brother as an excuse. I really feel I can’t get him out of our lives. I don’t know if I can ever forgive my girlfriend for introducing him to me. I wish I could just wipe him out of my memory and especially hers too. And that he wouldn’t lay eyes on my girlfriend again. Help me out Shirelle!

Hi Awerpia –

So I think we’ve talked about all the reality-based answers I can come up with about this problem.  And I think we need to move on from those.

Don’t worry – I’m not calling you crazy.  But I am saying that this one tiny part of your brain is kind of crazy!  I mean, we know he’s not coming after you, and we know she prefers you, and even if her family adored him, we know they’re not rejecting you or asking her to do so.  So what’s the problem?

The problem is something deep in you.  A horrible fear.

You see, my friend, I’m guessing that these fears of yours have basically nothing to do with this guy.  And that if this wonderful girl had never had a boyfriend before you, you’d have something else bugging you this same way.  And I’m going to make a guess that this comes from a mixture of two things – a hesitance to commit fully to her, and your own fears of not being enough.

But, you argue to me, she’s great!  Why would you hesitate to commit to someone perfect?  Lots of reasons – because commitment of all kinds is scary, because everyone has faults and over time you’ll find more and more in her, because some part of you is trying to protect you from the devastation you’d experience if she left you.  All of these make sense. 

And why feel you’re not enough?  Because deep down, everyone fears that.  Just as you’re bound to find things about her that aren’t great, you know she’s going to find less-than-ideal qualities in you.  And (you probably believe) once she does, she’s bound to prefer her ex, who of course was better than you in so many ways!  Right?  (Even if it’s clear she wildly prefers you!)

So if I’m right, what can you do? 

Just one thing:  Relax, and accept that this is exactly where you are today.

Look at the rest of your life.  Is anything perfect?  Is anyone completely trustworthy, including you?  Isn’t there something to doubt or fear about everything?  But somehow you’ve walked through your day every day all these years.  You will continue to doubt, and to fear.  That just means you’re alive.

Just about every morning, Handsome gets dressed and leaves our home, locking me into the yard.  And every morning, I worry:  Will he forget about me?  Will he run off with another dog?  Will something happen to him and I’m locked in here forever?

So far, every time he’s left he’s come back.  Which eliminates those urgent fears.  But then they come back the next time he leaves.

And that’s part of my life.  It’s part of the drag of being a dog, and it’s part of the beauty of being domesticated and being head over heels in love with my human.

And that’s you.  Your fears, your doubts, are all signs of how much you love this woman.  So accept them.  How empty, and how boring, your life would be without them.

(And how great it would be for her ex’s ego to know how much you think about him!)

All my best,


About the Author

Leave a Reply 0 comments

Leave a Reply: