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Dear Lezzies Advice Column 9
for Lesbians On The Loose (LOTL)
Online Magazine in Australia:

Question: My new GF talks about her ex ALL THE TIME. What should I do?

Dear Lezzies,

I'm seeing a new girl and she is beautiful and we have many things in common. One thing she does that bugs me is talk about her ex all the time. I mean ALL THE TIME. They only broke up three months ago, but the ex seems to be a reference point for everything, from who's best in The L Word, to how many carbs you should eat. I don't want to say anything in case she thinks I'm jealous, possessive, fragile or even care. But I do inwardly. What if she's still in love with the ex and using me to move on? Because I don't think they would ever get back together. The breakup was acrimonious and the ex has moved in with another girl now.

Karen G.

Dear Lezzies Answer:

Dear Karen G.

I know that you are holding back and not wanting to say anything to your girlfriend about her obsessive talk about her ex, but that is exactly what you need to do. I certainly know it is easier said than done. I understand you have fears about how she will see you if you do say something, but you are paying an unhealthy price, and setting up a pattern of not voicing what you need because you are concerned about what she will think or do.

There is no way to tell if you are a rebound relationship for this woman, if she is still in love with the ex (even though the breakup was acrimonious) or a combination of the two. There is the possibility that your girlfriend has little self-esteem and got her identity from her ex, or it could be that she was very isolated in that relationship and has very few friends. She may be attempting to make sense of this past relationship by talking about it, but from your description of the ex being a “reference point for everything” I would guess this is not the case.

From what you wrote, “One thing she does that bugs me is talk about her ex all the time. I mean ALL THE TIME,” it sounds as if you have an extra person in your relationship, and that your girlfriend’s primary relationship is still with her ex. No matter how much you like and care for your girlfriend, or how much you have in common, there is only room in your relationship for two people. For those who are polyamorous, I would say the same in this type of situation. When you start a new relationship with someone who talks incessantly about her ex, the old relationship is still in the other person’s heart and head.

I hope you aren’t considering that you may be able to help your girlfriend get over her ex. That is not your job, nor is it something that you can do. You can’t build a new relationship with someone while you are attempting to support her through the lost love, grief, anger, guilt, shame or whatever emotions she is carrying from that experience. It puts a burden on you, and then you end up working hard to make sure you are the opposite of how the ex was in some ways, and proving you can be just as good in others. This is unhealthy for both of you.

The hard part is that after a breakup, many of us jump into another relationship before we are emotionally ready to handle it. If we start a relationship too soon after a breakup, we then carry the baggage of the last relationship into the new one. Some of this you are experiencing now. It may also move into her comparing you and your relationship to her old one and her ex.

While you are in the beginning of the relationship, the comparisons might not come up at all. After a while it can turn into statements like, “You’re trying to control me just like ‘So-N-So’ used to do!” or “‘So-N-So’ used to (fill in the blank), and now you are doing it too.” It may be that you aren’t doing whatever it was, but in the other person’s mind there is a connection, and you can’t convince her it doesn’t exist.

It is best to give ourselves time to heal from the last relationship before entering into another. There is no set time period or pattern for grieving any loss. There are different grieving styles for each person. Some may be able to grieve on their own, and some may need counseling to get through the process. Friends can be a great resource. If they say they feel like you need help, you probably do. If they see you stuck and struggling, they can tell you. A good friend will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.

The main thing in this situation, beyond all of the above, is what do you want? You said, “I don't want to say anything in case she thinks I'm jealous, possessive, fragile or even care. But I do inwardly.” What makes your feelings so unimportant that they are on the back burner? It is normal to be resentful that you want to be her focus when you are together (in person or on the phone), but instead the focus is her ex. What makes your feelings less important, and why do you discount your feelings? Is this a pattern of yours in relationships, and if it is where does this pattern come from? How do you catch yourself doing this pattern, and what flags do you need to pay attention to that will help you make changes for a healthier way of being? These are things to ask yourself.

Another questions for you is what makes it alright to be compared to her ex over and over at every meeting you have? If you are thinking, “she isn’t comparing me to her ex” you are wrong. She may not be consciously saying she did this and you do that, but that is the implication. She is letting you know every time she talks about her ex what measuring stick you are being compared to. If you don’t agree with the best character on “The L Word” or how many carbs that someone should eat a day, then you are not measuring up. You said yourself; “the ex seems to be a reference point for everything.”

Translate that to mean the measuring stick against which all else is compared. You deserve to have someone who cares for you because of who you are, not on what you agree with or don’t agree with compared to your girlfriend’s ex. You deserve to voice your concerns about the fact that what your new girlfriend is doing is getting in the way of your relationship and your ability to feel close to her. It is better to stand up for yourself now, at three months, then to let this emotional pain you are feeling continue. If what you are feeling goes unsaid, it can cause resentment. That can create a situation where she resents you for not being more like her ex, and you resent her for walking all over you. The reality would be that you allowed her to do that since we teach people how to treat us.

When someone’s thoughts are full of their ex, there is little or no room for anyone else in her heart. You deserve to have a relationship where your love interest is 100% present. I’m not saying that you can’t have a future together, or that you should break up with her. I can’t know that. I am saying you can’t have the type of future you want to share with her if she hasn’t found peace from her last relationship.

What can you do about this? You can have a talk with her, and let her know how you feel. You could say something like: “I truly care about you, and I’d like to see what can grow between us, but I don’t feel we have a fair chance when you are still emotionally involved (even though the woman is not physically in the picture) with your ex.” You can also say something like, “I would love to see what would develop between us, but I feel you need time to mend your heart from your breakup.” I would suggest setting a time limit in your own mind, say one to three months, on how long you are willing to give her to make changes or get help with this. If there have been no significant changes within that period of time, then you may need to end your relationship, or ask her to join you in couple’s therapy to work through the issues.

If she understands and wants to work to heal herself and then get back together with you, keep dating while she sees a therapist, or joins a support group for women going through break ups while you two slow things down considerably, that is one thing. If she gets upset with you and says she needs to think about it, that is OK too. If she gets angry and hostile toward you that is also alright. She may get angry, think about it, and then come back and tell you there is validity to what you have to say. No matter what her response, it is where she is, and each reaction tells you where she is in her process.

Where she is in her process is not right or wrong since it is her process. It is not where you have to be, and it is not healthy to join her if her heart isn’t open to you because it is still with someone else. It is better to find out how she feels and reacts now, rather than to have this drag out, and you
discover that this was a relationship you wished you had gotten out of months before.

Wishing you the best,

NOTE: The advice in this column is the opinion of the writers and is not intended as a
substitute for medical or psychological treatment from a health care professional.

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