Dear Body Party,
I love my partner and they love me back. Our relationship is new, but it is strong- they are really supportive of me, which isn’t something I’ve felt in past relationships. But when they’re not around, I can’t help but stalk their ex on Instagram. I can’t help but feel like I am in competition with their ex, and honestly, it feels like I’m losing- they just look so confident and so cute and so hot. And while my partner tells me they love me, it’s hard to imagine that they are as over their ex as they make out—especially considering the fact that I am not nearly as cool as the last person they dated. How can I stop comparing myself to them and feel more secure in my partner’s feelings?
Tied for Second
Dear Tied for Second,
“Getting over” someone is a misleading term.
I think understanding that your partner may still think about their ex and remember them fondly is a good start to getting over your hang ups. Expecting your partner to forget their ex entirely is unrealistic. But it is also unrealistic to think that they are spending all of their time with you, thinking about their ex.
Missing people is normal. Breaking up is hard not just because it hurts your feelings, but because it means you have to slowly begin to cut your partner out of your life. And while not hanging out with them is one thing, forgetting them entirely is another one. The process of abolishing an old partner from your thoughts is a tedious on and it can take time.
Most relationships break up for a reason, and any well adjusted adult (here’s hoping you’re only dating well adjusted adults) should know that. While of course there may be days they miss their old partner, I am sure they do not want them back or wish you were them. You have to trust that they are with you because they want to be with you, not just because they can’t be with their ex.
Unnecessary competitiveness is something we all struggle with, romance related or not. It is easy to lose sight of your strengths when you are focusing on someone else’s. Excuse the sap, but everyone is unique and different, cute and cool and hot and weird in their own special ways.
I know it can be hard not to measure yourself against your partner’s exes, but at some point you need to stop and consider if it’s really worth your time wondering. You may feel like staring at their Instagram will eventually unveil something that will calm your worries, but I can promise you it won’t. The only thing that cyber stalking them will do for you is waste your time- the more you indulge your compulsions, the more they will eat away at you.
In general, this kind of behavior is a manifestation of masochistic tendencies. You know as well as I do that deep down inside you are not looking for evidence that your partner loves you- you are looking for evidence that they don’t.
It is easy, especially in new relationship, to mistake bubbly feelings for something more concrete and then get anxious because you do not feel like you trust your partner as deeply as you should. Obviously you trust your partner, but it is likely that you trust them because they have never hurt you, the kind of beautiful but ultimately naive trust that newborn relationships foster. You trust them because that trust has never been tested, which is lovely in it’s own way but can be incredibly deceptive. Real trust takes time, compassion, and patience. It takes years of people fucking up and proving that they are willing to work on themselves. It is not clean and fresh but haggard, the result of reworking and rebuilding. Real trust is not blind but based on evidence—proof that your partner will support you.
Your fears are unlikely to go away. But try to remind yourself that they are just fears, not truths. Move forward and try your best to leave them behind- ignore them and you’ll find that their voices will quiet to a whisper. Work against them positively- instead of trying to look for validation for you fears, look for validation for yourself. Make a list of all the things you love about yourself. Ask your friends to contribute. Make your partner tell you why they love you. Tell your partner why you love them. Try your best to believe them, and try your best to believe yourself.
And if all else fails remember: they wake up in your bed and not theirs.
Stay safe and have fun,