15 signs your boyfriend is still emotionally attached to his ex-wife

Is there something about the way your boyfriend acts around his ex-wife that makes you suspicious? 

He’s with you, but he can’t seem to let her go. If this is you, read on as we’ll cover the top 15 signs he’s still emotionally attached to his ex-wife, and what to do if your hunch turns out to be true…

1) Not-so-harmless flirting 

Let’s be honest about one thing here — flirting with an ex is never harmless

Depending on your relationship and his personality, your fella might naturally be a confident, cheeky guy who comes across as even though you know he’d never take it further. 

But if he’s acting this way with an ex-wife, there’s a reason to be concerned. They share a history, this isn’t a girl serving him coffee who he’s joking around with and will never see again. 

Whether he does it discreetly on his phone or openly in front of you, flirting is a certain sign he’s still emotionally attached to her – not to mention that he’s being disrespectful to you!

2) He acts shady when you ask about her 

Does he avoid questions when you ask about her?

Maybe he changes the subject just a little too quickly? 

Acting shady when his ex-wife is mentioned shows he’s uncomfortable talking about her with you. 

Why?

Most likely because he’s not over her yet. He could be afraid that he’ll give something away if you guys get into a conversation about her, so he prefers to steer well away from it. 

On the other hand, though, it could be that he’s still processing the hurt and pain of his divorce. If they haven’t long been separated, it’s unrealistic to think he’ll have moved on straight away.

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So, in this case, I wouldn’t jump to conclusions straight off the bat (unless some of the other points resonate!). 

3) He’s easily triggered by her

Do you find he’s still bothered by her?

He might act as if she annoys him, but you’re starting to pick up on clues that hint he’s easily triggered by everything little thing she does. 

I remember at the start of my relationship, my partner would bring up his ex a lot. He used to seem annoyed by her, but after a while, I started wondering:

“If you’re over her, why does it bother you so much?”

Because the truth is, once you’ve moved on from a relationship or marriage, you’re no longer affected by what your ex does. 

So if his emotions are still ruled by his ex-wife, it’s clear he’s still emotionally attached to her. He may not even realize it himself, but he probably shouldn’t be starting new relationships until he’s put it all behind him!

4) He compares you to her

Ladies, if he compares you to his ex-wife, it’s not a good sign. He might do this because he’s still emotionally attached to her, and can’t separate the fact that he’s now in a new relationship. 

Comparing is harmful for a few reasons:

  • It stops your relationship from developing further
  • It keeps the ex in the loop and on both of your minds 
  • It can affect your self-esteem 

And last but not least – it’s incredibly rude and immature! 

If your boyfriend truly wanted to make an effort with you and your relationship, he shouldn’t be living in the past. 

Even if during these comparisons he paints her in a negative light, it still shows he’s not ready to let go of the past. 

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Either way, you’ve got to stand up for yourself on this one. No one deserves to feel second-best in their relationship, especially not to the ghost of an ex-wife! 

5) He lives down memory lane 

Are you sick of hearing how great their honeymoon was? 

Do you avoid eating at certain places together because he always brings up “that time I came here with…”? 

It’s natural to have memories and associate places with an ex-spouse, but it’s not healthy if it’s all he thinks about. 

It doesn’t allow your relationship to grow. 

It stops you guys from creating new memories. It’s a sign he’s still emotionally attached to his ex-wife, and clearly, he’s not ready to let those special memories go just yet. 

6) He has an issue with her love life 

This is a huge indicator that he’s not over his ex-wife yet. 

Whenever she brings a new guy on the scene, your boyfriend has a problem with it. 

He never thinks her new partners are good enough, and may even be quite vocal about it. In some cases, he might even make it known to her that he’s not comfortable with her dating. 

This is a red flag – get out while you can. 

A true sign of having moved on is accepting that your ex will date other people, and if there’s no emotional attachment, it shouldn’t be an issue. 

So if he’s behaving this way, you’ve got good reason to be worried! 

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(Not to mention – it’s so hypocritical. He can date yet she can’t? What’s going on here?).

7) He uses you to get to her 

This next sign is a tough one – not only are you aware he’s still emotionally attached to his wife, but he’s actively using you as a pawn in his dirty little game. 

He might act super affectionate around you in front of her, or post tons of pictures of you on social media where she’ll see it. 

Why would he do this?

To make her jealous! If he’s using you to get to her, there’s no doubt he’s still emotionally attached to his ex-wife. 

And if that wasn’t insulting enough, the fact that he’s dragging you into this sordid love affair is unfair and cruel. He’s playing with your feelings just to get a rise out of his ex – this is unacceptable and it’s a definite sign he doesn’t value you.

8) He’s quick to defend her

Does he defend her as if they’re still together?

This one is quite tricky, and it might make you feel unsure about where he stands on the subject of his ex-wife. For example, he might complain openly about her. Yet, if you say something, he’ll turn on you and take her side.

Confusing, right?

If this is happening, it’s a strong sign he still feels for her. 

Now, if you’re insulting his ex unnecessarily and he defends her, that’s fair enough. He’s being a decent person, especially if she never actually did anything to hurt him, 

But if he gets defensive over every little thing and acts unreasonably, it might be time to take a step back and work out whether this is a cause for concern in your relationship. 

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9) You notice a lot of physical touch between them

Is your boyfriend very touchy-feely with his ex-wife?

Enough to make you feel uncomfortable?

You know what I’m going to say…

Being affectionate with an ex isn’t a great sign. Sure, they might share a friendly hug or a kiss on the cheek to say hi or bye, especially if they have children together, but anything more is inappropriate. 

If his arm is around her whenever they’re together, or they practically sit in each other’s laps, there may still be lingering feelings between them.

And even worse?

The fact that they do it in front of you is insulting and disrespectful. 

10) He still hasn’t introduced you to his loved ones 

Do you ever get the feeling he hasn’t introduced you to his family and friends because she’s still involved with them?

Depending on how long they were married, whether they have kids, and if she became close with his family, he may feel uncomfortable bringing his new partner on the scene.

And this discomfort most likely comes from the fact he’s still emotionally attached to her. 

Because if he wasn’t, he’d have no problem introducing you to his close circle. He’d have no problem showing the world he’s moved on and found a new love! 

11) He hasn’t cleared out her old belongings yet 

Keeping hold of pictures, clothing, sentimental gifts, all show he’s still emotionally attached to his ex-wife. 

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Most people keep hold of these keepsakes for a while after a divorce, until they’re finally ready to give it all back and make a clean start in life. 

So the fact he’s still got things even while in a new relationship is a clear indicator he’s not truly moved on from his ex. 

Especially now that you’re on the scene – how can he make space for the new if he’s still holding onto the old?

12) They talk on the regular 

Keeping in touch with an ex-spouse might be necessary, as I said earlier if they have kids together. 

But if they’re chatting at all hours of the day and night, you’ve got to ask yourself, why? 

The chances are there’s still an emotional connection between them. 

But the sad truth is, he’s not giving his new relationship with you a chance to take off if his ex is so heavily in the mix. 

Think about it realistically, apart from the logistics of parenting, why else would they need to be in touch so much?

The truth is:

Even if they remained friends after their divorce, there should be some breathing space for them to both get on with their lives. 

If not, it’s clear they aren’t ready to let each other go yet. 

But with that being said, if they do have children together, be patient and understanding (within reason). Don’t be the woman who gets in between him and his children, he’ll only resent you for it later.

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Accept that he’s got to continue a relationship with his ex-wife for the sake of his children, and the more amicable it is, the better for everyone. 

13) She’s always first to know 

Does he go to her with good news before you?

Does he call her for help rather than ask you?

If he does this, again, you’re being put second in this relationship. Not only is he taking away your right as his partner to share in his joys and sorrows, but he’s keeping his ex-wife heavily in the loop. 

And that’s not right.

This is a clear sign of emotional attachment – he’s still treating her as if they’re together. 

So where does that leave you? As his girlfriend, shouldn’t you be the first to know important/happy/sad news? Shouldn’t you be the one to support him? 

There’s no doubt you’ll have picked up on this happening, and it’s probably led to you feeling rejected and unwanted – not what you want in a relationship.

14) Her pictures are still all over his social media 

This is one of my pet peeves – it took months for my boyfriend to delete the pictures of his ex on social media. 

It might seem petty, after all, it’s a made-up world online. But to anyone who viewed his profile, it seemed like he was still in a relationship with her, even though they’d broken up long before we got together. 

So if your boyfriend is doing the same, I feel your frustration!

Granted, she, as his wife, was a big part of his life, but at some point, he has to move on and make space for his new relationship to take over. 

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If he doesn’t, he’s sending a clear signal that he’s still emotionally attached to her – and he’s happy for the world to know about it. 

15) Your gut feeling tells you he’s not moved on 

And ultimately, if your gut feeling and intuition tell you something is up, it’s for good reason.

The very fact that you’re reading this article shows that somewhere deep inside, you’ve got your concerns about his feelings towards his ex. 

Trust your gut instinct

Even if he denies it, pleads and promises, if your gut still tells you there’s something between them, you’d be wise to listen to this inner voice and act accordingly. 

After all, you deserve to be with someone whose sole focus is you. You shouldn’t be competing or being compared to an ex. You should be number one in your partner’s eyes. 

Does your relationship stand a chance if he’s still emotionally attached to his ex-wife?

If reading the above points resonated with you, your next thought is probably “Is there any hope for us?”.

That’s a decision you’ll have to make alongside your boyfriend (or without him if he’s not interested in hearing your concerns). Use these pointers to help you:

  • Consider carefully whether he has a valid reason for any of the points above (some, like having regular contact because of kids make more sense, whereas flirting, for example, doesn’t).
  • Think about what you really want – do you want to make it work with him, or are you more interested in “winning” him from his ex-wife?
  • Talk to him about it before you make any rash decisions. Find out his side and how he truly feels. There’s always the possibility you’ve read too much into his actions with his ex.

If your partner can justify his actions and you both decide to make your relationship work, be clear that you feel uncomfortable about his relationship with his ex-wife. 

If he’s committed to making it work with you, he’ll find a way to adjust his relationship with her so that you take priority. 

And if he doesn’t? 

Well, as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. If he continues to put her first, you know he isn’t the one for you!

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The last thing you want is to be caught up in a love triangle. Don’t make it into a competition that you feel you’ve got to win. 

Protect your heart and save it for someone completely ready to be in a relationship with you – you’ll thank yourself later for not wasting your time in this messed-up situation!

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