Relationships don’t end with a breakup. No, they drag on, all the emotional baggage and pain manifesting in a multitude of ways long after your ex has left the picture.
And if you haven’t given yourself enough time and invested enough energy into the healing process, there’s a high likelihood that all those issues will wreak havoc in your next relationship.
Of course, we’re not talking about *you* today. We’re talking about your partner. Do they have unresolved issues from a past relationship?
These are the 7 signs.
1) They talk about their ex a little bit too much
Firstly, let’s get one thing clear: it’s okay to talk about your ex. They played a large role in your life once upon a time, and they’ve inevitably contributed to your personal growth.
Your current partner deserves to know about your past and the people who shaped you into the person they’ve fallen in love with.
But there’s a difference between discussing your exes from time to time and bringing them up during random conversations on a regular basis.
If your significant other mentions their ex at times when it’s completely unnecessary – “Look, a magpie! Rachel loved magpies…” – there is a high chance they’re still emotionally invested in their past relationship and aren’t able to give you their heart just yet.
2) Their assumptions about you contradict who you really are
Another thing to watch out for is your partner’s expectation of how you will react to specific actions and situations.
When you got together, you were starting from scratch – you had yet to discover each other’s personalities, quirks, triggers, and behavioral patterns.
Except your partner wasn’t working with a clean sheet. No, their sheet had already been scribbled on, and now they’re looking at a palimpsest. No matter what you do, their ex’s actions shine through behind your own, twisting your partner’s assumptions of you.
Here’s an example. Let’s say your partner has made a mistake – for instance, they’ve told their best friend something about you they should have kept private and they now feel guilty – and wants to come clean about it.
You’ve been together for four months, and in that time, you’ve shown your partner time and again that anger and aggression aren’t your thing. You’re not one to cause scenes. You hate drama, in fact. You’d never flip out if they confided in you about something, even if it upset you.
Your partner ought to know that now, but for some reason, they’re still afraid of telling you, so they keep it to themselves, only for their friend to mention it later on, the issue turning into a much bigger deal because secrecy has been added into the equation.
The crux of the problem here is that your partner still expects you to react in the same ways their ex would, even though experience has taught them otherwise.
They still carry the emotional pain from their past relationship, and your own relationship suffers as a result.
3) They struggle to find balance because they’re still reacting to their ex’s behavior
Unresolved pain is hard to shake, and nowhere is this clearer than in a new romantic relationship.
I’ve met people who were once cheated on, only to get extremely jealous of their new partner Joe Goldberg-style (well, that’s a bit of an over-exaggeration… but you get the point).
I’ve also had a friend who felt so unwanted in his past relationship that he struggled to open up in the next one because he feared rejection.
When someone hurts us, we tend to incorporate the best coping mechanisms we can come up with in order to avoid the same pain in the future – even though the very same mechanisms may destroy our chance at happiness in the process.
If you want to know whether your partner has unresolved issues from a past relationship, look at how well they handle balance.
A little bit of jealousy isn’t a big deal. Controlling behavior is.
Struggling to open up may not be such a big issue if your partner just needs a bit of time, but if you’ve been together for three years and they still haven’t told you about a bad past experience that influences the whole dynamic you’ve got going on… it’s a problem.
Existing in the extremes means your partner is still reacting to that past pain and doesn’t know how to heal properly and reach balance.
4) They are either very secretive or they trauma dump constantly
And speaking of extremes, chances are that your ex is either on one side or the other – they either keep important information about their past from you, or they talk about it so often that you simply don’t know how to help them anymore.
A secretive partner tends to hide their own pain from themselves, which is why they don’t want to share themselves with you – in their mind, speaking about it out loud would make it become true.
Unfortunately, that pain will proceed to manifest in other ways that undermine the relationship and make you both unhappy.
A partner who trauma dumps, on the other hand, is very open about their past relationship – not because they want to be honest with you and connect with you but because their pain is still unresolved, and they believe that by confiding in you time and again, they will receive the emotional validation they think they need so badly.
More often than not, however, your partner is the only person who can give themselves that true acknowledgment and finally move on. Your support helps, but you can only do so much.
At the end of the day, it’s up to your partner to confront those issues and heal.
5) They find it difficult to trust you
If you’ve been hurt in the past, you’ll naturally find it difficult to trust someone with your heart again. That much is clear.
However, one of the scary things about love is that giving it another chance is precisely what you have to do in order to have an amazing relationship. Even though you’re petrified, even though you’re not sure how things will turn out, you’ve just got to jump in again and see what happens.
But if you’re still stuck in the past, how can you even begin to trust another person?
Exactly. You can’t. This is why a partner who struggles to trust you may have unresolved issues from a past relationship that still need dealing with.
While some people might not trust you enough to get emotionally attached and open up, others – such as people who trauma dump a lot – don’t have a problem getting attached but *do* struggle to trust you in other areas.
For example, they may be jealous a lot or they might not feel secure in your love for them no matter how many times you reassure them and show your true feelings.
Your actions are simply never enough to gain your partner’s trust – not because you’re inherently untrustworthy (you aren’t) but because your partner has yet to do a lot of healing work.
6) They subconsciously create patterns that remind them of the old dynamic
Good old self-sabotage, eh?
The fascinating thing about toxic patterns is that once you’re out, you might try to recreate them in the next relationship because that’s the only thing you know how to navigate.
If you’ve only ever known chaos, a sense of calm and peace may seem threatening. As a result, you might create unnecessary conflicts that remind you of your past relationship in order to feel “safe” again.
Yeah, it’s a bit of a nightmare. I, for example, used to be so clingy and annoying that I drove my boyfriend away from me, subconsciously recreating the situation that made me miserable in the previous relationship.
By seeing that he was “just like my ex” (even though I caused the behavior in the first place), I could confirm to myself that no man could ever love me right and that I would end up sad and alone forever. That narrative was so familiar to me that I couldn’t imagine anything else.
…until I worked very hard to recognize that thought process and actively change it.
7) They expect your relationship to fix all their problems
When you enter a new relationship, you should do so while bearing full responsibility for your unresolved issues.
Unfortunately, many people don’t realize they even *have* issues in the first place, and a high number of those who do expect your love to work as a miracle cure that gets rid of all the pain.
If you give them no reason to be jealous, they won’t go through your phone and will suddenly heal all their insecurities, right?
Wrong. They’ll just come up with strange reasons that allow them to disrespect your boundaries because they can’t find it within themselves to trust you. All the while, they won’t realize that it’s their unresolved issues that are causing problems – they’ll think it’s you.
But remember that as long as you’re doing your best to treat your partner with respect and kindness, you’re not the problem. You can only do so much to help them.
The rest of the work is up to them.