Clearing out the ghosts of girlfriends past

Photos courtesy of John Lee

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, UT. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

OPINION – What do you when a boyfriend’s ex-girlfriends continue to text him, and sometimes not with the most appropriate of messages?


I’ve been dating a really nice guy for a couple of months but he has several ex-girlfriends that still text him, sometimes really inappropriate messages. I’ve looked at his phone and he’s always been honest about the messages and he never responds, but he doesn’t tell them to leave him alone either.  Do I just ignore it and hope they go away?


I can certainly see why you’re concerned about your boyfriend’s collection of messages from his ex-girlfriends.  It sounds like the two of you need to have a serious conversation about boundaries with former flames.  Here are a few suggestions to help you structure this important discussion:

First, you will want to find out if your boyfriend sees himself as your exclusive boyfriend. He may have a different idea of when he should declare to the world that he’s not available for flirting and suggestive messages. You may be surprised to learn that he doesn’t feel as committed to this relationship as you.

On the other hand, he says he is ignoring the text messages, so there must be some level of recognition that these communications are threatening to you.

If he has already declared to his friends, family, and even ex-girlfriends that he’s in an exclusive committed relationship, yet continues to receive these messages, then let’s move on to the second point.

You will want to let him know that even though he’s not responding to these inappropriate text messages, they still create relationship insecurity for you. This isn’t something you should ignore, as it’s an authentic feeling. This is a good time to stay emotionally honest and not play down your feelings. If you try to ignore it, your insecurity and resentment will come out some other way.  So, you might as well talk about it!

While the text messages may seem innocent, the type of relationship these women shared with your boyfriend gives them a different meaning. As a result, even innocent-sounding messages can feel threatening to the security of the relationship, especially as you’re working to build a secure base with each other.

If he can’t break off the connection with these women, then I invite you to ask him what kind of relationship he plans to have with each of them. If he states that he just wants to maintain the friendship, then I encourage you to get to know these women and make them friends of the relationship.

One of the safest boundaries for committed couples is for partners to know each other’s friends, especially their opposite-sex friends.  These friends should be supportive of the relationship and never have secret conversations that involve sharing confidences.

If you want more information on how to set up healthy boundaries with opposite-sex friends, I highly recommend reading “Not Just Friends” by Shirley Glass.

It’s likely that your boyfriend just doesn’t want to hurt their feelings.  This is a good opportunity to take your relationship to the next level and encourage him to care more about your feelings than the feelings of ex-girlfriends who probably don’t care that he’s moved on.  And, if they “do” care, then I can’t think of a better reason to have him step up and protect your relationship.

email: [email protected]

twitter: @geoffsteurer

Copyright 2012 St. George News.

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1 Comment

  • Kara June 6, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    Overall, I think your advise here is pretty good. I noticed you didn’t address the fact that the woman asking the question went through her boyfriend’s phone. Do you think this is an acceptable? An invasion of privacy? Do the ends justify the means? When is it ok to start (and when should one stop) going through a lover’s phone / computer for “evidence?”

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