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There are many different challenges and struggles that we will have to face in the world of dating, from deciding whether you can accept his obsession with hockey to finding a balance between work and pleasure. However, when someone chooses to remain friends with an ex, this can add an additional level of confusion and difficulty. How do you know if he’s really over her, or still holding on for one more chance?

While we often like to see the choice of remaining friends with one’s ex as being a rare occurrence, after all, it’s easier to accept that they had someone in the past when you see it as a closed door, experts say this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, research shows that just over half of Americans admit to staying friends with an ex-following with their breakup.

If you find yourself trying to navigate the difficult minefield of whether or not ‘just friends’ is really the best description of where they are at, know that you’re not alone. The good news is that relationships experts truly believe that you can maintain a friendship following a relationship but only if both parties are capable of working through the thoughts and emotions that they have experienced, letting go of their romantic feelings for one another and reaching a point in life where they are capable of moving on. Is this true for your man? Or is he still secretly hoping she’ll take him back someday? These tips may help give you some clarity…

Watch out for these 12 signs that he’s still hung up on his ex:

#1 – When time gets tough, he turns to her more often than he does to you.

It has been said that the toughest times have the ability to reveal our true personality, and this is a classic example. When your man is faced with a challenging time in life, or if he is in need of some solid advice, who does he turn to? If you find that he confides in her more often then he does you, this often indicates a deeper emotional connection. Despite often being overlooked, emotional infidelity is a genuine concern.

#2 – He communicates with her differently than the rest of his friends.

Have you ever stopped to listen to the way that he communicates with her on the phone? Do they talk like he does with his best guy friend, or one of his close coworkers, or is it something different? Is he comfortable taking a call in front of you, or does he leave the room? Does he hide his phone from you when he’s texting with her? These are all signs that something is up. This isn’t to say that he shouldn’t want to have any privacy in the relationship, but if he’s that determined to keep his communication with just this one person from you while being open with everything else, that’s definitely a red flag.

#3 – If he runs into her in public he becomes flustered or awkward.

Body language shares more than most of us give it credit for. If you’re out at the mall and run into her, how does he respond to this chance meeting? Is it nothing more than running into an acquaintance from work or a neighbor, or does he suddenly start acting like an awkward teenager? If you notice he starts to fumble his words, or instantly puts distance between himself and you the second that he sees her, this is a sign that his mind is still struggling to understand where he stands in relation to the breakup and how he feels.

#4 – He spends time with her but avoids telling you about it.

There are situations where, following a break-up, two people can maintain a respectful working relationship. However, it requires all involved to be at a place emotionally that they are no longer ‘in love’ with one another. For this reason, a man who still talks to their ex may be perfectly safe, however, a man that hides from you that he’s spending time with his ex reveals some big concerns.

#5 – There are pictures of her all over his apartment.

Sure, if they were together for any lack of time it wouldn’t be surprising to see her face in a family picture or at an important event that he attended at one time or another. However, if there are random photos of her, or the two of them together all over his apartment, it’s something you may want to address. Try sharing with your partner the fact this makes you uncomfortable. If he truly just didn’t get around to taking them down or thought nothing of it, he will have no problem removing them knowing that they bother you. If, however, he refuses to understand why this may bother you then he’s holding onto these pictures for some deeper reason.

#6 – Her name is constantly coming up in conversation.

Sure, he claims that everything is over and she’s no longer a part of his life, but it doesn’t take long to realize that she’s on his mind. He’s constantly reminded of her everywhere he looks, the most mundane things triggering memories of their time together. There’s nothing wrong with occasionally thinking about the past, it was a part of his life, but if he’s bringing her name up regularly in conversation, that’s a big red flag!

#7 – Anytime you disagree with something she said or speak poorly of her in any way, he gets upset.

If something comes up relating to his ex, and you don’t completely agree with her or support her, he steps up to defend her and protect her. You may even be wording your disagreement as politely as possible, but he has placed her on a pedestal and can’t even fathom the idea that she could be wrong.

#8 – He still talks about how difficult the break-up was for him.

There is nothing wrong with talking about the past from time to time. It is part of what made him who he is today and shouldn’t be completely ignored. If, however, any conversation about his past turns into him sharing just how traumatic his breakup was then there is a good chance that he’s not over it yet. He’s still got some baggage that he needs to work through. He may even be holding onto the hope that someday she will take him back once again.

#9 – At one time or another he has accidentally used her name.

There is no denying that his one is a BIG red flag. If he’s talking to you and slips up, using her name in place of your own, then it’s clear that she’s still on your mind. This may happen in the heat of a moment when you’re in the middle of a major argument or in the throws of making love, or it can happen just in daily conversation, like when he’s asking what you’d like in your morning coffee. While he may try to explain it away as nothing more than force of habit, if they’ve been broken up for a good period of time, and if your relationship is nothing new, then it’s likely something more concerning.

#10 – His thoughts shift back to her at the most inappropriate times.

Not only does he think about her more often than he should, but there are times that he will bring her name up when it’s completely inappropriate. Does he mention his ex when you’re having an argument? Has he ever mentioned her while professing his love? If he can’t see that this is inappropriate, then you should consider what’s causing him to be so blind to this fault.

#11 – He regularly compares you to his ex.

This is a huge red flag and one that you are likely already aware of if it’s happening. Does your partner regularly compare you to his ex, finding similar personality traits, or mentioning ways that they may approach a situation differently? For example, if you are trying to paint the apartment together, did he bring up how creative she was? This is a sign that she’s still front and center in his mind, coming up in his thoughts all the time. Don’t be afraid to share that this bothers you, it’s an unhealthy dynamic.

#12 – His social media accounts are full of photos tagged with them both in it.

In today’s day and age, nothing is official until it’s Facebook official. Seen as the hub of all things that are going on in our lives, you can tell a lot about a person by what they are or aren’t including. Do you notice that there are a large number of pictures of your partner and his ex together on social media, maybe even more than they are of you and your partner together? If someone didn’t know, would all those pictures of smiling faces together give the impression that they are a thing? If they are holding onto that many pictures of them together there could be a reason.

Are they really just friends? Here are 12 signs that you’ve got nothing to worry about:

#1 – He doesn’t always drop everything the second she is in need of rescue.

He’s a good guy, so he’s not going to actively leave her high and dry, but he doesn’t make it a priority in his life to jump to her aid the second that she calls. He’s not her on-call handyman, her knight in shining armor. If she calls in the middle of the night with a plumbing crisis in her apartment he doesn’t spring out of bed to run to her rescue. Instead, he’s completely comfortable giving her the number of a local plumber and returning to your side.

#2 – He doesn’t hide the fact that you are dating from her.

When he does reconnect with her, he doesn’t pretend to be single or to downplay the relationship that you have. Instead, he’s completely open with sharing the fact that he has moved on and is starting to build this life with you. After all, we want to share the better part of our lives with our friends, and being they are honestly just friends he isn’t concerned about whether or not it will hurt his feelings. He’s just letting a ‘buddy’ know that he’s found someone great. This also helps to communicate exactly where he stands to her, leaving no room for confusion as to whether they have moved on or are still working on re-establishing what once was.

#3 – While he enjoys hanging out with her, he invites you along as well.

He enjoys spending time with her, given they are good friends. There is nothing wrong with this, he enjoys spending time with his good guy friends as well! Unlike someone who is hung up on his ex and therefore seeking time together alone, he is completely open to including you in his plans. In fact, he would love nothing more than to see you get along with her as well. He doesn’t hide that she’s his ex, and his openness to share all this information only works to facilitate trust.

#4 – She can be best described as ‘just one of the guys’.

Watch to see how they interact with one another. Does he treat her differently than his other friendships, or do you find that she fits into the pattern of how he reacts with ‘the guys’ on a usual basis? The body language, tone of his voice and the way that he reacts to her presence can tell you a lot. As we just said, he is more than willing to invite you along, so take him up on the offer. Take the opportunity to see first hand whether they have really hit that comfort level with their friendship, letting go of the possibility of anything more.

#5 – He’s completely comfortable taking her call in front of you.

If she does call, he doesn’t feel the need to leave the room or tell her that he’ll call her back later when you’re not around. He’s open and honest with you about everything in his life, and therefore he has nothing to hide from you. After all, it’s not like they are going to be engaging in any type of conversation that is inappropriate or concerning.

#6 – Valuing your opinion, he asks if you are okay with him continuing the friendship.

If you’re at this point of deciphering his relationships, then he is honestly interested in maintaining some sort of friendship with this woman. However, he has moved on and made you the top priority in his life. For this reason, he takes the time to check in with you and see how you feel about his continued friendship, making sure that you’re okay with the two continuing to interact. This is a sign of respect, and also a clear indication of where each of you stands in his life at this point. Your relationship is truly important to him.

#7 – He is genuinely happy for her when he hears she’s dating someone new.

When he finds out that she’s found a new partner, he doesn’t get upset or offended. He’s moved on and found love with you, and he’s truly happy to hear that she’s also taking this step. As a good friend, he wants nothing more than to see her happy.

#8 – Looking back, he understands that the breakup was a good thing.

While we discussed in the previous list that seeing the breakup as traumatic and still a source of pain is a sign that he’s still hung up on his ex, the opposite is true if they are just friends. He can look back on that event in his life and recognize that it was an important step in bringing him to where he is today. After all, he wouldn’t be with you if that previous relationship hadn’t ended. He can recognize that the relationship played an important role in his past, even helped him to learn about himself and grow into the person that he is today. At the same time, he realizes that it ended for a reason and he’s happy with her it led him in life.

#9 – In order to keep things clear, he’s had the conversation with her about where he stands.

He isn’t dancing around the situation. Instead, he decided to take a firm stance on where he’s at in his life and made it clear with this woman how he sees her fitting into the picture. He expressed the fact that he has moved on, that you are the love of his life, and that’s not going to change. Any thoughts of them possibly getting back together are put to rest when he makes it more than clear that he is interested solely in friendship, giving her the chance to either pursue the same type of connection or to walk away if she’s unable to keep it to just that.

#10 – He doesn’t talk to her obsessively, just casually.

The amount that he talks to her can provide you with a good idea of just how close the relationship is. If he talked to her once in a while, catching up from time to time that’s a good sign. If, however, he feels the need to keep his phone in hand constantly, so he can check in with her every couple hours then he’s allowing his need to communicate with her interfere with your relationship. Friendships are healthy so long as they are kept in balance with the rest of your life.

#11 – He is completely open with you about their friendship.

There is no need to hide their friendship, pretend that he hasn’t spent time with her or keep you in the dark. If they are truly nothing more than friends, then he has no problem with sharing this side of his life with you. Now, there is a line worth noting – he doesn’t tell you every last detail, obsessing over this time with her. This isn’t a regular topic of conversation between you. However, he also doesn’t go out of his way to keep it hidden. It is what it is, and he’s forthcoming should it come up rather than being defensive about it or trying to shut it down immediately.

#12 – While they are connected on social media, they don’t use it to communicate constantly.

Let’s be honest, we’ve all got far more friends on our social media accounts than we do in real life, it just happens with platforms like Facebook! We connect with friends, coworkers, old acquaintances, schoolmates from years past. If he’s maintained a friendship with her, he’s likely got her on his social media accounts, but it isn’t so that they can keep up with every detail of one another’s lives. They don’t talk constantly, and he doesn’t feel the need to engage on every post and photo that she shares. Pay attention to this behavior, it tells far more than just whether or not they are technically ‘friends’ online.

Feature Image Source: Allan Filipe Santos Dias | Unsplash