OK, in an ideal situation, your boyfriend would give you a brief summary about his split with a dull, non-threatening ex-girlfriend who's moved to a faraway country, taking his emotional baggage along with her. You could then forget all about her and get on with your life with Mr Perfect.
But in reality, we're often only a Facebook search away from finding out just as much about his ex as a CIA agent could. A recent Cosmo survey revealed that more than 75 percent of readers admit to looking at their man's ex on social media, or comparing pics of themselves with her. So how can you work on getting over his ex?
Rachel*, 27, is guilty of stalking her BF's ex. "I'd seen a comment my boyfriend's ex posted on his Facebook wall and it got under my skin," she says. "So I went through her profile to see pics from when they were dating. It hurt, especially as she was prettier than I imagined." But, as for so many women, a one-off snoop became a regular habit.
"I started to get obsessive, checking almost every day, analysing what she was doing and imagining my BF was Facebook stalking her, too," she says. "Then I'd find myself bringing her up in arguments – and he could tell I'd been looking at her profile. In the end, I banned myself from ever looking at her page. I knew that I'd been behaving irrationally, and as soon as it wasn't in my face any more, I could distance myself."
Anj Kohli, a life coach and relationship expert, says comparing ourselves with our love predecessors is only natural: "Throughout life we are compared to others, so it's understandable to want to come out on top when we compare ourselves to our partner's ex." But the Cosmo poll revealed that less than eight percent of you actually felt any better about your relationship after digging the dirt of your man's ex. So ask yourself this: why wouldn't he have gone out with a hot, smart girl before he met you? He's got good taste, which is why he's with you now."If you look for validation in other people, you're giving in to your insecurities," says Kohli. "You have to remember your boyfriend is with you for your own unique qualities."
But suppose that you know he moved in with her after six months of dating, yet isn't ready to take the same step with you after a year? "Trying not to reference his past will give your relationship the chance of establishing itself," advises Annie Lionnet, author of Brilliant Relationships: Your Ultimate Guide to Attracting and Keeping the Perfect Partner. "Every couple is different and reaches milestones at different times. Taking things slowly often leads to a stronger relationship in the long run."
The first step is in understanding your own securities. "It doesn't mean that your relationship is wrong," says Kohli. "Things can build up to make us feel bad about ourselves. They might be rooted in issues from your past. "If your obsessive behaviour is unlike you, there may be trust issues. Tell him you're feeling vulnerable and let him make you feel amazing again. Oh, and make use of Facebook's 'block' button"
Words by Harriet Stigner. *Names have been changed.