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"Dear Bridestory, I'm feeling so confused and worried right now. My boyfriend and I had a conversation not so long ago about his ex-girlfriend. And long story short – the conversation ended up into him telling me how he still has feelings for her. I was so shocked and of course very hurt by it. We didn't talk about it further because I simply shut down after that. I'm so worried! What does this mean? Does he still want to be with her? Is this normal? Please, help!" - WorriedGirlfriend
First of all, it must be really difficult to hear something like that. No one likes to hear about his or her partner's past in general but then to hear that they still have feelings for their ex is a whole other level of confusion. It is understandable why you would want to shut down after your boyfriend told you that however, doing this will only result in you losing the chance to really understand the truth behind these "feelings" he still has. Shutting down and not communicating with your boyfriend regarding your feelings about this whole thing will only create distance and more confusion in your head. So, the first piece of advice you should consider is in actually talking to him about this further. It may not be the easiest thing to do and it may scare you however, it is necessary if you want to continue the relationship and have a future with him.
The reason why a conversation needs to happen is in order to get some things cleared out. It can be one of the most confusing things to know that your boyfriend still has feelings for someone else but at the same time still be with you romantically. You can end up feeling like you are sharing his heart with someone else. If all you know is that he "still has feelings" this could drive you insane with what that sentence even means. Like you said yourself, you are questioning whether he still wants to be with you or not or if it means he wants to be with his ex if he had the chance. Confronting him about this will help you find the answers rather than simply assuming things. What he said could mean all sorts of things including the fact that he may simply have fond memories but not have the desire to get back with his ex.
It is important to consider the fact that his 'feelings' may represent something else, instead of from a romantic standpoint. Depending on how he left things with his ex, there could still be underlying anger or resentment there, which he may confuse as "feelings". Or he may simply have happy memories about his ex, which again he may confuse as "still having feelings". The point is to understand the meaning behind what he said rather than just taking it for what it is. He may not even understand his feelings fully either so it will do a lot of good getting this cleared up so this does not create any misunderstandings.
Your boyfriend has the responsibility to communicate what he meant by what he said to you. If he becomes defensive or gets annoyed at you asking him about it, then this would be an unfair reaction towards your feelings. Furthermore, if after speaking to him further about it, he shows that he does in fact still has romantic feelings for his ex and still wants something to happen in the future then, of course, take this as a big red flag. You should not be his second option – you should always be his first. And if the shoes were on the other side – this too would hurt your partner. Whatever happens – it is important to be sensitive to each other's feelings. Perhaps your partner needs to learn to be more careful with what he shares with you – if it is going to cause you pain or make you feel worried. If there really is nothing there to be worried about then he should be able to comfort you and reassure you that his "feelings" does not mean anything.