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Unless this is your very first serious relationship, you are bound to encounter a situation few people can prepare you for- the remnants of a past relationship that just won't fade away. It may be a small gesture that triggers a memory in your partner's mind, or an inadvertent reference to something 'they' once shared. Sometime, somewhere a painful memory will be jogged, and the consequences can be devastating on your present relationship unless you are fully prepared to deal with the situation rationally.

First of all, realize that you did nothing wrong when you mentioned that movie or that song or that restaurant. There's no possible way you could have known what memories a casual remark could trigger. This is your partner's issue, not yours. Don't beat yourself up, believing that you caused this rift all by yourself. Your partner may accuse you of deliberately bringing up the past - accept such outbursts as 'heat of the moment', not rational thinking.

Some previous relationships may have ended very satisfactorily. Your partner and his/her ex may have simply parted ways, each feeling confident that it simply was not meant to be. In that case, a nurturing partner should accept that the ex's name will occasionally turn up in conversation. If your boyfriend says, 'You know, when Pam and I went to that restaurant, the service was terrible.', he is only giving you a frame of reference, not trying to inflict a wound.

Be willing to accept the fact that some ex's were also ex-friends, and the two were bound to have done many of the things you are now doing as a new couple. This is a perfectly healthy way to deal with the occasional reference situation. You should feel equally at ease discussing what you and Bruce thought of the same restaurant when you went there as a couple. These types of ex's are not usually a threat to any relationship, and you should not feel obligated to artificially forget the good times you had for the sake of a present relationship.

By this same token, however, some relationships ended in a flaming plane wreck, leaving the survivors to sort out all the bloody details. This is when a present partner can sense real danger. He's talking about 'her' again, she's still calling 'his' number, she's crying herself to sleep thinking about 'him', etc.. The ex has now become the 400 pound gorilla in the living room. Nobody wants to admit he's in there, and nobody wants to talk about it. All a nurturing partner can do now is bite their tongue and plow through the wreckage.

You are a romantic companion, not a licensed therapist. If you feel that your partner is having a really difficult time reconciling a bad past relationship, don't be afraid to suggest professional counseling. Break-ups are murderous on the human psyche, and if this particular break-up is causing that much pain, it's out of your hands.

Unless you feel absolutely confident in your ability to communicate with your partner, you shouldn't go into it alone. They will invariably say something that will hurt your feelings, or undermine your confidence in your present relationship.

This shouldn't be seen as deliberate, necessarily. True emotional healing sometimes calls for brutal honesty- no, you're not always as special in his eyes as 'she' was. Understandably, no one wants to hear that without massive preparation. But the ultimate goal in this counseling situation is to remove those stains from the past, not hamper the present. True love will survive this temporary setback, and your relationship should ultimately become stronger for it.

The last piece of advice I have on surviving the ex's in a relationship has more to do with your frame of mind, not your suffering partner's. Once the ex is out of the picture, keep them out. Don't seek them out in order to exact some psychological revenge. They are human beings, despite what your partner may have said during counseling. No one will be helped by continuing the imaginary grudge yourself.

Concentrate on the positive aspects of your new relationship, and leave the past in the past. This does escalate when the past relationship involves children, but even then you need to take the moral high ground.

Don't allow yourself to become a pawn in a child custody situation. Accept the foregone conclusion that your partner still has an obligation to be civil to his ex, and try not to dwell on it. How you handle yourself now will have a direct bearing on how your partner perceives you in the future.

This is not an easy topic to discuss, and I'm sure that there are a lot of horror stories out there concerning the role of ex's in a relationship.

If you hear a particularly scary story, learn from it. If you take the time to shore up your own emotional defenses, then you should survive the 'invasion of the ex'with little or no damage. It's still you and your beloved against the world, so try not to let the world win this one.