What Does It Mean If Your Partner Doesn't Delete Pictures of Their Ex? An Expert Weighs In

In 2019, I'd argue that the most difficult part of dating someone new is being exposed into so much of their past relationships through social media. Take Bachelor star Colton Underwood, for example. Regardless of him teasing that he is engaged to whoever wins the final rose, his Instagram is filled with pictures from his notable romance with Olympic gold medalist and activist, Aly Raisman. The photos and captions that made your heart melt remain on his feed, though it seems that he’s moved on—or, at least that he’s trying. Should photos of an ex be deleted from Instagram immediately? Is it a red flag if someone you start seeing still has photos of their ex up? To figure out what this means—or if it means anything at all—Her Campus spoke with Dr. Darcy Sterling, certified relationship therapist and host of E!’s Famously Single.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

😍 Happy Valentine's Day beautiful

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“We’re more insecure at the beginning of relationships. We wonder about our partner’s exes, and we dislike uncertainty when it comes to intimate partners,” she says. “Social media has given us more accessible outlets for those issues. We can now see what the ex looks like, and we can find out if they've moved on. In many ways, social media has made it easy for us to behave in ways that would historically be considered to have violated our partner’s privacy. But that doesn’t mean that engaging in those activities is ideal or healthy,” Dr. Darcy adds. Here, she explains five things it could mean if your new partner has been slow to delete those cute pictures of his ex—and what it means if they’re not posting you at all.

Real talk: Don’t panic at a random post or two.

DS: Today, most people’s social media will document their history, and if your history includes past relationships, it’s likely that your social media will reflect that. That’s not to say that pictures of your ex can’t be an indication that your partner is holding on to their past. Just that you need more data points than just that. I also think it depends on the length of the past relationship and the number of pictures on social media. There should be a correlation between the two. If the person only dated their ex for 6 to 8 months, I wouldn’t expect more than a dozen pics to be posted. Especially if the person doesn’t post constantly.

It’s more important to focus on your current relationship, not your partner's last.

DS: I think that some people may continue to follow exes (as well as others) and be unaware that they’re following them. Also, I think people should be more focused on growing the current relationship and less fixated on whether their partner is over their ex. Your partner will organically get over their ex in time because they’ll be super into you.

Don’t feel like you have to ask a partner to take down an old picture, or get hung up on whether they’re following an ex.

DS:  I don’t think it’s reasonable to ask a partner to do [remove pictures] unless the pictures of the ex are either inappropriate [PDA] or your relationship with your partner has lapped the length of their relationship with their ex. And, why do you even know that your partner is friends with or following the ex? You’re social-stalking if you do, and it’s a behavior that’s probably an indication of jealousy issues.

Related: 4 Things You Probs Didn't Know About 'Bachelor' Colton Underwood

If you're in a new relationship, it’s okay if pictures of you two aren’t blowing up their Instagram feed.

DS: At the point where you’re officially in a relationship, it’s appropriate for your social media to have at least one picture of your partner.  Moving forward, the amount you post should be consistent with how often you use social media.

That said, I do think there’s a tipping point in either direction: Post too much and you look like you’re engaging in a PR campaign to rebrand yourself. Post too little (or not at all) and you look like you’re hiding something, even if you’re someone who never posts.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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At the end of the day, it could have nothing to do with you.

DS: This person might not even be aware of the pictures because they’re not constantly on social media, or they might feel disingenuous about deleting an entire chapter of their life. The pictures might involve other people too and an important milestone, or they simply don’t hate their ex, the relationship just ran its course.

Want to know if your social behaviors and jealousy are a problem? Click here to take Dr. Darcy’s quiz now.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.