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Calling out ex's name in bed

Dear Alice,

My girlfriend and I have been having sex with each other for the last six months. Just before we began seeing each other, she had gotten out of a pretty serious relationship. She insists it is over and that she has no feelings for him. I believed her up until recently, when we were having sex and she cried out his name. I like her very much, but, of course this incident has made me very insecure about our relationship. I'm not sure whether she needs more time to get over this guy, if I'm getting myself into a position where I'll get hurt, or if I should just ignore the whole thing altogether. What should I do?

Signed,
Sleepy or Dopey?

Dear Sleepy or Dopey?,

Sorry to hear you're feeling sexcluded in your own relationship! Managing feelings in relationships can be challenging, and these discussions are not easy ones, especially since they deal with sensitive issues of jealousy and insecurity. A state-of-the-relationship discussion might be a good option. Either it will ease your anxieties and reaffirm your girlfriend's commitment and interest in you, or it will allow you to make a clean break by ending the relationship. Whatever the outcome, you'll have more clarity and can make an informed decision.

In your question, you mentioned a few different issues: you had concerns that your girlfriend may need more time to get over her last partner, that you may get hurt, and you may just ignore the whole thing. When it comes to getting hurt, unfortunately, there's a possibility of being hurt in any relationship. Instead, you could ask yourself if whether or not that is a risk that you're willing to take for your girlfriend. Though ignoring it may seem helpful, it won't reassure you of anything or help resolve your feelings. Talking about your feelings and listening to your partner's can help you sort out the possible misunderstanding. You can be honest with your girlfriend and can ask the same of her. Ultimately, she is the only one who can answer whether or not she is over her last partner and what saying his name meant, if anything at all.

Here are some ways to initiate a potentially difficult conversation. You can start by picking a time and place where you are both calm and comfortable. You might focus specifically on the name-calling, or you might want to focus on the broader relationship. For example, you could say,

  • I'm not sure how to say this, but the other night in bed it sounded like you said someone else's name. Would you mind if we talked about it? 
  • I've been thinking about the direction of our relationship lately and I'd like to talk about where we're going. Can we talk now?

Start however you feel comfortable, keeping in mind that your partner may be as uncomfortable, if not more so, than you are about what happened. Avoid bringing it up while in bed, on a date, or in the middle of an argument. You can ask her to talk with you about her perspective and her feelings. Maybe your name starts with the same letter as her ex's name. Maybe it was a brain-freeze in the heat of passion. Maybe she didn't realize she said her ex's name. Maybe she does need a little more time to get over her ex.

Whatever the reason(s) for calling out the wrong name, and she may not even know why it happened, she can tell you about her feelings for you, which could be all you're looking for. Best of luck!

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Last updated Oct 26, 2022
Originally published Feb 01, 1994

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