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Background Information: We have been together for 2.5 years. We do not live together, but visit each others apartments around 5 times a week. He is in his early 30s and I am in my mid 20s. We live in Germany

Story:

A few month ago I found a picture of my boyfriend kissing (what I assumed was) his ex girlfriend while looking for some stuff. I did not think much of it, and put it back.

My boyfriend has many pictures hanging in his apartment, most of them are with his friends, a few are with myself.

I suddenly noticed that one picture (not a group picture) had his ex girlfriend on it. It was just her on it. Alone.

When he came home, I asked him if he would mind removing her picture. He said "I can do that".

Fast forward a few month. The picture is still in the frame, I asked him again, because maybe he just forgot. "Sweety, could you please remove her picture, I really don't like seeing it." He answered: "good you didn't see there are actually two pictures of her, but sure I can remove it"

I was kinda speechless. I know he does not try to be mean, and I know he does not love her anymore. But the picture still hangs there.

Question: How do I tell my boyfriend how much I want these pictures gone, and that this task is not something he can postpone any longer?

Clarifications from comments

  • I explained to him why I was bothered by the picture. To be honest my only reasoning was that she is really pretty and that she is his ex who cheated on him and that I do not want to see that kind of person in my daily life.

  • I haven't asked why he has not removed the pictures yet, despite him saying that he would. I just thought he forgot. He is the kind of guy that leaves stuff he does not deem important for a long time. Example: All he wanted for christmas (2years ago) was a huge Lego Star Wars set, well he did not open it until now.

  • I actually never have made a conscious attempt to push him to do something faster. I am not really sure when he chooses to procrastinate, and when he is doing something immediately. Even things he really enjoys like riding the motorcycle, have to wait sometimes, because for example he doesn't replace something that needs repairing. Maybe his job is just very demanding and he feels like doing nothing in the evening.

  • I'm sure this person is his ex girlfriend. I have not "asked", but I stated it to him and he agreed. Also he is not that kind of guy who would randomly kiss a girl for pictures, and keep those in his apartment.


UPDATE:

Thank you all for your help and your insight! I did talk to him yesterday evening while walking from the car to his apartment so he wouldn't be distracted by anything. I used "I feel" statements like recommended by Noah Goodrich. And I also used the firm approach Mister Positive recommended. It went well, we removed the pictures together and added different pictures. He threw the old pictures in the trash, even though I told him he doesn't need to. Then he told me he loved me and gave me a kiss.

After so many people in the answers and comments told me how wrong I was for not wanting these pictures up there, and that I need to ask him for reasons I also asked him for his reasoning for keeping them up for so long. He told me it was just laziness because the frames are so difficult to open. I just wanted to add that I think it is sad how many people think my relationship is as temporary as his other relationships. We are planing on rebuilding an old house together and talk about marriage and children, I deeply hope you are all wrong.

Thank you again!

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    Hello network visitors! Please note that IPS is fairly strict about using comments as intended. Comments are only for clarifying and improving the question. Partial answers or general thoughts about the situation may be deleted without notice. If you'd like to write an answer, make sure to check out our posts on How do I write a good answer? and citation expectations first. Thanks! – avazula Oct 9 at 10:01
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    Are her pictures in a separate place, or part of a collection of other pictures? – user10085 Oct 9 at 12:52
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    I cant believe no one else feels like this is a MAJOR red flag. He liked her enough to go through the effort of putting her picture in a frame but not you enough to take the 30 seconds it takes to pop em open and toss em. Def still has feelings left over.. – DatsunZ1 Oct 10 at 17:33
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    @DatsunZ1 I would say I still have feeling for all my ex partners (at least if it lasted longer than a few weeks). It is just not romantic feelings, but these people are a part of me even if they are not in my life any more. I still value them to some degree, because they made me happy at some point. And beeing not in the mood of doing a task just now and then forget about it if it is not important to you is nothing I would deem uncommon. Your comment sounds like strong jealousy, which in return would be a red flag for me. So there are many perspectives to this. – Kami Kaze Oct 11 at 10:14
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One thing I have learned is that it is generally better to assume ignorance or stupidity over malevolence.

I think there are two things I haven't seen in the other answers yet that I would try first:

  1. Empathize. Sit down and ask your boyfriend something along the lines of

    "Seeing those pictures really bothers me, and despite having said a couple of times you would remove them, you haven't. Are there specific reasons that you haven't taken them down?"

    Then give him space to open up about what he may be feeling. Once he's had a chance to share what he may be feeling or whatever else is going on for him that has kept from removing the pictures, you'll probably have a better sense of what the path forward looks like.

  2. Use "I feel" statements. We've recently been trying to help our daughter learn to communicate in a way that is clear and honest but also so others aren't automatically defensive. A common approach to accomplishing these goals is to concentrate your statements on how you feel rather than how you perceive the other person's motives or actions.

    Contrast the recommended dialog from Mr. Positive:

    "It bothers me to see the pictures of your ex girlfriend, and you don't seem to care about my feelings in this regard"

    To this statement:

    "It bothers me to see pictures of your ex-girlfriend. I feel like by not taking them down as we've discussed, that you may not fully understand how important this is to me."

I have often been guilty of not doing small honey-dos because I was busy, forgot etc etc. It's not that I don't love my wife or want to please her I just sometimes fail to remember to do things she's asked. Other times, I have felt uncomfortable with a request and I have agreed because I didn't know how to tell my wife how I really felt. By focusing on your feelings and then asking him his feelings about removing the pictures, you create a safe space for him to open up.

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    Empathize is the right approach, but the specific question phrased there can easily come across as confrontational, especially if the other person has a defensive personality. (I do, that's why I notice. To me that is not a neutral phrasing, I read it as "tell me why you haven't RIGHT NOW"). The 2nd is slightly better. But we can still do better by applying Non-Violent Communications principles (giyf). – Tom Oct 10 at 14:24
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    @Tom How do we reword these phrases to apply non-violent communications principles? Certainly I would like to improve this answer where needed. A link explaining non-violent communication principles would also be helpful. – Noah Goodrich Oct 10 at 16:02
  • The CNVC is the authoritative source on anything NVC - cnvc.org – Tom Oct 10 at 21:26
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How do I tell my boyfriend how much I want these pictures gone, and that this task is not something he can postpone any longer?

At this point, after dating for a couple of years, I don't think it's unreasonable for you to be a bit more firm in your request.

First, use your own idea of offering to remove them together. This seems like a good group effort approach to try first. It is a nonconfrontational approach to achieve the desired result.

If that doesn't work, on your next visit, say something like:

"It bothers me to see the pictures of your ex-girlfriend, and you don't seem to care about my feelings in this regard. If you are that attached to them and won't put them away, perhaps we can go out versus staying here at your place."

What you're doing essentially without saying it directly: as long as those pictures are still on display, I won't be staying or visiting your place. You have already tried a more gentle approach, and those don't appear to have been effective.

If I read the tea leaves correctly, that may be enough for him to put them away. He may also become a bit agitated that you are "making a big deal" out of what he perceives as nothing. Do not concede here. IMO it's very disrespectful to you, two plus years into your relationship.

When I see pictures of ex's around it still tells me the person with the photos may still have feelings for the ex. Certainly after two years, it should not be a big deal to put them away. If you were to marry this person, would they expect to keep the pictures on display?

Ultimately, when I was dating I did not keep pictures of my ex-girlfriends out for the next person to see. It was part of my past, so those went in the drawer somewhere.

I know this is a bit of a generalization, but you have asked him to remove them already. I would have to ask myself:

"Why are they still there? Am I sure he is still not hung up on her?"

You have some interesting conversations ahead of you to get this resolved. But at some point, you need to stand your ground.

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It seems that he already knows that you dislike the pictures, but for some reason he does not do something about it. We might suppose that he's lazy about the issue, because you say that he procrastinate things... hence, he needs some help.

I usually procrastinate a lot of things, but I have discovered that asking someone for help often solves all my problems. Often I invite a friend to buy clothes, to build a furniture, to visit a new place, to try new food, watch a movie, etc. Things that I know I won't do alone because I'm lazy.

Since he likes to have pictures, gift him some frames, and enjoy a day with him selecting pictures to put in the frames. While doing it offer him your help him to hang them, defining a day to do that.
That day you can say "Since you said you'll remove these pictures, maybe this is a good occasion to replace them with others". Then you (or him) remove the pictures. Finally you ask him to hang the new frames instead.

Optional: To prepare the field for that day, you can invite him one day to your place because you need help to change some decorations. You can ask him his opinion about the different alternatives of decoration. Let him know that you value his views while doing the changes in your place. This set up will make things easier when you plan to make changes in his place.

By doing that you'll do a couple of activities together, you won't need to repeat him that you dislike those pictures, neither escalate a potential conflict nor showing any jealousy.

2

How do I tell my boyfriend how much I want these pictures gone, and that this task is not something he can postpone any longer?

Other:
... I asked him if he would mind removing her picture. He said "I can do that". Fast forward a few month. The picture is still in the frame ...
... He is the kind of guy that leaves stuff he does not deem important for a long time. Example: All he wanted for christmas (2 years ago) was a huge Lego Star Wars set, well he did not open it until now. ...
... Even things he really enjoys like riding the motorcycle, have to wait sometimes, because for example he doesn't replace something that needs repairing. Maybe his job is just very demanding and he feels like doing nothing in the evening. ...
... Also he is not that kind of guy who would randomly kiss a girl for pictures, and keep those in his apartment. ...

First, there seems to be a few interlocutory issues. He postpones you (your thoughts, or input) by telling you one thing but doing another. You not only don't wait to see him follow through with what he said, instead you wait to find out later that he doesn't follow through, then you have his reasons prepared; that he must have been busy or innocently forgot.

Love can be blind, or in the eye of the beholder, but it shouldn't be manipulative or dismissive.

By just letting things go, and trying to rationalize in his favor, you facilitate this behaviour.

Let me try that. Perhaps he had some good times and bad times with his former girlfriend: they attended an important event, helped someone in need, experienced a traumatic event together, etc. It's not his love for her he is holding on to but the experience that he could have had with anyone else, even his family - thus you should allow this. Does that make it better, probably not.

You need to use "we" in the conversation.

Example: "We need to put the past behind us and work on the present and the future". The word "we" means the three of you, you don't need her to come by for a visit, he shouldn't go to see her, and she probably has forgotten about him (with someone new).

When you explain this you need to be prepared to either accept to be ignored or prepared to move on. Then he can have this discussion with the next unlucky lady, and one or both of the former girlfriends pictures.

It is correct that you should feel uncomfortable with his retaining the old picture, but the reason could easily be for a reason having nothing to do with going back. Still, you two must move forward together, and he should leave his former girlfriends behind; especially since you've been together for a couple of years - perhaps you two are at the stage of deciding to move in together, and start a life together; this is a wedge that keeps you apart.

You need to explain this, and he needs to understand that.

Along with understanding that it needs to be something he does.

There is no 'polite' way to dispose of anyone's pictures. Throwing them in the garbage seems rude, physically returning them is going to be unhelpful or odd, and passing them along to a common friend really not much better. Perhaps putting the picture and the frame in a recycling bin is the best approach.

However he does it, if your relationship is to move forward, he needs to let go of the past.

It goes to say that the same applies to you. You don't keep old pictures of unexplained guys, or have some guy show up inexplicably - do you.

Reference and Sources:

Do the neural substrates behind motivation to retain/dispose of property govern whether certain people view their friends and partners as possessions?

Both answers can be applied but let's take the kinder viewpoint and look at user Krysta's answer:

"The orbitofrontal cortex seems to represent incentive/reward value of primary sensory information and is thus linked to the "hot" decision-making system, which manages decisions where there is a gain/loss of reward at stake or risk--this would necessarily cover property and personal relationships, which are both sources of reward. So it's less that the part of the brain that manages property may sometimes also manage personal relationships, and more that this particular part of the brain is responsible for representing incentive or reward options, which are relevant to different kinds of rewards, including property and people.".

Why do people feel the need to make changes to a solution presented by another person?

The two upvoted answers can be applied but let's take the kinder viewpoint and look at user Prasanta's answer:

"This is often a common phenomenon, but the context that you cited in your question might hold the key to one possible explanation. When you are presenting your design to someone who is "supposed" to evaluate your design, finding flaws enforces the self-efficacy of the evaluator and signals to him that he's doing his job well. So, the boost to self-efficacy/self-esteem might be a strong motivation for the evaluator to disproportionately criticize small issues with your design.

In addition, there is an even more fundamental human psychology that plays a role here -- the egocentricity/false consensus bias i.e. the idea that everyone else shares the same opinion about an idea as we do. The evaluator of the design might have an expectation of what the "correct" submission looks like, and any deviation from this expectation will be immediately noticed (and frowned upon).".

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    Hi Rob! As links may go rotten, could you please edit your answer to include the takeaway from the references you're giving? That way, should they get deleted, people will know what you thought was interesting in these. Thanks! – avazula Oct 10 at 4:31
  • @avazula Done. The answer was intended to stand on its own, without the referenced material. It is only because including such is a requirement that they were offered. I didn't want to prefer one answer over another or seem patronizing by simply copy/pasting another answer. – Rob Oct 10 at 7:33

protected by avazula Oct 9 at 10:17

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