Is Your Partner Still Hung Up On an Ex?

November 15, 2016

heart cracked in twoIf you’re dating someone who recently went through a breakup, you have probably wondered whether they are truly over their ex. It’s not unusual for a person to go for the rebound after a breakup. When we feel heartbroken, we welcome any development that promises to help assuage the pain. Rebound relationships offer several kinds of relief, however temporary:

  1. They distract us from focusing on our sadness.
  2. They enable us to enter the less painful state of denial: “I’m fine!”
  3. They satisfy our need to get even by “proving” to our ex that we don’t care, and that they threw away something valuable.
  4. Being desired feels very affirming after we’ve been rejected.

Most of us have had this experience and can relate to the desire to rush into something new when we’re feeling down, or even worthless. The trouble is, most of us have also had the unfortunate experience of being the rebound target. We think everything is going fantastically well and then we get blindsided by the discovery that our new love is actually still longing for an old love.

This time it doesn’t feel so understandable. We feel misled or even outright deceived because someone has embarked on a self-serving romance without regard for our feelings. Most likely we would not have allowed ourselves to get in so deep if we knew that the other person was still emotionally entangled with someone else.

Sometimes we find out when our new partner fesses up. “This isn’t working out, I realize I’m not over my ex.” Or “I ran into my ex last night and she wanted to talk, I’m feeling really confused.”

Other times we stumble across the discovery that our new love is texting with an ex, seeing an ex, or even trying to get back together with an ex! That adds insult to injury and we justifiably feel anger as well as disappointment.

How can you prevent this from happening to you?

Relationship History is Essential

Be very careful about dating anyone who just got out of a long-term relationship. Even if they were the one who initiated the breakup, they’re likely to have not really moved on in the first few months. Or they may be taking a break from commitment, avoiding serious dating. If they were heartbroken anytime in recent history, you’re a rebound. That’s a high wire act and you risk your own heart by going there.

Don’t Take Positive – or Negative – Expressions at Face Value

The worst possible thing you can do is listen to the protests and assurances that he or she is over the ex completely. Or that you are the best thing that ever happened. Because they don’t know their own minds. They hope they are over their ex, but complicated feelings lurk just below the surface. When they bubble up, you get the shaft. One of the most common breakup lines in rebound relationships is “I didn’t mean to hurt you. I’m so, so sorry.” That is probably true, but hearing that doesn’t make things any easier.

Very often we’ve heard reports of how terrible, selfish, immature and unreliable the ex is. So we feel especially resentful when we find out they “won.” We feel unworthy because we didn’t successfully compete against such a terrible person. Very often I hear “I know for a fact she is a total bitch – how could he go back to her?” Or “I can’t believe she is still hung up on that douchebag!”

When people go for a rebound relationship, they are not reliable narrators. They exaggerate the negative qualities of the person who rejected them. They put a positive spin on your qualities and how lucky they are to have found someone so much better. Maybe the ex really is horrible, but the person on the rebound can’t see clearly, and is probably not ready to admit they wasted years on a person of terrible character. Maybe the ex is actually a wonderful person, and your new boyfriend is lashing out irrationally.

Timing is Not Your Friend

Post-breakup is always a murky time. Feelings are being sorted out, there is a grief process underway. If you meet someone terrific who is recently single, the best thing you can do is keep things platonic while they get themselves emotionally sorted out. You can be a friend without risking your own heart, and you may even be helpful. Hold off on any romantic developments until you feel certain that your friend is truly ready for a new commitment.

The article 10 Signs Your Partner’s Still Into an Ex is a helpful list of specific signs to watch out for:

  1. Talking about the ex too much
  2. Avoiding talking about the ex at all
  3. Keeping track of the ex online
  4. Contacting the ex, or welcoming contact from the ex
  5. Continuing to display photos or mementos of the past relationship
  6. Hearing the ex’s name during sex (Duh!)
  7. Your new partner runs hot and cold.
  8. Your new partner is in no rush to get into a committed relationship.
  9. The sex isn’t great, perhaps even dysfunctional.
  10. Your instinct tells you something is off.

I firmly believe that #10 will steer you straight most of the time. Sometimes we really do get blindsided, but more often than not we can see in hindsight that we ignored some pretty powerful indicators that we were never really headed into Happily Ever After territory.

It totally sucks to be someone else’s rebound. Has it happened to you? Have you been the person sheepily stating “I never meant to hurt you?” Let’s discuss.