Few dating problems are as annoying as the “ex factor”. Here you are thinking that you have finally met the man/woman of your dreams only to realize that he/she isn’t over an ex yet. If you see no other way out other than to suffer silently or to walk out, despair not. Here are a few things you can do when you find yourself dating someone who is yet to let go of the past.
First of all, how do you make sure that the person you are dating is actually still obsessing over an ex? Almost anyone, no matter how smart and attractive, is bound to take some time to get over a bad relationship. One of the most obvious signs that a person is not yet over an ex is when they keep talking about their previous partner almost all the time, even when there is clearly no reason to do so. Your date might keep reminiscing about the past or even whine and complain about what a jerk the guy was or what a two-timing cheat the girl was. But if this is going on for the most of the time that you are together, then it is definitely a sign that your partner is still caught up in the past.
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At the same time, beware if your partner absolutely refuses to mention his/her ex any time. While it is understandable that a person wouldn’t want to ruin a potential relationship with what has happened, not talking about it at all may signal that the past is still too painful and too fresh in their mind to be discussed with any degree of ease. And unless a person is able to let go of the past, no matter how much it meant to them, it is difficult for them to focus on the present, that is, on you.
If you recognize any of the above signs in a person you have just started dating, play safe and keep your emotions in check. It may be extremely tempting to play life-saver to someone smart and attractive, especially when that person makes you feel as if you are the only one in the world who can save them. However remember that if love depends only certain external circumstances – here upon your giving emotional support - when those circumstances disappear and your partner is back on their feet, what is going to keep them attached to you? Rather ensure that the person you would like to be committed to is emotionally strong enough to love you back with the care and passion that you too deserve.
If you indeed like this person but are pained by their obsession with the past, gently remind them that while you enjoy being with them, you would also like to be sure that this is just about the two of you. If you are one of those people who turn out to be natural sources of emotional succor, then it is possible that your partner may have been confiding a lot without seeming to be aware of the fact themselves. In such a situation, tell your partner that even though you appreciate their sharing of experiences with you or that even if you like being a good listener, this is not something that you can help them with and that maybe they need to speak to a counselor. Feelings of pain, anger and betrayal are difficult to deal with even for the strongest of people and there is no shame in seeking professional help in order to overcome them. At the same time, assure your partner that should they take responsibility for their unresolved feelings and decide to do something about it, they can always count on your love and support.
However If nothing seems to be helping, perhaps the only way through the situation is by having a frank discussion. Sit down with your partner and tell them that while you like and enjoy being with them, it is evident that they are yet to get an ex. Explain to them that this kind of impasse is fair neither to you nor to the last person and that your partner should go and do whatever they need to in order to figure out what they want. A rebound relationship rarely works, if at all, and in any case, being burdened with the past is hardly the right way to head towards the future.
Once you bring things out into the open, you partner may be taken by surprise and even deny still being with their ex. Be careful not to fall for it and continue to stick to your position. They might want to know if this means you are going to be seeing other people; be honest and say that you would like to keep your options open unless they can thrash out all unresolved issues. Your partner may even appear to break up with you and go back to the ex, but rather than be emotionally blackmailed into accepting a situation that will bring you nothing but anxiety, muster up the courage to face reality, no matter how difficult that may seem at present.
Above all, try to keep in mind that the ex is so for a reason. Something was clearly not working out for your partner and their previous lover which is why they broke up. So even if your partner goes back to their ex, more likely than not they will soon fall back into the earlier patterns of behavior and start having problems again. It would be thus far better to give the two of them an opportunity to see that it is not going to work so that they can stop idealizing their shared past. On the other hand if you keep nagging at your partner about the ex, it might make the past relationship appear more preferable and give him/her an excuse to keep hanging on to both partners. Once you give your partner the freedom and opportunity to attain closure, he/she will be able to move on and perhaps even come back to you to give you the attention that you deserve.