If You're Dating Someone Who Just Experienced A Bad Breakup, Keep This In Mind
So, you met someone who's pretty amazing — and you can already see some definite potential there. You're trying not to get too excited just yet, but the reality is, a mere text from them makes your whole dang day every single time. The only potential problem? You just found out they're fresh off another relationship. If you're dating someone who just experienced a bad breakup, there are certain things you'll need to keep in mind. That's not to say your budding romance can't blossom into something great — but experts say it's important to be mindful of what your new boo is emotionally capable of while also protecting your heart.
The first question on your mind probably revolves around whether or not your new love interest is ready for another relationship. Only your partner can figure that out; it's important that they're honest with you about their readiness for a new relationship, and that you're clear with them about your needs. If you stick around in something unfulfilling with unrealistic expectations, that could very well breed resentment over time. And if you pressure your new special someone to get over their last relationship before they're ready, that could lead to some negative feelings, too.
What it really comes down to is this: Have they allowed themselves the time and space to grieve their last relationship before getting involved with you? You both deserve to feel fully accepted and appreciated. So, if you're not quite sure where you stand with your new partner — or are trying to figure out whether your connection has a real shot — here's what experts say you should know.
If they keep talking negatively about their ex, they probably aren't over them.
As far as red flags go, this is a big one. If your partner keeps randomly bringing up their ex in conversation, that probably means that they're still occupying a lot of their mind space. It's totally normal to have something remind you of your ex, but it's the frequency of those mentions that you need to pay attention to. Maria Sullivan, dating expert and vice president of Dating.com, tells Elite Daily that speaking negatively about their ex, in particular, is a sign that they haven't moved on.
"You can tell that the person you are dating isn’t over their ex if they continue to bring up stories about them and blame them for problems they have going on now," she explains.
Not only that, but bashing their ex may indicate that they're not able to take any responsibility for what went wrong in their last relationship, nor did they learn anything from it.
Jumping headfirst into commitment may point to unresolved issues.
Very often, someone who's been through a bad breakup may be super cautious about or even avoidant of commitment for a period of time after the relationship ends. But if they're all too eager to jump headfirst into something serious again, that can actually be a red flag as well. According to Chelsea Leigh Trescott, breakup coach and podcast host of Thank You Heartbreak, if the relationship is progressing at an almost unnaturally speedy pace that may signal that you're in a rebound situation.
While that instant sense of familiarity and devotion may feel good at first, the truth is that your new partner may be fast-tracking the relationship in order to avoid loneliness and re-capture certain positive feelings associated with being in a relationship. So, how do you avoid getting involved in this type of situation? Trescott says taking things slow is the only way to know whether or not this relationship is built to last (or merely replacing a void from a past romance). She advises asking yourself: Do our increasing levels of intimacy feel earned or rushed?
Mixed signals could point to ulterior motives.
Another pattern to watch out for is if your partner starts off strong, and then starts to back off — or is constantly hot and cold. Trescott warns that wooing you with romantic gestures in the very beginning could actually be their way of proving to themselves that they don't fall short as a partner, as their ex or failed relationship may have led them to believe. She recommends digging deep about the motivations behind their actions by asking yourself: Are they making up for poor or avoidant behavior in their last relationship or are they genuinely interested in making me feel special?
"If you’re unsure, with time, what you may find your partner doing is suddenly displaying inconsistency or, rather, starting off fast and full of generosity only to pump the breaks and begin disappointing you," she adds. "What this could mean is, they were never ready to take a new relationship anywhere but were hoping to see, through their relationship with you, that they were capable of performing in ways that they couldn’t in their last relationship."
Separation anxiety suggests they still have healing work to do.
How does your new boo handle things when you're apart? According to Trescott, a rebound relationship can often trigger an anxious attachment style — which refers to a particular way of behaving in relationships that's marked by a pervasive fear of abandonment, and constantly seeking out approval and reassurance of a partner's love.
So, if you don't respond promptly to a text message, does your partner become immediately concerned, angry, or passive-aggressive? Do they seem slighted when you want to spend time with other loved ones instead of hanging with them? If so, Trescott says that's another sign that they have some work to do before they can be in a healthy relationship again because they may be trying to distract themselves from the pain and panic of heartbreak.
Since you don't want to be in a situation where you're merely serving as a Band-Aid for their grief, Trescott notes that it's a good idea to try encouraging moments of independence and see whether that strengthens your bond or weakens it. Take notice of whether your decision to go out with a friend on a Friday night stirs up an anxious response in your new love.
"If it does, it’s quite possible that the connection you’re forming, while powerful, is actually masking an underlying emotional instability," Trescott explains.
Setting clear expectations can help to prevent hurt feelings.
If you and your partner are both on the same page about what you want, and you're determined to see this through and build a healthy relationship, Trescott highly suggests having a convo about what you both want and need from each other. How often do you want to see each other? How do you feel about them taking about their ex? Do they need more time before introducing you to loved ones? These are the types of things you might discuss to see if you can reach a place of mutual understanding and respect.
"Then, see how well you both can meet the expectations you have for each other and yourself," she adds. "If you find either of you winds up in this pattern of falling short on your promise or under-delivering, then it might be best to support them from afar rather than sidetracking them from their most pressing undertaking — which is healing themselves."
Patience is the key to fostering a healthy long-term bond.
As they say, patience is a virtue — and that's especially true when it comes to dating someone who's just coming off a bad breakup.
"In order for a relationship to take off with a full tank of fuel, you can’t exhaust each other with your expectations of them," explains Trescott. "If you need someone who is ready to go all in with zero reservations, then dating someone who is coming out a breakup might be unrealistic. With patience comes trust in the bond and the timing of your life, as well as confidence that, if a rare connection is being made, it doesn’t need to be rushed."
If you find yourself becoming frustrated with the speed at which your partner is investing in this new relationship, then Trescott says that may be a sign that you aren’t capable of honoring where your partner is and meeting them there. There's totally fine, and your needs for intimacy and commitment are no less valid than your partner's need for time to heal and ease into this new bond. However, it can indicate that you may not be a good match at this point in time. Trescott stresses that it’s important not to make your partner feel bad for how much time they’re taking or how slowly they’re progressing in your relationship.
"Save yourself the drama and internal turmoil and tell them you want to give them the space necessary for their growth and would like to circle back to them in a few months," she advises.
Knowing when to walk away means turning inward.
Ultimately, the best way to know whether or not you should move forward with this new relationship is to reflect on how it makes you feel. If something about the connection is triggering anxiety, and thus causing you to continually seek reassurance of their feelings or commitment (and of the fact that they're over their ex), then experts agree it may be a good idea to take a step back.
"If you don’t feel that the person is giving you their full attention or things are at a standstill, the person you are dating might need more time to regroup and move on," says Sullivan.
To be clear, though, that doesn't mean that you and this person definitely don't still have a possible romantic future.
"Rather than exhausting your potential connection, it’s best to offer the person time and space to attend to themselves," Trescott adds. "This is a respectable move that can leave the door open to circle back to each other later. And remember, you can always check-in with this person from afar, showing them that you can be in their life without insisting on being their life until they are willing and ready to make that choice."
Dating someone who just experienced a bad breakup demands an immense amount of patience, tenderness, compassion, and courage. That doesn't mean it won't pay off in the end, however. So long as you can honor your own needs while also respecting your partner's limitations throughout the process, you can certainly build something wonderful — the kind of connection that restores both of your faith in love again.
Maria Sullivan, dating expert
Chelsea Leigh Trescott, breakup coach