Is your relationship that just started already doomed?
When you’re starting a new relationship, a variety of love life saboteurs can show up with their ugly heads.
While many of these obstacles are surmountable (e.g. a lazy, laid-back guy can, luckily, rise to her level as a proactive woman) one, in particular, can turn into a breakup driver faster than you can tell: “Bye, man”.
If your new romantic interest didn’t break up with their ex, the relationship could end in a way that isn’t happily ever after.
“When you fall in love, you go through a biological process that bonds you to someone else,” says Lisa Marie Bobby, Ph.D, marriage and family therapist, and expert.
No wonder it can be so hard to kick the habit of getting back together with your ex.
If you’re dating someone who is three to six months out of a significant relationship, Bobby has a few words of caution.
“Unless he explicitly says he’s broken up with his ex and is content to be out of the relationship, assume he still has some attachment,” she says.
Obviously, it varies from person to person, but in this period, after a big breakup, people are usually still on the mend emotionally.
That’s not to say it’s impossible for the two of you to succeed.
But to find out whether you should bear or reduce your losses, ask the following questions.
1. How Does He Talk About His Ex?
If he can’t get her name out without his eyes getting a little misty, then it’s clear you have a problem on your hands.
But there are also more subtle conversational clues that can suggest how the heart is healed.
“If you hear idealization or affection when he talks about her, that can be an important indicator that there is still an emotional attachment,” says Bobby.
Another tip is if he often blames himself for the breakup in a way that feels like he would change the past if he could.
“If he alludes to it, he might feel like he could have been a better person, and they could have stayed together,” says Bobby.
That level of melancholy or hypothetical thinking can get in the way of your relationship, even if the two of you are normally perfect for a Disney movie.
“When people are addicted to an ex, they still feel like the ex is their property,” says Bobby.
“Even if they’re ‘on the track’ talking to other people or hanging out with them, they’re not emotionally available.” The fact is, having residual feelings for an ex is completely normal, so how do you know if he’s emotionally available or not?
A good sign is if he can talk about his ex in a very objective way, without assigning blame, without getting turned on or seeming regretful.
While there’s always a chance he’s putting on a show, it’s also possible that he’s well-adjusted and ready for something serious.
He should also show genuine interest in you, making it clear that he wants to spend time with you and be sensitive to your feelings and needs, says Bobby.
2. Is Everything Happening Too Fast?
It’s easy to get caught up in a whirlwind romance.
Going from singles to going out with someone 24/7 can be very exciting, especially if you propose unusual things like a last-minute trip to the beach and you’re soon introducing each other’s friends.
Unfortunately, it’s an unfair truth of the universe that when relationships are so hot in the beginning, they can fizzle out faster than you’d like.
This is especially true if he is just getting out of a relationship.
“People who are feeling the most vulnerable tend to rush very quickly,” says Bobby.
“If he’s trying to do that to you, he might still have an attachment to someone else and try to recreate that experience.
“That’s not exactly ideal – he’s also not going to have a eureka moment where he realizes he hasn’t broken up with his ex, which is sometimes what happens in this scenario.
3. Was he the one who broke up with her or the opposite?
Even if he recently dumped his ex, he could be further along in the recovery process than a guy who was dumped by his ex not too long ago.
“It is possible to process grief and make peace with a relationship that ends before it actually ends, and often that happens for the person ending it, not the other way around,” says Bobby.
“In that context, it’s much easier for someone to truly connect with a new person.” If you still don’t know details about what happened to your ex, ask.
Talking about how they broke up will likely give you some insight into whether the two of you are off to a good start.
4. Can You Give Him Space?
If you know he’s not over his ex but still thinks the two of you could have something real, you have a main path that will help things work out: “Give him time and space,” Bobby says.
“The biggest mistake you can make is trying to force him.” As difficult as it is focuses on filling your life with things that go beyond him.
See other people if you’re not exclusive, spend time with your friends, get on with your morning run routine, and generally don’t trust your romantic hopes to him.
You can keep him in your life, but don’t get addicted to someone who is emotionally unavailable, says Bobby.
If he finally progresses and is ready to date seriously, he’ll probably let you know anyway.