As it turns out, two weeks after we broke up, he got back together with the girl he dated before me. They had been together for six years, and she broke his heart a few months before we started dating, but when we were together he assured me he was over her and only missed her in a platonic way.
I know that this is no unique situation, but it’s been a pattern for me and I want to find how I keep ending up with guys on the rebound. This is the fourth time that I’ve dated a guy who has broken up with me to get back together with my predecessor. Half of the time I knew there was a recent ex that they assured me they were over, the other half of the time I did not know how recent or serious the ex was. Two of these exes have married the girls they dumped me for.
Because this has happened in most of my adult relationships, I’m unhappy, afraid to date, and completely terrified of falling in love again. Is this just bad luck, or is there some kind of mistake I’m making that keeps getting me into this situation? — Wife Fluffer
Bad luck, definitely, but probably more that just that. You don’t say how old you are or how many relationships you’ve had or how serious these four relationships were that ended because the guy wasn’t over his ex. If all four men were what you’d call “boyfriends” and you had genuine feelings of love or at least intense like, then that’s an issue. Because to love or at least intensely like four different men who were all still in love with their exes means you are either a poor judge of feelings (other people’s feelings and possibly your own) or have been ignoring your intuition or didn’t learn enough about the men before developing feelings for them.
You say that two of these men you dated “assured you” that they were over their exes. There’s only ever one reason to “assure” someone of being over an ex and that’s when there is reason to suspect that one ISN’T over his or her ex. Of all the guys I have dated in my past — both casually and more seriously — I only needed assurance from one of them that he was most definitely over an ex. Why did I need it? Because I suspected he wasn’t, because their breakup was somewhat recent, and she was still in his life as a friend, and the way he spoke of her was like someone who still had deep feelings (love, anger, hurt — all of that good stuff). But he assured me he was over her — again and again (another clue that he wasn’t — he had to keep assuring me repeatedly!), and, because I wanted to believe him so badly, I did. I pushed away my doubts as best I could and ignored my intuition. Well, eventually, after about a year of this, he and I broke up. I Googled him a few years later, and guess what? He married his ex.
Instead of looking at your falling for guys who apparently aren’t over their exes as a pattern where you are a victim — where something bad happens to you, against your control — why don’t you change your perspective a bit. One possibility is that you have a pattern of ignoring your intuition, and the great news here is you can easily break that pattern. Just pay more attention to your gut moving forward. Another pattern you can break is to NOT date anyone who has to “assure” you he is over an ex.
You also say that two of the four times a guy broke up with you only to get back together with an ex, you didn’t know how recent or how serious the previous relationship was. So… another pattern you have full control of breaking is to find out more about a person’s dating history before getting too serious. When was his last relationship? How long and serious was it? Why did it end? Obviously, these aren’t questions you need answered on the first date, but by the second or third date, it’s totally appropriate to broach the topic of past relationships.
There’s no guarantee that breaking some of your patterns and being a smarter dater is going to save you from another broken heart. Unfortunately, when we pursue love, we always risk getting hurt. But everything worth pursuing comes with a little risk. The alternative is to remain safe and lonely, but with your heart intact. Eh, that’s overrated if you ask me.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.