“My Boyfriends Keep Dumping Me For Their Exes!”

My boyfriend of nine months and I broke up a few weeks ago, and I’m pretty devastated. I was in love with him (and still am), but he said he didn’t see a future with me. It’s sad and heartbreaking, but I do know that it was the right thing to do if there was no future.

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.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.


  1. Wendy, I love how you remind the LWs and readers that “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.”

    Because it’s a nerve-wracking thing, dating (including relationships!). Even if you always try to make the right choices, and always try to handle everything perfectly, and try to protect your heart, you can still get hurt. And it’s worth that risk.

    Related: I think gf and I are moving in together when her lease is up (in August). And that’s terrifying (and exciting).

    1. Avatar photo LadyinPurpleNotRed says:

      Congrats Christy!

    2. kerrycontrary says:

      Awesome, Christy! Good luck and I think it will go fantastic.

    3. Avatar photo theattack says:

      Yay, congratulations!! That’s exciting! 🙂 And it’s still a good ways off, so you have time between now and then for the terror to wear off.

    4. AliceInDairyland says:

      Ahhh! I’m about 2.5 months in with that and it was terrifying but overall I am really loving it. We took a whole year to mull it over like you guys, and I think that worked out really well.

      1. I had to explain “the forever train” to gf last night (we were discussing marriage pre-requisites) and I am SO GLAD you invented a word for it.

        And thanks, everybody! I appreciate the support.

    5. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

      Congrats! I wish minimal daily irritation on you two 🙂

    6. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

      Is she moving to your house or a new place together? (Also, did the fleas get resolved?) and YAY! Living together is fun!

      1. We’re getting a new place together – neither of us (especially our stuff) would fit in the other’s apartment full-time. I am, actually, a little sad to be leaving my apartment, but I’ll still have another 9 months there. Plus it’ll be a new and exciting place – I just hope we find a good apartment to move to. (I’m kind of hoping the couple above me will move out and gf and I can move up to their two-bedroom.)

        And yes, the fleas got resolved, thank goodness. I think it was actually mites, but my landlord got us this spray that killed them.

      2. kerrycontrary says:

        Yay I hope you find a great place as well! You and I can go through the “moving in with SOs” together. We’ll be moving this spring! (no idea where yet! Could be in another state for all I freaking know)

      3. Once again, I vote you all move to my ‘hood and we start a DW colony!

      4. Can I see your apartment before you move? I live a block away and I’ve only ever seen the outside, lol.

        (Also you should see my apartment again, it has curtains and everything now!)

      5. Move to my neighborhood! We can all chilllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll together!

      6. I’ve lived in your ‘hood, Banana. I’m not living in the District again, sorry. (I used to live just north of Stanton Park.)

        We’ll be looking in the Takoma Park area, most likely. I’d like to stay near the red line and she needs to be able to bus to work. At least the budget will be higher than it was when I was looking.

      7. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        Exciting! I think moving to a new place is a fabulous idea (aside from just needing the space). I moved into GGuy’s apt he’d already been in for like 2.5 years and it def took a while for it to feel like my home too. I would kill for a second bedroom.

      8. You know what’s neat? I knew a couple who met each other because her apartment was upstairs from his (they lived in a converted row house in Baltimore). When they wanted to move in together, he must moved upstairs (she had the bigger place). But in order for him to feel like it was his home too, she packed up all of her stuff as well! So the apartment was mostly bare when he moved up, and they unpacked all their stuff together so he had just as much space/say in the arrangement of the place as she did.

      9. Aww, that’s honestly one of the most adorable things I’ve ever heard.

      10. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        That’s a great idea! My move was unplanned (long story short I moved out in the middle of the night and broke my lease because of a series of super shady things) so we sort of lived in a zoo for a bit. That is a super sweet idea!

    7. That’s so great, congrats to you! It IS scary but in my opinion, so worth it!

  2. Love the 2nd paragraph. great answer.

  3. With each relationship or guy I date I think about what I learn from him — what to look for, what not to look for, the mistakes that I make, etc. This does seem like a pattern for you. If a guy has to assure you he’s over an ex, he’s not *really* over her. If you find a guy talking about an ex a lot, she’s still on his mind.

    In my last relationship I was hardcore rebounding. I kind of feel bad about it now. I had gotten out of a relationship with a guy I thought I would marry and I found myself trying to convince myself that I was over my ex…when in reality, I wasn’t.

    Dating is a risk, and it definitely can be exhausting…maybe it would be good for you to take a good long break from dating right now as you process your breakup.

  4. I guess the answer to how to stop being the rebound girl is somewhat straightforward:
    1. Get to know the guy really well before you allow yourself to develop strong feelings
    2. If after 3 dates or so a guy reveals he is recently out of a relationship, then decide you don’t want to keep seeing him.
    And then the part that’s not so straightforward:
    I wonder if you are so strongly attracted to guys who are on the rebound because they are emotionally unavailable. If a man still has feelings for his ex, he can never be fully present in the relationship. There may be times when he reveals himself to you, but most of the time he will pull back — almost like a cat and mouse game which can be very intoxicating. Sometimes those men who are completely available and aren’t all dark and twisty inside don’t attract women as much. After a while, you just get tired of guys who can’t be there for you. You deserve the guy who is both emotionally and physically available.

    1. In regards to your number 1…that’s easier said than done. I mean, sure you can *try* leave your guard up, but you really can’t control how fast and how hard you fall for someone.

      1. Well, I agree with you to an extent. “The heart wants what the heart wants.” But as Wendy said, the LW may be a poor judge of feelings, and she is likely ignoring her intuition when she falls for guys who are still into their ex’s. I do think following your intuition is a skill that can be learned.
        Also, the more mature I get, the more I realize how dangerous it is to fall head over heels for a guy right away. Because you can’t really be in love with someone until you know them well, in my opinion.
        Infatuation can be reined in by experience.

      2. I totally agree. My motto is feel whatever you feel, but lead with your head.

      3. Avatar photo LadyinPurpleNotRed says:

        Exactly! Just because you have all the feelings doesn’t mean you can’t think about things and use reason too.

      4. I’m one who thinks with my heart — probably too much — and I sometimes find it difficult to put rational thoughts before my feelings. I’m getting better at initially controlling my feelings as I get more dating experience, but I’m not going to lie, that is something that can be REALLY tough for me to control. I definitely do agree that the LW isn’t following her intuition at all.

      5. I used to be a lot like that. I had to finally tell myself that no actually I DO have a choice whether to fall for someone. I can stop thinking about them all day, I can stop calling/texting so often, I can stop goobering about him to all my friends. All those things we do nurture connections and feelings and if we don’t know someone well enough yet we need to not be tending that garden and growing those feelings with so much fertilizer.

    2. I’m too lazy today to comment on any real level, so I’ll just cosign your comment. I love everything you said.

  5. Wendy is spot on when she says that if a guy has to reassure you he’s over his ex, it means he probably isn’t.

    I started dating Banano a little over a year after his ex-fiance dumped him three days before their wedding. You’d think that would be a lot of baggage…and it is, but none of that baggage has ever involved him longing to get her back. I never once had a shred of doubt that he was over her. I didn’t even ask about it. He wasn’t over the experience — he was very squirrely about commitment when we first started dating, but then he thawed of his own accord and wound up being the one to initiate our first big relationship steps — but he was definitely over the girl.

    Everyone has a past. But not everyone clings to it. Trust your gut and be observant — don’t simply see what you want to see. But everyone has exes. Or former crushes, at the very least, even if they’ve never been in a relationship before. The thing is, when someone isn’t fully over their ex, they probably aren’t treating you very well, either. They can’t have the focus on you and the level of caring and attentiveness that someone who’s unburdened with a former love can give. You need to not put up with that! You need to learn that you’re worth more, and when you date a guy who seems to be holding back a part of himself for someone else, you need to move on first. I think I’d translate “trust your instincts” into “respect yourself.”

    1. “The thing is, when someone isn’t fully over their ex, they probably aren’t treating you very well, either. ” – YES. LW needs to know she is worth more!

  6. It’s so worthwhile to try and find out how you’re contributing to this pattern, even if you don’t ever end up in this exact situation again. I agree that this might have to do with not listening to your gut and possibly giving too much credence to the image of themselves that people are trying to create for you. Do you generally believe people when they assure you that something’s true even though there are signs that it isn’t? Do you tend to make your decisions based on the most optimistic interpretation of a situation? If so, it’s good to get a little more critical. Another point to consider is whether something’s holding YOU back from committing to a relationship. Are you afraid of becoming very important to someone, for example? Choosing someone who’s still attached to another person would be a way to protect you from breaking someone’s heart.

    1. “Are you afraid of becoming very important to someone?” Great question for the LW to ask herself. If she’s continually involving herself with men who are pining after someone else, she might not feel like she should be Number 1 in someone’s life.

  7. starpattern says:

    I think everyone else has given very good, thoughtful responses. I am just commenting to say I just noticed the signoff: “Wife Fluffer”??? That’s hilarious.

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