When She Isn’t Over Her Ex When She Isn’t Over Her Ex
Dating a woman who is either on the rebound or still emotionally involved with her ex can suck the joy out of a budding... When She Isn’t Over Her Ex

Dating a woman who is either on the rebound or still emotionally involved with her ex can suck the joy out of a budding romance. Maybe your new love is upfront about her feelings; maybe she’s sometimes quiet and withdrawn and you don’t know why. Being open about what’s happening is often the best way to work through the difficulties and create a better relationship — or it can help you move on, depending on whether your partner can get over her previous lover.

Warning Signs that She’s Not Ready

If you suspect there may be three of you in your relationship but you aren’t sure enough to broach the subject, here are some warning signs that may warrant an open and honest discussion:

  • She has unexplained emotional swings, such as sudden sadness or a sudden angry overreaction.
  • She talks excessively about the previous relationship in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable.
  • She follows her ex’s movements obsessively through social media and other methods.
  • She regularly compares you to her ex, either in a flattering or unflattering light.
  • She seems to need excessive space or time to herself.
  • She prioritizes her ex’s needs over yours.
  • She overreacts when you encounter her ex socially, such as with extreme anger, excitement or blushing.
  • She socializes excessively with her ex or otherwise maintains close contact (while it’s great to remain friends at the end of a relationship, a certain amount of distance is normal).

Even if none of the above are true, you may still have a gut feeling you can’t shake that something’s wrong. If that’s the case, it’s important to work through your emotions with your partner and put your mind at rest.

What’s Happening?

Understanding what’s going on with your new partner helps you deal with her emotions and grow together as a couple. For your new love, your romance may be meeting several of her needs. A rebound relationship helps her get over the pain of her breakup, and she could be trying to rebuild her self-esteem and feel loved again. However, such relationships usually focus on the happiness of one person, and for that reason, they aren’t stable. For your romance to succeed, it needs to develop so that both of you feel fulfilled and loved.

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Why She Can’t Move On

According to Karen Kochenburg, LCSW, lesbian partners are less likely than gay men or heterosexual couples to simply cut ties and move on when a relationship breaks down, possibly because women are more responsive to the “bonding” hormone oxytocin. Monogamy, pair bonding, nesting and extreme emotions are some of the behaviors promoted by oxytocin. As a result, your new love may find it hard to let go.

What It Means for You

When one half of a romantic relationship still has feelings for a previous lover, the effects on the new partner are often negative, though at times you may also feel flattered. If your new love isn’t committed to you or makes comments that suggest you aren’t as good as her ex, it can make you feel jealous, insecure and unhappy. On the other hand, your partner might tell you’re so much better looking, attractive, loving or better in bed. But in a healthy relationship, you are valued for who you are, not who you are compared to someone else.

How to Improve Your Relationship

Loving someone who can’t fully commit to you hurts, but there’s plenty you can do to try to improve matters.

  • Have a heart-to-heart about how you feel – try to keep calm and non-threatening, and try not to be accusatory.
  • Give her time to mull over what’s been discussed. Sometimes it takes a while to realize our true feelings.
  • Go for couple’s therapy, or if your relationship is excessively tense and unhappy, suggest a break while your partner obtains counseling.
  • Ask yourself what you’re doing to enable the behavior – are you always looking after her feelings but never talking about your own? Are you putting your needs second to hers?
  • Don’t give in to emotional blackmail – if your partner threatens to return to her ex if you push the issue, she doesn’t have your best interests at heart.
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What the Future Holds

If your partner is open about her feelings and willing to discuss them so you can move forward together, there’s hope for the relationship. Keep communication channels open and stay aware of issues she may have. It isn’t crime to have feelings about people we once loved, and we’re all affected by our relationships and experiences.

If she denies there’s a problem or refuses to accept or listen to your concerns, it may be time to move on – she is likely only interested in you for what she can get out of a new relationship rather than interested in you as a person.

One of the dangers of being with someone who isn’t over her ex is that once she’s used you to help her recover, she may lose interest and leave. Another danger is that you could wind up indulging in your partner’s game of demonizing the previous love and building your self-esteem on how much better you are. But being in a relationship isn’t a competition; you both need and deserve to be happy together.

Jenny Green

Jenny Green