Today’s article is in response to a question from a reader (via Ask Melissa!) about what to do when you’re deeply involved with someone, maybe even in love with them, but it’s become apparent that they’re not over their ex. In my response, I provide guidance on how to approach this question when you’re already involved with him, including the signs that he’s not over his ex, why it hurts so much and three things you can do to deal with this situation and avoid getting hurt again.
I’m currently seeing someone who’s legally separated from his ex-wife, and the divorce will be finalized in a few months. Despite meeting his four children, sister, cousin, aunt, and father, he still loves her, because the marriage lasted for almost twenty years. I’m aware that he’s having a difficult time coming to terms with the divorce proceedings. Based on my observations, he’s determined to move forward and continue to co-parent with his ex-wife.
I went through a similar situation six years ago with someone who was legally separated from his wife. We weren’t intimate but were talking to each other on a regular basis. Both he and his wife decided to get back together and focus on their marriage. Although I was getting to know him, what he did hurt me so bad that I felt I wasn’t worthy of being with someone special.
The man I’m currently seeing talked about wanting his family back together. His comment not only stung, but it hurt my feelings because of what we’ve shared. We went out on several different occasions, held hands, kissed and have been intimate. I was so upset that I couldn’t continue the conversation and cried. He didn’t like how he hurt me and apologized. He said that he wanted to avoid stringing me along when he has already been honest about his motives from the beginning.
I asked if he was interested in getting back together with his ex-wife, but he mentioned that he wasn’t going to be happy being with her. She’s in a relationship with someone else and wants to enjoy the single life.
I want the both of us to be happy, whether we’re together as a couple or not. We both deserve better. Ever since my mom passed away six months ago, he was very supportive and made himself emotionally available whenever I needed to talk or have a shoulder to cry on. I was his sounding board whenever he needed to vent about anything that was going on in his life.
-Stuck Like Glue
Thanks so much for reaching out and for sharing your story. I hear you. I’m sorry this has been so painful. And I can completely understand why.
Sign’s He’s Not Over His Ex
You detail several signs that he’s not over his ex.
Even though he is legally separated, he hasn’t completely let go of his previous relationship because he still holds the desire to “get his family back together,” even if he feels it’s not realistic desire.
And he didn’t say no when you asked if he was interested in getting back with his ex.
He rationalized not getting back together with her by saying that he’s not going to be happy with her and that she’s dating someone else.
But he didn’t affirm that he doesn’t want to.
It’s clear that he’s not over the end of his previous relationship because he’s still holding a torch in his heart for his marriage, even if he knows, intellectually, that it’s highly unlikely that they will get back together.
And even though he might know in his mind that he and his ex aren’t getting back together, what’s important to pay attention to is where his heart is right now, because if he is still holding on to the past – if even a little bit – then he isn’t yet ready for a new relationship.
Because how can he deepen his emotional involvement with you, and nurture and grow your relationship together, if he is still emotionally involved with someone else?
Even though he’s separated, nothing is really over until it’s over in his heart.
Why It Hurts That He’s Not Over His Ex
You’ve gotten deeply involved, shared experiences, slept together, and formed an intense connection. But he’s not fully emotionally available for a relationship with you.
And it’s painful because you’ve already formed a connection, and you want to deepen that connection, but he isn’t available to go further with you because his heart is still dealing with the end of his marriage.
While he “made himself emotionally available whenever [you] needed to talk or have a shoulder to cry on” when your mother passed away, I get the sense (from how much you said it hurt you when he said that he wanted to get his family back together) that you don’t just want a “shoulder to cry on” but you ultimately want a relationship where he is there for you consistently and committed to you.
What to Do When He’s Involved with You but He’s Not Over His Ex
So, if he’s not fully emotionally available and you try to have a relationship with him, you’ll only set yourself up for heartbreak.
Because trying to have a relationship with someone who isn’t available means that you won’t get your needs met.
And if you’re not getting your needs met, then you’ll start to build resentment.
And you’ll start to feel used, if you don’t already feel that way, because he’ll be getting the benefits of your comfort, attention, and availability, but you won’t be getting those same benefits, at least not consistently or with the assurance that he is ready, available and interested in a relationship with you.
Step Back Until He’s over His Previous Relationship
This means avoid getting more romantically involved. Avoid going on dates. Avoid sleeping together.
The more emotionally and romantically involved you get with someone who isn’t fully emotionally available or ready for a new relationship with you, the more painful it will be for you when your needs don’t get met.
You’ll feel shortchanged in the relationship and it will build resentment between the two of you.
Feel free to stay in touch (if you feel you can do that and enforce boundaries), but don’t date until he is really ready to give you the kind of relationship that you want and deserve.
And in the meantime…
Focus on You
Reconnect with your girlfriends. Turn to activities that fill you with peace and meaning.
Maybe that’s meditation or yoga or gardening or travel or work that’s deeply meaningful to you.
Think about the dream that you have for the kind of life that you want and focus on activities that help you create that dream.
Get Clear on Your Needs and relationship requirements
Often when we get deeply involved with someone very quickly and we end up getting hurt, chances are we probably overlooked some red flags.
But you can avoid all that when you’re very conscious of your relationship needs and relationship requirements, and when you honor those needs and relationship requirements with strong boundaries.
And being highly conscious of your needs and relationship requirements will also help you when you do reconnect because then you can see if you want to go into deeper levels of involvement with him.
With a deep awareness of your needs and relationship requirements, you’ll then be better able to see if he can meet your needs and relationship requirements before you go into deeper levels of involvement with him.
When You’re Afraid to Step Back
We can be afraid to step back, but when you try to have a relationship with someone who is not ready, or not available or not entirely sure what he wants, you’re at very high risk of getting hurt over and over again.
And why put yourself through that?
Your happiness matters. Your needs matter.
When we are afraid of stepping back, we are usually afraid of losing the other person.
But can you really lose someone who was never fully “yours” in the first place?
The connection you made with each other is really special and meaningful to you.
If he feels the same way and wants to preserve and deepen that connection, he would do whatever he needs to do to heal and take care of whatever loose ends that he needs to take care of so that he CAN be available for a relationship with you.
I know these things take a lot of time and thought to consider, but I hope this helps provide some guidance!
Please feel free to reach out if you need any other support.
All the best,
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