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Is He Still Emotionally Involved with His Ex?

3 mins read

Ex’s take a large space in our minds while dating, whether we like it or not. We wonder what they look like, how the relationship ended, etc… One of the most important criteria, especially for women is to feel safe. This not only relates to financial stability but also feeling emotionally safe.

That may be one of the reasons why there is so much talk and literature on the subject of emotionally unavailable “men” out there. Sometimes also referred to as the “avoidant attachment” style. I would like to emphasise that “emotional unavailability” does not only apply to men. That there are also emotionally unavailable women in the dating pool.

So, how do we define being “emotionally unavailable”? It is all good and easy to throw such words around but it is important to understand what we are talking about because, based on my experience, the same word can mean different things to different people.

In a simplistic way, one might thin it refers to still having feelings and attraction towards one’s ex, talking about her/him a lot, trying to keep a connection, regularly be in contact as “friends”, feeling still hurt as a result of a painful breakup and not having had closure…

I believe the definition and meaning goes beyond the above-mentioned scenarios, especially in midlife…

We hear that men are “single-focused”, and at times that would mean if they have a lot on in terms of obligations, busy careers or rebuilding financial stability after a divorce, learning to co-parent (new to all of us recent divorcees), perhaps taking care of their elderly parents that would not allow them the bandwidth to take care of a new woman in their life and have the space or means to “build” something significant and would therefore have little to offer… Sometimes they are unaware of that until they meet someone they like and only then their situation comes to the forefront and they become conscious of it.

But from an emotional perspective there is more to that. And I speak from my own experience, there are also situations where there is hate and resentment between the ex-partners. Ultimately when you have children you are still linked almost forever and need to learn to co-parent. And if you still get emotionally triggered and have arguments, does that not constitute some sort of emotional involvement…

How about physical “unavailability”? Can one build a thriving relationship without being able to spend quality time face to face? Go, go, go busy lifestyles can get in the way.

Ultimately what is important for those of us who are looking to build a long-term partnership is that both partners have space and time and the emotional maturity to be able and willing to take up such endeavour. And it is an endeavour… There are challenges to overcome and work through.

You might think, ok, Rea, we get it, but what should we do?

Let’s approach it practically now.

Many dating and relationship coaches believe and advise avoiding talking about ex-partners on the first few dates and advise if someone talks about their ex too much on the first few dates that is a red flag. I would add to that if the person has to lie or hide from his/her ex that they are dating that also constitutes a red flag. Emotional unavailability does not ONLY mean they still have feelings for their ex..

Every situation is unique though, and you need to decide for yourself, taking into account all factors, including how the other is adjusting and making effort to be with you. No one can tell you what to do.

I think it is important to discuss ex-partners, not obsessively, not on the first or second date, as ultimately, the end goal is to get to know each other first before tackling the more sensitive subjects, which ex’s could be one of.

When you do go ahead and discuss ex-partners, I invite you to be aware of your feelings, not brush it under the carpet, distracting, delete or generalising, approaching with curiosity, knowing your boundaries and openly communicating what is going on for you without getting defensive. For this has been a great learning and the best approach to dealing with situations that made me feel unsafe or icky inside.

One caveat, firstly think if there is something being triggered from the past and “am I reacting”? Take the time and communicate at the right time. For instance, texting in the middle of the working day or when you know he might have the children with him asking difficult questions and expressing feelings of anger or sadness usually do not get positive results. Not saying anything and acting passive-aggressive or breaking up would also not result in a positive outcome. You may be passing by a wonderful connection and opportunity for a happy relationship.

Ultimately the most joyful moments of life are experienced through healthy, warm human connections with others, regardless if the other person is going to be the love and life partner of your dreams or someone just passing through your life momentarily. Let’s come from a place of love, not fear and move on if it is not for us or work things out if this one is / could potentially be that special one.

Good luck!

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