Washington - There's an old saying that in order to get over someone, you have to get under someone new.
I'd never thought about the saying much - until I found myself dating someone who was, in fact, trying to move on from his previous relationship.
I had no reason to assume he was hung up on his ex. He very plainly said that he was over her; they simply weren't compatible. I chose to take him at his word, and I didn't think about her again until several months later.
Weeks later, however, I realised that wasn't the case. He accidentally admitted to speaking to her on the phone and wasn't quite over the relationship. Had I known that, I probably wouldn't have dated him to begin with - or at least I would have broken it off sooner.
Do not date others to simply "move on" from your ex
In the immediate aftermath of a breakup, people often date as a form of romantic validation, especially if you were the one rejected. However, this move is only likely to stunt connection and cause hurt, says Chamin Ajjan, a sex and relationship therapist and author of Seeking Soulmate: Ditch the Dating Game and Find Real Connection. "Dating with the goal of finding a new partner when you have unresolved feelings is selfish," she explains.
Not exactly the healthiest relationship dynamic
Julie Spira, dating expert and digital matchmaker, says dating others to "rebuild self-esteem" is only a short-term solution for one party. "The new relationship can end up as a temporary high, or 'love drug' to help you heal, but unless you're 100 percent available, you will get stuck in that comparison game."
Spira says she sees a lot of reactive daters, or a newly single man or woman who will "break up with someone and suddenly start dating a person who appears completely opposite, whether physically or intellectually."
Defrost the ice of your breakup, and figure out your feelings the best you can
Laurel House, a dating coach and author of Screwing the Rules: The No-Games Guide to Love, says singles should try to get clarity on their feelings toward an ex before diving back into the dating pool.
"Imagine that your ex is a layer of ice that is covering your body and seeping into your cells, veins, head and heart," she says. "That ice may be filled with anger, or, on the opposite side it, could be filled with a romantic ideal made up of the good moments of your relationships - but totally unrealistic."
Be upfront with any new potential partners, and wade in slowly
Sometimes, you'll thaw the ice and see your relationship wasn't all you hoped it would be - that's when it's time to move on and think about meeting someone new. You won't always be able to account for every latent or dormant feeling for an ex, even if you've done the work to heal. "There's typically a crossover time between when you're fully over your ex and when you start dating again," Spira says.
If you find you're still in love with your ex, end things ethically. Do not date while courting your ex
If you're dating someone new, because you thought you were over your ex, but you suddenly discover you might have ended the right relationship, you may want to talk to a therapist or dating coach to get some perspective.
"But if you're secretly trying to reconcile with someone while courting another, you're not bringing 100 percent to the table," says Spira.
When reconciling with an ex, address the root issue first
Once you've fully ended it with your new partner, you will have work to do with your ex if you choose to get back together. "You need to realize that this is not a new rosy relationship," House says. "Whether it was an issue of cheating, losing interest, bad timing, or something else, you broke up because you were broken, not bent. Before you can move forward, you have to regain trust."