The dashing young man sits next to you. You’re dressed in your favourite red silk dress, your hair pinned up in a sexy messy bun. You look over and marvel at his soft brown eyes. You’ve only been seeing him for a week, and you’ve already caught feelings for this man of gentle demeanor and charming sense of humour.
The light banter turn from casual flirting to something deeper. The words slowly tumble out that you’re developing feelings. You look at him slowly, meekly, hoping that he will reciprocate positively back.
Unfortunately, the expression on his face freezes. His eyes dart down and he looks at his hands. He’d been drinking and his cheeks were a warm pink.
“I probably should tell you now. I’m not ready for anything serious. To be completely honest with you, I still have feelings for my ex.”
You suck in a deep breath, feeling your face and body sag back into the cushions like a scared puppy just being reprimanded.
It’s woefully sucky when a man you have JUST caught “feelings for” to deliver the “not over my ex” blow.
The even suckier thing is it’s not like he’s telling you he doesn’t like you or you’re not his type. That kind of statement is at least “solidly actionable”. Any girl with self-respect would simply dust the rejection off her and carry on to the next suitable bachelor. This is the kind of blurry, fuzzy, “maybe” answer that men love to give women as a ploy to lure them in even further.
Oh yes, I don’t doubt some women feel their desire meter climb solid steps higher for this kind of guy. Sometimes there’s nothing hotter than an emotionally unavailable, immediately unattainable man.
But hopefully, you’re reading this article because the logic side of you wants to know “what you should do”. Should you continue to see him or not? A guy like this is akin to emotional cocaine for the soul and obviously, very dangerous.
First, this may surprise you, but there are some good points on your side right now.
Let’s look at the positives:
- He was honest with you.
- You’re possibly the first girl he’s dated since his ex and a sign he’s moving on.
- He hasn’t known you for long, which means he still has a chance to develop feelings.
- He was HONEST with you.
Honesty should be one of the most important traits you look for in a man. Ok, sure, his confession didn’t exactly tinkle you pink but at least he didn’t lead you on for months, get you to fall deeply in love with him and then turn around and dump you for his ex.
When I see a situation like this I try not to use a cookie-cutter solution. I wouldn’t do anything rash like ignore or ghost him.
Here’s my recommended checklist of things to do if you’re ever told “sorry but I still have feelings for my ex”.
Tip #1 – Slow Down Instead Of Cut Him Off
This one’s hard I know but when you haven’t been dating for long, it’s silly to assume everyone will know if “you’re the one” within days or even weeks of meeting you.
Ideally dating should be a slow drawn out dance between two people. He shows interest in you. You show interest in him. Back and forth. Back and forth. Only escalating one small step at a time.
If you’re used to turning the meter up to “intense level” after 2 days, consider what else is missing from your life that a stranger can steal your emotional attention so easily. What exactly are you “hoping” to gain from him that you can’t fulfill on your own right now?
My rule of thumb is to always move SLOWER than a man would like. This way he’s never pressured and he’ll naturally want to spend more time with you without any prompting.
Tip #2 – Keep Seeing Him If He Is Still Interested
The lesson here is “give people a chance”. Road bumps in the form of unmet expectations and disappointments are most prevalent in early dating. The bottom line is, most people have a past when they date. You both come with a set of expectations and “past baggage” that is not ideal in the beginning.
That doesn’t and usually won’t stand in the way of two people who are compatible sexually, emotionally and intellectually.
Call me a romantic, but I believe if you meet the “right” person, even if there are bumps in the road, you’ll work it out.
Of course, for things to work out, you must give them a chance.
Now if he doesn’t want to give you a chance, that’s a different story and you should move on at that point. There’s no point chasing someone who doesn’t want you.
However if you like him and he still likes you, keep seeing one another and see where things could go.
When it comes to love you must take risks and be courageous if you want the reward.
Tip #3 – Focus On Fun Times
The beginning of any relationship should be all about fun, laughter, intense flirting, nervous excitement and awesome experiences together. If you’re restricted to the usual “dinner at his place and then Netflix and cuddle after”… why are you trying to be so “boring”?
Here’s 25 first date ideas that isn’t just dinner and a movie. I highly recommend taking this time to create that “rollercoaster”-simulated feeling as much as possible. Fun and exciting is the perfect backdrop for people to catch deep feelings and fall in love.
Don’t underestimate the power of varied experiences together.
Tip #4 – Continue to Live a Great Life
I suspect people who latch on to others quickly have a harder time being alone. There are so many ways to enjoy being single, you just have to embrace it and go out and explore.
Find friends who are independent and enjoy being single. Ask them what they do and how they enjoy their time. Learn to find joy in solitude.
Get into a rhythm of self-dependence and you’ll have an easier time slowing down the dating process. Interlacing another person and their daily habits in with yours will take adjusting anyway, so do it slowly. There is never any reason to rush.
Tip #5 – Cut It Off If Things Are Stagnating
A relationship should progress naturally and easily. If a man is dragging his feet or sticking with the status quo for too long, consider pulling the trigger and get things moving yourself. That means break it off if you’re not happy with where things are going.
It will be hard and painful. These are moments you may wish you’d cut things off sooner. But I disagree. What if things HAD worked out? If you’d cut things off too quickly you will never know what could have happened. You may find yourself leapfrogging from man to man with no true development in any which way.
Doing it this way will teach you a lesson. The lesson being this guy wasn’t the one and now you have enough data to act with precision instead of hast.
Tip #6 – Ask On The First Date About His Ex
I have a habit (and I firmly believe all women should do this), to ask a guy on the first date about his ex girlfriend.
Don’t be shy to get some specifics out of him:
- When was the last time you were in a relationship?
- How long have you being single for?
- How did your last relationship end?
- Have you dated since your break up?
- You haven’t been single for long, are you over your ex?
Asking these questions BEFORE you develop feelings will save you ample time later.
Plus it does pose a pretty good question to your date: “Why would you even be on dates if you’re NOT over your ex?”
There will be some clues to the way a man answers. If he is vague about his ex and the reasons for the split, there’s a good chance he has residue feelings. If he’s willing to spill all the beans and open up honestly with you, there’s a good chance he is squarely over his ex.
Either way getting a guy to open up early is a great sign that he can talk to you about these things and (hopefully) you won’t judge him too harshly for it.
What is the key takeaway?
- Look at the context of how his “feeling for the ex” is said. If he is telling you to “stay away from him”, then do just that. He’s doing you a favour. If he likes you but still has some baggage, slow down and continue to see where things go.
- Slow down if you’ve been escalating things quickly.
- Continue to focus on fun and good times when together.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions about his past on the first date.