Why do men feel it’s necessary to keep in contact with their exes when they are dating someone else?
– Sarah, 55, Los Angeles, CA
Anyone who is regularly communicating with an ex is not really over them—this is a big red flag. Exception: Coordinating on children they have together. Otherwise, when it specifically comes to men, keeping in touch with an ex usually means he is looking for a window of opportunity. The opportunity for, to use a Steve Harvey term, a resample from the cookie jar. (The movie Think Like a Man based on Steve’s book by the same title humorously provides further details on this.) When you’re still attached to an ex and apart from them, it’s natural to think of all the good times you shared. This is why most exes get back together. When they get back together, the bad times resurface, and they break up again.
In the 50 Dater age group, we have a much longer dating history. That means more potential exes lurking in the background. I have considerable firsthand experience in dealing with this, Sarah. On several occasions, a woman I was dating dumped me because her ex begged her to take him back. When begging is involved, the woman’s dating profile will usually pop back up within a month or two when they break up again. It’s frustrating but part of the dating landscape.
So, Sarah, he’s not over his ex. He could easily dump you and go back to her. (Don’t be surprised if you then get a call from him begging you to take him back.) He could also keep you and the ex both in play. If he has no qualms with your knowing he is communicating with his ex, then the latter is probably his game.
Unattached men or women who are not over their ex should not be out in the dating world. You can easily take some steps to mitigate any experiences with them. Since the bar for entry into online dating is pretty low, you need to sort out the pretenders as quickly as possible. The best way to do that is by “Dating with Purpose,” meaning you take the time to define what a compatible person is for you in a dating relationship and you are willing to stick it out to find that person. You have to test the waters with many meetup dates. Being open to testing the waters by dating more than one person at a time guards against “Oneitis.” This is where you get fixated on one person—you’ll know because you’ll get butterflies around them. You’ll start to rationalize yellow and red flags and close yourself off to meeting others. Next thing you know, you’ve wasted three months on a wrong choice.
Until you’ve gone on several dates with one guy and have had the boyfriend/girlfriend talk, keep your dating options open. This puts you in a position to be much more relaxed on dates and gives you a higher degree of objectivity in your decision-making. When it comes to our age group, this is vital because there are fewer available men, making you more prone to settling. Additionally, being more relaxed naturally augments your attractiveness, and you’ll be less inclined to put on a mask to impress a guy you find very attractive. These are the conditions under which you’ll eventually land Mister Right.
Line up some fresh dates, Sarah. Date with Purpose. If a guy actively communicates with his ex, he’s showing you who he is, and he does not respect the dating relationship you’ve got with him.