New relationships are hard enough without all the drama that can come with baggage from past relationships — yours, or, even worse sometimes, your partner’s. And whether it’s real or just in your head, if you feel like "the replacement" in a relationship, you’ve come to the right place. I spoke with love and relationship experts to find out just what you should do if you have that nagging feeling that you’re less than “the one” in your partner’s eyes.
Before that, though, it’s worth ascertaining if this is based in reality. “The first thing you need to resolve is if this is actually occurring, or is it just your perspective of the situation,” dating expert Noah Van Hochman tells Bustle. “Normally, I would say that it is only what you feel that counts, but it’s important to determine where the problem may actually lie in order to best fix it.”
Though this may indeed be real — people date other people out of convenience’s sake all the time — it also might be self-esteem or fear issues you’ve brought along with you. “If it’s only your opinion, and perhaps not actually what is going on, figure out (on your own or with help) why you feel this way, and whether or not it is a relationship-buster,” Van Hochman says. “Then try and change the actions that bring about these feelings.” But if it’s real, here's some advice to keep in mind moving forward.
1. Peace Out
“If you don't think someone is dating you for who you are, leave. Yesterday. Bye,” life coach Kali Rogers tells Bustle. “You only ever want to be in a relationship with somebody who values you for you.” If this is not the case, Rogers advises getting out of there — but not with no questions asked.
“I suggest discussing it first, and as a courtesy to your partner, gracefully suggesting this pattern so they can seek the therapy or relationship coaching that could help them break this cycle.” And then, peace out as unceremoniously as possible.
2. Face Reality
If you’re not quite ready to ditch everything and GTFO, it’s time to face facts at least. “Stop lying to yourself and stop trying to convince yourself that you mean more to this person than he or she is expressing right now,” relationship coach and psychic medium Cindi Sansone-Braff, author of Why Good People Can't Leave Bad Relationships , tells Bustle. “Stop telling yourself that your partner will recognize your worth when he or she gets over the one that got away.” If they do, awesome, but it’s not fair to you to wait around for that magical moment to happen.
“Even if your mate's ex is never returning in this lifetime, for whatever reason, sometimes you just have to face reality: You're just a temporary layover for this person and not the preferred destination,” Sansone-Braff says. Though it’s harsh, it’s better to see things as they are. “You can either choose to continue the relationship (even though it probably never should have started in the first place) knowing full-well that it has a built-in expiration date; or you can choose to end it sooner than later, by simply stating, ‘If I'm not your first choice, I don't want to be your second.’”
3. See That There Are Only Two Choices
“If you are seen by your partner as the replacement for their ex, you have a choice to stay in a more one-sided relationship or to remove yourself from the equation,” relationship coach and psychic medium Melinda Carver tells Bustle. “If you stay, your self-esteem dips lower and you second-guess your value within that relationship.” In other words, staying is not the smartest idea in this equation.
“You could attempt a conversation, but no one will admit that you are a placeholder.” It’s best to cut your losses and run once you have accepted that the other option — staying — will be too painful. “Removing yourself allows you to find someone to create a life together versus a walk-on role.”
4. Find Someone Else
“If your date doesn’t seem to want to get to know you, and doesn’t seem excited about you, he or she's probably just using you as ‘reserve,’” and not really interested — either in you or in commitment,” Tina B. Tessina, aka Dr. Romance, psychotherapist and author of How to be Happy Partners: Working it out Together, tells Bustle. “You need a different kind of person.” Even if you really want to make this work, ask yourself why that is.
“Don't look for the surface stuff,” she says. “Handsome is as handsome does. Find a person with character, which you're more likely to find out if you are socially involved before you are personally.” And play hard-to-get for a bit. “Don't be too easily available,” she says. “Your interaction should be like a tennis match. Your partner volleys, then you do. Never send a lot of shots over the net in a row.” This, of course, is after you get out of the situation with the “reserve” partner.
5. Do Some Soul-Searching
“You should pull away from the relationship and decide if this relationship can be based on the two of you,” Stefanie Safran, Chicago's "Introductionista" and founder of Stef and the City, tells Bustle. Once you have some space, you’ll have a better idea of whether you can go forward without strife. If this relationship can be based on something new, and not you being the ‘rebound,’ she says.
Psychologist Nikki Martinez tells Bustle, “You have to decide what it is that you are looking for in your life. If you are looking to not be serious and just have fun with someone, you can have fun with them, if you enjoy their company, but always keep the realities in mind. If you are looking for a serious relationship, and you realize that this person is not moving forward, but is still stuck backward, this might be a situation of right person, wrong time, and the healthiest thing you can do for yourself to not be with them,” she says. Don’t hold on if what you really want and need is a real relationship.
6. Invigorate Your Relationship
“If you feel like you’re the rebound replacement — or maybe not a rebound replacement, but a replacement nonetheless — it’s time to create new memories and get out of the rut that has been well-paved for you by your partner and his or her ex,” New York–based relationship expert and author April Masini tells Bustle. “Think out of the box.”
In other words, you don’t always have to leave, if you feel as though you can shift gears in your relationship and your partner is available and open for that. “Instead of the Four Seasons for a romantic getaway, go camping with a tent and a pair of sleeping bags,” she says. “This doesn’t just give the two of you fresh experiences with fresh memories.” More than that, it differentiates you from your partner’s ex, she says: “Be creative, and forge new relationship ground. You’ll lose that replacement feeling quickly.” Here’s hoping!
7. Separate Yourself From Your Partner’s Ex
“If your partner consistently categorizes you or compares you to an ex, then you must try and separate yourself from those actions or change them enough that you make them identifiable with you, and not just a 2.0 version of an ex,” Van Hochman says. “You need to be careful not to change the essence of who you are though, as this type of change is dishonest to both you and your partner.”
Like Masini, he says it’s not necessarily true that you have to leave, but you have to reroute things ASAP. And if that doesn’t work and you still feel like a replacement, deuces. “The problem is not with you, and not likely to be repairable,” he says.
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