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Overlappers: When they start a new relationship just before your breakup

Posted Nov 21 2012 5:24pm

Going through a breakup is one of those experiences that hits you hard emotionally and leaves you feeling restless and like you have loads of white space left to fill where you used to have this relationship. You experience a myriad of emotions and sometimes, you feel guilty or even blame you for why the relationship ended and so it can seem all the more like a big fat kick in the teeth to discover that there was an ‘overlap’ and that your ex had in fact already started seeing someone else before the breakup.

You’re grieving the the breakup and even missing them; they’re already on a new ‘adventure’ with someone else. You feel replaced and that hurts. You also feel bloody well duped if you you’d been having discussions with them during their overlapping. It makes you wonder what was real and what was fake.

It’s painful and unfortunate but sometimes we do meet our next partner before our current relationship has ended. It doesn’t necessarily mean that something happens but yes, sometimes our heads get turned, we feel deeply attracted to someone and we know that we cannot continue as is. Some people know that their feelings have changed without having any physical overlap.  Some people start something else and then have to find a “good moment to break bad news”. Let’s be real: some people use knowledge of a possible imminent breakup to be ‘open’ to new possibilities.

Many people have experienced at least one emotional overlapping at some point and a lot more people than would probably admit it have started something new before they’ve ended their relationship. It’s not habitual and it’s for a short period of time and it’s likely regretted.

Overlapping happens towards the end of a relationship that isn’t working, even if at least one of you is still fighting for the survival of it. If the possibility of breaking up hasn’t been discussed, at least one of you is thinking about it.The overlapper may justify their actions by claiming that the relationship was “practically over” or claiming that they told you they needed space.

Habitual or even serial overlappers are always line up their next option so it’s ready to use when needed.

  • They reopen negotiations with their ex behind your back.
  • They’ve got someone at work / gym / club that they flirt with.
  • They’ve got someone at work who they’ve started confiding their problems (real or imagined) or they’ve become a shoulder to cry on for that person and forged a connection.
  • They’ve got someone mooning over them and being ‘indispensable’. The woman who overlapped one of my friends took over her old job, then played supportive friend, and then started seeing him a few weeks before his relationship with my friend ended.
  • They’re already strolling down memory lane on Facebook with someone from school / uni.

Habitual overlappers don’t like to leave a relationship until they’ve got another one to go to. The people they move on to are bridges – providing an excuse and an exit out of their current relationship. Or emotional airbags providing a soft landing.

Many people don’t know how to break up. It’s like it can’t be because they don’t feel the same way anymore or about incompatibility; the other party practically has to be a serial killer before they’ll leave. Or it’s the ‘ole “Well they’re not beating/cheating..” When they can’t ‘villainise’ the person and in fact, this person is even trying to people please the hell out of them or fighting hard for the relationship, overlapping becomes their go-to exit strategy because they can either claim guilt and finally have a ‘legitimate’ reason to exit or the other person will be putting the pressure on for them to move on. Job done.

Let’s be real, some people don’t do ‘being alone’ very well. I actually know a few people who’ve never had a clean break between relationships. They think that they’re serial monogamists but they’re more like serial feelings avoiders.

Some people need to have their ego stroked elsewhere when they experience relationship problems. It gives them reassurance because getting attention and possibly the offer of another relationship from someone else ‘must’ mean that the problem isn’t theirs.

Overlappers, don’t gain any insights from their relationships. Instead they just ‘transfer’ and assume that new surroundings and a clean slate means problem solved, as if to suggest that they had no contribution and have nothing to learn.

It’s also safe to say that sometimes the people that they overlap you with have no clue. When they’re caught, no doubt it’ll be “Oh we were pretty much over by then!” or “Baby, I was afraid I’d lose you [so I lied to you]…”

Let us not forget that regardless of what state your relationship was in, ‘overlapping’ is cheating. Whoever they overlapped with may feel flattered now and be enjoying the honeymoon glow but they don’t realise that your average overlapper and cheater is demonstrating that when faced with problems and conflict, they don’t do problem solving. Eventually they may find themselves being overlapped too.

If you’re with an overlapper, ask about their breakups. If they’re habitual, you won’t be the only one although bear in mind that they may try to fudge the numbers…

I remember when an ex sobbed about how devastated he was as he ironed the hell out of his cricket trousers just a little over a week after our breakup. A week later I was at our old flat collecting stuff and listened to the voicemails most of which were for me except one from 5am the week before. “Hi….it’s me…. Just to let you know I’ve landed…I’ll try you on your mobile”. I felt like a mug especially because I’d felt guilty and thought we were both struggling with the breakup. Of course he denied it. One year to the day after our breakup, a friend bumps into him with a woman who tells her that she’s celebrating their one year anniversary.

Being overlapped can you leave you feeling ‘replaced’, discarded, rejected. It’s like “Can’t you wait until the frickin’ bed is cold / I’ve got my stuff out of your place / we’ve been broken up for a month?” But they can’t.

Overlappers don’t do facing feelings, thoughts, or even their conscience. It hurts like hell as it jumps right into your grief and forces you out of denial and even short-circuits bargaining because it removes hope. It’s easy to feel like it “must” be you if they’ve moved on but actually, them moving on doesn’t mean that the relationship issues were your fault and it doesn’t mean that they don’t care, but they have buried their feelings and thoughts and gone on the rebound.

They’re just not that special that any issues in their relationships are the fault of all of their exes or that they’re emotionally Teflon coated.

You just want a little respect. You want what you had to mean something but the fact that they’ve moved on doesn’t mean that your relationship is and was meaningless; they just don’t want to face anything and they want a fresh start as soon as possible. It doesn’t mean that the person is better than you. It may mean that they’re ‘there’. Your ex will be processing (probably avoiding it) in a relationship whereas you’ll be going it alone.

Their new relationship may or may not work out and if it does, again it’s not about you but more that they’re still the same person but have found someone who their values and characteristics (even if they’re dodgy) click with (or the person will ignore issues). Ultimately don’t lose sight of why your relationship wasn’t working as it’s all too easy to forget the reasons and make this new person and this idea of you being ‘rejectionable’ the reason. All that’s going to do is ensure that even though you haven’t moved on, that you don’t learn anything new either.

Your thoughts?

About the Author:

Natalie Lue is the founder and writer of Baggage Reclaim and author of the books Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl , The Dreamer and the Fantasy Relationship and more . Learn more about her here and you can also follow her on and Twitter - .

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