The Dusty Ex-Boyfriend Effect: TikTok's Latest Relationship Theory, Explained

If you haven't heard the news, Taylor Swift has found her future husband in Travis Kelce. Or, at least that's what one woman on TikTok thinks. According to @leta_bitchknow (Erica), Swift is in the midst of what this TikToker has coined as "The Dusty Ex-Boyfriend Effect," which ultimately means that she'll marry Kelce. Confused? Let's break it down.

As Erica explained in her video, "The Dusty Ex-Boyfriend Effect" is when someone comes out of an unfulfilling, long-term relationship, then dates a "totally loser," in this case that would be Matty Healy, then the next person ends up being their husband. Erica came to the conclusion that this is a legitimate effect based on patterns she's seen among her friends and other celebrities. So, no, it's not steeped in science, but just another viral TikTok take on dating trends — and the comment section under the video is rife with people sharing that they, too, have experienced "The Dusty Ex-Boyfriend Effect."

While Erica may be onto something, what it comes down to is whether this effect is a good thing and something people should make a part of their own dating journey. As Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote in "The Little Prince," one "must endure the presence of a few caterpillars" if one wishes "to become acquainted with the butterflies," which is basically an easier pill to swallow than kissing frogs. But should people be actively seeking out those caterpillars as a way to get to their forever person? Perhaps.

Is The Dusty Ex-Boyfriend Effect legit?

Even if you've never dated a "loser" that's the caliber of Matty Healy, you've probably dated questionable, somewhat problematic people when you were in between serious partners. Nothing about this is shocking, because we all do it. In fact, it's a pretty common pattern.

"After someone gets out of an unfulfilling relationship, especially a long-term one, they may want to explore other 'types' to figure out what makes them happy," marriage and family therapist Gayane Aramyan told HuffPost. "Because for so long they were unhappy or unfulfilled, they may explore other options to find their type. So it makes sense that after trying that out, they may date someone new who fits their needs and makes them feel fulfilled."

When you've been bogged down with someone for a long time, as Aramyan explained, you really want to get out there and explore. You're getting it all out of your system before signing up for happily-ever-after with someone whom you know is not just what you want, but what you need for a healthy, happy relationship. 

Is this effect something that could be useful?

As to whether or not this effect could be a useful tool while dating is something only the dater can answer for themselves. Not everyone wants to date so-called losers — they can be really exhausting, after all — before getting back into a serious relationship again. So a better question might be, do you want to deliberately follow a pattern that's based on the dating timeline of Taylor Swift?

When it comes to wagering bets on dating and how and when you'll reach your soulmate, so to speak, "The Dusty Ex-Boyfriend Effect" isn't new. It's actually quite similar to the 37% rule, in which one would date all types of people and keep dating them until they're 37% of the way through their dating experiences as a whole. The theory here is that once the 37% is reached, the next person in the queue is theoretically better than all the people you've dated before and because of this, they're probably your person. It's about knowing when to stop dating certain people so you get "the one" — much like "The Dusty Ex-Boyfriend Effect." You're basically going through the motions and taking the necessary steps to reach your ultimate goal.

There really is no hard and fast rule as to finding the person you'll marry, if that's something you want to do. But if "The Dusty Ex-Boyfriend Effect" sounds appealing to you, then go for it. You have nothing to lose and only experience to gain, and experience is never a bad thing.