Does the dusty ex-boyfriend theory explain your relationship?

The genre-bending romance between Taylor Swift and legendary NFL player Travis Kelce is making women question their own relationships.

Swift and Kelce have been romantically linked for a few months, with the couple first confirming their romance when the 'Blank Space' singer attended the 33-year-old's game in September, sitting beside his mother, Donna, to watch. 

The twosome left the game together in a convertible before Kelce rented out a restaurant for an after-party for his team and Swift. The singer has since been spotted at several more games, out on date nights with Travis, and the player has also been seen at her recent show in Argentina

At the show (which has probably taken over your Instagram scroll), Taylor could be heard changing the lyrics to her song 'Karma' to reference her new beau. Instead of singing "karma is the guy on the screen coming straight home to me," she sang "karma is the guy on the Chiefs," an obvious reference to Travis' team the Kansas City Chiefs. 

In short... it's so on! And everyone approves of this match. 

Kelce is a star athlete, he's broken several NFL records throughout his decade-long career, and as of 2023, he was ranked one of the best players in the entire league.

And Taylor Swift is Taylor Swift

This match is particularly unexpected because of the man Taylor reportedly dated straight out of her six-year relationship with Joe Alwyn. For a few fateful weeks, Taylor and The 1975 frontman Matt Healy were apparently dating, a union that brought a lot of headlines and a lot of confused expressions.


Healy is known as a controversial public figure, the exact opposite to Kelce and Alwyn. Kelce is the wholesome all-American man, while Alwyn is known for, well... not much at all, really, which is better than something bad.

Healy seemed an inexplicable blip in Taylor's dating resume. And what can explain it? TikTok can.

A TikToker with the apt username @leta_bitchknow has shared her "dusty ex-boyfriend effect" theory with her followers and she's not wrong. 

@leta_bitchknow Replying to @Jess #greenscreen heres the Traylor update for you #traviskelce #taylorswift ♬ original sound - Erica

"It's when you're in a really long-term, unfulfilling relationship and then you guys break up, you get this new freedom, and then you date a total loser," the theory states.

"Then directly after the breakup with the total loser, you meet your husband." 

In this instance, Healy is the "total loser" and Kelce is Swift's soon-to-be-husband. 

As it stands, the post has more than 437,000 likes and with comments like, "The pipeline from toxic ex to bad situationship to perfect husband is REAL", we're on board too.

The crux of the theory is that incredible women often rebound with lesser men before finding their soul mate.

This theory is kind of a continuation of the 'Bad Pancake' dating theory, which gained traction in 2017 and suggested that the first person you date after a long-term relationship is destined to fail in the same way that the first pancake of any batch is typically a big ol' mess.


Taylor Swift is not the only famous woman to experience the dusty phenomenon, either.

Blake Lively is one clear example. In her early years on Gossip Girl, she famously dated her co-star Penn Badgley for three years before marrying Ryan Reynolds in 2012. 

So who did she date in between? 

Leonardo 'I Only Date 25-Year-Olds' DiCaprio.

They briefly dated in 2012 when Blake was (shock!) just 23 years old.

Then there's Nicole Kidman, who randomly dated US rocker Lenny Kravitz in between her marriages to Tom Cruise and Keith Urban. 

During the years that stretched between Sarah Jessica Parker's seven-year relationship with Robert Downey Jr. and her 26-year marriage to Matthew Broderick, she curiously dated Hollywood oddball Nicholas Cage. 

Then there are the celebrity women who are clearly still on their journeys to find the elusive One. 

This year, Ariana Grande announced her divorce from Dalton Gomez after two years of marriage, rebounding with an actor best known for his portrayal of a singing SpongeBob, her Wicked co-star Ethan Slater.

After Emily Ratajkowski's four-year marriage to Sebastian Bear-McClard ended, she was linked to a series of men rarely categorised as stable partners: Pete Davidson, Brad Pitt and Harry Styles.

Davidson has been a dependable dusty ex-boyfriend for a few Hollywood women. He helped Kim Kardashian bounce back after her tumultuous marriage to Kanye West, he dated Kate Beckinsale after her divorce from Len Wiseman, and he spent time with model Kaia Gerber before she met her long-term partner, Austin Butler.


Now, let's be clear – Pete Davidson is not a loser. But he is someone women tend to date as a contrast to their former partner. And whether he's a bad pancake, or just a bad partner, so far this man hasn't had much staying power.

Of course, there's an exception to every rule, and Jennifer Lopez is it.

Guess who was her 'dusty ex' between her marriages to Cris Judd and Marc Antony? 

Current husband Ben Affleck.

Thankfully for Benny boy, he worked on himself during the years between their broken engagement in 2004 and their reunion in 2021 (and subsequent 2022 marriage).

Ben is living proof that the dusty ex can find a redemption arc. 

But Matt Healy, if you're reading this, don't get any ideas. 

Feature image: Getty.

This article was originally published on September 27, 2023 and has since been updated with new information.

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