I had always heard that someone shouldn’t talk about an ex too much (if at all) with a new significant other. I had heard that if they do at all, it means they aren’t over them and you should run away because you’re in for a mess of heartbreak.
Sorry, but I’m calling B.S.!
Unless someone is still moon-eyed about an ex, it’s actually super insightful to hear them talk about previous lovers. Not only does it inform you how prior experiences and relationships shaped your new S.O., but it will also give you insight into how they view you during (and potentially after) the relationship.
You might be thinking, “What New Age garbage is this?” OK, just hear me out.
A few years ago I was in a toxic relationship. We had volcanic-level meltdowns constantly. I couldn’t understand how our fights escalated to that point. I was someone who barely ever fought with my friends, and all of the sudden I was having epic crying fits on an almost daily basis.
One time we were at a fancy restaurant with amazing views of the city, gorging ourselves on the best foods. I felt so full afterward and said, “Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten so much!” You know, the thing that people say all the time after rich meals. But he became extraordinarily mad. How dare I say that? This was a nice restaurant! This was a nice treat! I should be grateful. I wasn’t ungrateful… I was just full.
Something I knew about him from day one was that he had a gorgeous ex-girlfriend, whom he assured me he was very much over by constantly bashing her. He called her names and talked about their horrendous fights that had devastated him. My poor baby! I’d think. I bought all of it hook, line, and sinker. Yes, your ex does suck, and I am so much better!
Then I met her.
She was super kind, and all of his friends clearly still liked her. I realize a hard relationship can bring out the absolute worst in anyone… but this seemed too peculiar. He would continue to tell me stories about how horrible she was, but they didn’t seem to match up with the nice, friendly girl I had met.
After relaying this to a wise friend of mine, she said, “The way he talks about his ex is how he’ll ultimately talk about you. Do you want that?”
I had never thought about it that way before. It suddenly became clear that the common denominator was him. I realized the stories and insults about his ex were indicative of the way he would treat me in unfavorable moments.
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That’s the the hard part of relationships—maintaining respect even in the ugly moments. What my friend was telling me and what I was coming to terms with was that this guy doesn’t respect his partner—any partner—in any less-than-perfect moments.
I got out before it could get much worse.
At a party four years later, I literally ran into him and the girl he started dated after me. She gave me a shoulder check and rolled her eyes when I said hello. That’s how I knew he was doing the same thing to her. He must have painted me as an evil she-wench and himself as the poor victim.
So how do you avoid the same scenario? Ask a few (sane) questions about your S.O.’s past relationships, put aside your jealousy over the fact they ever held hands with someone else, and most of all, listen to the way they talk.
Were all of their exes “terrible”? Were they all “complete and total as*holes”? Or does your partner refuse to open up at all? All of those can be red flags for rough roads ahead. If someone is spewing hate about former loved ones, ask yourself where else that disrespect might pop up during a relationship.
If someone talks about an ex in a pretty yin-and-yang way, making note of the good and the bad, it probably means they truly have moved on. They have enough perspective to give you a fairly accurate portrayal of what went down in their past. If someone gushes over them or treats the memory of their ex like a verbal piñata, then there might be some unresolved feelings lingering. Either way, it’s up you to pay attention.
That also includes what you’re saying. As much as I would love to go off on my controlling ex-boyfriend, I stop myself when I’m asked about him. Ultimately, no one needs that kind of negativity. I’ve dated some pretty mean people because I was young and dumb, but I can appreciate the good in something that may have been predominantly bad. That’s important not just as a signal to whomever I’m relaying the story to, but also for myself.
Recently, I dated a guy who talked about all of his exes with extreme specificity, picking apart the things he didn’t like about them. Suddenly he began to point out small things he didn’t like about me. I knew I would be similarly picked apart some day, as he cited my annoying laugh and penchant for speaking in text lingo as legitimate grounds for falling out of love. Having already been down this road, I quickly saw what was happening and knew the end was near.