I get it. Exes are taboo.
Nobody likes to bring them up. They make us feel insecure, anxious, and sometimes out of our damn minds.
I know you aren’t going to like this, but I’m going to say it anyway: It’s a good thing to talk about your exes in relationships.
Ya. Sounds crazy, right? But in reality, it’s not. Relationships are built on trust. They can handle anxiety provoking topics like finances, intimacy, family dynamics, and much more…so they can handle this, too. So you’ve gotta do it. You’ve gotta talk about them.
Not every day, not even every month – but nonetheless, it’s important. And I’m going to tell you why.
1. It keeps you sane.
Admit it: when you enter into a new relationship, part of you wonders how they’re still single. They’re amazing! It’s a miracle! Everything is perfect!
But then you realize: there IS a reason they are single. It’s most likely because they went through a breakup. Maybe even a recent breakup. Let the spiraling out of control thoughts commence.
What’s she like? Is she cuter than me? Is she smarter than me? Did he like her more than me? Did he break up with her? Did she break up with him? OMG why would she break up with him? He’s perfect. I have to find out. What’s her last name? I’ll find her on social media. DAMN her account is private. Ugh it’s OK I’ll have Katie follow her. OMG she has my same shoes. What the hell.
No. No. No. No. No. No. No.
Instead of jumping to your own conclusions, villainizing a poor girl you don’t even know, or doing some irresponsible social media stalking – get the facts from the horse’s mouth. This will curb any impulses you might have to fabricate a story of the past that shouldn’t have much of anything to do with your future. Plus, there are lots of other benefits from having this conversation. Continue on, pls.
2. It give you context.
Ok, you’re in. You’ve brought up the Ex Files and you are swimming in dark waters. But don’t fear – you are going to learn a lot.
Understanding someone’s previous relationships gives you insight into their priorities, values, triggers, and non-negotiables. It gives you an inside peek into what makes this person tick, and what’s enough to end a relationship. This conversation doesn’t have to change anything about yourself – you might have things in common with an ex, and that’s great. It’s normal for us to gravitate towards people with similarities. That’s why it’s called “having a type.” On the flip side, you might have a lot of differing qualities, and that’s ok, too. Perhaps your partner went through a big self discovery phase and learned a lot about himself, and you get a front row seat on their evolution.
Same goes for you, by the way. Discussing your previous relationships and your exes does the same for your partner. Yes, it’s painful. Yes, there will be some questions you don’t want to answer and some questions you don’t want to ask. That’s ok. Be in tune with your values. Be aware of your boundaries — and feel confident enough to set them out loud when you’re feeling too anxious.
3. It normalizes the past.
We all want that dark, looming cloud to go away. The one that holds all of the unknowns about our current partner. We try to ignore it, but no matter how hard we push it away, it’s always there. The ONLY way to make it float away, is to discuss it. The elephant in the room is only ushered out once he is recognized.
The good news is, most of the time, a person’s exes aren’t going to be monsters. Sure, we all have that *one* ex that we would love to never, ever, see again…but otherwise, most of them are pretty decent humans. We all dated them for a reason, right? And just because things didn’t work out doesn’t mean they turned into horrible people overnight.
**Pro Tip: If someone hates every single one of their exes with a fiery passion – chances are the exes aren’t the problem. Either they blame all of their issues on others, or they have really bad taste in human beings.
So when talking about exes, try to keep that in mind when listening to the stories. It’s so easy to be intimidated by the past. It’s foreign. Unknown. Scary. We can assume and complicate and bend and project onto it all day long. But actually discussing it and taking away the mystery of it all only loosens up the tension surrounding it.
Once you talk about your previous relationships, they aren’t taboo anymore. They feel like normal stories that everybody has. It doesn’t give you that pit in your stomach anymore. It’s not interesting. It’s just the past. The boring, silly, old past that will remain behind you as you continue building your future together.
4. It aligns you together.
When you’re feeling insecure about your partner’s ex, it’s easy to subconsciously form teams. Team Ex & Partner VS. You. You feel alone. Attacked. Annoyed. Angry. And lots of other A words.
You start to convince yourself that the ex and your partner have more of an affiliation than they do with you. It’s a reasonably new relationship after all, and they used to date for awhile. I get that it’s easy to start thinking like that. But this is why talking about it is so important.
Once you begin a dialogue about previous relationships, you realign your teams. Now you’re “in” on the skinny! You know details, too. You get what happened. You have the inside scoop. So now it’s You and Partner VS Ex. You two together against the world. No ex relationship is going to get in your way. You two have it handled. Teammates fo’ life.
5. It opens the door for other “talks.”
This isn’t the only serious conversation you guys are going to have to have. Not even close. At some point you’ll have to discuss fears, marriage, mother-in-laws, money, sex, and much, much more. And starting off in a place of honesty and openness only sets the tone for those future talks. If you have a closed door policy about past issues or feelings – that doesn’t translate well to facing future obstacles together.
Create a culture of tolerance. Learn from each other. Trust each other. And talk about things that are scary. This is how you two become a united front. It’s hard at first, but the more you share and the more you listen, the easier this gets. You only stand to benefit from it.