In the world we live in, it’s considered taboo to ask the person you’re dating about his or her ex.
In most cases, the end of a relationship is a very negative experience. When you bring it up, it seems as if it’s done in “poor taste” because he or she isn't dating this person for a reason.
Asking the person about his or her ex has potential consequences for you, too.
It’s quite possible this person may have lingering feelings for his or her ex.
Maybe his or her breakup was a low point in his or her life, and this person doesn't like to dwell on it.
For the person you're dating, your questioning may be a huge turnoff because he or she doesn't to think about his or her ex with the person he or she is currently with.
Despite all the potential negative outcomes, I think asking the person you’re dating about his or her ex is vital to the success of your relationship.
(For clarity's sake, I've used male pronouns throughout the text.)
1. What will he say about you?
It’s never easy to end a relationship, whether it’s mutual or not.
For some people, it can be one of the worst experiences in their lives, especially if they thought they were going to marry this person.
How he talks about someone is an indicator of both his character and the nature of his relationship.
Does he insult his ex? Does he reveal all her secrets?
Does he degrade her worth to such a degree that it seems as if they never dated at all?
It’s quite possible you two will at some point part ways.
Do you want to invest time, love and energy on someone who verbally destroys someone he “loved” without remorse or compassion? I don’t.
2. Does he respect women?
Asking someone about his ex can tell you a great deal about how receptive he is to the word “no.”
By the very nature of being human, we are predisposed to only think about ourselves. So, a great sign of maturity is the ability to sacrifice and compromise in the best interest of someone else.
From his answer, does it sound as if he felt entitled to something from her?
If he insults her, what aspects of her does he attack? Her body? Her values? Factors out of her control?
With a relationship comes a question of “ownership.”
Some people are fearful their significant others will treat them more like a possession than an equal.
As a possession to another person, your "purpose" is to serve that person and his needs.
Based off his word choice, comments and tone, you can judge very quickly to see if he views the person he’s dating as a partner or a possession.
3. What “baggage” does he have?
This may be obvious based on his body language.
How’s his posture? Does he make eye contact while he speaks to you?
What is he doing with his hands? What is the tone in his voice?
Everybody handles loss differently. It’s to your benefit to understand how your partner processes his emotions.
Does he shut down? Is he a good communicator?
At some point during your relationship, you will deal with “feelings.” You should find out if how you process stress is compatible with the way your partner handles it.
People tend to bring the unresolved issues of their pasts into their new relationships.
What do you think his issues are? Are they worth working through?
What potential, emotional roadblocks can you envision in the future ahead?
4. How does he handle conflict?
Honesty and trust are two vital components to a healthy, functional relationship.
How does he respond to your curiosity about his ex?
Does he shut you down immediately? If so, does he justify his reaction?
Does he sound defensive?
Is he unphased by the question and unapologetically open and comfortable with you?
Your gut feeling is the most important component about this question. When you ask him about his ex, does he sound genuine? Are you satisfied with his answer?
If you two cannot have a harmless conversation about someone who, at one point, played a very important role in your partner’s life, how can you go about tackling more difficult questions in the future?
It’s something to think about.
5. Is he the “heartbroken” or the “heartbreaker?”
The person who ends the relationship tends to be the person with the power.
If the person you’re dating ended it, it’s very likely he's grieved and processed the end of the relationship in a constructive way.
If he was the one who was betrayed or cheated on, it’s quite possible he has unresolved feelings for his ex. They could either be ones of desire or resentment.
Finding out if he was the “heartbreaker” or the “heartbroken” will help convey your partner’s needs and sensitivities.
Understanding what influences his decisions will help you navigate any sort of emotional “triggers” your partner may have.
It’s easier to make the other person happy if you’ve established what does and doesn’t work for him in a relationship.
Following the conversation...
The truth is, dating is hard, and people are afraid to ask the tough questions.
Maybe you’re content not knowing his past. Maybe you’re not willing to jeopardize the relationship.
But the less you know, the less equipped you are to assess the future of the relationship.
Ask someone about his or her ex. It will save you time, energy and frustration from the start.