7 Red Flags That Your Partner Talks About Exes In An Unhealthy Way
You might feel awkward discussing exes with your new partner, but having an honest conversation with your current boyfriend or girlfriend about past relationships is perfectly healthy. It can bring you closer together and help you to better understand your significant other, and vice versa. Plus, the way that your partner talks about exes can be extremely revealing.
Obviously, your S.O. shouldn't still have feelings for their ex, because they're with you now. But if there wasn't a lot of time between the breakup and when the two of you started dating, or if you ever feel like your boyfriend or girlfriend compares your bond to a past relationship of theirs, that could be a red flag that your partner isn't over their ex.
If you're worried that your S.O. isn't over their ex, or that they might still be involved with a past partner, it's important not to jump to conclusions without speaking to them. However, there are a number of signs to look out for that might indicate your S.O. talks about their exes in an unhealthy way, from subtly shifting the conversation, to blatantly ignoring your questions about their breakup.
I spoke to couples therapist and relationship expert Tracy K. Ross, LCSW, about the most common red flags to be aware of when it comes to talking to your current partner about their past relationships. Here are the top seven.
1. They're vague or secretive about the details of the breakup.
"Sometimes it's what they don't say," says Ross. "You don't have a clear understanding of why the relationship ended, what wasn't working for them, how the breakup occurred and whether or not they have any contact, [or] they make a point of not mentioning their name."
If you feel like your partner is always vague when the subject of their ex is raised, there may be a reason why they aren't telling you the whole truth. Withholding information can be a big red flag, especially if you've asked your S.O. to talk about their past relationship and they've still avoided the topic.
2. They seem uncomfortable when their ex's name is mentioned.
Also, if your partner seems either "too interested or uncomfortable when their ex's name comes up in conversation, either when you are with others or when you're alone," that could be a red flag, says Ross. Trying to play something off like it isn't a big deal often means it is. Especially if your partner's most recent relationship was pretty serious, the way they react to mention of their ex can say a lot about how they truly feel.
3. They make comparisons between you and their ex.
This includes making subtle comparisons as well as blatant comparisons, according to Ross. They might also "mention qualities in their ex that you clearly don't have," she says. Drawing parallels between you and an ex isn't a great sign. Your boyfriend or girlfriend should love and respect you for who you are, not for how similar or different you are to their ex.
"If you have a feeling you are the rebound person or aren't sure what it is about you they really like or value, pay attention to that," says Ross. "Your significant other should bring out the best in you."
4. They're nostalgic about the old relationship.
If you feel like your partner idealizes their ex in specific ways, like saying, "They were the best at this," or "The one thing I do miss is..." that could mean there is "a sense of nostalgia where their ex is concerned," says Ross.
They might also "talk about activities they miss that clearly involve their ex, even if they don't reference them directly," she adds. This behavior could be an indicator that your partner is still hung up on their last relationship.
5. They're angry or sad about the breakup.
Other signs to look out for include if "they are overly critical of their ex, you still feel the anger when they talk about them, or they become emotional — angry, sad, etc. — when their [ex's] name is mentioned," says Ross.
"If your partner talks about being blindsided in some way by their ex, either by the breakup or a revelation, you should beware there may be some residual effect," she says.
6. They still seem connected to their ex.
If your partner goes out of their way to stay in contact with their ex's friends and family, and justifies this contact if you question it, they may still be connected to their ex, according to Ross.
Maintaining mutual friendships is one thing, but if your partner seems overly invested in their ex's social circles, or even goes as far as to put themselves in situations where they're likely to run into their ex, you might want to talk to your S.O. about their intentions.
"Pay attention to your internal compass," says Ross. "If something makes you uncomfortable, doesn't feel right, or causes you to question, don't ignore it — address it."
7. They blame their ex for the breakup and take no responsibility.
Aside from simply talking about their exes in an unhealthy way, there are also some red flags to look out for that might mean your partner's past relationships were unhealthy in general. If "your partner talks about how he or she was wronged by the ex, how they were a victim, [or if they give] examples of how they weren't treated well and the angle is blaming the ex, not questioning why they put up with that kind of relationship," that should be on your radar.
When "it's all criticism of the ex and no responsibility on their part, no nuances — black and white thinking," that's not a healthy way to deal with a breakup — and maybe they aren't yet ready to be in a new relationship. "You should beware of falling into and repeating the same patterns [as in past relationships]," says Ross. "Listen to what they are telling you, and if possible, have an honest conversation about what the hook was in that unhealthy relationship."
Talking about past relationships can provide you with important information about your partner's needs, patterns, blindspots, and connection style, both healthy and unhealthy. If you ever feel uncomfortable about they way your S.O. talks about an ex, don't be afraid to initiate a productive conversation.
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