Dating someone new is exciting and refreshing. You’re in the honeymoon phase and the novelty of your relationship hasn’t even begun to sink in yet, much less wear off. But, all of that might change when you decide to have the "ex talk" — you know, telling your SO about the ghosts of lovers past. But when should you talk about exes? Is there ever a good time to tell your SO about your old relationship baggage?
Relationship expert Emily Holmes Hahn says the best time to bring up the topic is on or around the third date, but definitely not before. "I think the ex talk is something that should happen sooner rather than later in a new relationship," she says. "It's a totally false stereotype to say that bringing up your ex means you’re not over them. It shows vulnerability, honesty, and the fact that you weren't afraid to commit in the past. Plus, your new man or lady is less likely to feel jealous or emotional about your romantic history if you address it early on."
When you’re in a new relationship, it's natural to be curious about your partner’s former significant others. You probably want to know what they were like, how they met your partner, and what went wrong in the relationship. But instead of taking to social media to find out about your partner’s exes, you’re better off getting the full story from them.
If your partner isn’t able to open up about their past as much as you’d like to them, try paying attention to their tone and body language during your conversation. For example, Holmes Hahn says, "Someone who's able to maintain open body language, a positive tone of voice, and objective opinions during this conversation is usually someone no longer looking in the rearview mirror. It's also someone who wants to show you that they were ready to commit in the past and are not suppressing any dark secrets about their romantic history." Holmes Hahn says red flags during this conversation might include aggression or overall discomfort.
As couples therapist and relationship expert Tracy K. Ross, LCSW previously told Elite Daily, it might be a bad sign if your significant other is “overly critical of their ex, [they] still feel the anger when they talk about them, or they become emotional — angry, sad, etc. — when their [ex's] name is mentioned.” She explained, “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."
Although being curious about your partner's exes is perfectly normal, be cautious if one of you seems overly obsessed with the topic. Someone who is stuck in the past will never be able to focus on the future, which could mean trouble for your new relationship. Holmes Hahn says one open conversation about your exes should be more than enough to carry you both through the first few months of your relationship. If it comes up again, be sure that you both agree it’s in the past and you’re both ready to move on to happier lives with each other. "A good thing to say is, 'Well, clearly it didn’t work out with them and that’s good because I’m pretty excited about where this is going,'" Holmes Hahn suggests.
There are, of course, positive takeaways from the ex talk. An open and honest conversation about the topic early on will create a sense of intimacy between you and your partner. "As long as you treat it as a deep conversation and not silly gossip, this can bring you closer to a new partner and make you both feel more confident about taking the next steps together," Holmes Hahn says.
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