Keeping Your Ex in the Past

Keeping Your Ex in the Past

What not to say about your ex on a date

When I started dating after separating from my now-ex-husband, I was a total mess.

The first guy I dated very wisely acknowledged that it was too soon and that I was undoubtedly going to be preoccupied with my ex. He even dubbed himself my “transitional object,” the psychological term used to describe a thing that provides comfort for someone while going from one phase to the other. Because the term usually refers to a baby who uses a blanket or “lovey” to fall asleep, I thought the description was hilarious. But it was undoubtedly very accurate. He had limitless patience for conversations about my ex, but I don’t think this is typical or advisable for dating after separation or divorce.

My second post-ex boyfriend was also very understanding, but his patience nevertheless wore out. After about three months he informed me that he didn’t think I was truly ready to move on. “You talk about your ex so often,” he said. “I feel like his ghost is with us every time we see each other.”

That’s when I realized the inevitable, that it is not a good idea to talk about your ex when dating. Most people will tire quickly of hearing about the ex. Potential significant others will want to have their own relationship with you and to create those new memories, not hear about the tragedies of your past. And they definitely don’t want to be compared to your ex.

Of course, first and second dates are a time to get to know one another and your ex will probably come up, but keep these pointers in mind:

  • Limit comments about your ex to the facts, such as “We were married for six years” or “She works in advertising” are fine, but no need to go beyond the basics.
  • Do not comment in an emotional way about your ex, either good or bad. Comments such as, “I hate my ex!” or “We had incredible chemistry!” are very off-putting. You will either make your date feel worried about measuring up or you will seem extremely bitter.
  • Try not to get into any long stories about your ex—no dramatic tales of custody court battles or lengthy descriptions about the incredible cycling trip you two took in Provence. Keep any comments about your ex short and sweet and then shift the conversation to something else.
  • Never discuss finances on an early date, but especially when they pertain to your ex. Don’t reveal his ex’s FICO score or tendency to gamble away the rent money. No comments about her stock portfolio or student loans!

The bottom line is to keep comments about your ex short, sweet, and to the point. Though you shouldn’t be dismissive of questions or steer clear of any reference to your ex, it’s nice to gently steer conversations back to the person who is there with you on the date. Try to stay focused on the present and keep you ex in the past, where he or she belongs!

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Annette Powers is a Solo Mom who lives in Brooklyn, New York. A communications professional, she writes about divorce, coparenting, and culture in her spare time. You can follow her on Twitter @annettepowers

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