A psychologist says you should actually talk about exes on a first date -- here's why

  • Speaking about your exes on a first date might sound like a terrible idea.
  • But, if you can do it in a healthy, mature way, you’re probably doing yourself a favour.
  • How your new partner speaks about their past can be very revealing, and could show some ugly personality traits if they are overly critical.
  • Or, if you can both be honest without feeling uncomfortable, you might have the basis for a great relationship already.

You can never predict how well, or how badly, a first date will go. You might end up being side-barred, or simply not feel a spark. If things do seem to go well, there’s no guarantee they will even respond to your texts afterwards.

In several countries around the world, bringing up an ex on a first date is considered to be a bad idea. However, according to psychologist Susan Krauss Whitbourne from the University of Massachusetts, avoiding the topic of previous relationships can back you into a corner, especially if it comes up at a later date.

She told Elle that it might seem like a small lie at the time to say you went on holiday “with a friend” rather than your ex-partner, but it might not go down well if you have to change your story in the future.

It’s a good idea to think about why you’d want to keep it a secret in the first place. If it’s because you’re concerned about making your new love interest jealous, then that’s probably a red flag they aren’t right for you.

On the flip side, if your date is bringing up their ex at every available opportunity, then that might be a sign they’re not ready to move on yet.

Bringing up the past in a mature, healthy way can actually be very revealing, Whitbourne said.

“You want a partner who’s securely attached,” she told Elle. “That means they’re not intrusive, and not dismissive.”

In other words, if you do bring up an ex partner in casual conversation, someone who is secure will ask an appropriate amount of questions – they won’t probe too far, or brush off the conversation like it never happened. If you can get through the conversation with neither of you squirming, that’s probably a good sign.

Also, how your date speaks about their past relationships can be a predictor for how they might treat you. For example, psychologist Elinor Greenbergtold Business Insider that people tend to follow patterns, and whatever they have done in previous relationships they are likely to do again.

“If you listen carefully to how your new lover describes his or her important previous relationships and how he or she speaks about their exes, you can learn a lot about how this person is likely to treat you,” she said.

“When people describe all of their exes as terrible people and put all the blame on them for the relationship’s failure, this is a red flag for me. It practically shouts: ‘I cannot take any responsibility for whatever went wrong. I have not learned anything from these relationships. It is totally up to you to make our relationship work.'”

It is also likely to mean they are unable to see people in a realistic way, and may be prone to idealisation. They probably thought their exes were perfect at the start of the relationship, but since breaking up they are only able to see the bad things.

“Either they have a knack for picking the absolutely worst people with whom to be in a relationship, or they are seeing all of these people in a very distorted way,” Greenberg said. “If they could not see anyone before you realistically or make any of these relationships work, they are unlikely to be able to do it with you.”

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