Author Topic: How to politely discuss my past re[color=black]lationships[/color]?  (Read 2179 times)

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Softly Spoken

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So I am single again.  :(

I will probably go back to dating eventually, and I was wondering about how to discuss former relationships. I know all the dating advice gurus say you shouldn't bring up your exes, but I don't believe it is so black and white. Obviously you don't mention them on the first date, but sooner or later the subject is going to come up, or some other subject will come up that would necessitate mentioning them unless you are prepared to omit them which I think is lying and should be unnecessary if you and your New Prospect are both secure enough.

I try and be generous and forgiving towards my former BFs, but they had their flaws - and those flaws contributed to our no longer being together. I am grateful I found out our incompatibility sooner rather than later. Figuring out why they didn't work out helps me get a better idea of what I am looking for in a partner, and in a relationship. I can own my own choices and actions, but there is some hurt and frustration there. I don't want to mourn their awesomeness to a new guy, nor do I want to badmouth them (honestly I could easily do both if I'm not careful ::))...but what should I say when he asks why we aren't together anymore? How much information or explanation is appropriate? I don't want to frame the break ups in context of blaming, but it I don't want to whitewash and say something like "Oh I guess it just wasn't meant to be" etc.

So I don't want to lie but I don't want to give TMI...and I don't want to gossip or blame but I don't want to whitewash history...

How do you appropriately integrate your exes into your history in order to move forward in a new relationship?
"... for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
-William Shakespeare

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Honeypickle

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Re: How to politely discuss my past re[color=black]lationships[/color]?
« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2013, 05:16:31 PM »
I am guessing that you are very very newly single and this recent break up has been a hard and sad one for you. Because, honestly, this is not a topic you need to discuss when you start dating again. dating is supposed to be fun, meeting new people, whittling down all the people you meet to the one (or two or three!) you think you could actually have a relationship with. So then, a few more months down the line, you can discuss exes. But seriously, unless you are divorced or have children, you shouldn't be worrying about discussing past relationships at this stage - everyone has had past relationships, and to be honest, most new potential partners would really rather not hear about them.

When you do meet someone that it is appropriate to discuss the past with, no harm in beginning with "it just didn't work out/we wanted different things". But  I do feel that if you want to tell someone new all the ins and outs of why it didn't work with your last partner, it's a sign that you're not really over them, and its a conversation best saved for your friends - not a new romantic partner.

I hope it goes well for you whatever you decide to do.

SlitherHiss

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Re: How to politely discuss my past re[color=black]lationships[/color]?
« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2013, 05:25:42 PM »
I agree with Honeypickle.

Was this a serious, long-term relationship? Because that's the only way I can see it even coming up. My mantra in dating is to focus on who you're with. Do not burden a hypothetical new relationship with your baggage about the old. If they do ask about your previous relationship, there's no reason to delve into the nitty gritty.

"We just weren't a good match."


dawbs

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Re: How to politely discuss my past re[color=black]lationships[/color]?
« Reply #3 on: July 30, 2013, 05:27:43 PM »
To some extent "as they affect your life/who you are".

There is something stilted about erasing every trace of exes from your life.  But there's also the "wow, I'm relieved I'm not with him/glad to be where I am" that naturally means that ex doesn't surface every time.

So, I can picture this conversation (early on in dating):
Me:  ...Blah blah blah D&D group blah blah blah Kender cosplay (note, no, I don't, I just like the idea  ;))
Date:  "oh, what got you into cosplay?"
Me:  "one of my exes invited me to game and I discovered I really liked it; I've been involved with the cosplay for about 5 years now and really enjoy the costuming aspects...blah blah blah.

What would probably not go well would be:
Me:  ...Blah blah blah D&D group blah blah blah Kender cosplay (note, no, I don't, I just like the idea  ;))
Date:  "oh, what got you into cosplay?"
Me:  "one of my exes invited me to game and I really liked it.  When we started having trouble, it caused all sort of friction in the group.  Now we rotate out who goes to the local store--I have dibs on the first and 3rd weekend of each month and every other wed.  But I never go on Thursdays and Tuesdays because he and his new GF are likely to be gaming then..."

OR

Me:  ...Blah blah blah D&D group blah blah blah Kender cosplay (note, no, I don't, I just like the idea  ;))
Date:  "oh, what got you into cosplay?"
Me:  "uhhh, someone I once knew invited me to a D&D game once  and blah....
^that isn't all bad, but...it's unnecessarily 'oversensitive' to avoiding exes--that's the one that may be fine but also may blow up later when suddenly "wait, what do you mean this was something you did with your ex?" is 'discovered'--it's trying to hard to keep secrets


I know that's OTT, but, that tends to be the basic--early on.  Later on, how much history you share depends on facets of the relationship that are myriad.

Yvaine

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Re: How to politely discuss my past re[color=black]lationships[/color]?
« Reply #4 on: July 30, 2013, 05:28:57 PM »
I agree with Honeypickle.

Was this a serious, long-term relationship? Because that's the only way I can see it even coming up. My mantra in dating is to focus on who you're with. Do not burden a hypothetical new relationship with your baggage about the old. If they do ask about your previous relationship, there's no reason to delve into the nitty gritty.

"We just weren't a good match."

Agree, and OP, you're overthinking it. It's not going to be like a job interview; your next date is not likely to grill you about "why you left your last boyfriend" and make you justify it. Almost everybody out there has had some relationships that didn't work, and unless they were serious, they don't tend to come up all that much.

Lynn2000

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Re: How to politely discuss my past re[color=black]lationships[/color]?
« Reply #5 on: July 30, 2013, 05:53:38 PM »
I think dawbs has some good examples. Like you said, unless you're actively trying to never mention an ex, the fact that you did X with them or went to Y with them will eventually come up, and it's best to just be low-key about it at first--don't talk about them, just about the activity. Pretend they're just another friend you're mentioning--maybe even call them by name instead of "my ex" to make it even more casual.

At a certain point I suppose someone might ask about exes, but I feel like that would be farther down the line, and you would probably have a better feel for how much you should/want to share with them.
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katycoo

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Re: How to politely discuss my past re[color=black]lationships[/color]?
« Reply #6 on: July 30, 2013, 07:40:25 PM »
There is nothing wrong with mentioning an ex in passing if the conversation goes that way.  It only gets weird if you dwell on the topic, talk about them frequently or deliberately bring them up unnaturally.

If someone asks what happened, I tend to give the short truthful version.  Eg:

We drifted into friendship.
We weren't happy/grew apart/had different ideas about the future.
They turned out to be a bit of a d!ck and I didn't like that.

I would avoid saying that you were dumped, even if that's what happened, because then they (naturally) will want to know what the ex didn't like about you.

BarensMom

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Re: How to politely discuss my past re[color=black]lationships[/color]?
« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2013, 01:02:59 PM »
This is probably repetitive, but I'm going to say it:  You don't, at least not for several months, until you're sure you know this person and are actually in a committed relationship.  Otherwise, you're sharing some very personal information with a stranger, who could take that knowledge and do damage.

whiterose

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Re: How to politely discuss my past re[color=black]lationships[/color]?
« Reply #8 on: July 31, 2013, 07:17:54 PM »
My boyfriend and I did briefly discuss our experiences with online dating on our first date- since we met through eHarmony, and he was pleasantly surprised that I looked like my profile pics. It was very brief- and it did come up.

I did not mention my longest relationship at the time until our fifth date when we had the relationship talk. That relationship I mentioned...is now my second longest relationship! Specific details did not come up till much later. All I revealed on that 5th date was that my now second longest relationship ended because we were just not a good long term match (100% true).

I did not talk about my abusive stalkative first experience with dating until our 6th date. My boyfriend was very kind and understanding.

On our 11th date, around 3 months into the relationship, he compared me favorably to his ex-girlfriend. Specifically how I treated him so well! That girlfriend he mentioned was his longest relationship at the time...but it is now his second longest relationship as well!

So it depends on the details. And the person.
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blarg314

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Re: How to politely discuss my past re[color=black]lationships[/color]?
« Reply #9 on: July 31, 2013, 09:53:28 PM »

I think what the experts mean is

1) Don't badmouth your ex(es) to a date or new relationship. This is a common warning sign for a date, when everyone they previously dated is a horrible person who done them wrong.

2) Don't go into excessive detail. "I went to Bali with an ex BF" is one thing, every second comment being "Oh, Frank and I..." is another.

3) Avoid comparing your new partner to an old one, particularly negatively. "But Hubert used to..."

4) Oh, and avoid calling the new BF by an old BF's name.

As the relationship gets more serious, things like previous bad experience (an abusive ex, for example) will come up as part of the getting to know each other discussions, and mentioning serious relationships (you were married, cohabiting or engaged). But even then, a detailed resume of previous dating experiences is not required.

And generally, most dating relationship end because the couple wasn't compatible in some way, and it took some time dating to figure that out. That doesn't need spelling out.

A big exception is if you are *currently* legally married (even if separated). That should probably be revealed before the first date, because for many people that's an immediate, leave the restaurant mid date dealbreaker. And if an unstable ex is likely to have an effect on your new relationship, they should be warned before the problem splashes on them.


Allyson

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Re: How to politely discuss my past re[color=black]lationships[/color]?
« Reply #10 on: August 01, 2013, 02:47:11 AM »
I think dawbs has it right with his/her examples.

Casual mentions are fine, and to be expected. You don't need to totally avoid any mention of past relationships, but keep it very situational. Don't go into any real emotion-packed detail, for good or bad, on the first few dates. If you're at a place where you don't think you could casually say 'my ex' it might be a good idea to hold off dating for the time being (not an insult, I've been there too, it's not fun).

I doubt a date would directly ask 'why did you break up' on a first date, that seems kind of rude to me. If it does come up, I'd be factual but nondetailed, so "I realized I saw him more as a friend," "He wasn't ready for a relationship" or "He wanted to travel but I didn't want to leave my career" are all fine. And there's always the good old fashioned "we grew apart" for long term relationships.

If it was really bitter and terrible, or you were completely wronged (he cheated on you with your best friend) I still think it's better to be vague super early on. I say this because no matter how 'wronged' someone was, I know if I were on a first date with someone who went into all the bitter details, I'd be a little weirded out. It's just too intense. (Obviously exceptions apply, sometimes first dates can turn into 10 hour soul-baring sessions. But I'm thinking of a typical 'meet for drinks and keep things light' date.)


TurtleDove

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Re: How to politely discuss my past re[color=black]lationships[/color]?
« Reply #11 on: August 01, 2013, 03:39:27 PM »
I don't think you need to pretend you never dated anyone previously, but unless there is some specific reason to mention an ex I think you can avoid hurt feelings and unecessary jealously or misinterpretation of intentions by simply leaving the "ex" part out of a story.  For example, "When I was in Mexico I went parasailing!  It was so much fun!" instead of, "My ex and I went to Mexico and we went parasailing!"  The fact the ex was there is not the point of the story, unless it is, in which case I would question why you think a new dating partner would want to know about it!

shhh its me

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Re: How to politely discuss my past re[color=black]lationships[/color]?
« Reply #12 on: August 01, 2013, 07:36:09 PM »
 BFs,  they had their flaws - and those flaws contributed to our no longer being together. (insert either a joke "I obviously am perfect and have no flaws or and of course I have mine" ) I am grateful I found out our incompatibility sooner rather than later. Figuring out what didn't work out helped me get a better idea of what I am looking for in a partner, and in a relationship.

You can say what you just said , when/if asked why did you and your Ex break up. Most of the time on the first few dates its sort of a "test" question; to make sure you're not crazy , a cheater , gold digger  ect.  "When he found out I slept with his brother he didn't give me the 100 ct diamond ring I wanted for out 6 week anniversary" that would be a bad answer ;p . Also, to know you're not still in love with any exes " I don't know why we broke up" in a voice breaking ,  single tear shimmering in your eye;p  also a bad answer. lastly to see if you're still passionately angry about your ex  "insert 20 minute rant about evil ex"  that would be the wrong answer.

I agree with points made previously too. Don't lie by omission when mentioning something that had to do with an Ex but otherwise unless asked there is no real reason to bring up exes.

White Lotus

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Re: How to politely discuss my past re[color=black]lationships[/color]?
« Reply #13 on: August 01, 2013, 10:16:55 PM »
If you have children or it was a very long relationship, it is both an important part of your history and also part of your present  (finances may remain entwined, for example, and regular contact may be necessary; joint children are self-explanatory).  Then I think the history needs to flow naturally and normally in the conversation and neither be dwelt upon nor avoided, with 99.9% of the emotional content -- other than "it was such fun!" -- deleted.  Otherwise, what PPs have said seems about right.   
Please don't date until you are both legally and emotionally available for another relationship -- not specifically OP, but everybody.