The Art of Moving On: Why Talking About Exes and Competition in Relationships is a Dangerous Game

The problem is bigger than just living in your past.

Wendy Miller


Photo: SIphotography via Deposit Photos

A young, married mother I know frequently mentions to both her husband and other people the firefighter that was her husband’s competition when they first met. Another young man that I know lists off each ex-girlfriend he has and why they broke up. Several dates I’ve gone on have included the question, “So, tell me about your past relationships?”

But I’m not the one asking the question. And I don’t like answering it, either. Nor do I enjoy talking about the other men I’m seeing with the man I’m currently on a date with — or the other men I dated before committing to whomever my current partner is.

Here’s why.

The Exes Are a Roadmap to Disaster

Talking about exes is giving your partner or date a roadmap to destroy you. Whether you tell them all the wonderful things about an ex as something to live up to or all the horrible things the ex did as an explanation for the breakup, you’ve plotting the path for a relationship that doesn’t end well.

Consider this:

  • You tell them the wonderful stuff: Now they know what you love, which means they know what to withhold if they want to hurt you. Alternatively, you make them feel inadequate because they can’t live up to all that wonderful stuff for whatever reason.
  • You tell them the horrible stuff: You might see this as a warning of what not to do, but they can see it as a complete list of all your triggers and what buttons to push to hurt you. They know you’ve tolerated it before, which means you’re likely to tolerate it again — with them.

Either way, it starts things off on a negative foot.

And what if this person truly is a good person with no intention of hurting you, who wouldn’t use this information against you in some hurtful way? Well, if that’s the case, then why wouldn’t you rather focus on building a future with them than rehashing the past?

Healing Doesn’t Come From Sharing With a Partner