If you ask me, the world is split into two types of people. Those who admit they hate hearing the words ‘my ex’, and liars.
If you’re going to tell me you honestly don’t mind hearing about your partners past lovers, then you’re lying to yourself and we need to have a really serious conversation before we can continue this friendship. Which is apparently necessary, because while I’ve always thought this was a given, an unspoken rule that EVERYONE knew about, the amount of people who have recently argued the point tells me that the unspoken rule APPARENTLY needs to be spoken about.
The thing is, it’s never appropriate to mention those two tiny words that have the power to reduce grown men and women into quivering wrecks. I know what you’re thinking right now. My past made me the person I am today and it’s important blah blah whatever! Honestly, no one cares. By this point, even your friends are sick of hearing about your ex, and I can promise you your date doesn’t give a shit. Yet so many people nonchalantly throw those words around as if they don’t even know they’re tiny hand grenades ready to blow up and shatter your partners confidence and happiness.
Your relationship might be stronger than Victoria and Albert’s, and it’s still not okay to mention those words. They’re too loaded, they say too much and above all, they’re too powerful. They may just be the most powerful words in the entire English language. Scratch that, in ANY language. Wars have been waged over them and happiness killed.
I understand that you cannot erase your past, but you can definitely edit the version that goes out to your current partner. For example, you might be having a perfectly delightful conversation about your love for Ed Sheeren, when your date pipes up that he really likes him too. This is amazing you think, here’s another thing you two have in common. This has to be the best date ever. You realize he’s still talking and has just mentioned that he went to one of his concerts (even better) with his ex (STOP). Suddenly, your Ed Sheeran fan girl halts dead in her tracks, does an incredible U-turn and from this day forth will talk about how he ruined Ed Sheeren for her. Because now, you’re not thinking about your love for Ed and how he’s a lyrical genius, no! Now all you can think about is his ex girlfriend and how they went to an Ed concert together, and probably looked at each other lovingly when ‘Thinking Out Loud’ came on. Every time Ed comes on the radio (which incidentally is remarkably frequently), you’ll sit and wonder if he’s thinking about her. You’ll also be thinking about his ex now, and you don’t even know her. But that’s not going to stop you imagining exactly what she looks like and how pretty she is. (Of course she must be devastatingly attractive).
Now all that’s happened is you’ve ruined her favourite artist and her self-esteem. Really, it could have been so easily avoided by saying, ‘I went to one of his gigs once’. FULL STOP! If one of you is silly enough to ask who with, then ‘friends’ is a good answer. In fact, it’s a great answer. You might be thinking that lying is not the best way to start something and I TOTALLY agree. But unless that Ed Sheeren gig with your ex somehow explains your current insecurities and crazy habits, is it really necessary to mention it?
I mean, you definitely don’t do that with the big things. Like hey, guess what, I was engaged to be married one time. That’s the kind of thing that does have to be brought up at some point, but ONLY with extreme care and must be handled like a bomb about to blow and you’re responsible for the lives of thousands. That’s how it should be approached.
But the flippant, trivial things that you did with your ex, like watch certain films, or visit certain places, or eat certain things; for the love of everyone’s sanity just leave it out. Whether your relationship was a beautiful experience that crafted you into the upstanding individual you are today, or a train wreck that has left you with every issue imaginable matters not. Because really, no one wants to hear about how great your last relationship was because now you’re terrified this one is rubbish in comparison, and similarly, no one wants to count the ways in which your last relationship broke you because it’s sad and you then panic that you’ll never be able to make them happy.
Also, there’s no suitable response to the ex bomb. It’s virtually impossible to respond without sounding jealous, petulant or fake. Trust me, I’ve tried. I just end up sounding like a constipated newt as I squeak something in an attempt to decide which emotion I’m going with while trying to act cool. THERE IS NO GOOD WAY OUT OF THIS PEOPLE. Can we all just silently agree that this unspoken rule does in fact exist, and let’s all have some respect for it. ‘The Ex’, should be buried deep within the halls of memory, only to be brought out for the all important ‘my past’ conversation, and then once more stuffed back into it’s box and buried deep in the back of the closet, never to be talked about again. And by deep in the back of the closet, I mean shove it into Narnia if you can.