My friend comes to me and says, “Here we go again,” he exerts frustratingly, “My girlfriend keeps talking about her ex.” If you’ve been in a serious long-term relationship, and are meeting someone who has also, you might find yourself proclaiming, “My partner’s ex keeps coming up.”
Even though fashion magazines and tabloids proclaim that talking about one’s ex is one of many red flags, more often than not, this is not as bad as it looks on the surface. It could be good therapy. Maybe your partner is just working out the details of that past relationship so that he or she can move on healthfully with you.
Your partner’s talking about his or her ex cannot just be either disregarded or seen as a threat to your new potential relationship. If you are prone to jealousy, then you might jump to the red flag conspiracy theory, otherwise it’s good to keep an open mind to see if you can assist your partner in unloading a little sensitive psychological baggage as you prepare for your potential journey together.
Sometimes all your partner needs to do is to release some of the pent-up psychological pressure from his or her past relationship. If this is the case, you can feel good about your partner trusting you with this sensitive data.
A sociopath, on the other hand, will use the talking-about-your-ex method of keeping you off-kilter and if you’re not joining-in the ex-bashing or ex-edification, then he or she might ask you about your ex to get you to participate. Then, later, when you express your concerns about him or her talking about their ex all the time, they’ll point out that you talk about your ex all the time, too. (In the mind of the sociopath, it doesn’t matter whether they asked you about it, or not. It’s just one of their clever tactics of pre-disarmament.)
Whether or not your partner has good or bad intentions, by all means, speak up and tell him or her how you feel about talking about his or her ex. Your partner is not a mind reader and might be assuming that you are as concerned about his or her resolving any issues from past relationships to have greater potential with you.
You will never know, unless you have this conversation. (Even then, there’s a 10 percent chance that it will be a clever manipulation, and there’s no way to know for certain, until later.)
It’s best to be open, and not made jealous or offended easily. Seek first to understand, then empathetically try to put yourself in his or her shoes. How would you feel?
Healthy relationships are all about being open and honest, give-and-take, and maintaining a healthy balance. If you’re jumping to emotional judgment, or looking for red flags in an effort to defend yourself, maybe it’s time for a little self-examination.
If your partner is pushing your buttons, that is to say, he or she is doing something that makes you upset or rubs you the wrong way, it is highly likely that its not your partner who is at fault. He or she is just awakening a weakness by way of activating a trigger which is activating an emotional wound from your past.
Instead of accusing your partner of something, be open and honest by telling him or her how this makes you feel, then, if you are wise, you look within and ask yourself, “Why?” There’s a good chance you will find something hiding deep inside you protesting too much because of a wound from the past.
In my friend’s case, he had been in a relationship with a woman who left him to return to her ex. This wound was activated when his new girlfriend talked about her ex. He was triggered, and thought, “Here we go again,” because it seemed similar to his past experience, which had not turned out the way he would have liked.
All relationships are different, and just because something is similar, does not mean it’s the same thing.
In the end, it’s up to you. You have to decide whether you can live in a relationship where your partner’s ex keeps coming up, whether it’s comparing you, complaining, or uplifting. Whether you can negotiate a compromise, or resolve the conflict between each other, or within yourself.
Whatever you decide is right for you.