I know I said I was going to post this yesterday, but it was a holiday weekend so I’m posting today. Sorry. Hope that didn’t get anyone’s knickers in a twist. As the fourth post in my series, we are now exploring some of the etiquette involved in a return to the dating world. Funny, for as much as we lie and gloss over, when it comes to saying stupid and insensitive things we are suddenly on the truth bandwagon like it is going out of style. Especially when it comes to talking about our exes. This post addresses the tendency to be an insensitive prick to the new people in our lives.
Refresh Yourself–Part 4:
Three Is a Crowd
Even though you’ve defined a portion of your life by your involvement with your most recent ex, for the love of god, don’t talk about your ex all the damn time when you start dating again. Yes, your ex left an impression on your life and it would be ridiculous to pretend it didn’t happen, but when you continually tell the next person in your life all the wonders and faults of your ex and every little thing you did together it goes beyond being rude to being just plain unfair. Constantly throwing references to you ex into conversation with a new person can make that person feel as if they are in competition and constant comparison.*
While the new person in you life can handle and, doubtless, expects to have to hear a few references to the loves of your past, a steady diet of these references will weigh anyone down. Like the deep-fried cheese curds at the state fair, a little of the ode to your ex goes a very long way. During the “getting to know you” phase a person expects to exchange some history, but you don’t have to progress too far from that phase before that person will want to know whether you want to create new memories (possibly together) rather than constantly reliving adventures you had with your ex—he or she wants to know whether or not you have a future together as something other than your therapist, or a sounding board as you rehash your past relationships.
And there you are, left with the delicate dilemma of when it is appropriate to mention your ex and why. This is dicey because cutting out all things relating to your ex would mean cutting out a chunk of history that has made you you. And, troubled, foolhardy, and idiotic as it may have been, you have a right to your history, even the incredibly stupid parts. Reassuring though that may be, it doesn’t provide much guidance when referring to things in your past.
It can happen so quickly, some innocuous observation or event triggers a memory about something with you and your ex and by the time you realize what you are doing you have already started telling the story. This is a good time to think really fast. Here’s hoping you are capable.
If you’re talking about an event that involved you and your ex consider whether or not your ex is strictly essential to the story—basically, what is the story’s point. Is the story you want to tell that new special someone more about that incredibly romantic trip you and your ex took to Jamaica back when you thought your love wasn’t an elaborate lie concocted to crush your soul? Or, is it more about how you developed a deep and abiding love of hammocks while in Jamaica?
If the story is about hammocks, then don’t beat your poor new love-interest over the head with yet another reference to your ex and the life you had together. If you need to refer to your ex you can mention being there with a person or a friend. While this runs the risk of dipping into a shaded area of truth, consider whether, for the purpose of telling someone how much you like hammocks, you are interested in being insensitive with a ham-fisted full-disclosure that throws your ex in this poor new person’s face yet again.
Incidentally, it is also an important moving-on step to be able to give up referring to your ex with words like “my boyfriend” or “my girlfriend”. They aren’t yours anymore. It is possible that they never were yours. Changing the way you refer to an ex can be an important element in letting go.
However, if the point of the story is not about hammocks, but to drone on and on about the romantic trip you and your ex took, reliving your last relationship’s glory days and how absolutely great things were, then this is a good time to brush up on the Golden Rule. It may be that you are so used to being the wronged party that you don’t realize just what an incredible prick you are being to the new person in you life and the Golden Rule can provide perspective. For those with only a vague notion of the Golden Rule it is: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. You don’t have to be down with religion to see that what this idea proposes is nothing more than good manners and considering the other person’s feelings. In this case, ask yourself how you’d feel hearing your new/potential significant other wax eloquent about intimate or romantic moments with his or her ex—and then shut the hell up about your own. If you really can’t keep from constantly talking about your ex, it’s time to reconsider whether you’re ready to start dating again.
*To be completely honest, the new person actually is in competition and constant comparison with your ex. That’s just the way it is. We analyze and scrutinize the new things in our life in relation to the past, judging the unknown by the known. That said, keep in mind, oh comparison Grand Mucky-Mucks out there, this new person is comparing you too and if you keep up a constant commentary about your former loves you are not likely to stack up very well. Probably somewhere below people who share their very graphic health histories with perfect strangers in public places.
As always, thank you for reading and please join us next Monday for Part 5 where we’ll explore the wonders of breaking up and the modern mania to stay friends.