It's only natural to want to know about your partner's ex. After all, you might love your partner, and could be genuinely interested in their old life and the people who were in it. But it's always a good idea to think twice before asking your partner certain questions about their past — especially regarding exes — because it can easily have a negative impact on your relationship.
If you feel comfortable chatting about the past, that's great. But don't ask questions if you think you might "use what you know in a negative way," couples psychotherapist Tina B. Tessina, LMFT, PhD, tells Bustle. "It is OK to ask what went wrong in the prior relationship, and also share what went wrong with your exes. This will show each of you what you can learn from and improve on, so your relationship won’t founder on the same problems."
But be clear about your motivation, and brace yourself for how your partner's answers might affect you. "If [you are going] to compare yourself, don’t ask," Carla Romo, a dating and relationship coach, tells Bustle. "If [you want] to learn about your partner and grow closer, then it would be appropriate."
The choice is up to you. But if you think you might feel bad or insecure afterward, it may be best to remain firmly in the present. Here are a few questions you should think twice about before asking, since they can potentially lead to problems in your relationship.
1. "Did You Love Your Ex More?"
It's fine to talk about exes, but tread carefully when it comes to your underlying intentions — especially if you're asking questions as pointed as this.
"Many people don’t feel they measure up to an ex, especially if it was a longer relationship," Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. "However, as with most of these questions, it puts your partner on the spot and there isn’t really a good answer."
Not only can this question sound accusatory, but it can also lead to feelings of insecurity. And neither of those emotions will make for a very healthy conversation.
2. "How Was Your Sex Life?"
While it may feel slightly awkward, it's actually incredibly healthy to talk with your partner about what they like in bed. But be careful if their past sex life comes into the picture.
"While you might wonder how you measure up to your partner’s ex in bed, that conversation ... will never lead anywhere positive," Bennett says. "No one really wants to hear details about [their] partner’s bedroom habits with an ex. Keep that part of the past in the past."
3. "Are You Still Attracted To Your Ex?"
If you're worried that your partner is still attracted to their ex, or that they might have some sort of ongoing relationship, definitely ask about it. This will save you from worrying needlessly if nothing is going on, while also opening up lines of communication if something is.
But if all is well and you feel secure, it may not be a good idea to offhandedly ask if they're still attracted to their ex. Not only can it breed insecurity, but you're not likely to get a straight answer anyway.
"Your partner might feel some attraction to an ex, but feel obligated to lie if you ask," Bennett says. "But, if your partner answers truthfully and the answer is yes, it’s a problem, too. As long as you both are happy, there’s no need to focus on whether some feelings for an ex remain."
4. "What Did You Like Best About Your Ex?"
Learning about your partner's past can come in handy when it comes to keeping your relationship healthy. You can, for example, ask about what went wrong with their ex so you work together to avoid making the same mistakes.
But try not to pry or ask questions out of insecurity. "Hearing about the good times your partner had with an ex may hurt your feelings even though it took place before you were even in the picture," Alexis Germany, a relationship strategist at Seeking, tells Bustle.
Unless you're asking out of genuine curiosity — and can handle whatever it is they say — this is one question you might want to avoid.
5. "Did You Hook Up With Your Ex After You Broke Up?"
How many times your partner and their ex "got back together" or hooked up after their breakup may be a source of curiosity. But as long as it didn't impact your relationship, it's really not something that needs to be asked.
"This question can create judgment around your partner," Romo says. "It can lead to questioning the way your partner feels about their ex. This space can trigger thoughts of your own self worth, which are entirely avoidable by not knowing this answer. "
6. "Did Your Family Like Your Ex?"
The past is in the past, so whether or not your partner's family loved their ex doesn't really have any bearing on your relationship. So this may be one question you don't need to ask, especially if you're just asking due to feelings of insecurity.
"Comparison is a very dangerous road to go down," Romo says. "You and your partner's ex are different people. Knowing the answer either way could potentially make you feel a need to 'prove' yourself, when at the end of the day it’s important for you to just be yourself in the relationship."
If you're feeling insecure, there are healthier ways to go about building up self-esteem within the relationship and establishing more trust. And one of the best places to start is by talking with your partner about your feelings — instead of making it all about an ex.
7. "What's Their Name?"
It's obviously OK to know the name of your partner's ex. But think twice if you're asking because you want to do a little digging online.
"Anything that would allow you to [look up] that ex through social media," is something you should avoid, Anna Gonowon, a communications strategist and relationship expert, tells Bustle. "You should focus on your relationship and how you related to one another, not dwell on the online life of an ex. In addition, it leads people to start comparing themselves to an ex, which is not productive in a relationship."
8. "Are We Similar In Any Way?"
Even though it's mighty tempting to compare yourself to your partner's ex, asking how you measure up — in any capacity — is a recipe for disaster.
"This has nothing to do with your relationship with your partner," Rori Sassoon, relationship expert and CEO of Platinum Poire, tells Bustle. "[It] will only get [your partner] to start comparing you to [their ex] and dwelling on the past." So unless you're just genuinely curious, and feel comfortable talking about these things with your partner, do yourself a favor and don't ask.
9. "What Did They Look Like?"
Spare yourself and avoid looking up your partner's ex on social media. And while you're at it, avoid asking them about physical details — whatever they may be.
"Living in a digital world it is very likely that you already know what your partner’s ex looks like, but if you don’t I do not think it’s a good idea to ask to see a photo or to go looking for them online," Germany says. "I know many [people] who become obsessed with comparing themselves to their partner’s ex and it can be very damaging to the relationship. Remember the person is now an ex for a reason."
Of course, every relationship is different, so you and your partner might feel comfortable talking about exes and being open about your pasts. But when it comes to questions like these, it's important to tread lightly, since they often come off as prying, insecure, or accusatory. For a healthy relationship, it's often better to leave the past in the past.